Posted by: Ian Ross | April 3, 2008

Air Canada Could Hit PR Turbulance With New Service

Air Canada announced yesterday a new service to help passengers cope with delays and cancellations beyond its control (bad weather, airport traffic, etc..). You’ll get ‘speedy’ customer service to rebook flights and receive complementary hotel, car rentals and meals.

I seem to remember airlines once offered this service for free. So I guess what is new is the price – $25-$35 per flight. This is sure to ruffle a few feathers. But I think ultimately most folks who are seeking out the cheapest tickets are willing to forgo the extras. So the idea in concept doesn’t sound too bad.

Where Canada’s national airline could face a PR disaster is when the first big storm or computer crash hits them. A handful of customer service reps are going to face hundreds of passengers who paid for the ‘special’ service. I sure hope Air Canada is read to meet the sudden demand.

When the service was free, folks could whine and wait for mediocre service. Now that they are paying a small fee, they are going to expect to get the VIP treatment.

Rick Erickson, a Calgary-based airline consultant commented in today’s Toronto Star: “When there’s a disruption, everyone’s going to be calling at the same time,” he said. “And if you can’t deliver on this, there will be real hell to pay as far as public relations go.

“People are going to have heightened expectations.”



  1. ERickson has it right. If this were the US, I would suggest that the first bad snowstorm where people couldn’t reach the “dedicated and trained” call center would result in a class-action suit. I’m doing my CBC Radio column about this — tune in on Monday to hear it.

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