Just ‘plane’ misleading

Friday, 27 March 2009 | Tags: , , , , , ,

With much of the financial world collapsing around us, I'm getting anxious to use up some of those travel points I've accrued over the years...you never know when those loyalty cards might go belly up.

After years of saving, I had 96,000 points racked up on my Aeroplan card. I wanted to book a trip for two to LA over the Easter long weekend but was 4,000 points short of the 100,000 needed for two round-trip direct flights. To buy the extra points, it was going to cost me $123. Okay, no biggie, it seemed worth it for flights to a popular destination at a busy time of year.

But wait…there’s more

Of course, the bucks didn’t stop there. Taxes, charges and surcharges aren’t covered by points. Urgh. To be frank, my recollection of booking these flights is a little hazy. It was 6:30 am. I could have sworn the total surcharges came to $150-$160 and that the entire trip, points purchase included, was going to cost $300. In fact this was substantiated by the two Itinerary/Receipts (one for each passenger) I received right after, via email. They read:

Taxes, surcharges and airline fees per passenger (aged 2 and over): 

Canada Security Charge (CA): 7.94 
Carrier Admin. Service Charge (YQ): 54.00
Combined taxes, fees, charges and surcharges: 84.95

Total, sub-total, grand total?

Now here’s the skill testing question: How much was I charged for this flight?

If you guessed $84.95 per person, like I did, you’d be wrong. Fast forward a few weeks to the arrival of my credit card statement. Looking it over I see Air Canada charged me $146.89 per person for the surcharges and taxes. $146.89? Doesn’t it say combined taxes, charges and surcharges are $84.95?

I called Aeroplan to straighten things out. They said they have no idea what I’m talking about as the receipt clearly states $146.89. Huh? Am I losing it here?

Take me to your leader

Nowhere do the numbers 1-4-6-8-9, in that succession, appear on my receipt. I wanted to talk to a manager and was finally patched through. By this point I’m clear on my error: it’s the addition of those three charges. I told the manager that the line “combined taxes, fees, charges and surcharges” is totally confusing and that their billing system is misleading, to say the least.

The manager finally understood why I felt misinformed. She said she can’t do anything about it except bring it up to “them” at the next board meeting. At this point I was too frustrated to find out who “they” are. She also blamed Air Canada for the confusion and stated that Aeroplan has nothing to do with the taxes. Well, both company names are on the top of the receipt, so they’re not getting my sympathy there.

Can’t get no…

Sometimes, it can be extremely difficult to get any customer satisfaction. I hope Aeroplan took my call seriously and are planning on making changes to their billing process in order to make receipts clearer.

But one thing is definitely clear – there’s no such thing as a free flight any more and there’s definitely no free lunch on board either. Points plans really only offer discounted tickets, not free ones.

Problems too?

If you’ve had any difficult dealings with Air Canada or Aeroplan I’d love to hear from you so post your comments below. There’s power in numbers, if you add them up properly!



Join the Conversation:

On 03 27, 2009 at 11:25:56 AM, judy r. said:

Did you ask for a breakdown of the “combined taxes, fees, charges and surcharges”? I’m curious to know what that covers. I remember the days (and it wasn’t that long ago) when you could use 25,000 Aeroplan points to go across Canada and that’s all it took. It’s barely worth collecting points anymore. We give Aeroplan and other loyalty programs so much valuable information in the form of our personal shopping and spending habits by collecting points, and we barely get any value back from them. I’ve stopped using loyalty cards now, apart from Aeroplan, and I only use Aeroplan because I’m close to getting a “free” ticket. But now I’m not so sure the effort is worth the reward.

On 03 28, 2009 at 11:35:04 AM, Paul R. said:

Hi Kristina, I have 250,000 Aeroplan points and have found that for short flights like Calgary to Vancouver it is wiser to just pay for the flight rather than redeem points for it. I may have to redeem 20,000 points that I had to spend $20,000 to get so am I really saving $100 off a ticket? By the time you work through the research, surprises, frustration and ultimate disappointment it is less stressful to just pay the fare and save the points for overseas journeys. I think that the whole Airline points business has become a thorn in everyones side in the last few years. The airlines don’t want to have them as they just lose money so they end up making the whole process such a hassle and let down that fewer and fewer people will bother with it. Unless I book my flight to Frankfurt 6 months in advance it will cost more than the 250,000 points that I have to go. So they just sit there and pile up. Until the company just unilaterally decides they are invalid after offering it as a supposed perk. My approach to the whole thing is to just expect little or nothing and then if it is ever anything else I will be pleasantly surprised. This unfortunately has become the way I look at any kind of service now. Especially restaurants. But I digress. Hopefully you had a good trip to LA.

On 03 31, 2009 at 02:12:57 PM, Kristina Matisic said:

You are both so right. It’s hardly worth the hassle any more!


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