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Air Canada

Why Is Aeroplan Ghosting Its Passengers?

Why Is Aeroplan Ghosting Its Passengers?
Jeff Edwards

Flying during the holidays can be stressful, but this year, dealing with unpredictable weather, crowded security lines and inexperienced passengers might seem like a vacation for Air Canada frequent flyers who have had the misfortune of trying to get in contact with Aeroplan customer service. For much of the week, after offering an automated apology and a suggestion to “call again later,” the system simply hung up on callers.

Air Canada frequent flyers have good reason to be frustrated with the Canada flag carrier’s loyalty rewards program in recent days. FlyerTalker Speedy12 was inspired to make a modest proposal on Monday, however, after finding it impossible to reach Aeroplan representatives on the phone.

A Modest Proposal

“Class Action Lawsuit Against Aeroplan?” the frustrated Air Canada frequent flyer wrote in a forum post. “Is it possible? Where to start? [Government] agency we can complain to? Contact the media? We need to shame Aeroplan and let them know this is unacceptable.”

The prospect of suing an airline loyalty program because of lackluster customer service seems like a bit of an overreaction, but the FlyerTalk member painted a situation in which the automated call system wouldn’t even allow the option of holding for the next available representative and instead simply ended the call. The dissatisfied passenger was left with no way at all of contacting Aeroplan.

Buh-Bye

It seemed at first that the described scenario in which no one at the company was available to answer the phones, was almost certainly an exaggeration, but an experiment in which FlyerTalk made more than a dozen attempts to reach a customer service agent on December 2nd, was met with no success. Even after entering an Aeroplan frequent flyer number, the phone system apologized twice in automated messages before abruptly ending the calls.

Initially, callers were greeted with a prerecorded message explaining that the call is probably not going to accomplish what the caller had hoped to accomplish. The canned message instructs members to enter their nine-digit Aeroplan number to “help us to prioritize your call.” It is only after entering the number, that a message from the company’s “director of call centers worldwide” delivers the really bad news only seconds before the call is disconnected.

“Air Canada has recently adopted a new reservation system and call volumes are higher than normal,” the executive’s message explains. “Our agents are assisting other customers at present and I apologize that we can not place you on hold. If you are calling about travel in the next 72 hours, please try calling us later. We also invite you to consider booking online at aeroplan.com. I apologize for the inconvenience and thank you for your patience.”

Catch-22

To paraphrase loosely, “The IT system is in such disarray we can’t possibly handle the number of incoming calls from passengers unable to use the online booking system, so, please try using the online booking system instead of calling – bye.” Unfortunately, most of the error messages passengers inevitably come across on the website will (of course) instruct the customer to call the customer service line, where they will receive a message instructing them to try using the website.

A Perfect Storm

Air Canada officials say that it is more than just the recent upgrades to the reservation system causing issues for frequent flyers who are attempting to reach a customer service agent. It seems a rather innocuous-sounding security update in October of this year had already stretched the system to near the breaking point – even prior to rolling out the new reservation system in late November.

“We are working to reduce wait times as quickly as possible but we have no timeline for you,” Air Canada spokesperson Christa Poole told FlyerTalk in an email statement. “This is because, apart from anticipated call increases related to the new reservation system we cut over to at the end of November, we have also been experiencing higher than normal volumes due to earlier, unrelated initiatives that are making call activity hard to predict. As you may be aware, back in August we asked members to make changes to their login credentials and in October to reset their passwords as part of a security upgrade. Calls about these actions continue to persist and have added to our volumes. That said, we want to assure members we are working very hard to reduce hold times as quickly as we can, including through online options. We apologize for any inconvenience to our members.”

Good News and More Bad News

The good news is that although Air Canada and Aeroplan can’t offer a timeline as to when the call centers will catch up from the backlog, the companies appear to have worked most of the bugs out of the brand new reservation systems. Poole indicated that Aeroplan members are able to “redeem flights, hotels, car rentals online as well as self-manage their accounts” online rather than having to call in person. This development should help to ease the strain on the call centers.

The bad news is that a return to normal might not be great news for Aeroplan members hoping to reach a customer service agent. FlyerTalk members who were not hung up on by the automated system report hold time forecasts of more than 90 minutes. Those frequent flyers unhappy with not being permitted to hold for the next available agent might just want to be careful what they wish for.

Have you had any luck (good or bad) contacting Aeroplan in recent days? The best tips for quite literally having your voice be heard can be found in the Aeroplan forum.

View Comments (6)

6 Comments

  1. drvannostren

    December 3, 2019 at 5:49 pm

    This has been an issue for me lately as well, my issue isn’t super urgent and I’m not trying to make a redemption luckily, mine is already in place, but it’s in some jeopardy. Now I know AP has worked with me on it, they’ve fixed the issues every time, but the issues persist and now I can’t even get them to fix it. I’m pretty certain what’s gonna happen is that I’m gonna end up in South Africa, with no or very expensive cell service and my business class ticket to SIN cancelled. So then I’ll be “forced” to buy the ticket last minute, if my credit card can even handle it to stay on track. Or buy an econ ticket which I’m sure will either be refunded by my travel insurance and AP, only to later have AP just apologize and repay it, but still having deducted me for full mileage.

    The biggest thing I have on my side is I have the original booking, so it’s easy to see for me and on their end what was booked, they’ve assured me they’ve put the notes in the file and they can see what’s happened repeatedly, they just don’t know why. I trust the company will do the right thing, but simply flat out not being able to get ahold of them isn’t ok.

    This password thing, first off, who is calling about that? What kind of genius can’t simply change their password?

    You know what you do if you’re AP? You sub contract a call centre in India to help out. You also pay them 24/7 so that you can get rid of some of the backlog of calls. You change the call menu “Press 1 for all the following easy stupid issues”, “Press 2 for more complicated stuff in this list”. Then basically when they hit 2 it routes to the Canadian line and THEN the hours of service can apply, and hold times. But if you’re telling me people are calling for dumb stuff, then why not pay someone else to alleviate that dumb stuff? No one asking for password reset should be taking up the valuable time of a reservations agent that may need 45 minutes to complete a booking.

    Continuing to close for 7 hours a night doens’t help anything, answering calls about password resets doesn’t help anything. Great I can book car rentals again! Never once cared. I get most people’s AP bookings are fairly simple, so why is it impossible to get through? Even an easy booking that should be made online where the person can’t figure it out, should only take a couple minutes from an agent.

  2. rstruthe

    December 3, 2019 at 6:25 pm

    My dad could not get through on his aeroplan number. The system hung up. I put my number in and had an agent in about 30 seconds. Status means a lot when trying to get through to aeroplan right now!

  3. Shareholder

    December 4, 2019 at 8:16 am

    Hardly an issue for Class Action.No sane lawyer would waste his/her time of company’s reputation taking a “level of service” to court vs an actual “breach of contract” issue that Aeroplan has been challenged with in Quebec.

    One can empathize with the problems of reaching an agent, particularly at time critical periods. But this is not a legal courtroom issue. Key to recent delays at Aeroplan and Air Canada call centres has been the move to a new res system that is still unfamiliar to most agents even after training sessions. Thus it’s taking longer to deal with each call, thus the delays accessing an agent.

    A week ago I had to cancel an Aeroplan booking and got through almost immediately after entering my E50K number. However, due to the way the new res system works, it took the agent quite a while to process my cancellation.

  4. bennyg2

    December 5, 2019 at 8:51 am

    My issue is that I booked a flight, needed to make a change within the 24hr period and could not. So now I am in a position where I have to issue a chargeback with AMEX in order to cancel the flight and then rebook.

    I’ve emailed. Called (4 times) and sent Twitter DM’s (no insulting tweets, just begging via DM). No reply.

  5. GetSetJetSet

    December 6, 2019 at 9:06 am

    I had a super urgent issue that couldn’t be resolved online, Air Canada didn’t respond to any inquiries on social media and were totally unreachable on the phone. Finally I got a United rep to get me on some sort of hold for an AC agent and after THREE HOURS on hold, I finally spoke to someone and after another hour or so got my issue resolved. It was for travel the next morning, so it could not wait. What a terrible mess. Air Canada are good in the air but they are so horrible at IT / customer service that i’m unlikely to choose them again. PATHETIC.

  6. jrpallante

    December 13, 2019 at 9:06 am

    When did “ghost” become a verb? And what does it mean?

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