Don’t let their name fool you. Most people would think that having the word ‘Canada’ in their moniker might suggest that they are polite, accommodating, or accountable. But Air Canada is quite the opposite. If you want to enjoy your family vacation, and avoid highly stressful situations, I recommend choosing a different airline. Here are a few reasons why:
Booking: First of all, if you’ve ever booked a flight on aircanada.com, you will see that you can’t book your infant online. You can book the rest of the family, but when you’re done, you must then call Air Canada and wait on hold for an average of 45 minutes to get through to an agent, and have your credit card ready, as you will then need to pay an additional $20 in airport fees for the baby. Also important to note, if you book your trip through Expedia (or another travel site) they don’t tell you any of this, so when you get to the airport (thinking everything is gravy) you will find out that your baby isn’t actually on the reservation. Be prepared to wait around while the check-in agent stands there scratching her head and scrambling to add your baby to the flight record.
Checking in: In my experience, whether I tried to check in online (in advance) or at the airport kiosk, I was directed to the “check In assistance” line, because baby baggage, like car seats and strollers, although they are free of charge, had to be manually entered into the system. So take the kids to the bathroom first and be prepared to wait… Again. Rather than making things easier and more convenient for families with babies, you will likely wait longer than everyone else in the terminal. And don’t expect any assistance either, courtesy is not a word in their customer service vocabulary. On one trip, I literally had to breastfeed my infant while standing in line, because the process took hours, while hundreds of other people walked right past us to drop off their bags with ease. I even had to change a dirty diaper, on the floor in the line, while my other kid swayed back and forth doing the I-have-to-pee dance.
Seat reservations: The last time we flew, we intentionally booked preferred seating in advance to make sure we were nearer to the front of the plane, for two main reasons: 1. It’s easier getting on and off when you are carrying a baby, a diaper bag, a purse, a blanky, and trying to make sure your other kid stays close by… Not to mention folding the stroller with baby in hand, on the ramp, with 100 frustrated people waiting behind you. And 2. So we would be among the first to receive food/beverage services ( because everyone knows that hungry kids are unhappy/screaming kids). Of course, Air Canada didn’t honour our seat selection, and we were bumped to row 40, the VERY LAST row. Their excuse?! There was apparently a last-minute aircraft change. Naturally, the new aircraft DID have a row 18 (our original seats). So where was the logic in bumping us to the back of the plane? Don’t expect any logic from this disorganized and incompetent carrier.
In other experiences I’ve had (on other airlines), gate agents would have assigned us new, even better seats, to make-up for their obvious error, and to ensure that a family with small children was not displaced. Instead, this Air Canada gate agent picked up her walkie-talkie and threatened to call the police, traumatizing my son, because I was obviously frustrated with her utter lack of common sense or integrity when she refused to help us, and exclaimed “this is fucking ridiculous”… which, it clearly was. I guess we can chalk-up our confrontational encounter to, the American way?!
Needless to say, We were the last to board the plane, the last to de-board the plane, and of course, by the time the food cart reached us, there was literally nothing left to eat aside from cashews and candy.
Fortunately, when we arrived, last, at the dauntingly-long customs line, a kind staff member saw the stroller and the tired 8-year-old, and immediately ushered us over to the shortest line (which was intended for ‘visitors’ to Canada); that good ol’ northern hospitality we naively expected in the first place.
The aftermath: Surely we should be getting a refund for our botched seat selection fees, right? At this time I can’t even answer that question. You see, there is no customer relations phone number that you can call to speak with a human being, so forget about complaining. After our appalling experience, I was directed to send a fax or email or letter in writing with my concerns, and I should receive a response sometime in the next 15-20 business days. Wish me luck… but I won’t be holding my breath.
*Please note: this article is based solely on my own actual experiences flying Air Canada with my family, over the past year*