Air Canada Informative - Air Canada's Bad Customer Service
TORONTO -- I have found Air Canada to be quite distant from its customers especially if something goes wrong with their service. Basically, they do not have the infrastructure in place to connect you to a thinking, empowered, empathizing human being who can put you in the loop and sympathize a little concerning your plight. There are exceptions, but they are not available through "normal" channels.
First and foremost, their call center system is downright useless. As you repeatedly call for an update on your lost luggage, it begins to dawn on you that the call centre has been outsourced to someplace on the other side of the world (probably India), and is being manned by a roomful of people who sit in front of computers running WorldTracer (which you can access yourself in a limited way on the web), whose status reports are vague one-liners, ususally something like "tracing continues --please try again later". Of course all these people can do is quote the screen and politely ask you if there is anything else they can do for you in their fake american accents. Asking them to think the situation out is hopeless. They have no idea where your baggage could be. They are absolutely terrified of commiting to a hypothetical scenario lest it come back to them. They have no real thoughts outside of that WorldTracer screen. And they conveniently can not call their supervisor nor make any calls to other Air Canada departments. This is what I mean by no empowerment. You get the feeling that they are waiting for the bags to come back to them like a lost puppy. It begs the question: What tracing? Waiting on your rear end twiddling your thumbs until someone else corrects your mistake for you is not tracing. Because they are disconnected from the rest of the company, you feel REALLY disconnected.
In the end, the best thing you can do, though it is not much better, is to try calling the relevant airports. You can only hope that you speak their language or they speak yours. Anyways, it is something that the call center people are not allowed to do, so you might as well give it a try. Ask for the various lost and found departments. The most helpful person I talked to was the person I talked to at Toronto's Pearson International Airport (www.gtaa.com) who was a real live human being who was capable of sympathy, an overview of the situation with possible scenarios (just for reassurance -- not asking him to commit to it) and, in the end, a bit of optimism from past experience. He was even able to check the lost and found just in case the tag had come off the bag or something. It wasn't there but at least he tried. Though he should not be, he is the exception at Air Canada.
Their polished exterior is like a fresh coat of paint that is meant to try and hide the rust holes in the company. Just the other day a friend's flight was delayed. Their website (www.aircanada.ca) could not keep up with the changes in arrival times even though the information was promptly available at the airport's webiste (www.gtaa.com), thank god. Sure their website LOOKS good...but does it DO anything useful for paying customers under the pressures of ever-changing schedules which are, admittedly, the norm in air travel.
Of course, I have flown Air Canada many times and the flights themselves are fine. I am under the impression that the front line staff of Air Canada are top notch. It is away from the front line that they lack competence and even a sense of what is happening on the front line. The disconnect leaves a bad taste in the mouths of customers and it does not honour the efforts of the people who are out there busting thier humps to make air travel possible.
One last comment...Has anyone else noticed that the ombudsperson's website for air canada is completely unlinked from their main website? There does not seem to be a way to navigate, via links, from www.aircanada.ca to http://www.ombudsman.aircanada.ca/ombudsman/welcome_e.html. , possibly the one department that can be helpful to customers.
Or is that the point?