Air Canada System Conversion Update: Not Great For Aeroplan

Filed Under: Air Canada, Awards

Last week I gave you the rundown of Air Canada’s planned transition to a new Amadeus reservation system, scheduled to occur from 8pm EST on November 18 to some time on November 19. During the outage there would be no booking services available whatsoever; not online, not by phone, not even in person. Of course, Aeroplan reward bookings, which rely on the Air Canada booking system, would also be down during that period.

Well, shocking no one, the transition hasn’t exactly been smooth sailing.

Online and kiosk check-in have been down, at least intermittently. Some passengers have reported that their bookings were lost, while in at least a small number of cases, passengers received itinerary information belonging to other people. Text updates for flights suggested that there might be time travel. Any flights that were cancelled while the system was down, including one from Delhi to Toronto, posed a particular problem, with no mechanism for rebooking frustrated passengers.

Even on Sunday, a full week later, call centre hold times were reported well in excess of an hour, with many customers complaining of dropped calls exacerbating the problem. It generally appeared that the best way to contact the airline was to complain on Twitter, loudly, and hope to receive a DM from the social media team.

When contacted for comment, Air Canada advised that the conversion was completed by mid-day on November 19 and was functioning as expected. Although booking flows had returned to normal, “a relatively small number of cases” were experiencing technical issues and lengthy call wait times, and the airline was working as quickly as possible to resolve these few problems.

The Aeroplan Wrinkle

None of the above is particularly shocking giving the magnitude of the project at hand – Air Canada’s system was decades old, and technology has advanced just a wee bit since then. The real problem, and one that does not yet seem to be under control, is how the conversion affects Aeroplan’s interaction with Air Canada’s booking system.

As you may recall, from 2005 until earlier this year, Aeroplan and Air Canada were separate companies. After that long apart, Aeroplan has its own system that is separate from the Air Canada systems. However, there was a link in place between it and the old Air Canada system that was fairly transparent to its members, so reward bookings were pretty smooth even though the transaction involved two companies.

Unfortunately, the Air Canada conversion broke that link and the workaround doesn’t seem to be, well, working around.

In theory, Aeroplan accounts were to be paired or mirrored to the new system in some way, so that they could still talk to each other. In practice, based on what our team has been hearing from fliers and clients, in addition to what social media is reporting, only some of these accounts were actually migrated, while others are still pending.

Why is this an issue? If your account isn’t active in the new system, you can’t redeem miles for flights. Period. Customer service agents report that it can take “up to 72 hours” for a profile to be activated so they can ticket from it, but the reason for this is less than clear.

Maybe worse, the system doesn’t show the user anything is wrong until a “Flight Redemption Failure” error pops up late in the booking process, if the account that the system is trying to pull miles from hasn’t yet been activated.

In some cases, which apparently seem to track with redemptions for airlines also operating on Amadeus, the failed itinerary is preserved and simply gets stuck in the ticketing queue until the account is activated. Itineraries on non-Amadeus-using carriers, however, seem to require much more manual handling to be ticketed at all.

As I’m sure you can imagine, Aeroplan call volumes are through the roof, with many social media users complaining that they have tried the line dozens of times over several days, but can’t even be put on hold, let alone have the issue actually addressed.

Technical issues happen, but this bad link problem is likely less an IT error and more a management decision. Air Canada is relaunching Aeroplan in June 2020, which will almost certainly include a new infrastructure for managing the new program.

Spending money on the AC-AP system integration today appears to be a low priority, as the system will likely be obsolete in 7 months. It may be a reasonable business decision, but it’s beyond frustrating for anyone who’s trying to book a reward today.

Again, because we all know technology is a fickle beast, most loyal customers aren’t going to get their knickers in a knot over a conversion issue, if communication around it is clear and it’s evident that all steps are being taken to remedy the problem as quickly as possible.

That hasn’t been the case here, where public notification of the pending outage was late, and the first indication of a redemption problem comes late in the game, and it’s obvious that more resources needed to be dedicated to customer service and call centre troubleshooting.

It’s difficult to escape the impression that Air Canada and Aeroplan gambled on the conversion being smooth as silk rather than spend the money to put adequate contingency plans in place.

For now, I’d recommend holding off on trying to book Aeroplan redemption flights that aren’t urgent and wait for things to calm down and accounts to be more fully migrated and activated.

How has your experience with the Air Canada migration been so far?

  1. US outsourcing most large IT projects to India, Canada i believe outsources to China.
    Running projects this magnitude is difficult as is, nevertheless when most developer don’t speak the native language of management.
    In the 70s80s we worked in same building , same room for large scale IT projects . Any questions were resolved in person , clearly face to face. Now , i have the slightest idea what my developers are doing or saying on phone calls and they are like 12 hours different time zone than me. Phone meeting calls are conducted over the internet without using wired or even Mobile phones to Further lower cost. People disappear from calls then fade back in. Its maddening but development cost is about 1/4th of what it would be If developers were in US or Canadians sitting in same office as me. You get what u pay for. CFO loves low dev cost but operationally its absurd. Isnt Boeing software development outsourced to India? I have to say anything more

  2. My redemption for an ANA flight next year disappeared in my account and have to manually use the record locator to view it. Guess my account is one of those inactive ones?

  3. Sometimes I think you need a low IQ to become a manager.

    I realize this is Canada and not the US but is this time frame (assuming a month or so) really the low point of travel for Air Canada?

    And companies that outsource this stuff is asking for trouble. I will readily admit there are a number of bad engineers, programmers, IT people in the US but you aren’t getting the cream of the crop by going to India, China, etc.

    While any big transition can have some issues, if you do it properly the problems should mostly be on some fringe cases that someone didn’t consider. If you are having significant problems then you used bad tech folks and didn’t properly implement/test it.

    What’s that old saying, “Measure it twice, cut it once.” Or “penny wise, pound foolish”

  4. Kate the lawyer should initiate a class action if such a thing exists in Canada.

    AC trying to do their their “upgrade” on the cheap. Public be damned as the robber barrons of a different era said.

  5. lol… did anyone seriously expect differently from this disaster of an airline?

    At least the CEO still gets his bonus….

  6. I was able to transfer points from Amex into Aeroplan and ticketed an award on Nov 20. The PNR
    provided shows me my reservation at Aeroplan, Air Canada and ANA’s websites. I just havent gotten an email from Aeroplan with the details, and it errors when i try to request one.

  7. The story mentions bookings being cancelled – in context I take that to mean a newly made booking that was made with Aeroplan points being cancelled (or disappearing) after it was made. Has anyone experienced cancellation of a longer held booking? I have two long time bookings that don’t show on the Aeroplan site’s “Your award bookings” page but are on the Air Canada site when PNR entered.

  8. I had a award ticket booked on Air Canada and Austrian Airlines with United miles flying YTZ-YUL-VIE-BUD traveling on Nov 22 and it was a hot mess.

    First, the AC online check in system didn’t work when I typed in my record locator, saying this booking does not exist. It turned out I have a new AC record locator after the system conversion and needed to use the new one to check-in online.

    Then, the online check-in system only showed my flight info from YTZ to YUL, without the connecting flights on Austrian Airlines despite being under the same booking and the same ticket. I thought this was only a glitch for the online check-in and an airport agent should be able to fix it.

    When I showed up at YTZ airport the next day, the Air Canada agent print the bag tag only to YUL and claimed that she couldn’t see my connection flights under the same ticket, which doesn’t happen all that often. I insist her to ask for assistance and she called a supervisor to look into this issue, and manually interlined my bag to the two Austrian Airlines flight all the way to Budapest, but she still wasn’t able to print my boarding passes for the two Austrian flights…

    Seems like all of Air Canada is somehow in a hot mess since the system conversion and I’ll suggest leave plenty more of time at the airport if your itinerary includes connection between different airlines and other issue that might make it complicated…

  9. Been fighting this flight redemption failure error. Found my itinerary and confirmed availability on other programs. Went to book and kept getting error, and then availability disappeared. Ended up transferring to lifemiles to book which has been a nightmare too. Tried to book return flight today and still erroring out. Gonna get left with a minimum of 110k orphaned Aeroplan due to this issue

  10. Been trying to book a pair of biz class tickets for over 72 hours now. I was lucky to get an agent on the line 3 days ago who told me that my account didn’t get transferred and that she submitted a request to their IT team, but it will take up to 72 hours at which point I will be able to book it on the website. Well, it’s been over 72 hours and when I tried calling AP today the automated system tells you that they can’t take your call, WTH:) Just hope they fix the issue fast and the award availability is still there. Otherwise I’ll end with AP miles that I don’t foresee using any time soon. Wish they’d tell you that up front or put a warning banner on their website before people convert valuable points to (potentially) useless miles.

  11. I had booked 4 seats from Calgary to New York on =Nov 20th. Flying out February 12th 2020 Did receive an itinerary detail–and was to have electronic tickets within 48 hours . Still have not received . I have tried all day to contact Aeroplan but voice mail indicates” having an overload of phone calls please call later —I have tried every half hour for 6 hours.
    I tried getting through to Air Canada with same issue
    Any suggestions

  12. I booked a reward ticket this week for a flight home to Toronto with my 9month old on Singapore and Eva Air. As of today I’m still running into the same call centre automated message. We’re been calling about 10 times a day for the last two days and my flight check-in has now opened. Kind of ridiculous that a week later they still can’t answer the phone or staff accordingly. Aeroplan’s website says the only way to add an infant is to call. But they won’t answer. ‍♀️ (I’ve now resorted to public forum in desperation)

  13. Jess
    I am with you –I have booked 4 seats (nov 20th) for a flight from Calgary to New York going Feb 12-2020 and return Feb 19 2020. Received a detailed itinerary even with a booking number –but no electronic ticket. As you, I have spent days and many hours a day trying to contact them (both Aeroplan and Air Canada) with no luck,since they have an unusual high volumn of calls. BS. I am sure they do. I have even emailed Air Canada outlining all my flight data and no return answer. I just need to know if they are honoring this flight–if not just let me know so I can get flights from a different carrier. I NEED TO KNOW. This is how Air Canada treats its long time clients –over 20 years- what an organization. One I need not ever deal with again unless this is settled to my satisfaction. I even had to pay for the taxes and medical insurance up front
    I am now stressing myself out so I must sign off

  14. I have called Aeroplan at least 20 times throughout the last 2 days and get their recording saying to call back later. What a joke……you can’t leave a message and you don’t have any other way to contact them by email, text or chat. I guess I just need to forget about using my points for flights and use other airlines that are much more reliable.

  15. I have to agree with most of these comments. Aeroplan and air canada are truly going down the drain. We missed our flight last week from Singapore to Beijing and were truly worried that our Beijing to Vancouver flight would be cancelled too. I tried calling Aeroplan immediately to advise them, but lo and behold….could not get through to either Aeroplan or air canada. I tried for 3 days…same back. I finally gave up. Thank god for Singapore airlines, the best I have to say, who kindly put us on another flight without any charges, allowed us to travel on our biz class. In Beijing we found out that Aeroplan had no clue as to what had happened and we were able to continue our journey home. But, it was the most harrowing experience of worries etc. Since you are supposed to call the airline immediately if you miss a flight! But how ? If you cannot even get through! Damn the air Canada monopoly…..we are truly screwed with this airline if something happens!

  16. It’s been 14 days since the new reservation system and things do not seem to be getting any better. I’ve been trying for 3 days to book a rewards flight and, despite using the “tips” provided by Aeroplan on social media I am still getting the Flight Redemption Error.

    There was an interesting development this morning. Around 10:30am EST the Aeroplan menu system initial message was changed to say “We are currently experiencing technical difficulties with our web site. If you would like to book a flight please stay on the line and an agent will be with you as soon as possible but there may be a significant delay.” Fantastic, I foolishly thought, at least I will be able to talk to someone. After entering my Aeroplan and PIN, it was back to the same message from the “Head of Call Centres World-wide,” – sorry, we’re too busy to answer, goodbye. No call back option, no wait queue, no email address, nada, just click. I tried to call again about 2 hours later and the “technical difficulties” acknowledgement message was gone.

    The simple fact that Aeroplan cannot even get it’s phone system menu to provide a consistent message does not give me much hope that a more significant technical problem will be solved any time soon. I just hope that my attempts at booking a flight are not in some memory queue somewhere and that I will not be on the hook for 20 odd seats on the flight I was trying to book. Anyone else want to go to Australia? I may have a few extra seats that you could have.

  17. So many calls. So many « high call volume » fails. Reward trip at risk. Can’t take it anymore. The horror, the horror.

  18. This issue is still going on if not worse! All day today I’ve been trying to book through aeroplan online and through the app and I get the error message at the very end after I enter all the details. Then I called both aeroplan and air canada every hour for over 5 hours and have yet to even get on hold, they just play the recording of the manager and then the call ends saying they are too busy with other customers. This is crazy, I need to fly Friday and cannot get my ticket using my credits but I have been saving them for this trip! I don’t know what to do!

  19. Who or what voted Air Canada airline of the year? It has to be a mistake. I made a promise to myself long ago……do absolutely anything possible to avoid using this joke of an airline. Even the most novice of competitors could enter this market and put Air Canada under…..

  20. Air Canada cancelled my flight home. The e-mail asked me to call them but when I do I can’t get through. I have tried for a week now. The last two times I was on hold for 90 mins and it cut off. I am guessing that is how they are dealing with the problem now. If after 90 mins you don’t get through they cut you off. I also tried Air Canada chat to no avail. Beyond frustrating when they do this mid way through a vacation.

    I am a travel agent and even our supposed hotline is a waste of time.
    If I could get away without using Air Canada I would.
    Last week 4 hours 38 minutes on hold I ended up having to hang up.
    Friday of last week 3 hours 22 minutes before I finally got answered
    Today I am literally now still on hold trying to book 2 rooms for a family of 5 with connecting rooms and it is currently 3 hours 28 minutes.THIS IS A JOKE !!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  22. What a saga, I booked an Aeroplan reward flight in early Oct for Dec 16 flight, I’ve been trying to cancel it for 3+ weeks now, the Aeroplan website can’t find my reservation to allow me to cancel it and I haven’t been able to get past the Aeroplan helpline where it hangs up saying “we’re busy try later”. Fortunately Air Canada reservation line has only a minor 1+ hour wait, they were able to find the new reservation number in their system, so I tried that on the Aeroplan system, yay! Aeroplan website found it, but DOH! when I try to cancel it the Aeroplan website fails saying can’t find the page link. But weirdly trying the old Aeroplan reservation ID again mysteriously started working again and I could get through to the cancel option (this was looking good… so I thought), three times I tried to cancel the Aeroplan, putting in VISA card details, just for the Aeroplan system to say “sorry the transaction failed”, so now I have three Aeroplan cancellation fees sitting on my VISA card that I’m going to have to dispute – and I ended up going back to the Air Canada reservation phone line for another 1+ hours of lift music to get them to cancel the un-flushable ticket. So now I’m looking forward to periods of future joy on the Aeroplan helpline to get my reward points back and put an end to this miserable experience. Has anyone heard of testing new software before… I mean properly testing new software, not some consultancy telling you their software has been tested it’ll be fine, if it were this mess could have been avoided.

  23. Wow – insane that it’s been WEEKS since this was first written and Aeroplan hasn’t fixed anything! I only wish I had seen this article sooner as I’ve already transferred Amex MR points over that I’m unable to use without getting the “FLIGHT REDEMPTION FAILURE” at the very last step of booking.

    Tried the call center right at 7am and they were already too busy to take calls.

    Amex should stop allowing transfers to Aeroplan until this is sorted out!

  24. I got through Christmas Morning no problems.
    I wanted to link a code share reference number to my Aeroplan ccount. They said they had to send it to some department because my number was showing a problem and the system was still not functioning properly. I tried to call December 30th and the recorded message said they discontinued call waiting due to the volume of calls and to wait until 24hrs before flight time. If there is no call waiting then there is no help unless you use a auto dialing system on the remote off chance you get a free line.
    This is 5 weeks since installation. It has gotten worse not better. There seems to be no end in site.

  25. Any idea when the Aeroplan website will be working again? I can log in, but then I get an error page when I try to book a flight or do anything else on the site. I can’t even look up flight options to plan a trip.

  26. What Endre says is true. Corporations are trying to low ball costs as much as possible like big brother down south. I work in the IT industry for a major Cdn corporation and they had decided to outsource a major IT infrastructure project to an overseas (India) IT consulting firm. There is a to be a breakdown in “communication” and the quality of work is suffering.

  27. What the hell is up with Aeroplan, trying to book a flight in June on SAS, everything is good but i have to call into pay the tax fees within 24 hours the note they sent me said, no problem i thought! It has been 37 hours since i booked and i am on my 5th hour of being on hold, WTF!!!! THEY GOING UNDER OR WHAT?? Anyone have any insight out there before i go nuts???

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