As the limbo stick descends near ground level on airline customer service, Air Canada is doing a very impressive back bend.
Stop the marimba. We may have a winner.
For an extra fee of $25 on short-haul flights or $35 on longer ones (payable in advance) Air Canada will provide customer service agents to help passengers when if it fails to deliver them to their destinations.
I guess that’s not a bribe in return for a promise of decent customer service. Well, not exactly.
This new program, dubbed "On My Way," offers "around-the-clock access to a dedicated group of specially trained Air Canada customer service agents" who will rebook your flight and arrange your hotel, meals and transportation. (You have to wonder what kind of non-special training the three people assigned to answer everyone else’s calls got.)
So, could this be an outright admission that the standard service is crap, that the bottom has completely fallen out of airline customer service and we should all pray for high-speed rail? No, says Air Canada. It’s an additional service extended to cases where flights are affected by circumstances beyond the airline’s control, such as bad weather.
Yet much of this "service" is what airlines traditionally have done at no charge when a flight is canceled or delayed. Airlines still have an obligation to rebook everyone who paid for a ticket. And it’s pretty clear that those who don’t pay the fee will deal with busy signals and long lines while the people who did will get the first seats on the next plane.
This is not fair. It’s as if you could pay extra to jump the line at a store to return faulty merchandise.
Sure, in cases where a flight is delayed by weather, the assurance of a free hotel could be useful. But that’s just trip insurance. You can buy that from TravelGuard. My problem is with the rest of the package – the preferential treatment for basic services that should be covered in the cost of the ticket and provided on a first-come, first-served basis.
There needs to be a minimum level of decency and service that comes with an airline ticket. Charging for that is a foul idea. It’s beastly. It’s noxious. It’s wrong.
Why do I smell a trend?