Travel

Air Canada employee says staff trained to 'dupe' passengers at risk of being bumped from oversold flights

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  • Feb 13th, 2019 11:33 am
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May 17, 2005
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Air Canada employee says staff trained to 'dupe' passengers at risk of being bumped from oversold flights

A pair of Air Canada insiders are shedding light on the airline's policy of overselling flights, revealing what they say is a widespread practice of duping passengers into believing they have a seat on a plane and stringing them along until the last possible moment.
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https://www.cbc.ca/news/business/air-ca ... -1.5008217
19 replies
Deal Addict
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Nov 10, 2015
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Unfortunatly AC will deny it, they'll weather the storm and business will continue as usual.
No political content in signatures (Who did I offend?)
Jr. Member
Nov 26, 2012
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Toronto
Having never experienced this before, how does one get a GTE ticket upon check in? Is it that you checked in too late and there are no more seats but the attendant tells you to go the gate anyways? I mean at that point, the passenger should have a good idea that they may not get a seat....that’s essentially stand by no?
Deal Addict
Oct 18, 2014
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Another slow news day at CBC, courtesy of our taxes.

Just in 2017 CBC published this article: Why airlines overbook flights and what bumped passengers can do about it

This part should resonate well with RFD:

What if airlines stop overbooking?

If airlines aren't able to recoup their lost revenue, passengers should expect airline ticket prices to go up, Charles Leocha, chairman and co-founder of the consumer advocacy group Travelers United, toldTime magazine.

​"The airlines normally do a pretty good job on overbooking," he said. "People know it's coming, and they are willing to allow themselves to be bribed to get off the flight. People who are actually bumped and are really irritated about it are almost nonexistent — it's a tiny percentage. But the people who want lower prices are around 100 per cent."


I'm all for not overbooking, it means my business travels will actually cost less at the expense of leisure travelers.
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Oct 18, 2014
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niche54 wrote:
Feb 11th, 2019 12:56 pm
Having never experienced this before, how does one get a GTE ticket upon check in? Is it that you checked in too late and there are no more seats but the attendant tells you to go the gate anyways? I mean at that point, the passenger should have a good idea that they may not get a seat....that’s essentially stand by no?
Many times, it is due to travelers being too cheap to pay for advanced seat selection at the time of booking. Typically, those who 1) have no status and 2) paid for the lowest fare gets no seat in those situations.

Many do not make it to their flight (while checked-in), thus the seat is given to someone else. It's better than the agent at the ticket counter telling someone to go home even if they have a slim chance of getting a seat. It's a damned if you do, damned if you don't situation for gate agents.
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Feb 14, 2009
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niche54 wrote:
Feb 11th, 2019 12:56 pm
Having never experienced this before, how does one get a GTE ticket upon check in? Is it that you checked in too late and there are no more seats but the attendant tells you to go the gate anyways? I mean at that point, the passenger should have a good idea that they may not get a seat....that’s essentially stand by no?
It is about several reserves: Airlines have to (obliged!) to keep
several seats open till almost last moment for:
* Goverment, military and other high-ranking organizations who can decide to have urgent meeting somewhere.
* very-high-status passengers who can appear in last moment and grab a seat.
* own pilots and cabin crew that has to be moved quickly to another airport
In most cases it is not happening and these seats go to public.
But if something -- bunch of unprivileged ordinary people are left behind.

Some other cases can be noted:
* no-show : zero or more passengers for any given flight.
* late-minute re-booking, returns. Passengers with expensive tickets and
also passengers with very-high-status may skip the flight withing 30 minutes of departure.

So, you see, there are cases that can increase and decrease passenger count in last minutes.
And all cases have probabilities, average, distribution, impact, etc.
No matter how good is optimization algorithms -- one day, for the same flight, couple of
Elite passengers and group of generals will go ahead of ticket-bearing people and
we will have another CTV story on evil Air Canada.

Cheers!
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Feb 14, 2009
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poleman wrote:
Feb 11th, 2019 12:54 pm
Unfortunatly AC will deny it, they'll weather the storm and business will continue as usual.
I noted some possible discrepancy in the article:
Article says that denied bording compensation is ONLY happens if
delay is under airline control, but NOT if "after safety conserns".
In another words the article implies that if there are
maintenance issue -- denied-boarding compensation is not happening.

Official text (as I read it, please, correct if I am wrong) says that
both "under control" and "safety concerns" are good reason to get deny-boarding compensation.

Where article is right that delay compensation is only provided in "under control" but
not after "security concerns". This is serious difference with EU 241.
Sure, airline can now push ANY delay as "safety concern" and skip responsibility.

Cheers!
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Feb 25, 2007
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niche54 wrote:
Feb 11th, 2019 12:56 pm
Having never experienced this before, how does one get a GTE ticket upon check in? Is it that you checked in too late and there are no more seats but the attendant tells you to go the gate anyways? I mean at that point, the passenger should have a good idea that they may not get a seat....that’s essentially stand by no?
You get an assigned seat by pre-booking a seat, by choosing a seat when checking in online or at the kiosk, or by being assigned one when checking in with an agent.
You get a GTE if you are "confirmed" for the flight, but you have no seat assigned and no seat is available when you actually check in.

As McK says above, many GTEs are people on rock-bottom fares who would have had to pay extra for pre-booked seat assignments, but didn't. And then didn't check in online, trusting luck of the draw when they got to the airport, and then the flight turned out to be overbooked and there were no seats. It differs from standby in that they are, according to the airline, "confirmed", i.e. the airline at some point felt confident it could definitely get them on the flight.

You may also end up with a GTE even if at some point you had a seat assigned if there is an aircraft swap. A computer does its best to reallocate seats, but if the new plane is smaller or has a different cabin configuration it may be impossible and some people get the short straw.

Much of the time, a GTE indeed gets a seat at the gate without any problem. That's because a bunch of people who do have assigned seats miss their flight, for any number of reasons. There are cutoffs at which their seats get liberated and reassigned. The two most important ones are i) at the check-in deadline (in many cases 45 mins or 60 mins before departure), when people holding reservations but not having checked in are removed and their seats liberated, and ii) a flight closing deadline at the gate, variable but often ~15 mins before departure, when checked-in people who haven't shown up to board are removed. (This is oversimplified but more or less right.) You'd think not too many people would miss their flights, but many do, especially businesspeople on refundable tickets, and all sorts of folks when there's some irregular operations and they miss a connection.

If there are not enough seats, GTE and standby do get treated a bit differently. A confirmed passenger with a GTE is someone the airline represented to, in retrospect foolishly, that they could get them on that flight. They will be eligible for compensation (of varying kinds based on the circumstances) since the airline screwed up. Someone on standby, in contrast, chose to try if they could get on the flight, with the airline making no promises. So they get to standby again for the next flight, or take the (other) flight they were confirmed on.
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Feb 25, 2007
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As far as "duping" passengers, well, that's a loaded statement. If someone gets a GTE, in many cases they will get a seat, and in many cases they won't. It's not reliably knowable until the gate truly closes. Yes, in some situations, it's pretty clear it's pretty unlikely, e.g. fully booked flight, 30 people with GTEs, no incoming flight (i.e. connecting pax) delays, premium classes full (so no economy seats will be liberated by upgrades). However, (in analogous standby and upgrade situations) I've had pretty good experiences asking the agent, "how does it look?", making it clear I'm asking them to make an informal assessment rather than a promise. I'd guess that most agents would respond equally frankly if asked politely about GTE prospects.

The problem becomes the frantic or combative GTE passenger insisting on a yea or no from the checkin agent. I empathize, since it's stressful and the situation often came as a surprise to an infrequent, cost-sensitive passenger, but there is really nothing the gate agent can do other than send them to the gate to wait and see how it pans out. An argument between agent and passenger only slows everyone down. It's unfortunate some agents wriggle out of the situation by being misleading, but it's not a capital case!

It's sort of like drivers being given a traffic ticket (say for speeding) desperately asking the cop whether their insurance will go up. It's pretty likely they will, though the cop can't be sure and it depends on the driver's specific insurance situation. I don't approve of a cop wriggling out of the question by leaving it vague or overstressing that maybe it won't, but I empathize since it's really an unfruitful discussion that can at that point have no positive outcome.
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Feb 7, 2017
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Good info & Replies by everyone here.

I would just add that the overbooking happens BECAUSE Cdns WANT / INSIST on lower fares

This is one way that the airlines can INSURE that every flight leaves as full as they can possible make it at the Gate

Ways to avoid this problem ?

* Pay for Advance Seat Selection.

* Check In as early as possible ... either online or appearing in person at the Airport ... Check In Counter / Kiosk or Bag Drop in plenty of time Before the flight

* Or have some sort of status... be it the class of seat you bought (anything above Basic) - or a member of an Airline’s Reward Program

And if you, are someone who has the luxury of flying without an impending deadline (business or leisure) enjoy the offers made by the airline to be bumped to another flight with compensation
(NOTING ... that such offers are often negotiable, they offer $ 400, you counter-offer $ 600 or $ 800)
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Jul 14, 2006
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My own story about this:

August 2009, a group of four of us are flying home from Calgary to Toronto, economy on AC. I was the first of us to check-in online in the morning and got my assigned seat. The other three did not get seat assignments. We get all the way to the gate and eventually the three of them (and a few others) get paged..... and upgraded to business class. So I had to sit in cattle class while they enjoyed their free food and drinks for the trip home. I'm still bitter about it.

Coincidentally the gate agents later asked for volunteers to give up their seat and I inquired, however the juice was not worth the squeeze. Which kinda sucked to say no since the couple who were hoping to get seats were standing right by the desk when I chose to pass on the offer.
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PointsHubby wrote:
Feb 11th, 2019 2:28 pm
Good info & Replies by everyone here.

I would just add that the overbooking happens BECAUSE Cdns WANT / INSIST on lower fares

This is one way that the airlines can INSURE that every flight leaves as full as they can possible make it at the Gate
A little bit of history, overbooking has been around for a long time and has little to with Canadians or Air Canada.

From the Chicago Tribune (April 7, 2017):
by 1950, the practice had become widespread. So, too, did the complaints of irate passengers.
But the practice continued, and Congress, stirred by irate constituents, began pushing for action. In June 1956, Republican Sen. Margaret Chase Smith of Maine lambasted the airlines for their “callousness”; a month later, the Civilian Aeronautics Board (a precursor to the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board) sent out a letter warning the major carriers to curtail the practice.
and from the same article:
in subsequent years, airlines gradually adopted a crude version of the auction, offering vouchers at a certain price, and if this failed to attract passengers, raising the price. In recent years, some airlines have gone even further, asking passengers when they check in how much they would be willing to accept in exchange for getting left behind.
Now Air Canada has been doing this for years along with many other air lines. Take a quick peek at the following DBC policy (denied boarding policy) from Air Canada:
Policy
Air Canada Revenue Management’s team is tasked with ensuring that the maximum
revenue potential is made on each and every flight we operate.
As it is known that a certain percentage of confirmed customers do not show for their flights,
it is sometimes necessary to sell more seats than aircraft capacity.
Revenue Management uses a sophisticated system that uses “day of” and historical
information to monitor all flights in Air Canada’s system, calculating the acceptable level of
oversell risk.
nothing in the 10 page document from Air Canada that Canadians want or insist on low fares. All about AC maximizing revenue.

now being frugal RFD fanatics:

The Points Guy has published a handy article:

  • travel light with carry on only
  • use expert flyer to check how many seats are available (note: expert flyer is not free)
  • don't be greedy
  • know your rights (read the Air Canada document posted above (page 3)
  • be flexible


This practice is nothing new. Profited very well from NWA airlines in the early 2000's when I flew a lot. Always found Air Canada and United to be stingy with vouchers or cash. $1000 bucks for my wife and I from Avianca last winter.
And contrary to what WestJet says they do overbook.
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It's hard to not be cynical these days, not only at the state of Canada's consumer landscape, but also the willingness of the typical Canadian to put up with everything from Air Canada to Bhell to Leon's / TheBrick to Amazon.
What if there were no hypothetical questions?
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McKinsey wrote:
Feb 11th, 2019 1:12 pm
Another slow news day at CBC, courtesy of our taxes.

Just in 2017 CBC published this article: Why airlines overbook flights and what bumped passengers can do about it

This part should resonate well with RFD:

What if airlines stop overbooking?

If airlines aren't able to recoup their lost revenue, passengers should expect airline ticket prices to go up, Charles Leocha, chairman and co-founder of the consumer advocacy group Travelers United, toldTime magazine.

​"The airlines normally do a pretty good job on overbooking," he said. "People know it's coming, and they are willing to allow themselves to be bribed to get off the flight. People who are actually bumped and are really irritated about it are almost nonexistent — it's a tiny percentage. But the people who want lower prices are around 100 per cent."


I'm all for not overbooking, it means my business travels will actually cost less at the expense of leisure travelers.
All media outlets get tax dollars even Toronto sun! Lol

But I understand the need for overbooking as a yield management tool but it seems of the major airlines Ive flown on and hear about from TAs and other frequent travelers, it does seem AC is very "aggressive" in overbooking and quite poor at handling pax who are bumped.

Yes having higher fare bucket and status means being bumped is much lower chance but the airline despite the "cheap" fare or not pay for assigned seat did sell a commitment to a purchaser to fly them to their destination on a particular flight (yes the t&c have lots of clauses)

Overbooking is standard practice but AC is quite terrible in CS generally and how they handle issues when it arises and make stressful situation for all even worse

I've dealt with CS numerous times from various airlines and AC is quite bad and I have status with them and get the special number to call already whereas I had no status and always gotten very good resolution from the likes of CX/BR and etc

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