–by Christopher Johnson–
Air Canada on Wednesday accused critics of fabricating photos and screenshots suggesting the airline tried to charge three times normal amounts for passengers flying one-way from Moncton after a funeral for slain RCMP officers.
The critics denied these charges, and offered proof of their claims. They accused Air Canada of deceiving them and gouging mourners and other passengers.
Several commenters posted screenshots on Facebook and Twitter showing Air Canada on Tuesday asking for between 1500 and 1864 dollars for one-way flights on Wednesday from Moncton in eastern Canada to Saskatoon, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver in western Canada, at least seven hours flying via Toronto. If accurate, these are among the most expensive domestic, economy-class seats in the world, and prices are similar to round-the-world fares from London.
“These are false accusations,” Air Canada tweeted in reply to questions by this reporter and others on Twitter. “This is absolutely not true,” another Air Canada tweet said. “Those prices are not true.”
Air Canada called this Twitterpic “fake, fraudulent, fabricated”.
Air Canada would not say if they asked the RCMP to investigate these alleged frauds.
Air Canada said it chartered one plane each from Toronto and Ottawa to Moncton, New Brunswick to fly hundreds of RCMP officers free of charge to the nationally-televised funeral. Air Canada said crew worked for free to assist the RCMP officers.
“Air Canada employees associated with these charters, both from the operation and behind the scenes, volunteered their support while our industry partners including the associated airport authorities, our caterer and Nav Canada waived their fees and costs associated with these special flights to be able to offer the RCMP transportation at no cost,” Air Canada spokesman Peter Fitzpatrick told the Toronto Star. “In addition to the two charter flights, we added an extra scheduled flight to Moncton, and we facilitated commercial travel arrangements for additional law enforcement personnel travelling by making lower fares available to them for last minute travel to Moncton and nearby airports in New Brunswick.”
Air Canada said it offered RCMP officers 30 percent discounts on commercial flights.
But many critics accused Air Canada of price gouging others hoping to fly out of Moncton after the national tragedy.
Twitter user Danielle Hitchner said her I-phone picture of her computer screen, taken Tuesday afternoon, showed Air Canada asking $1864 for the lowest price ticket for a flight from Moncton to Vancouver on Wednesday, compared with around $600 on other days.
Air Canada continued to accuse her of fabricating the photo, saying she lacked info such as time and dates.
The EXIF data on her photos, received by email, indicated an Iphone 5s photo taken at 12:55 pm on June 10 — thus appearing to corroborate her claims.
Air Canada did not reply to further requests for comment late Wednesday night.
Hitchner (pictured above) emailed her photos to this reporter. “I am definitely offended and more than anything disgusted by the way they relentlessly deny this. Moreover, if this airline is capable of being so untruthful and denying something that was public so deeply, you really have to wonder how trustworthy they are on all other aspects of operation,” said Hitchner, who works at a Vancouver law firm.
“I do recognize and completely commend Air Canada for flying two planes full of RCMP officers as well as offering discounted rates for others,” Hitchner said. “However, there was an entire city of mourners – civilians, other correctional officers, and surely other family members of those fallen officers – aunts, uncles, cousins etc, far more than 2 free planes worth of people.”
“Just because the cheaper flights have been sold out, the flight costs the same regardless of how many seats are booked or not. So at a time like this, no mourner in Moncton there to pay their respects should have to look at a price three times as much as any other day of the week, just because the flight is near capacity. Where is the compassion?”
“West Jet’s flights were not only level-priced with the rest of the week, but even if the cheap seats for West Jet had sold out, the more expensive option is only $100-200 more rather than triple the original price like on Air Canada’s website.”
Hundreds of passengers have filed formal complaints against Air Canada, but the Canadian Transportation Agency, led by a former airline industry lobbyist, rarely rules against Air Canada.
Air Canada has recently tried to improve its image with several prominent ads in national Canadian media touting its new aircraft and services overseas.
But Air Canada’s twitter feed remains peppered with criticism and arguments. Here’s some from Wednesday: