Natasha Boyce Bent, of Spruce Grove, Alta., was counting on the help of extended family in Nova Scotia this summer to get enough rest to recover from health issues. So when the mother of three spotted what looked like unbeatable flight deals from Edmonton to Halifax, she booked in a heartbeat.
Boyce Bent purchased tickets for the whole family with Kelowna, B.C.-based Flair Airlines, one of Canada’s newbie ultra-low-cost airlines. Five round-trip flights were going to cost $1,776, a fraction of what Canadians are accustomed to paying for the same route.
But what seemed like a budget traveller’s dream quickly turned into a booking odyssey, Boyce Bent told Global News.
“Before we even take off, it is the trip of nightmares,” she said.
Boyce Bent isn’t the only one with a story of mistakes and poor customer service at Flair. Others have shared stories of rerouted planes, missing refunds and stranded luggage. And several more have taken to social media to express customer angst at the rookie Canadian airline.
Missing bookings, refunds and flight routes
Boyce Bent said her travel woes started in late April, when, worried about threats of a strike at WestJet, she decided to give Flair a try.
Browsing online, she saw that the airline was offering a 10 per cent discount on the Edmonton-Halifax route and set out to book five tickets. She bought a round-trip flight for her husband, who is set to join the family at a later date, but when she tried to do the same for herself and the kids, she began receiving an error message.
The promotion ended that day at midnight, and Boyce Bent said Flair would not honour the discount, despite the reported glitch on the company’s website. Still, a Flair representative advised her that another sale for that route would start the following evening, according to correspondence viewed by Global News.
That deal, according to Boyce Bent, entailed a two-for-one offer for so-called “toonie fares,” which were pricier than the airlines’ basic “loonie” fare but included an allowance for checked luggage and advance seat selection. Boyce Bent attempted to redeem the offer for four tickets — for herself and the children — but the airline’s booking system allegedly misfired again.
When she first tried to book the flights, Boyce Bent said she received an error message. She assumed the transaction hadn’t been processed and tried again. The second time, there were no apparent glitches, but her email booking confirmation showed loonie instead of toonie terms.
Boyce Bent also discovered she now had a duplicate booking, as her earlier reservation had also gone through, despite the error message. With the help of the Flair call centre, though, she managed to cancel it.
She said she was promised a refund within five business days. However, she added, the money didn’t show up in her account until she let Flair know that she had contacted her credit card company about the charge.
Over the next several weeks, Boyce Bent said her interactions with the airline included being told that the Edmonton to Halifax route wouldn’t be offered through the summer (although a call centre operative later confirmed that existing bookings would be honoured) and that the airline has switched both its computer system and its call centre.
Later on, Boyce Bent said she was shocked to discover her toonie reservations had disappeared from the airline’s website. The only proof of her booking now was an email that incorrectly reported loonie conditions for the flights. Boyce Bent said she would have had to pony up a $440 fee for checked luggage despite having paid for the pricier fare.
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When Boyce Bent tried to get Flair to recognize that she, in fact, had toonie reservations, the company kept insisting she actually had loonie tickets, according to emails viewed by Global News.
Pleading for better customer service in one of the messages, Boyce Bent wrote: “We understand that Flair is a no frills airline, but the basics of customer service like accessing details of a reservation or taking responsibility for website glitches rather than making the customer responsible should not be things that the customer has to spend so much time and energy on.”
“I was excited about our family trip after a very long year of health issues and the extra stress it has added to be flying with your airline has been significant,” she added.
Still, Boyce Bent said it wasn’t until she told Flair that she had contacted the media that the airline confirmed her toonie reservation. In an email, the airline apologized “for the confusion.”
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Lost luggage shows up at 4 a.m.
Patrick Deshane, a Calgarian with family in southern Ontario, also had his share of troubles on a recent trip with Flair.
Deshane said he set out to fly from Edmonton to Hamilton, Ont., in February with his fiance. However, both the couple’s departure and their return flights were rerouted to Toronto.
On the day they were scheduled to return home, Deshane said they received an email saying they’d be flying from Toronto and would receive an updated itinerary in four hours. That, though, never happened, according to Deshane.
He also had to spend $160 on a cab ride to the airport, he said. Once there, a Flair employee reportedly promised him a refund for the added cost, which Deshane said he has still to receive.
But the story doesn’t end there. Upon landing in Edmonton, the couple reportedly learned their luggage had been left behind.
It took Flair several days to retrieve the bags, a period during which his fiance, a hair stylist, was unable to work, as her trade tools were inside one of the cases, Deshane told Global News.
The couple finally received their luggage at around 4 a.m. on a Saturday, Deshane said.
Still, Deshane told Global News he is “happy” the airline has offered $400 worth of vouchers for the couple to fly on Flair until the end of 2018.
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‘They gave me the run-around’
Colleen Shickluna, of Port Aux Basques, Nfld., has a similar story.
When she flew with Flair in March, her Edmonton to Hamilton flight was rerouted through Toronto, and she was promised a refund of her $130 cab fare, she said. Months later, however, she is still waiting on her cheque.
“I’m pissed because they keep giving me the run-around,” Shickluna told Global News.
Her calls and emails have been forwarded to various company departments, with Flair providing contradictory communication about whether she is eligible for the refund. In the last piece of correspondence seen by Global News, the airline said a refund cheque for Shickluna was in the mail.
The airline has reportedly extended a $100 voucher valid for flights by June 8, an offer Shickluna called “a joke.”
Flair: ‘We apologize’
Global News provided Flair with extensive details of the customer experiences recalled by Boyce Bent, Deshane and Shickluna, which the airline did not dispute. Asked for comment, the carrier provided the following statement via email:
“We apologize to any person that has not received reimbursement or a refund to what was promised or owed to them, after acknowledgment of a receipt. In May of this year, we made significant improvements to our systems and processes; enabling us to optimize our customer experience. We deeply regret if individuals are awaiting resolution, and will prioritize and address their concerns on an individual basis.”
Flair added that passengers can redeem vouchers simply by using their past booking reference when reserving new flights.