An open letter to Air Canada

It’s been a while since I last posted – life, work, cycling and laziness get in the way. However, after a recent travel experience, I felt compelled to share what happened, as it’s summed up in my letter of complaint to Air Canada:

Dear sir or madam.

On Saturday, August 2nd, my wife Candace and I arrived at Rome’s Fiumicino Airport for our flight (AC1921) to Montreal. We were early, as we wanted to make sure we had time to check our luggage, which was comprised of two 6-pack boxes of wine (10 bottles of wine in total, with 2 bottles of olive oil in there as well). These bottles were enclosed in proper thick corrugated paper boxes as well as individual, firm styrofoam travel containers within the boxes – good quality wine shipping boxes.

When we arrived at the check-in counter, we were told by the agent that we could not check our wine in for the flight. I questioned this, telling the agent that I fly on Air Canada quite often and that I also frequently travel with wine. I regularly travel to San Francisco for work – and do so using Air Canada every time I can. I also tend to bring wine back each time I travel, so I’m very familiar with checking wine while traveling.

The agent firmly informed us that we would not be able to check our wine. Apart from confusing us, this also brought about an increasing sense of panic. I had spent a fair amount of money to buy this wine and had no intention of just leaving it behind.

The agent, now acting annoyed and not wanting to offer further assistance, told us that we could walk to Terminal 1 (we were in Terminal 3) to check if the post office on level one was open so we could use them to ship our wine. They weren’t willing to check if the post office was actually open or not. Seeing no other choice, we rushed over there in the heat of the day – only to find that it was closed.

As our flight’s scheduled departure was quickly approaching, we rushed back to the Air Canada check-in counter, hoping beyond hope that common sense would prevail and that we would be allowed to check our properly packed wine boxes. Unfortunately, the same agent served us, and in an annoyed fashion, told us that we COULD NOT check the wine. We asked to speak with a supervisor, but were stonewalled there as well.

At this point, we didn’t know what to do. I was almost shaking with anger (my wife was on the verge of tears) and was about to take the wine outside to break it into a garbage can. I had reached the end of my rope. There was no way I was going to gift it to the extremely unhelpful Air Canada staff.

As I was headed out the door to break the wine in the garbage, my wife told me to wait one minute, as she made a last-ditch effort to seek help at Terminal 3’s information booth. The man working the booth, as well as an airport worker standing nearby who sensed our despair, took sympathy on us and started trying to gather information as to why we weren’t being allowed to check our wine – and what we could do about it. They concluded that a call had been made by the agent and that we were out of luck.

They suggested that we try to pack what wine we could fit into our carry-on bags and to then check those bags. We managed to wrap and fit 9 of the bottles of wine, but had to leave the 2 bottles of expensive olive oil and a bottle of wine that we could not safely squeeze into our luggage with the 2 gentlemen who helped us.

Luckily, when we returned to the check-in counter, the indifferent agent was gone. One of the gentlemen who helped us had accompanied us to the desk. He had a brief conversation with the agent who was there and our bags were successfully checked. My wife was so relieved and traumatized that she burst into tears and thanked our new friend for all his help. I was numb. What an unnecessarily traumatizing and disappointing experience.

Thankfully, what wine we did manage to pack made it home safely for us to enjoy over the coming months and years. We’ll never get to enjoy the other bottle of wine, which we carefully selected at a winery we had visited – not to mention the olive oil we had selected as well.

I am normally an Air Canada supporter. I have recently joined your Aeroplan program, and as I have already mentioned, try to fly with your airline whenever I make my work trips to San Francisco (or any other travel in general). This is why I was so startled and disappointed with our treatment at the Fiumicino Airport. I felt I had to write to you about this experience. I can only hope this doesn’t happen to any other travelers who have chosen to fly with you.

I would also like to ask how we might claim the wine and olive oil we were unable to bring home with us. We had also paid for the proper wine shipping containers, which we were forced to leave behind. I know we were within our rights.

I look forward to your response.

Sean Calder


No comments