Go Back  FlyerTalk Forums > Miles&Points > Airlines and Mileage Programs > Air Canada | Aeroplan
Reload this Page >

Is Canadian Air Travel really that bad?

Is Canadian Air Travel really that bad?

Old Nov 28, 21, 9:27 am
  #1  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Aug 2011
Location: MIA
Programs: DL Plat, AA EXP, UA Silver, AC 75K. Marriott LTT, HH Diamond (Aspire)
Posts: 675
Is Canadian Air Travel really that bad?

So family and I went to Toronto for thanksgiving. We did the AC status match thing, so my wife would have shown as 50K and myself and 75K - little flying_geek has UA silver. We flew MIA-YYZ - and YYZ-YUL-MIA.

The first thing I found really surprising is that as elites, one can not select seats on a standard economy fare - whatever that is - but it doesn’t sound like an economy light fare. Seemingly your can’t even select premium seats at check-in if available (without paying extra)

The AC check-in is behind Lufthansa in terminal J in MIA - I did not find any signage suggesting that. At check-in, we were told the Avianca lounge is available. I even said “oh, they reopened”? (They didn’t) - we ended up sitting in row 29 or so - it took well over 80 minutes post take off to get drink service. They didn’t start in Y for almost 65 minutes.

one of the 75K options is free internet - picked that - instructions state you connect to AC Wi-Fi or Rouge Wi-Fi and then activate the service - Gogo support eventually explained that Rouge flights don’t qualify.

On the flight back, I figured arriving 100 minutes before departure for a domestic flight (YYZ-YUL) should provide plenty time to get some breakfast in the ML lounge. The “business class” check in took 35 minutes, priority security exactly the same time - which left enough time to go to the lounge, grab a few things and board. Drink service on the YYZ-YUL flight was actually quick, free Wi-Fi worked too.

Connecting in YUL to MIA was a nightmare again. We had 75 minutes due to the YYZ-YUL flight being delayed. Was told there was no priority security though somehow some people somehow were let into the “priority” lane - and got ahead. I asked the “supervisor” how that is possible - the guy looked a little like a Mossad reject and told me I should respect him and I am not allowed to be angry. I told him I am very much allowed and even entitled to be angry - I can’t insult him, yell at him, threaten him - but I am surely allowed to be angry (he conceded that point). I also feel entitled to politely question his ability to manage this operation. He blamed Covid and offered to call the police. Had I not been with family, I would have played the game and taken the later flight to FLL. Made it to the gate with 10 minutes to spare (I have global entry) while wife and kid made it to the gate exactly at departure time - was able to convince the gate agents not to give away their seats for waiting stand bys. (Guess one success story) - flight left gate about 20 minutes late.

Did I miss something? Did I get atypically unlucky with those flights - or has air travel in Canada really gotten worse than even in the US?
flying_geek is offline  
Old Nov 28, 21, 10:23 am
  #2  
 
Join Date: Jul 2003
Location: miami, florida
Posts: 3,187
Originally Posted by flying_geek View Post
So family and I went to Toronto for thanksgiving. We did the AC status match thing, so my wife would have shown as 50K and myself and 75K - little flying_geek has UA silver. We flew MIA-YYZ - and YYZ-YUL-MIA.

The first thing I found really surprising is that as elites, one can not select seats on a standard economy fare - whatever that is - but it doesn’t sound like an economy light fare. Seemingly your can’t even select premium seats at check-in if available (without paying extra)

The AC check-in is behind Lufthansa in terminal J in MIA - I did not find any signage suggesting that. At check-in, we were told the Avianca lounge is available. I even said “oh, they reopened”? (They didn’t) - we ended up sitting in row 29 or so - it took well over 80 minutes post take off to get drink service. They didn’t start in Y for almost 65 minutes.

one of the 75K options is free internet - picked that - instructions state you connect to AC Wi-Fi or Rouge Wi-Fi and then activate the service - Gogo support eventually explained that Rouge flights don’t qualify.

On the flight back, I figured arriving 100 minutes before departure for a domestic flight (YYZ-YUL) should provide plenty time to get some breakfast in the ML lounge. The “business class” check in took 35 minutes, priority security exactly the same time - which left enough time to go to the lounge, grab a few things and board. Drink service on the YYZ-YUL flight was actually quick, free Wi-Fi worked too.

Connecting in YUL to MIA was a nightmare again. We had 75 minutes due to the YYZ-YUL flight being delayed. Was told there was no priority security though somehow some people somehow were let into the “priority” lane - and got ahead. I asked the “supervisor” how that is possible - the guy looked a little like a Mossad reject and told me I should respect him and I am not allowed to be angry. I told him I am very much allowed and even entitled to be angry - I can’t insult him, yell at him, threaten him - but I am surely allowed to be angry (he conceded that point). I also feel entitled to politely question his ability to manage this operation. He blamed Covid and offered to call the police. Had I not been with family, I would have played the game and taken the later flight to FLL. Made it to the gate with 10 minutes to spare (I have global entry) while wife and kid made it to the gate exactly at departure time - was able to convince the gate agents not to give away their seats for waiting stand bys. (Guess one success story) - flight left gate about 20 minutes late.

Did I miss something? Did I get atypically unlucky with those flights - or has air travel in Canada really gotten worse than even in the US?
Moved from Canada to USA 20 years ago. I am always shocked at how much bad service Canadians are willing to put up with with many industries being oligopolies. Cellphones and airlines come to mind. They just don’t have any basis of comparison.

Last edited by sydneyracquelle; Nov 28, 21 at 10:29 am
sydneyracquelle is offline  
Old Nov 28, 21, 10:38 am
  #3  
Original Member
 
Join Date: May 1998
Location: Canada
Programs: AC SE 2MM, HH Dd, SPG; IC Pl/A; AA; DL
Posts: 14,192
Originally Posted by flying_geek View Post
Did I miss something? Did I get atypically unlucky with those flights - or has air travel in Canada really gotten worse than even in the US?
As someone who flies on US carriers occasionally and a lot in Canada (or at least until COVID struck), I think there isn't that much difference. COVID has made things worse. I have had really bad and really good experiences with United for example--crowded/uncrowded lounges, bad service recovery done well and done poorly to the point of having to overnight even though alternative flights were available (on paid business class no less). There are many ways US carriers are far worse as detailed in this forum but Canadian carriers are far from perfect. Over the decades, I have come to roll with the punches as it seems you have as well. Overall, I get most of what I want and when I want it so really can't complain!
milski and canadiancow like this.
BlondeBomber is offline  
Old Nov 28, 21, 10:56 am
  #4  
 
Join Date: Oct 2012
Location: YYC
Programs: UA 1K, AC E50, Marriott Titanium
Posts: 2,244
This sounds fairly typical for a transborder connection via YUL or YYZ. I find I generally misconnect about 50% of the time when doing a domestic to transborder (or vice-versa) connection, so it is really one of the weakest connection points of the AC network, and many pax who originate in YYZ or YUL and typically fly direct don't realize what a hassle those transborder connections are. The experience is generally much better if you're flying direct or doing an Intl to Intl connection or a Canada domestic flight.
gcashin is offline  
Old Nov 28, 21, 10:59 am
  #5  
 
Join Date: Aug 2010
Location: YYZ/YUL/YOW
Programs: TK*G/E+ SPG (G)
Posts: 3,103
Originally Posted by sydneyracquelle View Post
Moved from Canada to USA 20 years ago. I am always shocked at how much bad service Canadians are willing to put up with with many industries being oligopolies. Cellphones and airlines come to mind. They just don’t have any basis of comparison.
A view shared by many of us who’ve lived/worked abroad. Overpriced mediocrity is the de facto Canadian standard (and it’s amazing how proud some of it are). Don’t mention it too loudly though - the closet nationalists get offended when anyone points that out.

OP - security is outside AC’s control. And the lack of priority lanes is a COVID thing - think they’re just severely understaffed, so it’s only open to Nexus/trusted travellers (even J pax don’t have access in some airports - like YVR).

For the rest, understand that AC views it’s Y ops - particularly domestic/transborder as ULCC pax (despite the fares being mainline). There is a relatively higher level of contempt for Y pax writ large - along the lines of the premium-focused EU3 (until the ME3 shook things up) - as opposed to the US3 levels of indifference - although the latter are much better at Y customer service recovery after IRROPs.

The meal/drink service times probably have something to do with the number of cabin crew they carry, or the way they allocate them across cabins, but yes, wait times for meals and drinks are exponentially higher on AC if you aren’t in the first third of the Y cabin, than they are on any EU airline.

Bottom line: if you intend to fly Y on AC ex-US, you’re better off on just about any other airline unless your AC ticket is heavily discounted. If you fly J, it’ll be alright in normal times. PY is a wash - depending on where you want to go, a Y detour to Canada may or may not be worth it.
24left likes this.
yulred is offline  
Old Nov 28, 21, 11:19 am
  #6  
 
Join Date: Dec 2007
Location: Body in Downtown YYZ, heart and mind elsewhere
Programs: UA 50K, refugee from AC E50K, Marriott Lifetime Plat
Posts: 5,083
As others have pointed out, security / lack of priority lanes is not an AC issue. Nexus improves the travel experience but COVID has clearly have an impact. It's also important to recognize that Canada's approach to COVID is quite different vs the US so things like getting staff to return to work (and open up more lanes) inherently impacts the overall travel experience. I recently flew domestic. For the first segment I just went through security normally and joined the herd. The next segment I made sure I had Nexus card in hand and showed it to the CBSA person so I could join this line instead of that line.

AC has very much become a carrier where you get what you pay for. If you try to save $$$ and insert those little connections, you'll save some cash but you'll end up paying in other ways. Onboard the aircraft, well no matter the carrier, there's always a difference sitting at the back or at the front of the bus.
RCyyz is offline  
Old Nov 28, 21, 11:21 am
  #7  
 
Join Date: Aug 2009
Location: YOW
Programs: AC- SE100 1MM, HH Diamond, Avis Preferred, Nexus/GE
Posts: 3,942
Originally Posted by flying_geek View Post
So family and I went to Toronto for thanksgiving. We did the AC status match thing, so my wife would have shown as 50K and myself and 75K - little flying_geek has UA silver. We flew MIA-YYZ - and YYZ-YUL-MIA.

The first thing I found really surprising is that as elites, one can not select seats on a standard economy fare - whatever that is - but it doesn’t sound like an economy light fare. Seemingly your can’t even select premium seats at check-in if available (without paying extra)

The AC check-in is behind Lufthansa in terminal J in MIA - I did not find any signage suggesting that. At check-in, we were told the Avianca lounge is available. I even said “oh, they reopened”? (They didn’t) - we ended up sitting in row 29 or so - it took well over 80 minutes post take off to get drink service. They didn’t start in Y for almost 65 minutes.

one of the 75K options is free internet - picked that - instructions state you connect to AC Wi-Fi or Rouge Wi-Fi and then activate the service - Gogo support eventually explained that Rouge flights don’t qualify.

On the flight back, I figured arriving 100 minutes before departure for a domestic flight (YYZ-YUL) should provide plenty time to get some breakfast in the ML lounge. The “business class” check in took 35 minutes, priority security exactly the same time - which left enough time to go to the lounge, grab a few things and board. Drink service on the YYZ-YUL flight was actually quick, free Wi-Fi worked too.

Connecting in YUL to MIA was a nightmare again. We had 75 minutes due to the YYZ-YUL flight being delayed. Was told there was no priority security though somehow some people somehow were let into the “priority” lane - and got ahead. I asked the “supervisor” how that is possible - the guy looked a little like a Mossad reject and told me I should respect him and I am not allowed to be angry. I told him I am very much allowed and even entitled to be angry - I can’t insult him, yell at him, threaten him - but I am surely allowed to be angry (he conceded that point). I also feel entitled to politely question his ability to manage this operation. He blamed Covid and offered to call the police. Had I not been with family, I would have played the game and taken the later flight to FLL. Made it to the gate with 10 minutes to spare (I have global entry) while wife and kid made it to the gate exactly at departure time - was able to convince the gate agents not to give away their seats for waiting stand bys. (Guess one success story) - flight left gate about 20 minutes late.

Did I miss something? Did I get atypically unlucky with those flights - or has air travel in Canada really gotten worse than even in the US?
Wow, I think there was just some bad luck. The one thing I have observed is that many so-called frequent flyers are not well informed of their benefits and how things are supposed to work. Like a lot of things in life, being informed is the number one strength that one can have. E50 & E75 can choose standard seats for free. Yesterday I booked for my wife under her account a flight to HNL and as an E50 I booked a standard fare and choose emergency seats for her. There is no priority security line for transborder out of YYZ, and if you are a family with small kids or seniors that hold up the entire line, you have priority. I was there on my LAX fight and they kept moving the slowest people, that always have water bottles etc that take what seems forever to unload and ask if they can take this or that, anyway, the priority is not there.

Covid for some reason has been an excellent excuse for incompetence, poor services, mistakes, delays etc . Things just take longer as there are many who are still afraid and or have anxiety issues to be near people. You cant sit side by side in an MLL for a bit, but it's Ok to sit side by side nine seats across on an aircraft for hours. As an Elite member, you should know what you are entitled to and know the rules and benefits. This site is a great educational tool as AC employees may not know certain things, but here there are a lot of season flyers who know more than employees. Flying today you need to be steadfast, informed, and willing to be brave enough, in a Canadian politeness attitude of course to question and in many cases educate or inform those who are in positions of authority. Just because one is in a uniform or position of authority does not make them superior or knowledgeable. I have always said just because you are educated does not mean you are smart!

In Short, I have had excellent and poor service on AC and United.....I think Canadian carriers are better than US carriers, but that is my opinion as others will say the reverse. Being informed and the willingness to exercise your benefits always in a respectful and polite way does go a long way. On any given day grab a Tim's or in the US a Doncun Donut coffee at the airport and simply watch people and really observe their behaviors and many of life's questions will be answered.
HerpaYvr is offline  
Old Nov 28, 21, 11:35 am
  #8  
FlyerTalk Evangelist
 
Join Date: Jan 2002
Location: Canada
Programs: UA*1K, BA Silver, AC35k
Posts: 22,473
Sounds very typical. Except your flights were on time. Which is atypical.
Rouge is the devil. Sorry that was your first experience.

A lot of people I know who jumped on the status match and had to fly AC once, have shared your opinion.
rankourabu is offline  
Old Nov 28, 21, 11:51 am
  #9  
 
Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: YQR
Posts: 2,499
Originally Posted by HerpaYvr View Post
Wow, I think there was just some bad luck. The one thing I have observed is that many so-called frequent flyers are not well informed of their benefits and how things are supposed to work. Like a lot of things in life, being informed is the number one strength that one can have. E50 & E75 can choose standard seats for free. Yesterday I booked for my wife under her account a flight to HNL and as an E50 I booked a standard fare and choose emergency seats for her. There is no priority security line for transborder out of YYZ, and if you are a family with small kids or seniors that hold up the entire line, you have priority. I was there on my LAX fight and they kept moving the slowest people, that always have water bottles etc that take what seems forever to unload and ask if they can take this or that, anyway, the priority is not there.

Covid for some reason has been an excellent excuse for incompetence, poor services, mistakes, delays etc . Things just take longer as there are many who are still afraid and or have anxiety issues to be near people. You cant sit side by side in an MLL for a bit, but it's Ok to sit side by side nine seats across on an aircraft for hours. As an Elite member, you should know what you are entitled to and know the rules and benefits. This site is a great educational tool as AC employees may not know certain things, but here there are a lot of season flyers who know more than employees. Flying today you need to be steadfast, informed, and willing to be brave enough, in a Canadian politeness attitude of course to question and in many cases educate or inform those who are in positions of authority. Just because one is in a uniform or position of authority does not make them superior or knowledgeable. I have always said just because you are educated does not mean you are smart!

In Short, I have had excellent and poor service on AC and United.....I think Canadian carriers are better than US carriers, but that is my opinion as others will say the reverse. Being informed and the willingness to exercise your benefits always in a respectful and polite way does go a long way. On any given day grab a Tim's or in the US a Doncun Donut coffee at the airport and simply watch people and really observe their behaviors and many of life's questions will be answered.
Definitely a good take on things in the current travel moment. I would add that I have observed more people grumbling and exclaiming about travel things now than ever before where generally it seems to me that airport and flying experiences do not seem particularly better or worse. I witnessed an appalling bit of bad behaviour at a YYC gate a few weeks ago where a guy was laying into the gate agent for something that was not her fault. She had to call the police. I had never seen anything quite like that before and wonder if such behaviour has to do with people having high expectations for how things will be after not travelling for 20 months but the reality is that air travel kind of sucked before, especially in Y, and it continues to be sucky now, and, there simply are lots of annoyances when you travel and you just have to deal with them. A lot of patience is needed with travel these days and the ability to let things go that are not right but still workable.

As for AC, I’ve done about 16-20 domestic segments since June with AC on mainline, Jazz, and Rouge and I have not seen anything better or worse than my recollections of flying US carriers in the pre pandemic days. Maybe I’m lucky. My TATL experience in paid J was not good, however. The crew were indifferent and seemed to think their role was to gather in the galley to have hours-long loud (like really loud) conversations and bugger the passengers who might like to sleep on their overnight flight. By contrast, we ended up booking WS on our second London trip this fall and the service levels in business are up there with the best—if not better—we’ve experienced (AC, LX, LH, SN) in the last 4-5 years. They really treat you like you are very special. AC could learn something from them in that regard.
arf04 is offline  
Old Nov 28, 21, 12:02 pm
  #10  
 
Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: SAT
Programs: AA PLT, BA Gold, TK Gold, Hyatt Gold, Hilton Gold, Gold SPG, AS 75K, QR PLT
Posts: 5,839
We flew DXB-YYZ yesterday on EK. Then AC YYZ-IAH. Customer service was a complete joke. We wanted to stand-by on an earlier flight. (no, cannot). We asked to upgrade using ecredits (no, cannot), wanted to change seats (no cannot).

It felt like the IRS. You are there to obey and comply with their rules and way of doing things. Customers are just in the way of their day.

It was so bad that my young daughter named them Air Canannot. We did the status match to 75K but after this experience we are not going to buy the additional ticket to qualify for the status through 2022. It is just too painful.

Speaking of painful. YYZ is just a mess. We arrived in T1 and could not go to any of the Priority Pass restaurants in T1 because it is in DOMESTIC. We could also not go to the Priority Pass restaurant in the international terminal because we were in TRANSBORDER. What kind of screwed up planning is THAT?

We couldn't legally enter Canada and walk to the domestic side because we had tickets to IAH.

While air travel sucks almost universally, especially with the useless testing requirements, it does suck even more in Canada.

We will avoid AC and Canada when possible.

ETA.. at the transborder check point (why is there even one when I came off a secure, international flight without access to my checked bags?) were 4 lanes. 3 were blocked off and the one was having IT issues so it took about 30-45 mins to process 20-30 passengers. And our AC flight to IAH was 30 mins late. According to friends in a travel group, I am lucky.

Oh and of our two bags only one made it to IAH/SAT. The other one is still sitting in YYZ

Last edited by Adam Smith; Nov 28, 21 at 3:55 pm Reason: Remove political commentary
Deltahater is offline  
Old Nov 28, 21, 12:03 pm
  #11  
Suspended
 
Join Date: Sep 2014
Programs: AC SE100K-1MM, NH, DL, AA, BA, Global Entry/Nexus, APEC..
Posts: 18,878
Excellent posts and observations here. All valid.
Also reminds me that I should post why I switched to flying in Y on AC for domestic (transcon) flights a month ago.

Also, as others have noted, NEXUS and Priority lanes are not what they once were and I'll post elsewhere about a recent chat with a CATSA supervisor and a few AC concierges about that.
24left is offline  
Old Nov 28, 21, 12:38 pm
  #12  
 
Join Date: Sep 2015
Posts: 344
Originally Posted by Deltahater View Post
Speaking of painful. YYZ is just a mess. We arrived in T1 and could not go to any of the Priority Pass restaurants in T1 because it is in DOMESTIC. We could also not go to the Priority Pass restaurant in the international terminal because we were in TRANSBORDER. What kind of screwed up planning is THAT?
I blame the Americans for that. In an effort to make US airports a single domestic zone as much as possible, they push the border to foreign airports. So across Canada, if you are flying to the US, you have to clear US immigration at the departure airport. After that, you're essentially stuck on American soil, and there are simply fewer services in that zone because it's a much smaller travelling population. This is also why connecting in Canada to go to the US takes so much longer - you need to factor in time for immigration that wouldn't be the case if you were connecting to anywhere else in the world.
pilot007 and milski like this.
vancouver25k is offline  
Old Nov 28, 21, 12:49 pm
  #13  
 
Join Date: Oct 2013
Location: YOW
Programs: AC SE, FOTSG Platinum
Posts: 4,573
Originally Posted by Deltahater View Post
We flew DXB-YYZ yesterday on EK. Then AC YYZ-IAH.

We arrived in T1 and could not go to any of the Priority Pass restaurants in T1 because it is in DOMESTIC. We could also not go to the Priority Pass restaurant in the international terminal because we were in TRANSBORDER. What kind of screwed up planning is that?
You were transit passengers who had not cleared Customs. Are you honestly shocked that nobody has put much effort into making it simple for foreign transit passengers to enter Canada solely to get a free sandwich?
pilot007, arf04, milski and 5 others like this.

Last edited by Adam Smith; Nov 28, 21 at 3:57 pm Reason: Remove political commentary
YOWgary is online now  
Old Nov 28, 21, 1:56 pm
  #14  
A FlyerTalk Posting Legend
 
Join Date: Apr 2004
Location: GVA (Greater Vancouver Area)
Programs: DREAD Gold; UA 1.024MM; Bonvoy Au-197; PCC Elite+; CWC Au-197; CCC Select; WoH Dis
Posts: 51,052
Originally Posted by Deltahater View Post
We arrived in T1 and could not go to any of the Priority Pass restaurants in T1 because it is in DOMESTIC. We could also not go to the Priority Pass restaurant in the international terminal because we were in TRANSBORDER. What kind of screwed up planning is THAT?
That's 100% Priority Pass's fault. I suggest you lambaste them instead of people who have no control over these issues.
mahasamatman is offline  
Old Nov 28, 21, 2:02 pm
  #15  
FlyerTalk Evangelist
 
Join Date: Jan 2002
Location: Canada
Programs: UA*1K, BA Silver, AC35k
Posts: 22,473
Apart from the offtopic discussion about the setup of YYZ, who is to blame for it, etc - who hasnt felt like AC acts like "customers are just in the way of their day" - that point is very valid.
​​​​​​

Last edited by Adam Smith; Nov 28, 21 at 3:58 pm Reason: Remove non-contributive content
rankourabu is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread