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Air Canada / American Airlines -- Don't Volunteer!

Ontario, Canada
posts: 8
Air Canada / American Airlines -- Don't Volunteer!

Just a warning -- don't volunteer to take a later flight and expect to be compensated fairly with Air Canada/American Airlines.

We volunteered to give up two economy seats from US to Toronto on a direct flight on Air Canada, in exchange for two business class seats, indirect flight in two legs, and $300 flight voucher.

Completed one leg just fine.

Second leg, Ms Connell at American Airlines in Miami refused to honour our boarding passes saying it is against company policy to compensate economy passengers with business class.

The flight was oversold -- they gave out hotel and $500 vouchers to two volunteers as we waited to board. Then as we presented our boarding passes they refused to let us board -- and must have moved AA economy passengers into business class to make room for us in economy. But there were still four empty seats in business when we took off.

Obviously Ms Connell meant to say that it is company policy to treat Air Canada transferred passengers as dirt.

She told us our suitcases had been pulled and we might not board at all.

We had not bought food in the airport believing we would be served on board. We were not even offered snacks to purchase!!! And the flight voucher was ONE voucher, not one per person.

Way to go AC and AA -- instead of a PR gift that had me thinking of upgrading more often, you've created a PR nightmare! I am telling everyone I can to NEVER volunteer to give up a seat.

American Airlines won't even honour the boarding passes that they created?

Good-bye, Aeroplan. Yes, WestJet, we are calling you from now on.

Edited: 8:39 am, February 24, 2013
Destination Expert
for Bangkok, Air Travel, Thailand
posts: 13,894
reviews: 71
1. Re: Air Canada / American Airlines -- Don't Volunteer!


Assuming this is as written, to me it *sounds* like the error here was in fact on the AC side when their agent promised and issued/authorized an upgraded booking as VDB comp for your volunteer status, and for travel over another airlines routes-- that being AA.

It sounds like AA really only enforced what is (allegedly) their policy of not permitted a C/J upgrade option as a one option for VDB comp..

IF it is like this, then I think the failure really starts with and would be on AC for initially issuing something you couldn't use.

Perhaps AA's agents could have looked for other options or gone back to AC to see what alternatives could have been used, but largely I can't really fault them for enforcing a rule and for the (apparent) erroneous actions by an employee of another airline.

The only part of your post that I can't reconcile is your 10th paragraph that says "American Airlines won't even honour the boarding passes that they created?"

Did an AA agent actually issue you a BP for that upgraded class? Or was that actually done by an AC agent? I'm not sure of what the new travel actually turned out to be..

The reason I ask is because IF you did get that BP from an actual AA agent (person) then I think there perhaps was an opportunity by AA staff at that point to let you know "I'm sorry but there appears to be an error in your upgraded booking, let me call Air Canada and see what we can do" and then work it out with AC before you got plane-side.

Based on what's written, I'd go back to AC and let them address this as I think you have every expectation that any compensation you get as a VDB, be usable by you within the terms that's disclosed to you at the time of issuance.

Travel Safe,

Toronto, Canada
posts: 6,855
2. Re: Air Canada / American Airlines -- Don't Volunteer!

I'll defer to GOPBI's far more knowledgeable explanation, but just want to add as background that Air Canada and American Airlines are not allied in any way. They're two separate airlines that -- like many airlines -- will honour each other's tickets under specific circumstances.

And in case it's not clear, VDB = "voluntarily denied boarding".

Calgary, Canada
posts: 2,926
reviews: 44
3. Re: Air Canada / American Airlines -- Don't Volunteer!

Hmmm strange story ...but the Hello Westjet thing always makes me laugh.

I like WestJet but its never going to get you to Europe or South Africa, and its loyalty program is meh.

Newmarket, Canada
posts: 806
reviews: 36
4. Re: Air Canada / American Airlines -- Don't Volunteer!

If not accepting upgraded boarding passes for VDB econcomy passengers is actually a policy of AA, then it doesn't seem to be consistently enforced, since the OP's first leg on an upgraded AA flight seems to have worked just fine. It was only the second leg where they were told they're upgrade was not allowed, so it can't be that rigid of a policy?

As for giving up on AC to fly WestJet, well, you'll never be upgraded to first class with them, since they're just one big airborne economy-only section!

Edited: 11:48 am, February 24, 2013
Toronto, Canada
posts: 6,855
5. Re: Air Canada / American Airlines -- Don't Volunteer!

DCH, it's possible the first leg was still on Air Canada. The story isn't clear on that point.

Vancouver, Canada
Destination Expert
for Air Travel, Business Travel
posts: 7,003
reviews: 77
6. Re: Air Canada / American Airlines -- Don't Volunteer!

VDB doesn't get upgraded in any airline that I'm aware of. How did flight #2 even see that it was the result of a VDB issue on Air Canada? The systems don't talk to one-another.

Usually, VDB compensation is simply the travel certificate... abandoning an airline due to upgrade denial on a different airline is a knee-jerk reaction.

The first leg would have been on American as AC doesn't do internal US flights. OP didn't list any other carriers or mention the routing so it is unlikely the first carrier would have been US or UA, the logical choices for AC to use.

If AC bought OP C seats on AA, that was a hugely good thing for them to do. If AA didn't recognize the purchase, AC needs to know about it... as opposed to simply issuing a misdirected shotgun rant.

Edited: 1:15 pm, February 24, 2013
posts: 42,137
reviews: 88
7. Re: Air Canada / American Airlines -- Don't Volunteer!

Sounds like a big mess up, I would write a polite letter to AC asking for compensation, since if they promised an upgrade, they should have done whatever was necessary to make that happen.

And geomedic not sure why you say you dont get an uograde for vdb, I've been promised an upgrade for the delayed flight for VDB, and I recall a few years ago a friend of mine got a hotel, money and a first class instead of economy flight for VDB and travelling the next day with American.

Vancouver, Canada
Destination Expert
for Air Travel, Business Travel
posts: 7,003
reviews: 77
8. Re: Air Canada / American Airlines -- Don't Volunteer!

It has tightened up a lot in North America over the last few years. With airlines offering automatic upgrades for elite flyers well before departure (I get my upgrades starting at 120 hours), there simply aren't a lot of seats available in first, and those that are available at the last minute, as this would have been, have a strict distribution policy. If AC bought the space for them, they should have had it, but we know not the method they used to supply the boarding passes. For all we know, they could have been promised business class on the first flight but didn't understand that the second flight was iffy. That doesn't explain the issuance of the boarding pass though. A call or note to AC would be warranted, but not a rant (likely a one-timer) on an unrelated website. That is barking up the wrong tree.

Ontario, Canada
posts: 8
9. Re: Air Canada / American Airlines -- Don't Volunteer!

The AC agent offered us "business class on a different airline." She promised us both legs would be business class.

She physically walked with us over to the American Airlines security area and ensured our documents were good to go.

We had two boarding passes in our hands printed with the words "business class."

Both passes were for American Airlines.

For the first leg, we presented our passes without incident -- except that the AA agent commented, "Oh, Air Canada. Again."

I know the two airlines are not allied.

I understood that AC purchased those seats for us and that Air Canada was compensating American Airlines for those seats.

This has happened to me before across non-allied airlines.

Boarding passes have always been honoured as presented, until now.

The voucher attached to the American-Airlines-printed boarding pass had an area marked "Code" -- and apparently the offensive letter was "D."

I accept wholly that AA does not compensate their economy passengers by moving them to business class.

They have every right to have such a policy.

But in this case they were not doing the compensating.

Air Canada was doing the compensating.

And is it not unsettling to be boarding a flight with supposedly valid tickets only to be pulled out of line, denied boarding and treated as if we were trying to cheat AA and Ms Connell personally out of something very precious.

We just wanted to get home on the tickets we were given.

It is the principle of the thing.

As for Geomedic's comment, yes, it was a hugely good thing for them (AC) to do -- just as it was a hugely good thing for us to do to give up our seats to get AC out of a pinch.

I feel I completed my part of the three-way contract. AA did not.

My "misdirected shotgun rant" as Geomedic describes it is posted here because this is a forum about air travel -- about volunteering to change one's plans and then being disrespected in the process. AA did not honour its own AA-issued boarding passes half-way through a journey. They gave my business class seats to two AA economy passengers and made me sit in economy. This was a learning event for me and I am sharing it here. I come to this site to hear about just such true-life experiences. Please explain why you come here and why you think my rant is so misdirected. My formal complaints are not being printed here. That would be misdirecting them. Did you need to see them for some reason....?

Yes, I got home. Thanks for asking.

Edited: 8:34 pm, February 24, 2013
posts: 10,172
reviews: 16
10. Re: Air Canada / American Airlines -- Don't Volunteer!

I'm still a little confused. Were the business class boarding passes issued by AC or AA?

Also, I've never been upgraded for VDB (since I've never volunteered - I usually need to get home), but I've never had a voucher attached to a boarding pass. Is that usual in some situations?

I can see why you're upset, but I must admit, I am not sure which airline you should be upset at. It sounds like AC promised something they couldn't deliver, but I'm not clear on that.

Do you mean the AC agent walked to an AA gate with you? I don't know what an AA security area would be, but I've never been to Miami airport.

ETA: I guess the AA security area would have been in the originating airport (which I can't remember if you mentioned) since the AC agent wouldn't have been in Miami.

Edited: 10:09 pm, February 24, 2013