Canadian airline keeps customer in Toronto on hold for more than 24 hours
The complete mess that is Canada's post-pandy travel industry simply can't be confined within airports like Toronto Pearson, where months of abruptly cancelled flights, lengthy waits at customs, frequent delays and obscene amounts of misplaced luggage have earned the hub a less-than-rosy reputation.
Yes, Pearson might be world-famous for its persistent problems, but some travel woes can't be left at the gate, on the ground, or even in the Park N' Fly.
Canadian air carriers have been getting plenty of negative attention on their own lately — whether for losing all of the baggage, losing some of the baggage, or sending incredibly important pieces of baggage across the continent on their own — and getting in touch with customer service for any of them is notoriously hard.
Toronto resident Justin La Pointe, 31, knows this all too well after waiting on the phone for 24 hours and eight minutes to get help with a recent Air Transat booking.
La Pointe originally called the airline on July 21 with some questions about how to travel with his newborn daughter ahead of an upcoming family trip: Are strollers and car seats allowed on board? What happens if (slash, when) they get lost in cargo?
He also needed to cancel two of the five tickets he'd purchased, as his father-in-law could no longer make the journey due to cancer treatments.
"I was under the impression Air Transat had a promotion for free cancellation when I booked, but it looks like they just included cancellation [fine print - for a fee] at our price point," La Pointe tells blogTO.
"The cancellation was important to us when booking. My father-in-law and wife both have cancer, and we also have a 3-month-old. It looks like I missed the fine print."
Already upset to learn that he'd have to shell out $400 to cancel the tickets, La Pointe waited and waited on hold with Air Transat for two hours and 18 minutes before abandoning the call.
He called back with the hope of getting through with better luck, but waited much, much longer this time, only to be disonnected from the system.
"At 24 hours, the music stopped and the call went silent before ending 8 minutes later," he said.
The Toronto father and husband dusted off his old Twitter account while waiting on the phone to ask Transat what was taking so long. He was advised after five hours on the phone that "our wait times are longer than usual and we sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this may cause."
"We recommend that you call as soon as possible to limit the waiting," wrote a customer service representative for the airline on Twitter, prompting La Pointe to send out another tweet during hour 13 of his wait reading "longer than normal? It's been 13 hours! This is unacceptable!"
At hour 18, Transat advised him to "address your all your inquiries on Facebook Messenger, where one of our agents will assist you as soon as possible."
Through no fault of his own, he got stuck in a chatbot loop.
When he first spoke to us last week, La Pointe said his issues had yet to be resolved.
"I received a text reply on Friday morning, I originally texted them on Tuesday. I still have not gotten a reply from Fb messenger. After I review their messages and reply, I need to wait about a day for a response. Unfortunately, It looks like I will be paying $400 to cancel two tickets on our trip."
By chance or by choice, it wasn't long after blogTO contacted Air Transat for comment that the Montreal-based airline reached out to La Pointe and offered to waive his cancellation fees.
"They processed my refund (with a fee of $200 x 2) and answered my questions about traveling with my daughter," he said on Friday afternoon, noting that the process was very frustrating overall, putting even more stress on a family that has been dealing with so much already.
Air Transat told blogTO on Friday evening they had spoken with La Pointe, whom they said "called in the evening and left the line open all night."
"When he woke up, he said he was still on hold with music playing. Without being able to confirm this at the moment, if the line was answered and the customer was not on the line, our agent would have transferred them back into the queue. This could explain the very long waiting time he mentions, as we didn't experience a 15-hour wait," said a representative for the company.
"While we continue to see longer than usual wait times and we sincerely apologize for this, the situation is improving overall. We have hired over 200 customer service agents and recruitment continues, but call volumes are growing faster than our staffing levels due to the current popularity of travel."
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