Sunday, March 28, 2010

Air Canada Downer Upgrade Coupons

I was awarded some Air Canada upgrade coupons. Phoned to request an upgrade on tomorrow's Toronto-Phoenix flight. Was told that the Tango Plus upgrade coupon has to be Tango Plus M or U. The Tango Plus I booked was a measly L.

I told the customer service rep. I had no way of knowing this as the website class of fare simply says, "Tango Plus". She informed me, in that condescending way that only Air Canada employees seem capable of pulling off, that the upgrade-eligible M or U class Tangos are "very expensive", and, wait for this, "you cannot book them online -- you have to call Air Canada". Well, pardon me for using the Air Canada reservation website and thinking I could use a Tango Plus upgrade coupon when I, you know, booked Tango Plus!

Air Canada's upgrade coupons are effectively, how does one put this, useless -- and I told her so. At which point, we mutually agreed the conversation was over.

Montreal-based, government-backed, union-sogged, privileged, Air Canada vs. the energetic, entrepreneurial, Calgary-based WestJet.

Paradigms for the two Canadas. One belongs to yesterday; the other, tomorrow.

I know which one I want to become Canada's airline.

And that's the way the Ball bounces.

UPDATE: Turns out what she told me about having to call Air Canada wasn't quite true. I found this: "When booking on aircanada.com, always use the “Display Only Fares Eligible for Upgrade” option on the “Select Flights” page. This option allows you to enter the serial number indicated on your certificate to view the lowest fares eligible for an upgrade with that certificate." I tried this, and the cost of the ticket, one-way, went up by $450.

12 comments:

Powell lucas said...

Air Canada has been pulling this kind of crap for years. Way back in the 70s they were arbitrarily changing the rules on their customer loyalty plan. Travelers had their bonus points devalued or simply wiped out. Now they just make it so complicated, with dozens of different redemption schemes, that no one can decipher whether or not they have tried to redeem their points in the correct manner; and they don't inform you at the time of redemption whether the points are valid or not.
Air Canada and any plan they are involved with are simply sucker scams. That's why I'll stick with Air Miles. At least when I'm not sure what the redemption restrictions are, I can call and get a straight answer.
The sooner Air Canada goes belly-up the better.

LuckyRob said...

Wow, I just had the exact same experience. I have a bunch of upgrade certificates to use up, and when I try to use them, I find out they're effectively useless. It's actually cheaper for me to book business class outright, than to upgrade from Tango Plus.

I'm still trying to figure this out, but I'm thinking I'll just book WestJet instead. Oh, and both AC and Aeroplan customer (dis)service reps are all the same. They sound as if you're annoying them just by calling. Nice.

As I was writing this, I managed to speak to someone who knew about this stuff at AC Reservations. It turns out that you can book the "cheap" Tango Plus fare, but you can only request an upgrade within 4 days of departure (for Elite, 2 days for Prestige and 7 days for Super Elite). This saves you money, but good luck finding an available seat to be upgraded into. AC sure know what they're doing to screw over their most valuable customers.

RkBall said...

LuckyRob -- I was trying to use the Prestige upgrade within 18 hours of the flight -- and was ineligible because I was Tango Plus "L".

RkBall said...

" AC sure know what they're doing to screw over their most valuable customers."

It would be better for them to offer nothing than wave these upgrade coupons around.

Bubba said...

I have enough of those useless 'Blue' certificates to paper a wall. At the ELITE level you get a whole TWO 'Red' ones that will do what you want them to. The Blues are just 'teasers'

Air Canada doesn't give a rats ass what you think about that kind of subterfuge either. The only thing getting ELITE level or higher is really good for is getting into the lounge. If you fly as often as I do that is a real bonus. On the other hand, you can buy a Maple Leaf Club card for under $200 bills and get the same thing for a year.

jazz said...

Have you caught on to the fact that if you buy a tango ticket you will only get 25% of the mile points and not eligible for your elite status what are we going to do about this airline . When i asked when this came in to effect i was told oct 9 2009 in an email to us members did anyone notice this email

RkBall said...

I've given up expecting much by way of Aeroplan points. I had over a million when I semi-retired, and am just riding them out.

Don said...

I fly quite a bit as well and am on the AC Aeroplan. At one point, I felt a little guilty about flying pretty mush solely on US Airways but using the AC Aeroplan number. Then I realized how many times AC has forgotten my luggage in Vancouver when travelling to Whitehorse (meaning I can't actually leave Whitehorse so I can go to my jobsite) or the attitude I've gotten when checking in just a little bit "late". (45 minutes before flight time in Whitehorse.... like you have anything better to do? Yes, we know we're late. Look, we came here straight from the charter flight which was running late as well. Looks, the luggage travels approximately 50 feet to the handlers who then travel another 100 feet to the aircraft. Seriously.)

So I'll continue to use my Aeroplan miles to accumulate enough status miles to get Star Alliance Gold (not even 5000 more to go!). It's only 35000 miles on Air Canada compared to 50000 for the US Carriers. And hey, I deserve it! After all, my tax dollars bailed them out!

RkBall said...

Seems like we are all in agreement.

Anonymous said...

I fly into the USA from Montreal or Toronto every 2 weeks. Getting tired of my US colleauges getting bumped on Continental just as a reward fior their loyalty ( not even with upgrade certificates ). Giving Air Canada one more year to get their act together.

First class should not be empty or should at least get filled with Super Elite and Elite members with any type of certificate.

PS Nobody likes " read the small print " stuff. An upgrade certificate should apply irrespective of airfare...

RkBall said...

Anon: Once, when I was Super-Elite, the flight from Toronto to Charlottetown I was on was delayed by six hours. We were given courtesy breakfast coupons, then, 3-4 hours later, courtesy lunch coupons.

When it finally boarded, I asked if I might receive a courtesy upgrade to business class, given my Super-Elite status (which meant I was travelling pretty much weekly), and the six hour delay.

Short answer: "no".

The flight took off six hours late with nobody in business class.

Anonymous said...

Here is someone elses viewpoint. Someone with world travel experience, someone whom has flown on many carriers and is very familiar with many rewards programs. I for one am very happy that we have the PUBLICLY TRADED Air Canada. Air Canada is a world class carrier that you can use your "company paid" tickets to gain yourselves Aeroplan points for "personal travel" to far off destinations that West Jet doesn't fly to. That is a pretty sweet deal for you so stop complaining, consider yourselves lucky. How about telling us about the 25 times that everything worked out just as planned for you. Or the 5 times that an Air Canada employee went above and beyond for you when dealing with 1000, 2000, 3000, customer contacts a day. Remember that story of the kind Air Canada employee? Just a thought.

Below is an exerpt from Boardingaera.com :
"Aeroplan (finally) changes their award chart… ouch!
I love Aeroplan, which is Air Canada’s spun-off frequent flyer program. For the past several years I’ve woken up every morning asking myself when the Aeroplan honeymoon would be over. It’s thanks to Aeroplan that I’ve been able to take trips like this one (from Tampa to Chicago to Zurich to London to Istanbul to Hong Kong to Bangkok to Munich to Zurich to New York) and this one (from Tampa to Washington to Tokyo to Singapore to Bangkok to Tokyo to Seoul to Frankfurt to Seattle), each for only 120,000 miles in first class. Best of all, since Aeroplan is a transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards, it wasn’t all that tough to come by Aeroplan miles.

...those kinds of award costs were unsustainable.

So as of July 15, 2011, Aeroplan will be adjusting their award charts a bit.

For the most part the changes are reasonable, I suppose fair mileage “inflation” over the years, given that they haven’t made any changes in a long time. For example, business class from the US to most of Europe goes from 80,000 miles to 90,000 miles, which is still a bargain. Some award prices are even going down.

Look, I wish I could be mad at them, but I really can’t. I’m betting that 45% increase mostly reflects how much those kinds of awards cost them, given how many of us booking first class awards travel via Europe to get to Asia.

More than anything else, this massively decreases the value of American Express Membership Rewards points. In the past I would say that 80% of awards I’ve booked for people through Membership Rewards have been either through Continental or Aeroplan — I would book awards through Aeroplan for travel to Europe, South America, Australia, and most of Asia, while I would book awards through Continental for travel to Africa, the Middle East, India, and Asia “region 2″ (places like Indonsia, Malaysia, etc.).

Well, as of September 30, Continental’s partnership with Membership Rewards ends, which is a huge loss for the program. At least there was still Aeroplan, though now they’re not looking like quite as good of a deal anymore. There’s always All Nippon Airways, which is also in the Star Alliance, though the issue is that points don’t transfer to them instantly and they don’t allow holds in the meantime, so by the time you transfer points the award space will likely be gone. They also impose fuel surcharges on awards, which makes them less attractive.

If anything, this change increases the value of Starwood points (as they have more partners) and decreases the value of Membership Rewards points.

Anyway, to my friends at Aeroplan, I don’t blame y’all. Sucks for me, but you guys have always been very reasonable and while these are huge increases for certain regions, there haven’t been any other increases in a long time, so…"

Wade E.
President,
Celestial Simulator Training and Aviation Consulting Inc.

"... nothing intellectually compelling or challenging.. bald assertions coupled to superstition... woefully pathetic"