AC charges UA 1K/*G $50 for two bags from Canada to US

Discussion in 'Air Canada | Aeroplan' started by HaveMilesWillTravel, Jan 21, 2014.  |  Print Topic

  1. HaveMilesWillTravel
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    HaveMilesWillTravel Gold Member

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    Ran into an interesting situation yesterday. Flying from Yxx to SFO via Yyy. First leg (domestic Canada flight) on AC, connecting to UA flight to SFO. One PNR, two pax (both UA 1K/*G).

    At checkin, agent at small outstation Yxx insists on charging for both bags (both under weight and size limit). I presented my 1K/*G card, explain my understanding of the Star Alliance benefits -- didn't help. I brought up Air Canada's own "bag calculator" at http://www.aircanada.com/en/travelinfo/airport/baggage/checked.html on my smartphone (shows three free bags) -- didn't help. "Computer says I have to charge you because it goes to the US". Nice.

    In the end, having no choice (one bag was too large to carry on), I give her my credit card. She prints boarding passes (mine shows UA *G), attaches Priority tags to the bags.

    Having rarely flown AC and never had a reason to complain about anything, I have never used their Customer Relations department. What expectations should I have when sending an email requesting a refund via http://www.aircanada.com/en/customercare/customersolutions.html ?
     
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2014
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  2. UA191

    UA191 Silver Member

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    AC's CR department makes you scream every four letter word you can think of while dealing with them. I'd be surprised if they refund you. Likely just a credit for future travel. The form on the site also takes at least a month for them to get back to you. No other way to expedite it, though. That's just how "the best airline in North America" works. ;)

    I'd try to complain to UA and *A.
     
  3. LETTERBOY
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    LETTERBOY Gold Member

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    What's UA going to do about it? I suppose *A could (theoretically, at least) do something, but since AC is a founding member of *A, I'd doubt that.
     
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  4. HaveMilesWillTravel
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    The tickets were UA award tickets, but yes, I don't think UA's customer service is going to help (good luck getting help from them for problems with their own agents).
     
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  5. LETTERBOY
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    LETTERBOY Gold Member

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    Maybe AC has one of those rules like IHG does, where elite benefits don't apply if it's a reward stay (or flight in this case)? Kind of odd that the computer didn't pick up on that.
     
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  6. HaveMilesWillTravel
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    HaveMilesWillTravel Gold Member

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    Somehow I don't think AC would be able to weasel out of the Star Alliance benefits granted to status holders: http://www.staralliance.com/en/benefits/status-benefits/gold-silver-status/

    And http://www.aircanada.com/en/travelinfo/airport/baggage/checked.html doesn't distinguish between revenue and award travel.

    I will add this: on the outbound flight, from Yyy to Yxx, the kiosk wanted to charge me for checked bags, too. The agent monitoring the bank of kiosks was confused and sent me over to the Premier checkin where the agent had no problems accepting my bags without charge. So the computer system may very well be buggy (imagine that, an airline computer with a bug!), but that doesn't absolve the Yxx agent from not knowing fairly basic *A benefits. I cannot imagine I was the first *G to show up at their ticket counter to check a bag.
     
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  7. mikew99
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    The DOT requires that the ticketing agent (UA in this case) accurately specify the applicable baggage charges at the time of ticketing, so check your itinerary receipt. (As a 1K, I expect that it should specify $0.) If you were charged more, it's a violation of DOT rules (which also apply to any airlines doing business in the U.S.). If neither AC nor UA makes good on this, it might be worth filing a DOT complaint. Actually, it's worth doing so, anyway: At the very least, the DOT can force AC to fix their errant "computers."

    ETA: You can also use the DOT regulations (along with your ticketing receipt) to dispute the charge on your credit card. That's probably the route I would take if AC doesn't authorize a refund.
     
  8. HaveMilesWillTravel
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    HaveMilesWillTravel Gold Member

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    I have thought about the refund route. From my perspective, I agreed to the charge under duress, because the alternative would have been to abandon the bags. But is Chase going to take that same POV? Is it their responsibility to adjudicate the contract between me and AC/UA and the baggage rules included therein?
     
  9. mikew99
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    Yes, the FTC requires that credit card companies investigate billing disputes. In this case, once Chase determines that AC charged you in violation of DOT regulations (which have the force of law), then it should be simple for Chase to uphold your dispute. But it's good practice to work things out with the merchant first. I'd still file the DOT complaint, if only to help others that AC might be illegally charging.
     
  10. slalom

    slalom Silver Member

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    I had the same thing happen to me on a reward trip last year to Utah for a ski trip....I was E50 and UA insisted on charging my bags (only on the outbound, for some reason not on the return). I just sucked it up and paid it because I didn't want my vacation to start off on a bad note. I forgot completely about it until I read the OP here. I'm sure I could have somehow requested a refund, but I never pursued it.
     
  11. LETTERBOY
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    LETTERBOY Gold Member

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    Given how many people in the FF world frown on checking bags, I imagine that the number of *G's who do check bags probably isn't all that high.

    Which airport was this at (according to Wikipedia, AC doesn't serve YXX)? If it was a smaller airport, the agent may not have been an actual employee of the airline (assuming AC outsources services at small airports in Canada like airlines do in the US), and if that's the case they may not care about *A rules (or about much of anything other than getting paid).
     
  12. HaveMilesWillTravel
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    Here's the thing: the eReceipt from united.com actually shows a bag fee:

    -----------------------------------------------------------
    eticket.png
    -----------------------------------------------------------

    Needless to say, I didn't read that when I booked the ticket. But that presumably means that I cannot complain to the DOT that AC/UA violated the agreed upon baggage fee. Perhaps I could still argue that the baggage fees displayed were incorrect, though.

    The ticket also correctly shows my and my wife's MileagePlus number and our status.
     
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2014
  13. mikew99
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    With the proliferation of bag charges hitting unsuspecting consumers, the DOT wants to ensure that people are not hit with unexpected charges. That's why DOT requires all airlines doing business in the U.S. to specify the bag charges at the time of ticketing. There are no exceptions to this rule. UA and their partners are bound by that, and it applies whether the flight is operated by UA or by their interline and/or codeshare partners. (For example, UA can't use the excuse that a flight is operated by a different airline; that won't fly with the DOT.) Given this, it's actually a bit of a relief to hear that the baggage fees that AC charged you are in line with what UA promised, and that things are working (more or less) as they should.

    ETA: With respect to the exact amount charged, I just scanned the relevant parts of the DOT rule, and the DOT considers minor variations due to currency conversion to be acceptable, so that might explain why the amount differs slightly.
     
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2014
  14. HaveMilesWillTravel
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    But the the question is: why did UA promise me a bag fee of USD 24.00, knowing that I am a *G? And how do they deal with cases where they don't know the future status yet because the ticket is for the next status year? Perhaps the amounts shown simply do not take status-based bag fee waivers into consideration at all? (I need to look at other ticket receipts to test that theory).

    Did their site call a "baggage calculator" API provided by AC to calculate it, or do they maintain the logic and rules to calculate it?

    And at the time of checkin, does AC look at what was promised (ie is that stored as part of the ticket? Would perhaps make sense since the rules could have changed in the meantime... I booked in March of 2013) or do they calculate the amount from scratch?

    The amount charged to my card is USD 48.06, so pretty accurate for two bags (the agent assigned one bag to me and the other to my wife). So that's not a concern.
     
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2014
  15. mikew99
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    I am wondering this, too. I had always assumed that a 1K would get free bags on any *A carrier, but then I rarely check bags, so I am not often faced with the issue. Anybody know for sure?
     
  16. HaveMilesWillTravel
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    HaveMilesWillTravel Gold Member

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    Surprisingly, UA 1kVoice responded in less than 24 hours. With a non-answer.

    My question was (after laying out the situation):

    Their answer:

    I didn't ask for a refund from United. And if they were valid expections that weren't met, how does that jive with the statement that the fees I was assessed were consistent with interline baggage policies?

    I was pointed to http://www.united.com/web/en-US/content/mileageplus/premier/staralliance.aspx for an explanation of what my benefits are on another Star Alliance carrier. Granted, that page and Star Alliance' equivalent page (http://www.staralliance.com/en/benefits/status-benefits/gold-silver-status/) are not really very clear on the free baggage allowance (they only talk about extra bag or extra free 44 lbs, but clearly that extra bag is meant to be free, so at the very least each Star Gold member should be able to check one free bag. AC's site gives me three free bags).

    My first attempt to submit a complaint to AC via their customer service web form failed because of their poor implementation. It failed to submit with an error that I needed to enter a state or province; needless to say I had entered "CA" into the field that it whined about. Oh Canada... I guess that's one way to cut down on pesky customer interactions...
     
  17. tomh009
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    tomh009 Gold Member

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    Not in my experience -- I believe I have received a response within a week every time I have used the form.
     
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  18. UA191

    UA191 Silver Member

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    You're a SE, I have *G status, which amounts to nothing with AC, as you can see by this post! Even when emailing Calin, took 36 days to get back to me...
     
  19. tomh009
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    I'm not convinced that SEs get priority on the form. But of course it's possible.

    Have never emailed Calin so no benchmark there ...
     
  20. Canadi>n
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    Canadi>n Gold Member

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    Email president@ac.ca There should be a number or code for the check-in agent and that or a PDF of your boarding pass on which it appears should be included. AC owes you a real cash credit to your CC, not a voucher. Copy STAR. AC is in violation of its contract with STAR. You can also report this to the Cdn Transport Commission and post it on AC's Facebook page.
     
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