Air Canada To Charge Extra For "Specially-Trained" CSRs

Air Canada has heard you loud and clear, and they’re going to start making sure they have decent customer service reps on-hand to help you the next time your flight is canceled, delayed, or re-routed. And you’ll have to pay for it: “$25 one-way on short-haul flights and an extra $35 one-way on long-haul routes within North America.”

One airline consultant told the Toronto Star, “This is something that many airlines used to do in-house. But since the advent of the low-cost carrier, everybody wants cheap fares.”

If we’re going to have to pay extra for special training, we want our CSRs to be able to speak in different accents on demand. Or yodel. Something amusing while they help us.

“Air Canada to charge for customer service” [The Toronto Star] (Thanks to Ryan!)


Edit Your Comment

  1. christoj879 says:

    If my flight gets delayed, I want to be put up in a luxury hotel with all meals paid for. For the $35 fee of course.

  2. XTC46 says:

    Id happily pay more for better service. This sounds reasonable to me.

  3. scoobydoo says:

    What’s next? Canada will go on strike and ask for more money from the Internet!

  4. CSR: “Did you hit Control-A?”
    Canadian: “Yes, and nothing’s happening.”
    CSR: “Nothing?”
    Canadian: “Listen. I’m pressing Control, eh? And nothing’s happening, eh?”

  5. Jeff_McAwes0me says:

    @scoobydoo: I’m not your buddy, guy!

  6. sunwukong says:

    Yet another reason not to fly AC.

    Booked a flight with my wife and two kids (7 and 4) and found out at check-in that I needed to reserve our seats if I wanted us to sit together!

    When they told us they couldn’t get seats for us togther, we asked whether or not free nanny services were involved as well …

    This stuff used to be handled automatically by their scheduling software. I can’t believe they turned it off so they could squeeze out a bit more in fees …

  7. Oh and I flew Canada Air once. The inevitable Toronto weather delay is a pain. They weren’t very helpful since my next flight was on US Airways. But US Airways was nice enough to put me on standby (bonus lesson: standby passengers can jump at the $50 first-class upgrade offer).

    I wonder what the $25 would have done for me.

  8. danseuse322 says:

    I am fortunate–I fly for fun only. I have lots of miles. And most places I fly are drivable if I desire. As an educator, I have ample time off. That being said, the more I read about lame practices that bilk people for what should be included in outrageous prices, the more I resolve not to fly. I live in north Texas, which makes the majority of the nation under a day’s drive for me. With the exception of occasional East Coast and California ventures, unless the company is paying, I am done. The last few flight have been a nightmare. And now the idea I might have to pay for the AIRLINE messing up its job… hello? Of COURSE they will cancel and delay flights–to make a buck off people so ignorant they are being “legally conned.” Yep, I’m driving. A backache is lots better than these headaches.

  9. scoobydoo says:

    @Jeff_McAwes0me: HEY! I’m not your guy, friend!

  10. Not only are they required to speak in different accents on demand, but in entirely different languages depending on if you press 1 for French or not.

    Though it is always faster and you are for sure going to get someone in canada if you press for french and they all speak english as well anyway.

  11. nycaviation says:

    This actually sounds more like travel insurance than a regular customer service interaction. Not a bad deal if you can get meals and a hotel for $25.

  12. JosephFinn says:

    I’ll pay the $25, but only if they can speak in a Swedish Chef accent.

    Excuse me, I mean to say:

    I’ll pey zee $25, boot oonly iff zeey cun speek in a Svedeesh Cheff eccent. Um de hur de hur de hur.

  13. humphrmi says:

    All the more reason our family vacation is a road trip this year. And last year. Between charging to care about your problem and trying to get FAA inspectors fired for finding cracks in airplanes, the whole bloody industry can go to hell as far as I’m concerned.

  14. itsallme says:

    Still waiting for corporations to offer 2 support numbers.
    1-800 – gets you the useless CSRs that we’re accustomed to now for free
    1-900 – gets you an equally useless ‘supervisor’ for $35

  15. sparklingpink says:

    This is not good news for me seeing as how this is the only airline that takes me from here to my parent’s place in 3ish hours which is normally about a 13 hour drive. They already overcharge for it (400+ dollars). GREATTTTT.

  16. humphrmi says:

    @sparklingpink: IMHO, We as humans need to slow down and enjoy our vacations more. My family turns 10-18 hour road trips into two to three day adventures with stopovers in new, different towns and stops to visit different sights along the way. I realize a lot of people have hectic schedules, but somewhere along the way we thought that the solution to our hectic lives was to make our vacations more hectic too. Take a step back, spend one less day at the destination (or take an extra vacation day from work / school) and enjoy the trip.

  17. simba8 says:

    Anyone who knows Air Canada is laughing at this…
    There is no reason to fly Air Canada.
    They are cash strapped…once they have your money, they will not offer you anything or provide you with a list of reasons why they can’t rebook you on another flight etc…

    Air Canada charges for everything..luggage, food, (speaking to a rep to book a flight is an extra $25),Flight changes can range from $75-150 EACH WAY…The funniest fee they tried to charge me…the opportunity to be put on the standby list which costs $75- but if it ends up that they cannot put you on that flight…your out the $75!

  18. simba8 says:
  19. sparklingpink says:


    I agree with you that people should enjoy vacations more but in my case, I’m only able to visit them during Christmas (and the drive up is notorious for causing accidents…avalanches, people who can’t drive in the snow, black ice etc). Therefore, a plane ride would be an exception to this. (I have, however, drove in these conditions before, and trust me – they are no fun at all).

  20. humphrmi says:

    @sparklingpink: OK, I can see that. I guess there are always exceptions. I wish there were more solutions than flying. Rail travel used to be great.

  21. Fly Girl says:

    Wow, um, I wonder how they’re going to implement this. I’ve only flown on Air Canada once and HATED it, so I won’t fly on them again, but for those people who DO end up on AC, what happens when a flight cancels and there’s 150 people at the ticket counter needing to be rebooked? Those who paid extra get helped and the others have to wait or have to deal with incompetent staff? And who is getting the money? Are the “highly trained” agents getting nice bonuses, or are they expected to do the same job while the company makes more money for it?… Sounds sketchy to me– no decent company would charge extra for the service that they should be providing anyways.

  22. mac-phisto says:

    $25 for a specially-trained csr? bah! i’ve got a better idea: how about i trade you $25 for my personal cooler full of alexander keith’s ipa on the plane & then i won’t give a shit how bumpy the ride is, how long it takes to get there, or what kind of obscenities you’re calling me in french.

    sounds like a deal.

  23. timmus says:

    TORONTO (AP) — Air Canada rolled out it’s Safe Skies program at a press conference Thursday. Under the new program, passengers on any given flight may upgrade their Basic Flight Crew, consisting of a Kenyan Air Force captain, a Congolese flight officer, and a Cambodian reserve captain, to a Prime Flight Crew, consisting of Canadian and American pilots from Air Canada’s own fleet. The program requires the cooperation of at least 10 passengers contributing $65 a piece to merit the upgrade. The airline was considering increasing revenue with a similar program for its flight attendents, which would place all of its senior stewardesses under the Standard Crew program and its 18 to 35 attendents under the Prime FA Program.

  24. andrewe says:

    @JosephFinn: I’ll pay the $25, but only if they can speak in a Swedish Chef accent.

    For all your Swedish Chef needs:

  25. yikz says:

    IF the airline cancels their flight, and I have to pay $25 to talk to a competent employee, I’m going to be pi$$ed. Especially if the flight is cancelled due to mechanical issues. If it’s weather, fine, I realize that’s out of their hands. But anything else, and they can take their $25 fee and shove it where the sun don’t shine. The operation of the airplane is the responsibility of the airline. If they can’t provide reliable hardware, and they bill me extra money? That is wrong.

  26. stancey says:

    Um I think I’d rather fly WestJet and talk to their CSRs for free.

  27. nonzenze says:

    I don’t know about the rest of the Consumerists, but I fly fairly frequently (no airline loyalty either, whatever’s cheap) and I’ve never had to talk to a CSR for anything. Automated check-in is many times faster than the old method anyway.

    What the heck are you guys doing that requires all this hands-on attention?

  28. chartrule says:

    Air Canada was established by Parliament on April 10, 1937 as the national airline to provide essential air transportation, cargo and mail services across Canada. But in 1989, as part of the government’s deregulation of the air transportation industry, Air Canada was privatized under the authority of the Air Canada Public Participation Act and through the sale of the Government of Canada’s shares in the air carrier. The Government of Canada’s role now is that of a safety and corporate regulator of Air Canada and other Canadian airlines.

  29. chartrule says:

    Air Canada ran far better when it was Goverment owned than since their privitization

  30. lemur says:

    @sparklingpink: I’m not saying you should do things otherwise but just to give a different experience…

    My wife and I used to fly AC but their prices became unreasonable (so have the prices of the aviation industry in general; but AC seems worse). So we now usually drive up twice a year, a 12-hour trip one way. We usually go during the holidays and have not had any serious problem on the road. The worst problem we’ve had was the break fluid light coming up. We stopped, I put more fluid and we were good to go.

  31. jchabotte says:

    So how are they “specially trained?”

    Industry speak for: “We don’t throw them on the phones the first day, we wait until day 3”

  32. Wimpkins says:

    I like it.

    Service is a product, not a given.

  33. IrisMR says:

    @Wimpkins: Service is a thing you already should expect. Air Canada is so costly they should ALREADY have good service.

    but nah. They’re mediocre.

  34. ColdNorth says:

    How sad that we’ve reached the point where there is even a debate as to whether or not “good” customer service should be an “optional extra”. We are well on our way to beating common human decency into a bloody, lifeless pulp gurgling on the floor.

  35. lemur says:


    Service is a product, not a given.

    True in a sense but it is not that simple.

    I’m annoyed that the trend among airlines is to unbundle services with the end result being that we have to pay more than we used to for the same level of service. I understand why they are doing it. As much as we scream about customer service being shitty, I think most consumers don’t put customer service at the top of their list when they shop. They want to minimize price first. I’m not saying customer service does not come into play but price comes first. That’s why people continue to shop at places with crappy customer service. We get stories like that every week on Consumerist.

    So ok, the solution to get better costumer service might be to unbundle it. People who want rock-bottom price pay for little to no customer service and those who want more customer service pay more. Extended warranties may be an analogue to this. Pay more for more. Seems reasonable. Except that I don’t see this working so well unless customers can understand clearly what a better “customer service” product will mean to them in concrete terms. When you buy goods, you often get pretty good metrics to compare one item to another. When you buy services, the comparison is harder to make, more abstract. In the Air Canada case, if I buy the higher grade service, I should get priority for booking new flights in case of cancellation but not everybody can get to the top of the queue at the same time. So not everybody who pay for the higher grade service will get the same service. How much service degradation is tolerable before a customer decides he paid extra for nothing?

  36. @sunwukong: Ummm… duh? You thought you didn’t need to get and verify your seat assignments beforehand if you wanted to sit together? Really? It’s one thing to complain if they failed to warn you that you now have to pay a fee to have reserved seats (as some airlines now do), but if you just bought the tickets and never bothered until you got to the airport to confirm that you had seats that didn’t result in your kids sitting nowhere near you, well, that’s not really Air Canada’s fault. Most airlines will send you your seat reservations with your booking when you originally make it, and most will also have a seating chart of the plane available on their websites. It’s your responsibility to use that information to verify that what they gave you is suitable for you. Yes, automated seat assignment sticks people on the same reservation next to each other if it can, but you’re asking for trouble if you just assume it always will.

  37. jamar0303 says:

    @humphrmi: Road trips are nice and all, but not if you’re trying to cross a major ocean (coming in from China, for instance). I’m stuck with going by plane. At least I get a decent choice of airlines, though (ANA is nice, but they don’t fly straight to Boston so I’ll still have to transfer to a United codeshare flight at New York).

  38. People, good customer service is expensive! Unless you want some redneck in an Alabama call center that gets paid barely enough to drive to work, we’ve got to realize that we need to pay for quality workers. Maybe not $25/ticket, but consider that a lot of us are willing to pay a dollar extra on a 50 dollar shopping trip to go to Target as opposed to wal-mart.

  39. @k8supergrover: Just wait till they start outsourcing to French West Africa… Grumble.

  40. Canoehead says:

    Worst Company in Canada Poll: Air Canada vs. Aeroplan (a divisions of Air Canada).

    Fun Fact About Air Canada:

    -Employees frequently wear name tags with no actual name, so you cannot complain about them later.

    -Unused Aeroplan ploints disappear faster than any airline except Jet Blue.

    -They will charge over $100 in fees for a 1 hour flight booked on points – and the retail cost of the flight is $250.

    -Even though Air Canada was privatized almost 20 years ago, all employees (except pilots) belong to the Canadian Government Employees Union – that’s right, think Post Office or DMV in the skies.

    -You can usually find a flight on WestJet or some other airline and should always avoid Air Canada.

  41. ext212 says:


    Preview still off, but.

  42. sunwukong says:

    @bojgen: You don’t understand that the scheduling software for decades has made sure the seats for parents and their minor children are kept together. This has now been turned off and you have to pay to have it back.

    Given that young kids aren’t supposed to be alone on a flight without special consideration/permission, what do you think the reasonable thing to do would be?

    And no, we were not informed that this would be the end result — all previous trips have had the proper seating by default.

  43. UNSTOPPABLE says:

    You know I remember a time when this kind of service was STANDARD. Sick thing is, I’m only 38. The level have service these days had degraded to the point where you’re now paying a fee to get the customer service level that we should all expect anyway.

  44. Sadly, the move to ‘monetize’ customer service isn’t unique to the airline industry. And it, like any action, has an equal and opposite reaction attached to it. So by adding a monetary value to the new offering, Air Canada is surely going to REMOVE that cost from the customer service it still offers ‘for free.’ You’d think that with all of the externalities and vagaries of experience that plague the airline industry in particular, that Air Canada would choose to do the exact OPPOSITE and offer better service to all of its fliers.

    Seems like a dumb brand move, to me.

    I’ve written a bit about it at DIM BULB if you’d like to check it out: []