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Air Canada's bug letter

Sat 29 Oct 2011 by mskala Tags used:

I got the bug letter from Air Canada in response to my complaint about the Typhoon Roke aftermath. They say they "regret" what happened, but they very noticeably do not acknowledge any wrongdoing at all on the part of any of their employees; they claim what was done was in accordance with their policy. They spend a few sentences chiding me for not giving them a cellular phone number - as if it were somehow my fault that they didn't keep me informed, and as if that had any relevance to the lack of announcements in the actual airport terminal - in the same paragraph where they explain that they would only have phoned me anyway if the cancellation were announced at least three hours in advance of the scheduled departure, which was not the case here. They conclude by offering me a discount code good for 15% off on a future booking. This isn't an apology because it lacks the critical defining features of an apology: it doesn't acknowledge that what was done was wrong, and it leaves open the possibility of doing it again.

Well, I wasn't looking for compensation to help me feel better about what already happened. That's past and cannot be changed, and the actual expenses I incurred were minimal and don't need to be reimbursed; but the future can be changed, and what I was looking for from Air Canada was some solid reason to believe that it will never happen again. Giving me a discount code or similar benefit serves that goal only if I can reasonably believe that it costs them more to do that than it would have cost to solve my problem at the time it could have been solved - so that at a future opportunity they will have an incentive to solve the problem rather than paying me off afterward. A back-of-the-envelope calculation (based on number of passengers involved, number likely to complain and get paid off, and so on) suggests the break-even point would be a payoff with a wholesale cost of at least about $5000; and that's far more than it's plausible they would ever offer, and far more than 15% off any ticket they sell.

Instead, I figured it was possible, and I was hoping, that they'd give me some other reason to think that it would never happen again: for instance, by telling me that it was against policy and they would follow their policy better in future; or even that they were changing their policy. A policy change to "find me an hotel when that is impossible" wouldn't be the only way they could change the policy; I'd have been pleased if they'd just pull strings to have me and the other passengers allowed to remain in the terminal overnight. I know that's possible, it would have cost them very little money (much less than finding hotels in a town where the hotels are all sold out) and it's something Air Canada could do that I could not do for myself.

But they didn't tell me their agents' actions were against policy, nor that their policy would change. Instead they gave me documentation in writing that they think they did nothing wrong, and implicitly that they will do it again if they have the chance. Since my point of view is that it must never happen again, the logical conclusion is that I have to stop doing business with Air Canada.

Unfortunately that won't be easy. There aren't many choices besides Air Canada on some routes into, out of, and within Canada; and because much of my travel is for work and paid for out of other people's budgets, I'm not always completely at liberty to choose the airline I use. So it's not realistically possible that I can promise myself never to step onto an Air Canada plane again. But I'm certainly going to try to avoid it.


Do let Air Canada see this text. I hate it when corporate employees assume that only the corporation can have policies, and individuals cannot. Axel - 2011-10-30 10:04
I don't know if I'll send them a second letter to emphasize it, but basically the same points were made in my first letter. Matt - 2011-10-31 11:06

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