Our Compensation Clinic case this week comes from a reader who flew on Air Canada from Las Vegas to Vancouver and incurred a 7 hour delay which Air Canada first wanted to compensate with a 15% travel voucher.
Air Canada is notoriously difficult to get compensation from even in the most justified cases and this situation the reader forwarded us shows the sad state of affairs with the carrier.
Jackie wrote us:
… We’re Las Vegas residents and had a long weekend in Vancouver and Victoria planned so the direct Air Canada flight suited our schedule best even though it was almost double the price in Economy compared to United which we usually choose as my husband is a Gold member.
The flight first arrived 2 hours late from Vancouver, then was delayed in it’s departure slice by slice for an additional hour due to technical issues. Air Canada doesn’t have a lounge in Las Vegas and the gate agent either wasn’t able or willing to change us to another airline. The total delay was 6:40 hours during which Air Canada provided each passenger with a $15 (!!!) voucher to buy food and beverage.
When we complained to Air Canada and sent in the bills of what we actually spend at restaurants during the entire day they offered us no monetary compensation but a 15% OFF voucher for future travel. 15% means nothing as usually we don’t buy expensive tickets. What should we do?
I recommended Jackie reply to Air Canada and also file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Transportation, stating that a percentage discount is not acceptable form of compensation considering the cost incurred and that it’s pretty much a useless instrument for the future with very little value attached.
She did so and updated me a few weeks later:
Air Canada has now offered to reimburse us the $127 cash spent during that day and to keep the 2x 15% vouchers or alternatively issue each passenger a $150 travel voucher. I’ll discuss with my husband which option we’ll take but thanks for the help! – J. & O.
Air Canada tried to low ball the passengers here and offered %-off vouchers instead of a proper compensation knowing full well that very few of these vouchers ever get redeemed, especially at a proper value.
The discount codes CAN be used properly but that requires the passenger to buy Business Class or at least Premium Economy tickets to get a decent value for it.
- 15% off a US$2000 Business Class ticket is a $300 compensation value which is pretty good.
- 15% off a US$200 Economy Class reflects a $30 value which in light of the inconvenience is a joke.
Sitting around Las Vegas Airport for close to 7 hours is frustrating and even though there are lounge options like the Amex Centurion Lounge, a United Club and The Club at LAS it can get pretty boring unless you decide to do some gambling to keep you occupied (and probably lose even more money).
The $15 voucher adds insult to injury. You can’t have a proper meal for that, let alone two. If often also has a restriction on it that it can’t be applied to alcohol either.
Unless Jackie and her family want to use Air Canada again I’d recommend to take the cash reimbursement and maybe have a use for the 15% discount coupons in the future. Cash in the pocket is better than a voucher (with expiry date) on the table, especially if you don’t even know if you’ll ever use it. Even though the 2x US$150 vouchers represent a higher face, what good does it do if they eventually expire?
Last year I was able to use one such voucher for a return Premium Economy ticket from Taipei to Vancouver and it saved me about US$250. But if you buy lower priced tickets within North America then these vouchers are useless.