Air Canada’s Weak Low Fare Guarantee

Air Canada has now swept out its top management and it’s trying to do what it can to avoid running out of cash. I’m sure a lot of work is being done on the finance side, but I’ve been waiting to see what they’d be doing on the revenue/promotion side of things with this new team. The first move? A low fare guarantee for those who book on the Canadian version of Air Canada’s website. Lame.

They say it’s “industry-leading,” and that may be the case in Canada, but it’s pretty similar to most of the ones that have come and gone in the US over the years. That being said, Air Canada’s fare structure makes it even harder to use than most. If you buy a ticket on AirCanada.com (Canadian version only), you have 24 hours to find a lower fare elsewhere. If you find it, you report it online and get a $50 credit plus the difference in fare. One catch. That lower fare has to be within the same fare bucket.

You’ll remember that Air Canada has a branded fare bucket approach (that I love). Tango fares are the cheapest and come with a certain set of benefits, and it moves up from there to different buckets with different benefits. So if you bought a “Latitude” fare, you would have to find another Latitude fare for cheaper somewhere else. The only problem is that I don’t know of another website that breaks down Air Canada’s fares that way. So good luck.

You could always check with a travel agent to see if there’s a lower fare around, but that’s probably the only place you could do it across all fare buckets. (And who is going to do that, anyway?) I seem to remember reading that a lot of people upsell to higher fare classes, so this may be a nice marketing message, but I’d imagine that few people will actually be able to take advantage of it. That will just confuse and annoy people, and that’s not a great way to do business.

I hope they’ve got more up their sleeve than this.


10 Responses to Air Canada’s Weak Low Fare Guarantee

  1. The Traveling Optimist says:

    Cranky –

    National flag airlines have failed before. See Swissair, Sabena and Air Nigeria for starters.

    The question and issue is what would happen in Canada if Air Canada were to cease operations?

    While thinly populated in general it is the size of the country that is unparalleled for a developed nation. Would we see a Russian Federation-style patchwork of regional and international flags emerge from the ashes? Or would a “Canada International” come from the bones similar to Brussels Airlines and Swiss International?

    Your thoughts are appreciated.

  2. CF says:

    Optimist – It’s a good question, and I’m not sure that speculation will do much good. Predicting what governments will do is nearly impossible. Air Canada is vital for serving small cities in Canada as well as intercontinental destinations. So there would be an opportunity in those markets if AC were to fail. I can’t see WestJet being interested in picking all that up, so it might just require a new carrier out of the ashes of the old AC. But we have no clue if the government would even let Air Canada fail either.

  3. David SFeastbay says:

    “””””That will just confuse and annoy people…..””””””

    I thought that was the goal of all airlines?

  4. Ryan says:

    I’ve always been surprised at AC’s reluctance to attract trans-Atlantic US fliers via a stop in Toronto or Montréal. I understand that they may not want to compete directly with other Star carriers out of ORD, Washinton, and Charlotte, but what’s rationale for not attracting Boston and New York customers? Neither United nor US has European nonstops [that I'm aware of] out of the cities and, until now, CO had been Skyteam. If the carriers on the other side of the Atlantic [mostly AF and LH] can offer cheaper fares on one-stop itineraries to attract passengers, why not AC?

  5. CF says:

    Ryan – There’s no reason they couldn’t be more aggressive with that if they wanted to. But it’s possible they’re filling their planes with higher revenue traffic between Canada and Europe. If they don’t have to take the cheap fares from the east coast of the US, then why would they?

  6. JK says:

    Seeing any airline trying to hype “Low Fare Guarantee” or anything like that I’m sure drives many of us paying customers up the wall!

    UA, for example, hypes its united.com “Low Fare Guarantee” but requires you to file the claim by midnight Central Time on the same day you purchased the ticket on united.com. That’s a pretty limited window to find a fare that covers the exact same flight, same cabin, same travel date, same itinerary, AND with the exact same fare rules and restrictions covering the fare in the ticket you just purchased on united.com. Just print the screen on the competitor website and they’ll refund the difference.

    This isn’t like if you can find a deep-discount “V” fare on Expedia where UA charged you a higher “Q” fare, UA will refund the difference. No, both fares must have the same rules and restrictions. How often would this happen? Seldom, if ever, I would guess. To me, this “Low Fare Guarantee” is nothing more than a come-on, totally lacking meaning!

    If UA is talking about honoring a legitimate overcharge, where they simply overcharged for that fare, that is a whole different matter that is governed by existing overchange rules.

  7. The Traveling Optimist says:

    Low Fare Guarantees are almost a complete waste of time. I saw something on one of the online agencies that qualified the heck out of their match with money back offer. Same flight, date, inventory, fare, class, rules, etc. Often the difference in fare is less than $50.

    Unless you have an automated search program that hunts for these deals within the window set by the offering company, it’s just not worth it. And they know it.

    Airlines adjust inventory levels daily and change fares almost by the minute. Who can keep up? I bought my vacation tickets on the last day of a fare sale over a month ago. I’m way outside the window of opportunity for a fare adjustment but, thankfully, they have yet to offer a cheaper rate than the one I received. Curiosity alone drives me at this point but otherwise I let it go.

  8. Yo says:

    I miss Canadian…that big goofy goose. Did HKG-YVR on a 744, nice airline, but by then they had already been bought out.

  9. A says:

    Something like 90% of Canadians live within 100 miles of the US border. If AC were to cease operations I imagine carriers south of the border would easily be able to accomodate the needs of Canadian travelers.

    Last year I was flying from YYC to ORD sitting next to a business traveler from Calgary going through Chicago on his way to Toronto. With the US passport control in all major Canadian airports it’s relatively easy for someone in Canada to bounce through a US hub and onto a Canadian destination. He said the price and flight times worked best for this over AC or West Jet. I frequently fly YEG/MSP and 99% of that flight is connecting to go elsewhere in N. America or beyond. All Canadians I know are always well used to bouncing through hub airports in the states.

    Seriously though, almost every major Canadian airport is relatively close to the US border. Only YEG and YYC are somewhat isolated from the US and/or a major US airport. Even there, it’s a quick flight to SEA or DEN or MSP, all of which offer much more connectivity than AC currently offers at those airports.

    If AC were gone I imagine that small regional airlines could feed small towns in the vast rural locations via CRJ’s while Westjet could feed the major airports. US based airlines could pick up the overflow and intercontinental traffic.

  10. As a very frequent traveler within Canada (I’m an American who lives in Vancouver, BC), I don’t believe the Canadian people would stand for a complete collapse of Air Canada. Having a flag carrier — even one we love to complain about — is something Canadians adore, sort of like our socialized healthcare (which works very well, btw).

    Air Canada filed for bankruptcy a few years back. At the time, there was MUCH discussion about what would happen if the carrier actually started to fall apart…there were rumors that the government was in talks with WestJet about how much of the domestic and cross-border traffic they’d be able to absorb (not much). But beyond that, Canadians were aghast at the thought of being relegated to U.S. carriers for most International travel.

    Little do Americans understand: many Canadians are LOATHE to connect through the U.S. We much prefer to just fly across the United States enroute to Latin America, and skip it altogether enroute to other global destinations. The biggest reason is the Americans seem hell-bent on making everyone ENTER the U.S. They don’t offer non-entry transit to anybody. You always have to clear U.S. Customs and Immigration. It’s silly, and hardly any other country in the civilized world requires such draconian stuff.

    It will be interesting to see how the Canadian airline business shakes out of this bizarre economy, but I believe it will be intact.

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