Subject: Airline communication problems
Hello, When being told anything about special rules (Bereavement, or otherwise) get it in writing. Back in 1996 I had to return quickly to Canada from Israel due to a death in the family. I called Air Canada and they told me that upon presenting a death certificate I would be reimbursed half the price of my ticket. I called Air Canada in Israel, explained the situation and was told a ticket was $1800 US. A huge amount of money for me at the time (I was teaching English in Eastern Europe for $300/month...I digress).

As I had a ticket to return to Europe which I could change at any time, I called CSA (Czechoslovak Airlines) to get the price on a ticket to Canada. I could use the return portion of my ticket to Prague and then fly on to Canada for $1000 US. But Air Canada was going to reimburse me 50 percent of their ticket...or so I was told and believed. I went with the Air Canada ticket.

When I presented the required papers to Air Canada I was cheerfully told that the agent in Israel had already discounted the ticket for me. Apparently only charging me 50 percent. This presented a problem as I was never told I was receiving the discounted rate and would have flown CSA saving three months salary. Apparently the full fare coach on Air Canada is $3600 US. (As the most I had ever paid for a ticket was $700 US and that was from Seoul to Vienna with a stop in Singapore...I never imagined a ticket could cost so much.)

I immediately wrote to customer service at Air Canada but received no compensation or satisfaction. As a matter of fact they seemed amazed that I was ungrateful for their generosity!

Well to keep a long story from getting longer, I finally received a $400 (Canadian dollars) voucher from Air Canada. This came only after writing several times to the president and directly to some board members at their homes.

It is just another instance of airlines failing to inform their customers. Had Air Canada's agent in Israel explained she was halving the fare I would have had the option to refuse or live with my decision. Their lack of communication took this decision out of my hands, and continues to be the most annoying thing about travel.

On a more common note. A few days ago I was returning from Toronto to Philadelphia and the flight was delayed. For some reason airlines seem to have a policy of not being honest with their customers when it comes to delays.

In this particular instance the gate staff were telling passengers that our plane would be arriving at the gate in 10 minutes. When I went to the internet kiosk in the terminal I checked and found out that our plane had not even taken off from Philadelphia and therefore would not be at the gate for another 90 minutes or so. I explained this to one of the Air Canada staff yet they refused to revise their time of departure. This is far more annoying than being late in my estimation. I resent being treated like an idiot by airlines. Incidentally the flight was three hours late. Due to weather.

I fully understand that planes cannot be flown in dangerous conditions. I am among the many who want to stay firmly on the ground in bad weather. Just tell me this and I can go have a coffee, a beer, or just wander around and stretch my legs. What I don't understand is how travellers put up with being misled, no that is a little soft, 'lied to' by airlines. I have flown 22 different airlines and I would like to say, in this regard, they all seem to be as bad as the next.

I will give kudos to Northwest Airlines. Yesterday as my wife was flying from Detroit to Toronto the gate staff actually made the announcement that their pilot had called in sick. They did not know when a replacement would be found but travellers would be kept posted. Apparently they were kept posted, the plane departed 30 minutes big deal.

All I ask from the airlines is that they not treat me like a child who can't handle the truth. Is that so hard for airlines to comprehend? Is it any wonder the incidents of air rage are on the rise? This is not a small problem for frequent travellers. Of my last 16 flights, 14 have been late, most from 1 to 4 hours late.

So I have come up with a little game in an effort to stay calm. I try to see how many different answers I can get about why my flight is delayed. In Newark a couple months back I managed to get four different answers from Air Canada personnel. Beat that!

See you in the waiting lounge, Jude