Air Canada and Aeroplan have had a tough few weeks since their planned migration to the Amadeus passenger service system (PSS) on November 18 and 19. There have been overwhelming reports of Aeroplan members encountering various difficulties with the program, such as:
Aeroplan members not being able to make new bookings and/or change existing bookings in a fashion that is more complex than what the online search engine displays, but still follows the Aeroplan rules
Aeroplan members experiencing various bugs and glitches on their tickets, such as entire passengers disappearing from the reservation
Aeroplan members’ profiles not having been migrated to the new system yet, resulting in an inability to touch any miles or reservations on the account
Of greatest concern, the Aeroplan call centre being almost impossible to reach due to the high call volume, with many members only being able to be placed on the hold queue after calling back 40–50 times
As just one example, Prince of Travel Elites member Arvindh V. reported his experience with the Aeroplan call centre:
To say that these are operationally challenging times for Air Canada and Aeroplan would be doing them a great kindness. While I of course understand and appreciate the fact that a PSS migration of this scale is a massive undertaking, I do think that clear and timely communication between the loyalty program and its members goes a long way during times like these.
Therefore, I reached out to my contact at Air Canada for comment on the above issues that Aeroplan members have been experiencing.
Aeroplan Agents Will Be Able to Book Complex Itineraries… But Give Them Time
Air Canada had previously confirmed that the rules governing Aeroplan bookings will not be changing at the time of this system migration, but that Aeroplan agents were encouraged to “book itineraries that are returned by our shopping tool which optimizes available flight options.”
However, many Aeroplan members have reported that, upon successfully reaching the call centre after hours on hold, they were told by agents that itineraries more complex than what the online search engine displayed (i.e., those that were previously booked in a “segment-by-segment” fashion with the help of an Aeroplan call centre agent) were no longer bookable under the new system.
To this, Air Canada has stated the following:
Air Canada clarifies that the migration to the Amadeus PSS is a two-step project, with the first phase now completed and the second phase scheduled to take place in the new year. In addition, the new booking system that Aeroplan agents use is designed to encourage them to use the shopping tool, but Air Canada is confident that as they “adapt to the new system once it is fully in place”, they will indeed be able to help members with customized itineraries.
It seems to me that the yet-to-be-migrated “airport departure control” system is what’s affecting Aeroplan agents’ ability to book complex itineraries within the new system, although my limited familiarity with airline PSS does not allow me to comment on the exact nature of how the former might be affecting the latter.
Nevertheless, it’s a good sign that we can indeed expect Aeroplan agents to help us with custom-built itineraries at some point. Indeed, given Air Canada’s statements, I am quite confident that the rules themselves governing Aeroplan redemptions (i.e., no layover is more than 24 hours in duration, no more than 16 flight segments are on the ticket, and the overall distance flown between your origin and destination falls within Aeroplan’s proprietary maximum permitted mileage [MPM] figure) will not be changing for the foreseeable future.
What’s less positive, however, is the lack of a firm timeline on when we can expect this to happen, which I’d imagine is of great concern to those of you who are planning to book Aeroplan Mini-RTW itineraries sometime in 2020.
Air Canada’s statement seems to indicate a timeframe of January 2020 at the earliest for the new system to be “fully in place”, but given how the first phase in November 2019 has played out so far, the effects of the second phase of the transition could easily ripple onwards for longer.
If you need to book or make changes to a complex Aeroplan itinerary, I would recommend some patience and persistence as you search for someone at the Aeroplan call centre who is knowledgeable enough to complete your request.
While recent data points indicate that most Aeroplan agents have been understandably overworked and seemingly reluctant to help members beyond the most basic requests, there are always more proactive agents out there who are willing to go the extra distance and help you find solutions that aren’t immediately obvious.
Such is the nature of the call centre, though, that you may unfortunately have to expend a fair bit of time and energy to eventually find one of those agents…
The Aeroplan Call Centre’s High Call Volume
I also asked Air Canada for comment on the call centre’s overwhelmingly high call volume as of late, which has resulted in many members not even being able to connect to the hold queue, and facing hour-long wait times even when they do connect. In addition, I asked whether there was a forecasted time by which we could expect the situation to improve.
Air Canada stated:
Alas, while Air Canada acknowledges the inconvenience facing Aeroplan members at the moment, there is unfortunately no timeline that we can expect Aeroplan to be answering calls effectively again.
We can only hope that Air Canada and Aeroplan are looking to address the situation by adding more staff members behind-the-scenes.
Many Aeroplan members have reported speaking with agents who seemed genuinely exhausted and overworked, and I can fully understand that – it’s no enviable task to be learning a brand-new system while handling the huge volume of requests from irritated customers who’ve been on hold for hours. In my view, providing the call centre with additional staffing would be a necessary short-term measure for Air Canada to keep both their employees and their customers satisfied.
In terms of practical advice, if you’ve been trying to reach the Aeroplan call centre to no avail, I would recommend trying to get through by entering the membership number of an Aeroplan Diamond member. Diamond members do seem to be having mildly greater success connecting to an agent (although even they have also been told that there is no space in the hold queue and to call back later).
Better yet, if you know someone who has Air Canada Super Elite status, their calls seem to take even higher priority than Diamonds, so that could be the way to go.
If you are currently travelling and happen to experience ticketing issues at the airport that the Aeroplan call centre would normally help with, but are unable to reach the call centre in time, and have therefore suffered delays or interruptions to your trip and incurred damages as a result (for example, you had to pay for a separate flight out of your own pocket), I would recommend documenting the entire scenario and taking up the case with Aeroplan later on, once the dust has settled a bit.
Despite all their challenges, Air Canada and Aeroplan still have obligations to fulfill their members’ ticketed itineraries, and historically they have been very good about assisting members and making them whole when something is their responsibility.
Alas, for those of you who simply want to reach the call centre to book some hotly-contested award space that you’ve had your eye on, there’s sadly not much advice I can offer besides persistently calling and calling again.
Operational issues relating to the Air Canada & Aeroplan migration to Amadeus were always to be expected, although the current state of affairs – especially the inability to reach the call centre – is very unsatisfactory and, if Aeroplan wants to do right by its members, should not be allowed to continue for much longer.
If you absolutely must speak to an Aeroplan agent, persistence is the key, perhaps along with some help from a friend with Diamond or Super Elite status. And for those of you looking to book custom-built Aeroplan Mini-RTW itineraries, it may unfortunately be a little while until Aeroplan agents are capable of doing so within the new system.
And on all of the above issues in a situation like this, data points from the community are essential to tracking the latest developments, so I do encourage you to share any of your recent experiences with Aeroplan either in the Prince of Travel Elites Facebook group or in the comments below.