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The AC Contract Translated into Plain English

The AC Contract Translated into Plain English

Old Apr 21, 13, 12:51 am
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Join Date: Feb 2007
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The AC Contract Translated into Plain English

After reading numerous threads lately, it is apparent that there is a lot of confusion out there about what exactly the deal with Air Canada is. So, as a public service I thought I would take a stab at translating the AC contract into plain English. Recognizing that although I consider myself a frequent AC flyer, there are many of you out there who are more frequent and knowledgeable than I am. So I propose two things: 1) this is a work in progress; and 2) think of it as a wiki: feel free to add, delete, correct and amend as necessary. Just note the tone of the discussion and follow the lead.

Here goes...

PREAMBLE

Welcome to Air Canada, recently ranked by Skytrax as the least awful international airline in North America for the sixth year in the past eight, but rated below average and dead last in its class by J.D Powers. Regardless of what our customers think, or what the pollsters think they think, we proudly remain the airline where we’re not happy until you’re not happy.
The following is a plain English synopsis of the contract between you and Air Canada. It is presented in this form to help you understand, not necessarily why we do what we do, but what we do and what to expect when you travel with AC.

It is our sincere intent to get you to your final destination at some time in the future. Most of the time. The time at which you arrive there is up to us, not you. But please understand that there is no actual legally enforceable contract that requires us to do so, even though you bought a ticket describing with very specific detail about where, when and how you will travel.

DEFINITIONS


Confirmed: acknowledged with definite assurance, unless we decide to unconfirm it.

Direct: a flight that travels from origin to a designated destination using the same flight number, and usually the same aircraft. The flight may make one or more stops en route. Stops are usually, but not always, scheduled. A direct flight is not necessarily non-stop.

Dynamic Pricing: You snooze, you lose.

Non-stop: a flight that travels from origin to designated destination without a scheduled stop en route. Most of the time there is no unscheduled stop either.

On time, us: not later than 15 minutes after the advertised time;

On time, you: not later than 0.00 seconds after the advertised time;

Operational Reasons: anything we deem to be necessary for our convenience or profitability;

Premium Economy: a section of certain aircraft in which passengers will be less uncomfortable than those in the Economy section.

Rouge (noun): a subsidiary low cost airline inaugurated by Air Canada, ostensibly to compete in the Low Cost Carrier segment of the market. Rouge is characterized by younger, more energetic, but less rewarded and less experienced employees, fewer in-flight amenities, and higher seating density. Generally regarded as an inferior product to mainline Air Canada;

Rouge (verb): the transfer of an Air Canada flight or route to its subsidiary airline, “Rouge”. This usually results in a downgrade of service, often occurs without the consent of the customer, and frequently without said customer’s knowledge until the time of boarding. Often used in the past tense, as in “AARGH!!! I got Rouged!”

Unusually high call volume: insufficient number of employees on duty to handle the number of incoming calls;

Yield management: a process by which everything you see on your ticket goes out the window and we invoke Operational Reasons to do something else that makes us happy (see Preamble, first paragraph);

Zone: a term used to designate a group of passengers to whom a certain boarding priority is assigned. The priority is not necessarily associated with a geographical location on the aircraft.

TICKETING

When you visit our web site you will find that it works most of the time. You simply enter your desired itinerary and your desired dates of travel, and we’ll show you what we have in mind at the moment, which might not be the same as what we actually do when you travel. The information you will see includes the departure times of the available flights, the prices for five or six Branded Fares available on your route, the type of aircraft and the available seats. Embedded in these Branded Fares are a multitude of other fare classes, all with somewhat different rules and restrictions. In order to keep track of them we have invented our own unique alphabet with its own special alphabetical order. In days gone by it looked like this for economy fares:
Y B M U H Q V W G S T L A Kwhere Latitude was Y B, Flex was M U H Q V W G for domestic and US flights, and Tango was W G S T L A K for international fights. You will note that certain letters were used exclusively for domestic and US flights, certain others were used exclusively for international flights, and some were used for both.

Somewhere along the line, however, we decided this wasn’t confusing enough, so we introduced the concept of Brand Codes. They looked like this:Tango: TG Flex: FL Latitude: LT Premium Economy Lowest: PL Premium Economy Flexible: PF Business Class Lowest: EL Business Class Flexible: EF. More recently, we have rebranded the rebrands and added “Standard” and “Comfort” fares to the mix. You should be aware that purchasing a Comfort fare does not necessarily result in greater comfort on the aircraft, depending on seat availability at the time you book your ticket. See Seat Selection below.

To help you sort out what you just bought (as opposed to what you are about to buy), the brand code will appear at the end of the fare basis code for domestic and US transborder fares (i.e. V3WCTG, V3WCFL etc.). However, to add to the mystique, on international fares, while the fares are assigned the brand codes within reservation systems, they will generally not appear on the fare basis code.

To make all of this work and simultaneously maintain the mystique we had to adjust our special alphabet by truncating the first two letters. We were concerned, however, that we still weren’t being mysterious enough to hoodwink some customers, so we added another level of complexity: for flights within Canada and between Canada and the US, booking classes M U H Q V W G S T L A K will now be used for both Tango and Flex fares, in three possible ways. Sometimes a distinct separation will remain (i.e. M U H Q V W G will always be Flex, S T L A K will always be Tango). Sometimes V W and G will overlap the two brands, and sometimes all booking classes will be both Flex and Tango.

On top of all that, for greater uncertainty we reserve the right to change how we file fares in a specific market at any point in time.
While the Branded Fares will help you make your selection when you purchase a ticket, the embedded fare classes are primarily for our benefit, not yours, so we don’t make it obvious what they are. Most of you don’t really need to know, but if you do you’ll find out when you need to make a change or cancellation.

You will notice that on the more popular routes we display an assortment of aircraft, an assortment of seating options, and a choice of departure times. We also tend to charge different fares for different flights and times, and we often adjust fares as we go on a moment’s notice, depending on how well a flight is selling. That’s known these days as Dynamic Pricing (see Definitions), and we’re learning how we can use that concept to our benefit and your detriment, so please play along. You may notice, however, that the higher fares are often associated with premium seating, more desirable aircraft, more desirable times, and non-stop flights (See Definitions). Suffice it to say that you choose your desired flight based on the advertised departure time, type of aircraft, seating preference, and pay the fare we have offered at that moment. At that point we recommend you hope for the best, because what we deliver may not be exactly as shown.

ROUGE


Rouge is a name given to a recently inaugurated airline that is sort of like Air Canada, but not really. It uses many of the same facilities and infrastructure when it is convenient for us, but is dressed up to look like a distinct society to the paying customer. This is because we want customers to think they are getting something other than Air Canada. Rest assured, however, that the product is identical, in that Rouge will usually get you to your destination in one piece at some time in the future. In this sense, Rouge and Air Canada are identical, so it doesn’t matter if you get Rouged when we switch you from one to the other. If we do make a switch, we don’t necessarily tell you because the outcome is pretty much the same, so you don’t need to know in advance that we plan to switch.

CHANGES

Most of the time you will actually fly on the type of aircraft, at the time we advertised and in the seat we purported to sell you. Sometimes, however, for Operational Reasons we may need to change things around. We may make these changes at will. You may not make changes, except in certain circumstances, which will almost always cost you more money.

We offer you the opportunity to purchase flights up to a year in advance. Please understand that a year is a long time in the aviation business. Stuff happens that may make it convenient for us to change flight schedules. Schedules can change anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours. We may even cancel a flight. In these circumstances we will usually let you know, but sometimes it may take a few weeks or a few months for us to get around to it. If the new schedule is inconvenient for you, we will usually allow you to cancel and eventually get a refund, or you may choose rebook on another flight, in which case you will have to pay the fare prevailing at that moment. If it’s more than what you already paid, you pay the extra. In the unlikely event that it’s less, you get stiffed. Note that the closer you get to flight time, the higher the fares tend to be (this is Dynamic Pricing at work again). So the delay in notifying you of a schedule change is not without a bona fide reason.

Similarly, for Operational Reasons we may decide to change aircraft. If we do, we probably won’t tell you unless the schedule also changes. You don’t need to know that, even though you selected your flight and fare class based in part on the type of aircraft. In this case, the seat assignments can get really screwed up. See details under “SEAT SELECTION”. To summarize, we can change the aircraft, you cannot unless you pay to change to another flight.

Sometimes, for your own operational reasons, you may need to change things around. You should be aware, however, that we don’t recognize anyone’s operational needs except our own. You simply don’t matter. If you have paid the big bucks for flexible Latitude or Business Class tickets (not to be confused with Flex tickets, which are actually less flexible), you may change to another flight by paying the fare difference prevailing at the time. If you have purchased the less flexible Flex or Standard tickets, you will pay a change fee in addition to the fare difference. So we get more money from you any way it shakes out.

In summary, we can change; you can change and pay. Alternatively, with some fare classes you may cancel a flight and receive a credit that can be redeemed for another flight within one year. Note that the year starts running on the day you bought the original ticket, so if you’re not paying attention you may get stiffed.

SEAT SELECTION

Getting back to the web site, once you have completed your ticket purchase, we may offer you the opportunity to select a seat on the more expensive fare classes, or on the cheap tickets you may purchase the opportunity to select a seat. Even on the more expensive tickets, the good or really good seats will cost you even more. Either way, you will pay for the privilege of advance seat selection.

Most of the time you will get to sit in the seat you selected. Sometimes, however, for Operational Reasons we may not let you sit in the seat you selected and paid for. We can change your seat at any time to any other seat except the crew’s. Sometimes we will tell you about it ahead of time. You can change seats if and when you want until you check in, but only if the seat you select is presently unoccupied. If we bump you out of a really good seat we will eventually refund the seat fee. If you change out of a really good seat, you forfeit the seat fee. You should be aware that if we bump you out of your chosen seat and give it to someone else that’s okay, but we generally won’t bump that someone else out of their chosen seat to give it back to you. Even though you paid for the seat and they didn’t.


Another interesting situation that arises from time to time occurs when some passengers purchase a particular seat, but families travelling with young children don’t because they’re too cheap. In these circumstances we may need to move someone who paid for a specific seat into a less specific seat to accommodate these cheapskates. We don’t like doing that, but if we resist it inevitably generates a flurry of bad PR, so we acquiesce. (See Definitions, Operational Reasons).

Remember that we allowed you to see the available seats on your flight, so you could make an informed decision on which flight to purchase, based in part on which seats are available? Remember also what we said about aircraft changes? When we do this, the seat selections can get really screwed up, especially if the new aircraft is smaller than the one we advertised. In these circumstances, all bets are off and you’ll sit where we tell you. There will be no change in fare. Even though you paid extra for a certain type of aircraft and seat.

BAGGAGE

You may check several bags. Some of you will pay extra for checked bags and some will not. It depends on who you are, where you’re going, how many bags are involved, how big they are, how much they weigh and what’s in them. We may decide to send your bag(s) on a different flight than the one you fly on. You, however, may not choose to fly on a different aircraft than your bag(s).

Baggage never gets lost any more. It sometimes gets delayed. If your bag doesn’t arrive at the same time you do, it’s not lost, it’s delayed. We’ll try to find it. If we do, and we almost always do, we’ll deliver it to you. Sometime. If you’re traveling and you are thus a moving target, well...what can we do?

You may carry up to two bags onto the aircraft. They must conform to certain size and weight limits. Unless you’re on or off duty crew, friends or family of the cabin crew or gate agent, retiree or DYKWIA, in which case you can carry on your entire household. If any of these entitled people manage to fill up the bins, we may require you lesser passengers to check your bag, in which case we won’t charge you. Even though others who followed the rules did pay.
In recent years we have tried to implement procedures to more objectively determine which bags and how many may be carried on to the passenger cabin. This was expected to improve our happiness (See PREAMBLE), but it didn’t go very well. These days we often threaten to do it, but don’t actually do it very often.

UPGRADES

If you are a frequent flyer with AC or its Star Alliance partners we will endow you with a certain number of e-Upgrade credits. These are imaginary e-credits which can ostensibly be exchanged for a seat in the Premium Economy or Business Class cabins. Sometimes. In other cases the e-Upgrade credits must be accompanied by a cash payment.

The Business Class cabin was once called the Executive Class cabin. We had to change the name because we noticed that the cabin was not actually for executives, and moreover, it often lacked class. Now, it not only often lacks class, but it is not necessarily for business travelers either. It is for anyone who pays for a Business Class ticket or exchanges upgrade credits. Or is a deadheading crew member. Or is a friend of the gate agent. Literally anyone can sit in the Business Class cabin. Thus it is entirely possible you will be seated beside drunks, obnoxious DYKWIAs, smelly persons, infants and/or unruly children in the Business Class cabin. This is why we call it a Class cabin.

The number of credits you receive depends on how far you flew last year and in some cases how far you’ve already flown this year. The number of credits you need to upgrade depends on how much you paid for your ticket and the distance you will fly. These latter numbers are all prime numbers, so they cannot be evenly divided by any number other than themselves. Thus, it is actually very rare that you will be able to use exactly the number of credits you have been given before they expire.

When we give you the credits we will tell you how many days ahead you may book your seat upgrade. The number of days depends on who you are and how much you flew last year, but interestingly, not on how much you’ve already flown this year. Unless you’ve flown a lot this year and achieved early recognition of next year’s status.

When you request an upgrade we will confirm (see Definitions) it if there are any seats available for upgrade. Most of the time there aren’t. Well, actually often there are, but we usually don’t tell you about it until you are at the gate and boarding is in progress. In the meantime we’re desperately trying to sell the last of the PE or Business Class seats at deeply discounted rates, which we call a Last Minute Upgrade. Sometimes when you check in you might be offered an LMU, even though you’re on the waiting list for an upgrade. And sometimes you won’t.
After a while we noticed that LMUs weren’t selling out at the asking price, and we had to actually redeem some of the upgrade credits. To correct this unfortunate situation we have begun to solicit bids for these available seats in an even more desperate attempt to enhance our revenue and avoid giving out cheap upgrades.

There is actually an order of priority for the upgrade list. Curiously, the order of priority changes slightly depending on when we decide to confirm your upgrade. If we decide seats are available for upgrade more than 24 hours before departure, they are awarded to Altitude members (that's Us, not Them) based on certain special fare classes**, then your status level, then all the other fare classes, then the time you requested the upgrade. If your upgrade is not confirmed at the time you check in, the priority is almost the same, except the special fare classes that get you to the head of the list no longer matter, and the cabin you're ticketed in does. AC has charitably made this information public, for which many passengers have expressed thanks. It remains unclear, however, how, when and if seats are made available for upgrade, but you don’t need to know that, so we don’t tell you. The whole thing has become very complicated, and it remains to be seen whether even our own employees will understand it. Since we can now explain it to you, our expectation is that most of them will eventually figure it out.
It remains to be seen, however, how all this will pay out in the future when SOFA is fully operational (see Frequent Flyer Program(s) below)

** As noted under TICKETING, even though it matters, we don't make it easy to figure out which fare class you're actually buying when you purchase a ticket. We find it adds to the mystique of flying this way.

IRROPS

IRROPS is the acronym we use in the aviation industry for Irregular Operations. Stuff happens. Aircraft break. Weather gets bad. Volcanoes erupt. Employees strike or work to rule. Revolutions happen. Countries threaten nuclear holocaust. Etc, etc...

When IRROPS occurs, flights invariably get delayed and/or canceled. The decision to delay or cancel depends largely on where we need the aircraft to be next, and less on where we need the passengers to be next. This is intended to avoid the domino effect, so our intentions are honourable. However, we need to remind you that this is our best opportunity to make ourselves happy (see PREAMBLE).

There are two types of IRROPS: those that are ostensibly within our control, and those that are not. We get to decide which is which. You do not.

When flights are delayed, we will try to get you to your destination. Sometime in the future. Most of the time. All previous commitments, real or imagined, express or implied, regarding times, seat selections and routings are null and void.

When flights are canceled, goodbye. You may try rebooking on the web site, or call the reservation line. When you call the reservation line, we will answer the call most of the time. We will endeavor to answer calls in the order in which they are received. Unless passengers with higher status call in after you. At times, there will be unusually high call volumes (see Definitions), and you will be required to wait. Since the value of your time is effectively zero, and the value of ours is higher, we expect you to wait patiently for an indeterminate period of time while we process other calls ahead of yours. Since you will be waiting patiently for us to answer, you do not need to know the length of the wait, so we don’t tell you. If we did, it would simply create unrealistic expectations.

FREQUENT FLYER PROGRAM(S)

For many years Air Canada has operated a frequent flyer program called Aeroplan. Originally it was Us, then for a while it was Them. The original intent was to create loyalty to Us, but when it was Them, they tried to get you to be loyal to Them rather than Us. That wasn’t working for Us, so to correct it We created another frequent flyer program called Altitude. Altitude is Us, but Aeroplan was still Them.


Last year, however, we decided that They still weren’t doing what we needed Them to do, so we decided to dump Them and go back to Us. The plan was that in three years They would be gonzo and We would launch yet another program which is heretofore unnamed. For convenience we will call it Son of Aeroplan for the time being, or SOFA for short.

Then this year some wizard in the executive suite had a brainwave and decided that if we buy back Aeroplan we could save ourselves the trouble of relaunching our own program. So we did. At enormous cost. And the assumption of the enormous liability associated with all those unburned points you have. So now we have Aeroplan, which was originally Us, then Them, and now Us again. And we still have Altitude, which was originally Us and still is.

Exactly how SOFA will play out, and how it will interface with Altitude remains uncertain at this stage. Similarly, the fate of your Aeroplan points, upgrade credits and what they may be redeemed for in the era of SOFA remains to be seen. In the meantime, all indications from Us and Them are that it’s business as usual. Many of you will know from experience what usual is, so you will have to take your chances. In the meantime it seems that Aeroplan is still trying to convince you that your points are worth something. That is, in fact, why We decided to dump Them.

The following information is based on the current state of Us and Them. It is expected to remain valid for the foreseeable future, unless, of course, We decide to change the future.

A popular misconception is that the Frequent Flyer programs are Loyalty Programs. While this was once the underlying intent, it is no longer the case. We actually don’t care about your loyalty, because for every disaffected customer we lose, we gain one back who has become disaffected by another airline. The only reason we continue with this foolishness is because everyone else is doing it and we don’t know how to get out of it. So as best we can, we continue to take advantage of the fact that many customers perceive a much greater value to frequent flier points than we actually deliver.

Points are often referred to as Miles. That’s because sometimes the points you receive approximate the number of miles you flew. Or some fraction of the number of miles you flew. Or some multiple of the number of miles you flew. Or how many dollars you spent on gas. Or some multiple of how many dollars you spent on gas. Or some other formula, depending on what you bought, where you bought it and when you bought it.


It is also noteworthy that contrary to a widely held belief, for the most part the points you receive are not free. Indeed, if you carefully examine our fare structure and notice the number of points you receive for a particular fare class, you will soon realize that the TANSTAAFL principle applies to frequent flyer benefits, as it does to most other things in life. (Google it.) In most cases the points you receive have nothing to do with Air Canada or flying. Suffice it to say that you can obtain points by flying or buying, or both if you’re clever. To avoid confusion we will henceforth refer to points obtained by flying as Miles, and points obtained by buying as Points.

Collecting Miles

Historically there have been two kinds of miles you could collect. That was the case when there was one program, but when there were two it was still the case for a while. There were Status Miles and Non-Status Miles. They cared about both Status and Non-Status miles, but We cared only about Status Miles. If you accumulated enough Status Miles, we extended to you an enhanced status when you fly with AC. Usually. The enhancements you received depended on your level of status, and how much we had enhanced the program. Generally, the more we enhanced the program, the less status you had.


Unfortunately, that was another thing that wasn’t working out so well for Us, so we had to change it. The main problem we found was that some passengers learned how to game the system and gain status without spending much money, which kind of defeated the purpose of the whole thing, which is, of course, to get you to spend more money, not less. So that’s when we introduced Altitude. This essentially entailed detaching the status thing from Aeroplan and attaching it to Altitude. At least as far as flying is concerned. Aeroplan still purports to have their own status deal, but that’s their thing so we won’t talk about it any further here. So with Altitude we introduced new qualifying criteria for each level of status, which are referred to as Altitude Qualifying Miles (AQMs) and Altitude Qualifying Dollars (AQDs). Now, we gotcha! To gain any level of status you not only have to fly a certain number of miles, but you also have to spend a certain amount of money. (Ha!)

Except, instead of the minimum number of miles you can also obtain status by flying a whole bunch of short hops, but this is not the recommended approach. And you still have to spend those ADQs.


Until a couple of years ago there were four levels of status: Super Elite, Elite, Prestige and everyone else. We found it terribly burdensome to keep track of who was who and what they were entitled to, so when we created Altitude we increased the number of status levels to six. This will make it easier to reduce the number of levels when we introduce future enhancements.

The only way to receive Altitude Qualifying Miles (not Points) is to sit on an aircraft operated by AC or one of its Star Alliance Partners. The aircraft must be airborne at the time. Whether your miles are AQMs or not , and how many AQMs you receive depends on how much you paid for your ticket and how far you flew. You will only retain your status from year to year if you fly a minimum number of AQMs on flight segments operated exclusively on AC, so you must keep track until you cross the threshold. You must also keep track of ADQs in order to meet that minimum expenditure* for continuing your status. The only way to obtain AQDs is to purchase an eligible ticket on an AC flight. We emphasize the eligibility factor, but we don’t make it very easy to figure out what is eligible and what isn’t. This aligns with our corporate strategy of making flying a mysterious experience.


* For those readers who are into modern colloquialisms, we prefer to use the noun form of the verb “spend” out of respect for the Queen’s English. “Spend” is a verb, “expenditure” is a noun!

If you have entered your Aeroplan number when you purchased your ticket we will automatically credit the correct number of AQMs and ADQs to your account. Usually.

Collecting Points

You can collect Points (not Miles) in a variety of ways: using certain credit cards, and making certain purchases at certain businesses. Since this really has everything to do with Them, and nothing to do with Us, we will not discuss it further here.


Redeeming Miles

For purposes of redeeming Miles and Points, they are the same, so we will call them Points from now on. When redeeming points, you will be dealing with Them, not Us. So we don’t want to hear about it for the time being. Once SOFA is operational this might change, so stay tuned.

One of the most common uses of points is to purchase travel on AC or one of its Star Alliance partner airlines. There is a common misperception that points can be used to obtain free air travel tickets. Let us assure you that this is not the case. Points may sometimes be used as partial payment for an air travel ticket. There is a multitude of other fees and taxes for which you must pay cash and only cash.

We have an arrangement with Them to allow points to be used as partial payment for a certain number of seats on a certain number of flights to a certain number of destinations at certain times. But the numbers of such seats are tiny, the times are often inconvenient, and the connections may not make sense. Unless you are prepared to pay huge numbers of points, or in some cases throw the weight of your status around. Or travel somewhere else. At a different time. With a different number of people. And sit in the economy cabin for some or all of your journey.

Alternatively, we encourage you to redeem your points with Them for things other than flying. This is better for Us, much better for Them, but possibly not for you. In fact, it is strongly recommended that you blow your remaining points sooner rather than later because it is not at all certain that they will be worth anything once we simultaneously activate SOFA and dump Them.

BOARDING (OR NOT)

When you board one of our aircraft you will notice that there are a fixed number of seats. We actually know how many there are because we count them at the beginning of each and every flight. Despite knowing with a great deal of certainty how many seats there are, from time to time we seem to end up with a different number of passengers than seats.

Sometimes it’s more seats than passengers, sometimes it’s less. If it’s more seats, we’re good to go, but that doesn’t happen very often these days. If it’s more passengers than seats, we have a problem because Transport Canada does not allow standing passengers on aircraft. (We’ve talked to them about this silly rule, but they won’t budge.) Fortunately, it’s only a problem for us for a short period of time. This is because we deal with it by turning our problem into your problem.

The excess of passengers over seats can happen several ways. The most common is what we call “yield management”. We hate sending out aircraft with empty seats. Empty seats are good for you but not so much for us, so we do our best to minimize these occurrences. We know from experience that despite having bought and paid for a ticket, some of you won’t show up on time for the flight, or at all. (Remember, we can be late, but you can’t.) If you don’t show up on time (See Definitions) we may give your seat to someone else who showed up thinking they had a seat but didn’t really. This way we can make sure there are no empty seats, and thereby make ourselves happy (see Preamble).

When we can, we try to make sure someone else really does show up to take your seat by selling more tickets than we actually have seats for. To avoid any unnecessary consternation, we normally don’t tell you about this ahead of time. Otherwise, you might rebook on another flight and our yield management goes out the window. We do try to estimate how many no-shows there will be based on past experience, but this is an uncertain science, and we tend to err on the side of maximizing our revenue rather than minimizing your inconvenience.

We can also run out of seats when we need to move crew around to operate other flights in other cities. When this crops up, we are usually in a hurry to get them somewhere where you are also going. Since they matter to us more than you do, they get to go now and you get to go later, generally at some other time of our choosing, not yours.

This seat thing can also happen when a super-status passenger throws their status around. It is a little known paradox that the ones who are a lot more important than you can request and receive a seat on any flight they choose, and we willingly accommodate them because they’re important and you’re not. They can even bring their spouse, child, companion, or significant other. If we have to dump some passenger(s) of lesser status to make room, that’s what we do. So again, because they’re more important than you, they get to go and you don’t, even though you thought you had a ticket. We know how confusing this sounds, so we have provided a convenient link
to our associate, Mr. Seinfeld, who explains more clearly the notion of reservations.

What all this boils down to is that if we don’t have a number of seats equal to or greater than the number of passengers, some of you will get “bumped”, which actually means “dumped”. If you get dumped we will do our best to accommodate you on the next flight. Or the one after that. Or tomorrow. Or some other flight of our choosing, not yours. But rest assured, we will try to get you to your destination, eventually (see Preamble).

Excepting always, that in the case where you are late and we’re not, you may have another problem, depending on how much you paid for your ticket. If you paid the big bucks for a refundable ticket, and let us know you’re going to be late before you actually are late, you will eventually get a refund. But in most cases you probably have a cheap non-refundable ticket, in which case we sell your seat to someone else and collect twice for the same seat. So in the end, we make sure we get your money one way or another.
Air Canada has introduced the modern concept of “zoned boarding” to reduce the degree of chaos inherent in the boarding process. This is done by assigning passengers to a boarding “zone”. Note that the zone to which you are assigned is determined primarily by who you are, and less by where you will be once you board. Hence, the term “zone” is not used in the geographical sense, but more in the aristocratic sense.

RULES

There is a multitude of rules that beset the aviation business. Many of them are imposed by government and quasi-governmental regulatory agencies, and require us to do certain things, or not do certain things. Many of them require us to require you to do certain things, or not do certain things. The ones imposed by these agencies are generally related to safety and to bring some semblance of order to the chaos that characterizes our airspace. Others are intended to protect national security and such like. If you decline to act in compliance with these rules, there are other rules that empower us to do ungentlemanly things to you. So you are required to cooperate fully at all times.

Other rules are imposed by us. They are intended to accomplish a variety of objectives, most of which boil down to preservation of our profitability and facilitation of our operational convenience. We have absolute and unconditional discretion to decide to whom, when, where and how these rules are applied. This discretion need not be applied in the same manner at all times.

Some of these rules pertain to what we are obligated to do with your money after we have it, and you change your plans (recall that we can change anything, but if you change anything you will invariably pay more or forfeit what you’ve already paid). Others pertain to operational procedures such as checking in, checking baggage, not checking baggage, where and when your baggage must be stowed, where and when you sit, which lavatory you use and when you can use it, and so on. Many other rules pertain to what happens during and after IRROPS (see above). Again, there are rules that empower us to do further ungentlemanly things to you if you don’t comply, even though the impugned rule may have no valid authority or force of law.

There are a couple of important rules you should understand about the rest of our rules. The first rule is that we make the rules and you follow them. You may not, under any circumstances, make your own rules. Secondly, some of the rules are public knowledge through announcements or publication in various forms, and other rules may not be. We don’t always tell you about the rules in advance for several reasons. For example, you do not need to know our secrets related to upgrade priority or fare classes. We’ll tell you whether you get an upgrade in due course. Similarly, if you haven’t read the fine print when you bought your ticket, we will also tell you about the inflexibility of your fare class when you need to know.
In other circumstances, for operational reasons we sometimes need to make up new rules as we go. Nevertheless, you are required to comply with whatever we deem is a rule at any particular moment. For example, we may need to make up a rule about where you stow your carry-on baggage when someone more important than you needs space to stow theirs.

It is also pertinent that not all rules apply equally to all people. We get to choose which rules apply to you, when they apply and under what circumstances. Just because a rule applies to you doesn’t necessarily mean that it will apply to another passenger in the same circumstances at the same time. For example, on or off duty employees, cabin crew, friends and relations of same are arbitrarily exempt from many rules at the discretion of other employees. However, the employees granting such exemptions must be on duty at the time.

The whole regimen is highly complicated and we therefore cannot possibly expect all employees to know all of the rules all of the time. If they can’t know them thoroughly, we recognize that you can’t be expected to know them either. For this reason we will conveniently tell you what the rules are when we need you to follow them, whereupon you are expected to follow them without question or hesitation.

Finally, it is essential for you to understand that for operational reasons we may change the rules at any time. However, you may not change the rules, ever.

Thank you for your cooperation.
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Last edited by Sopwith; Aug 26, 18 at 6:18 pm Reason: General Update Aug 26, 2018
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Old Apr 21, 13, 1:03 am
  #2  
 
Join Date: Oct 2009
Location: YUL
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Brilliant.
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Old Apr 21, 13, 7:05 am
  #3  
FlyerTalk Evangelist
 
Join Date: Mar 2000
Location: Southern Alberta
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My candidate for post of the year.
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Old Apr 21, 13, 7:20 am
  #4  
 
Join Date: Jul 2007
Location: Flew over the Equator 55 times last 3 years
Programs: LANPASS Comodoro (Emerald), others
Posts: 2,957
Errors and Omissions

General Provision: If you make a mistake, you pay to get it fixed. If we make a mistake, you pay to get it fixed.
You have 1 year to claim uncredited flights, we have infinity to claw back miles from your account, without any prior warning or notification.
We reserve the right to change the Terms and Conditions of promotions, even half way through the promotion, including claw back points/stars you defrauded.
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Old Apr 21, 13, 8:18 am
  #5  
 
Join Date: Aug 2012
Programs: AC Altitude E75K (*G), NEXUS
Posts: 4,304
BAGGAGE

We will put a tag on your checked baggage to designate its destination. We then may or may not load the bag onto that, or any, aircraft due to many variables which we will not specify. You don't need to know. Let's say "human error" because we all forgive that, right? To err is human. Except pilots. Don't worry about them. We will make every effort to ensure your bag travels with you, except the effort of actually loading the bag. But that's okay because we do not compensate you for your inconvenience.
The tag will also bear your name, in small print, and a list of names on all bags will be cross-referenced to a list of passengers on board so that if we put the wrong name on the bag tag, we will delay your departure and offload your bag. We will not, however, cross-reference the list to identify and find bags that we have not loaded. Why would we? Absence makes the heart grow fonder. We're just enhancing your appreciation for your baggage.



Actual Air Canada boilerplate from two complaints

We recognize the inconvenience which can result from tagging errors. We expect therefore our staff to be vigilant when tagging checked baggage, and it is a matter of concern when this does not happen. However, sometimes, human errors can occur and they can occur in any industry.

We recognize the inconvenience, which may result from delayed baggage and every effort is made to ensure that our passengers' baggage travels with them. Unfortunately, this cannot be guaranteed, as there are too many variables involved. We are therefore, regrettably, unable to offer compensation in such circumstances.
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Old Apr 21, 13, 10:08 am
  #6  
 
Join Date: Dec 2006
Location: Closer to YTZ
Programs: Fairmont Platinum | AC Gate Lice Status | VIPorter
Posts: 2,554
What about waiting for gate crews?

Eg. We'd rather pay our execs millions in bonuses for the want of a few,
extra $15/hr gate crew members? While the others are in Timmies?
This is why AC will never be a great airline merely a trough for the bankers to feed in. We're not fooled.
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Old Apr 21, 13, 1:51 pm
  #7  
 
Join Date: Jul 2004
Programs: AC.SE
Posts: 2,551
Originally Posted by Sopwith View Post
So, as a public service I thought I would take a stab at translating the AC contract into plain English.
Good stuff. Looking forward to more.
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Old Apr 21, 13, 5:11 pm
  #8  
 
Join Date: Feb 2013
Posts: 5
Love it. you hit the nail on the spot.... great
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Old Apr 21, 13, 6:31 pm
  #9  
Suspended
 
Join Date: Feb 2008
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Priceless. Can't wait till you get to the part on in-flight service:

We may or may not board your pre purchased meal/snack on board, that may or may not be eaten by the Pilot/FA/Deadheading Crew/DYKWIA/AC Pensioners/Gate lice prior to delivering such item to your seat.
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Old Apr 21, 13, 7:00 pm
  #10  
 
Join Date: Oct 2012
Location: YYC
Programs: UA 1K, AC E35, Starwood Platinum, Marriott Platinum
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Good one! Figure there should be at least a few lines in there about Altitude:

Frequent Flyer Program
For 2013, we have launched an enhanced frequent flyer program, and named it Altitude (or Attitude).

The calendar year for Altitude benefits starts on March 1, 2013. In order to access the benefits of the program, you will either need to have a membership card, or will need to select your privileges online. We will ensure you have your membership card (effective March 1) by sometime in March or April, so you can at least get 11 months of benefits from the program. For the privileges you select online, we will send you an e-mail to select them sometime shortly after the membership year starts. Some of the benefits will be explained, but some of them (like aircanada.com travel options) will be so vaguely defined that you don't have any idea what you're selecting. That way, we can think of further ways to enhance that benefit before we actually define what it is. Think of it as a surprise.

If you select items such as lounge passes, International MLL access, or aircanada.com travel options, you'll receive these sometime within a couple months of the start of the membership year.

While the program is now called Altitude, it still has something to do with Aeroplan (we're really not entirely sure what the relationship is either). If at any time you have questions about the program, you can contact either Aeroplan or Altitude. If you contact Altitude, you will most likely be directed to Aeroplan, who will in turn, direct you back to Altitude.

As with all Air Canada services, we reserve the right to enhance the program at any time, at our convenience.
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Old Apr 21, 13, 8:40 pm
  #11  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Feb 2007
Location: YVR
Programs: Accidental AC E35K
Posts: 2,494
FREQUENT FLYER PROGRAM(S)

For many years Air Canada has operated a frequent flyer program called Aeroplan. Originally it was us, but now itís them. The original intent was to create loyalty to us, but now that itís them, they try to get you to be loyal to them rather than us. That wasnít working for us, so to correct it we recently created another frequent flyer program called Altitude. Altitude is us, but Aeroplan is still them. We think. We havenít actually told you that because you donít need to know.

A popular misconception is that the Frequent Flyer programs are Loyalty Programs. While this was once the underlying intent, it is no longer the case. We actually donít care about your loyalty, because for every disaffected customer we lose, we gain one back who has become disaffected by another airline. The only reason we continue with this foolishness is because everyone else is doing it and we donít know how to get out of it.

Points are often referred to as Miles. Thatís because sometimes the points you receive approximate the number of miles you flew. Or some fraction of the number of miles you flew. Or how many dollars you spent on gas. Or some multiple of how many dollars you spent on gas. Or some other formula, depending on what you bought, where you bought it and when you bought it. In most cases the points you receive have nothing to do with Air Canada or flying. Suffice it to say that you can obtain points by flying or buying, or both if youíre clever. To avoid confusion we will henceforth refer to points obtained by flying as Miles, and points obtained by buying as Points.

Collecting Miles

Historically there have been two kinds of miles you can collect. That was the case when there was one program, but now that there are two itís still the case. There are Status Miles and Non-Status Miles. They care about both Status and Non-Status miles, but we care only about Status Miles. If you accumulate enough Status Miles, we will extend to you an enhanced status when you fly with AC. Usually. The enhancements you receive depend on your level of status, and how much we have enhanced the program. Generally, the more we enhance the program, the less status you will have.

You can also obtain status by flying a whole bunch of short hops, but this is not the recommended approach.

Until this year there were four levels of status: Super Elite, Elite, Prestige and everyone else. We found it terribly burdensome to keep track of who was who and what they were entitled to, so when we created Altitude we increased the number of status levels to six. This will make it easier to reduce the number of levels when we introduce future enhancements.

The only way to receive Miles (not Points) is to sit on an aircraft operated by AC or one of its Star Alliance Partners. The aircraft must be airborne at the time. Whether your miles are Status Miles or Non-Status Miles, and how many Miles you receive depends on how much you paid for your ticket and how far you flew. You will only retain your status from year to year if you fly a minimum number of Status Miles or flight segments exclusively on AC, so you must keep track until you cross the threshold.

If you have entered your Aeroplan number when you purchased your ticket we will automatically credit the correct number of Status or Non-Status miles to your account. Usually.

Collecting Points

You can collect Points (not Miles) in a variety of ways: using certain credit cards, and making certain purchases at certain businesses. Since this really has everything to do with them, and nothing to do with us, we will not discuss it further here.

Redeeming Miles

For purposes of redeeming Miles and Points, they are the same, so we will call them points from now on. When redeeming points, you will be dealing with them, not us. So we donít want to hear about it.

One of the most common uses of points is to purchase travel on AC or one of its partner airlines. There is a common misperception that points can be used to obtain free air travel tickets. Let us assure you that this is not the case. Points may sometimes be used as partial payment for an air travel ticket. There is a multitude of other fees and taxes for which you must pay cash and only cash.

We have an arrangement with them to allow points to be used as partial payment for a certain number of seats on a certain number of flights to a certain number of destinations at certain times. But the numbers of such seats are tiny, the times are often inconvenient, and the connections may not make sense. Unless you are prepared to pay huge numbers of points, or in some cases throw the weight of your status around. Or go somewhere else. At a different time. With a different number of people. And sit in the economy cabin.

Alternatively, we encourage you to redeem your points with them for things other than flying. This is better for us, but possibly not for you or them.
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Old Apr 21, 13, 8:48 pm
  #12  
ffI
 
Join Date: Jan 2009
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Posts: 3,781
I vote for Wiki

This should be a sticky for all programs
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Old Apr 28, 13, 11:09 pm
  #13  
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Join Date: Feb 2007
Location: YVR
Programs: Accidental AC E35K
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BOARDING (OR NOT)

When you board one of our aircraft you will notice that there are a fixed number of seats. We actually know how many there are because we count them at the beginning of each and every flight. Despite knowing with a great deal of certainty how many seats there are, from time to time we seem to end up with a different number of seats than passengers.

Sometimes it’s more seats than passengers, sometimes it’s less. If it’s more seats, we’re good to go, but that doesn’t happen very often these days. If it’s more passengers than seats, we have a problem because Transport Canada does not allow standing passengers on aircraft. (We’ve talked to them about this silly rule, but they won’t budge.) Fortunately, it is only a problem for us for a short period of time. This is because we deal with it by making our problem somebody else’s problem.

The excess of passengers over seats can happen several ways. The most common is what we call “yield management”. We hate sending out aircraft with empty seats. Empty seats are good for you but not so much for us, so we do our best to minimize these occurrences. We know from experience that despite having bought and paid for a ticket, some of you won’t show up on time for the flight, or at all. (Remember, we can be late, but you can’t.) If you don’t show up on time we may give your seat to someone else who showed up thinking they had a seat but didn’t really. This way we can make sure there are no empty seats, and thereby make ourselves happy (see PREAMBLE).

When we can, we try to make sure someone else really does show to take your seat up by selling more seats than we actually have. To avoid any unnecessary consternation, we normally don’t tell you about this ahead of time. Otherwise, you might rebook on another flight and our yield management goes out the window. We do try to estimate how many no-shows there will be based on past experience, but this is an uncertain science, and we tend to err on the side of maximizing our revenue rather than minimizing your inconvenience.

We can also run out of seats when we need to move crew around to operate other flights in other cities. When this crops up, we are usually in a hurry to get them somewhere where you are also going. Since they matter to us more than you do, they get to go now and you get to go later, generally at some other time of our choosing, not yours.

This seat thing can also happen when a super-status passenger throws their status around. It is a little known paradox that the ones who are a lot more important than you can request and receive a seat on any flight they choose, and we willingly accommodate them because they’re important and you’re not. They can even bring their spouse, child, companion, or significant other. If we have to dump some passenger(s) of lesser status to make room, that’s what we do. So again, because they’re more important than you, they get to go and you don’t, even though you thought you had a ticket. We know how confusing this sounds, so we have provided a convenient link here to our associate, Mr. Seinfeld, who explains more clearly the notion of reservations.

What all this boils down to is that if we don’t have a number of seats equal to or greater than the number of passengers, some of you will get “bumped”, which actually means “dumped”. If you get dumped we will do our best to accommodate you on the next flight. Or the one after that. Or some other flight of our choosing, not yours. But rest assured, we will try to get you to your destination, eventually (see PREAMBLE).

Excepting always, that in the case where you are late and we’re not, you may have another problem, depending on how much you paid for your ticket. If you paid the big bucks for a refundable ticket, and let us know you’re late before you actually were late, you will eventually get a refund. But in most cases you probably have a cheap non-refundable ticket, in which case we sell your seat to someone else and collect twice for the same seat. So in the end, we make sure we get your money one way or another.
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Old Apr 29, 13, 7:59 am
  #14  
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Boarding continued...

Sometimes we have to substitute one kind (or configuration) of aircraft for another (see CHANGES). When this happens everybody gets upset because nobody has the seat they thought they had and you may or may not be seated beside the person you thought you would be seated with. When we up-gauge, everyone is accommodated somewhere. When we downgauge, a bunch of people will typically be left behind. We are particularly looking forward to downgauges from the 77H to 77W where 100 people might get left behind, but those who do get on the switched aircraft will be thrilled. We take particular pleasure in switching 763's for 321's since most Y passengers are accommodated but people in J get to experience our lovely Executive seating instead of those troublesome pods and we have the pleasure of bumping back four bottom-feeders who thought they had upgraded back to where they belong.

One reason we'll bump you for a super-status passenger is the super-status passenger paid through the nose for that last minute ticket, so we can easily afford a couple of hundred bucks coupon or 5% off discount when we inconvenience you.
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Old Apr 29, 13, 9:02 am
  #15  
 
Join Date: Jul 2007
Location: Flew over the Equator 55 times last 3 years
Programs: LANPASS Comodoro (Emerald), others
Posts: 2,957
PREAMBLE
DEFINITIONS
On Time (You). On time is calculated to the minute. You must check in on time, for example, checked baggage must be presented 45 minutes before the flight and we mean 45 minutes.
On Time (Us). On time means, for us, within 15 minutes. So even if we are 15 minutes late we are really on time. You must be on time or we will deny boarding even if we are late (we are really not late, we are are on time, just not the same on time as you).
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