On Sunday, Dec 9 it was the plan that we – a colleague and I – should fly via Toronto to Detroit and head up from there by car to Lansing. And no, we were not going there as demonstrators but merely on quite ordinary business.
But it was not to be. I had made a cocky comment on the way to the airport – seeing that there was a mere centimeter of snow and, ok, some wind – that I hoped a Danish airport and a Canadian airline could deal with it. Well, they couldn’t.
To cut the long start of the story short, apparently the AC incoming flight had circled for quite some time as there was only one lane open for take-off and landing. Whether they didn’t get a sufficient priority inbound or if the captain decided that he wouldn’t attempt to land I don’t know – but eventually, the flight redirected to Amsterdam. So there went our flight plan.
The Air Canada presence in CPH lacked quite a lot to be honest. Quite simply, there was no Air Canada people at all. SAS is handling for AC – but it appeared as if they had a hard time doing any handling. The most common comment I heard was that Air Canada had not given them any information and decisions. The makes it hard to, in turn, give good service to the passengers – unfortunately, on top of that, a few SAS employees didn’t even try to carry the responsibility but immediately went “oh, but it is not us, it is Air Canada.” Which is unacceptable, when you in fact are Air Canada to the passengers in question.
Unacceptable was also the guy who didn’t even want to hear what we wanted to ask – a suggestion to an alternative routing – but sharply and unpleasantly told us that “now he had to cut through all of this and please just go to the lounge and sit down and wait until there is information for you!”
Announcement 1 time 12:30 came and went. And that was the pattern. No deadlines met, no information of any use to the travellers at any time. Finally, somewhere between 14:30 and 15:00, passengers were directed to the information center in the arrivals hall. At this point, my colleague and I agreed that he would pursue options via the travel agency’s hotline and the SAS staff in the lounge whereas I would try the announced option of the transfer desk.
Down there, they handed out taxi and hotel vouchers. NOT what we needed. A lady heard my tale of needing to fly as we had meetings in Lansing Monday morning at 9 and couldn’t really reach that by staying in Copenhagen until some time Monday. She directed me to the counters – where, after quite a wait, I was told that Air Canada had decided NOT to rebook any passengers but to delay until Monday.
Meanwhile, luckily, my colleague had come through with two tickets for SK943 to Chicago, departure 15:40. I got a wee bit pressed as I had very short time to get a boarding pass issued (no reentry possible on the old one!) and get there. The SAS lounge personnel did what they could and phoned down to the Fast Track security entrance to let me through.
While in the plane, on the tarmac, we actually also by phone got tickets arranged for ORD – LAN. And then we sat back and got underway, finally.
One note to Air Canada: It is absolutely incomprehensible how and why you did not start rebooking passengers as soon as the plane diverted to AMS. The SAS flight to Chicago was not more than half full and could have taken many passengers to North America. SAS is a fellow Star Alliance airline after all. And ORD is a major United hub – yet another Star Alliance airline – so there must have been a good chance for many to get to or near to where they needed to go. And by starting already at 12:30 or so when it was a given that the plane would not be going to Toronto anytime soon, much rush, panic and uncertainty could have been avoided.
And also, not having a responsible person there, at the airport, being able to give the handling agent the necessary information and directives – not to mention being there to show a presence and a minimum of care to the stranded passengers – is just bad. The nearest thing we got to talking to Air Canada personnel was the message on their answering machine that the office was open Monday to Friday…
Possibly the only person there who was happy was the Canadian guy who happily announced how much he was looking forward to another night of partying in Copenhagen. For all the other passengers, dear Air Canada, this was a bad, bad experience.
Update: Cobblestone score added (see this review for an explanation – somewhere towards the end): No flight, no timely information, no help with rebookings to get passengers there – this can only be a zero!
(in part two: battling Chicago O’Hare and what about the luggage?)
Update June 2013: On my subsequent trip over, I tried the same route and everything went smoothly. AC even threw me an upgrade to Business – whether random for a Gold member or due to this, I don’t know. Review here.