Canadian Olympic Gold Medalist Angry Air Canada Didn’t Upgrade Him

Filed Under: Air Canada

There has been a lot of publicity surrounding Delta “denying” upgrades to the US Olympic curling team, which won a gold medal. I don’t view it as a big deal one way or another. The team nicely asked on Twitter if there was any possibility of an upgrade, and Delta responded and said no. Personally I think they should have said that business class was full or that no upgrades were available, rather than saying that they didn’t have any “upgrades to offer,” in order to avoid backlash. There’s certainly some disagreement about whether it’s appropriate for a team to make a request like that, though personally I don’t view it as a big deal.

It’s interesting that the above interaction is getting quite a bit of media attention, though no one is talking about a certain Canadian gold medalist.

Specifically, Sebastien Toutant won an Olympic gold medal for snowboarding, and is flying from Seoul Incheon to Toronto today on Air Canada. Before his flight he Tweeted the following:

2 days ago i won a Gold medal for Canada and today i’m flying 57A on a @AirCanada flight… What a great Olympic partner [thumbs down] #sarcasm

First of all, it’s interesting to note that the boarding pass specifically said “OLYM” on it, presumably to signify that he’s part of some sort of an Olympic team. It’s also my understanding that Air Canada is giving these athletes some sort of recognition for these flights, which is why the boarding pass shows Elite 75K status on it (he may or may not have earned it otherwise, we don’t know).

As I said with the Delta situation, there’s nothing wrong with nicely asking for an upgrade. But to sarcastically shame an airline (especially the official sponsor of the Canadian Olympic team) for not upgrading you comes across as entitled and pathetic.

  1. “But to sarcastically shame an airline (especially the official sponsor of the Canadian Olympic team) for not upgrading you comes across as entitled and pathetic.”

    I am Canadian and I agree fully. I get that most Olympians are barely even adults but man, maybe in between runs down the snowboarding hill someone can teach these whiny punks a thing or two about acting with a trace of class and dignity.

  2. “It’s also my understanding that Air Canada is giving these athletes some sort of recognition for these flights, which is why the boarding pass shows Elite 75K status on it (he may or may not have earned it otherwise, we don’t know)”

    So….you are assuming he was provided status privleges by Air Canada for free because you assume he couldn’t possibly have built up that status by himself?

    It’s you who sounds pathetic and judgy, Lucky

  3. Imagine if he hadn’t been of European ancestry. The shitstorm defending him would be epic and AC would be called racists.

    Instead, we get smear pieces like this.

  4. Sandra – didn’t you read the part in parantheses?
    “…(he may or may not have earned it otherwise, we don’t know)..”

  5. Well he is a minority (francophone from Quebec) – Irony intended.

    But on his timeline the Quebecois are ruthless…

  6. spoilt brats. any wonder why viewership was waning? narcopaths, hustlers, and hucksters. What ‘right’ do they have to fly premo classe. let them pay for it. Period. Thank you.

  7. Did these guys solve world peace or something? How is an olympic team doing their damn job worthy of an upgrade?

  8. @ Sandra — It’s normal for readers to not read the entire post and then leave comments, but to quote a part of my comment that answers your question and then attack me based on it is a new one for me. To answer your question, no, I am not assuming he was provided the status, or that he couldn’t have possibly earned it on his own. As I wrote:
    “(he may or may not have earned it otherwise, we don’t know)”

  9. Thumbs up to Delta and Air Canada! Hope more airlines realise that the medical personnel who respond to the call for help onboard deserves an upgrade (or many) a million times more than any self-entitled ‘athlete’ who is only concerned about their own self glory and achievements under the guise of gaining national pride – wait again, what can you even do with a gold medal now that you’ve got it?

  10. DYKWIA. why ? If it’s a group fare it’s most likely the lowest class and there are others more worthy and in higher classes
    Then they will complain that they didn’t get an upgrade and yet person X did
    Everyone has a reason to fly
    I won a medal. Great – upgrade
    I graduated – upgrade
    Family member passed away – upgrade
    Service recovery – upgrade
    Feeling ill – upgrade
    But do they realise how many requests airlines receive?
    And do they expect the entire team to be upgrade ? How many seats do they think there are ?
    Then they expect an announcement from the crew ?
    Realistically, not everyone is interested
    Retailers used to post signs “ please don’t ask for credit as refusal often offends “

  11. So let me get this straight.

    We’re are all surprised that a human having his or her 15 minutes of fame is feeling entitled to all the free things?


  12. @Matt A

    So why should Lucky say/guess it was given for free in the first place…basically it says “I think AC gave this status for free, but actually he could have earnt the status, who knows?”

  13. It’s been reported on FT that the loads on AC in J have been FULL as expected since the end of the Olympics everyone is going home including people who actually PAID for business class seats.

  14. Lucky I apolgize. Its the way you wrote it:

    “It’s also my understanding that Air Canada is giving these athletes some sort of recognition for these flights”

    When i saw ‘giving’ i assumed it for free. I think it would be better if you wrote AC is recognizing their status. It would clear up the misunderstanding.

  15. Forget upgrades for olympians, if Canada had some national pride they wouldn’t have such a terrible product in longhaul Y on their national carrier.

  16. Too many self-entitled athletes who only care about their own personal glory under the guise of ‘winning pride for their country’.

    At the end of the day… will someone remind me what can you do with a medal? Can you save a life with it? Or feed the thousands of starving people? The money that went to training them could have, though…

  17. Sebbie Toots. What an entitled ass. Yes, he won a gold. So what? Last I checked, airline seating isn’t assigned based on athletic achievement. If he really wants to sit in business class, he should do what the rest of us normal humans do. BUY IT.

    @ William Y. —- Ummm, what does race have to do with anything? Though the frequency with which you mention race in your comments leads me to believe that you’re in fact the racist here…

  18. Emirates could use Olympic Athlete pax for their new ads on how not to get upgraded! Thanks @Lucky. Enjoyed update. [My guess, AC biz was full & fare class was upgrade ineligible].

  19. If AC is a sponsor of Team Canada, this medalist is in some trouble. It costs a fortune to fund an Olympic athlete, indeed to fund the whole absurd spectacle. Athletes are probably bound by contract not to trash the “hand that feeds them”.

    On the other hand, imagine you’ve just won Gold. It’s certainly the most thrilling event in his young life and at 19 or 22 in the midst of such a high, how would you have behaved? Perfectly?

    After careful adult thought, my criticism goes to Air Canada, partly because it’s a rite of Canadian citizenship to criticize AC at every opportunity and partly because it pays its Marketing department more than I make. They could have got ahead of this whole thing by “bringing home the Gold” medalists in J. Space available? MAKE the space by blocking some J seats on the flights. There’s a cost and there’s a big Marketing opportunity. It’s cheaper than paying Celine to sing. Just sayin’…

    Rocket science?

    Avoidable bad publicity.

  20. Entitled. Wow. Ski boarder (that’s considered a real job nowadays) Toutant makes it sound like he was drafted and sent to a war on the DMZ. His gold medal will ensure he will make money from endorsements, sponsorships, advertisements, become a product pitchman. If so, he can actually buy himself a business class seat on Air Canada. What a bunch of spoilt, narcissistic brats. Shameful. But that’s the generations that parents have raised: I, me, want, now, deserve. Perpetual boy men and girl women.

  21. Asking is fine, but being upset that he was denied is not. I’m sure this gentlemen travels frequently to events and maybe it’s all via Air Canada. So I’m not surprised about the 75k miles, but like everyone else, there is priority. Gold medals aren’t in the priority rules that members abide by to see who gets any free space. Maybe next time the Canadien Olympic committee signs an agreement with Air Canada, medal status (or winning an event) will mean something in the rules of upgrades.

  22. @Sandra – you know you sound like a self entitled brat in need of a reality check? and please, do not be a douche.

  23. I got a nice chuckle out of the sentiment that somehow Sebastien Toutant is not an elite 75k on his home airline. The dude probably flies more than 99% of readers on this blog, 200k miles a year easily.

  24. @Sandra “never ruin an apology with an excuse”.

    Even if you have a good point to make, the apology message is the worst possible place to make it.

  25. @lucky

    I think attack is strong…certainly criticism, although if you wrote ‘recognised status’ instead of ‘giving status’ it would be much clearer.


    If I was at CNN i’d have more money to perm my hair.

  26. ” comes across as entitled and pathetic” …Wait, are we still talking about the Olympic athlete, or the many commenters on here who complain when they don’t get their FREE upgrade…

  27. @DenB

    Although I did apologize. Half of this board is from the KKK or ANP judging by the vociferously passionate replies lol

  28. Anyone spotted the irony? Readers of a blog largely devoted to flying in J/F without paying J/F, angrily criticizing people who’ve worked hard to achieve the world’s highest honour in their chosen endeavour. Your criticisms?


    You could remove the quotes and turn it into a sentence. Then, you could read it. Remove the “s” at the end if you like.

  29. What I don’t get is why gold medal winners think they deserve an upgrade. Every athlete at the Olympics gave it their all and years of practice to represent their country. Why isn’t every one of those coming back from Korea entitled to an upgrade? I’d be embarrassed if I was this guy, and the US curlers, to think they deserve more than their fellow country teammates.

  30. It’s no the right way to ask but I really do think that they should’ve upgraded him. getting a gold medal in the olympics is extremely difficult and if you are sponsoring the olympic team of your country you should at least give business class seats to the 11 athletes who won gold. I don think 11 business class seats is too much to ask..

  31. Tbh it would be a nice gesture if they were upgraded and would create nice publicity. On Social Media they may be a bit cagey at giving an upgrade in case all the top tier ‘i fly 10 million miles a year in a suit’ group start letting off the fireworks.

  32. Olympians are much more deserving of upgrades than clowns who complain about award availabilities of airlines, especially when they are abusing and taking advantage of airline loyalty programs.

  33. 75K Star gold, flying on the official team (& national) airline, marked as olympic, and being one of the 11 gold medal winners for canada…I do think that perhaps something slightly better than a window seat in the very back cabin of a 777 would have been nice as a one off gesture.
    In my view certainly more deserving than many who get their free upgrades based solely on their status…

    Maybe they brought him an extra packet of nuts as a token of their appreciation.

  34. If Air Canada want to get publicity by being a sponsor of the games, it’s not unreasonable to think they could offer J to gold medalists.

    It’s not like it was just any airline he was asking, he was asking the airline that is the sponsor. It was short sighted of them not to reserve J for gold medalists.

  35. While I certainly find the comment on 57A off-putting and not in Canadian spirit, I want to also bring another point of view too. I can’t speak of Delta, but Air Canada is “Official Airline of the Canadian Olympic Team” – meaning, they paid a TON of money to be able to use athletes and Olympics in general for their advertising. The amount of advertising space they got on local coverage is borderline ridiculous, and their twitter is full of Olympic references.

    So is it OK for a company to pay to use the faces (and tag along accomplishments) of sports people, while not planning for any kind of differentiated treatment in terms of service provided to those same people? It is not like Air Canada had no idea these people are going back to Canada, so they did not plan/want to sacrifice economy plus nor extra legroom seating for folks they so liberally use for their own advertising? Or is priority boarding all one can hope for when accepting the sponsorship or is even a that running against entitlement?

    I guess it is just a rule of capitalism: AC exchanged money for advertising rights, and that is where it ends for them – nothing else (more) should ever be expected. I just wish we had more space for regular humanity and common sense, especially when framed against “national pride” so blatantly used by a company.

  36. I couldn’t care less, I’m here only for the comments, quite entertaining.

    If the guy complained about wifi speed or something, I could have helped with an advice, but with this…

  37. @ Stephen F

    Quite right.

    Gold medalists should get J.

    Silvers should get Premium Economy.

    Bronzes should get Economy, but those seats at the Exits with extra legroom.

    Everyone else who didn’t place should be down-graded to Cargo, for bringing National Disgrace on Canada. Either that, or made to walk home.

    Or, I suppose, they could get what was actually paid for. Remind me again: how many billions are made from tv rights for this stuff?

  38. I think he earned that airline status on AC since Winter Olympians tend to go through the world cup tour events for their respective sports, which are held all over the world.
    I agree with you that in this case the athlete sounds entitled for sure. He could have simply asked and leave it at that rather than shaming AC.
    Having gone to Winter Olympics in the past, I know there are a lot more Canadian fans who go to Winter Olympics than Summer Olympics; and in turn, more Canadian sponsors as well. I bet the the more affluent fans and the Canadian sponsors & media made the business class cabin of that ICN-YYZ flight full.

  39. In Germany 53 athletes, with a realistic chance to win a medal, got (paid) business class tickets for both ways. The funds for these tickets were raised through a nationwide lottery.

  40. Athletes are mainly in it, seeking their own glory. Their self-centred and obsessively honed talent is often totally useless, in the real world. Why should they be called ‘heroes’ and have special treatment??

  41. LOL on team Canada doing this on top of:

    Taking the silver medal off from your neck ON THE PODIUM;
    got drunk and climbed a random pole and got rescued;
    stole a random citizen’s car and drove back to Olympic Village while BAC .160%

    So proud of our good neighbors for all these achievement on this single Olympic!

  42. I don’t get where is everyone finding this “ask to be upgraded”? He was complaining being at very back of the plane.

    In a society where everything has a price, the priceless endeavors (like winning Olympic gold) have no value. And it shows – everybody is clamoring that gold medalists should go back in line, and never ask/expect any special treatment. (That is reserved for those who pay for it.) They should be gracious that they even get to compete. As the general public will certainly never be gracious enough to recognize achievement.

    The comments on his tweet are making me sad: running a gamut from labeling (entitled brat) over anger issues (“who do you think you are?” as if you are special, that makes *me* “lower”?) to complete accusations on how they are wasting tax dollars, undeservedly siphoning off the wealth from those that are busting their ass to earn money (and having enough time to bust their fingertips on tweeter).

    I wonder who is ungrateful here?

  43. @ Stephen F sponsor usually means they were already given feee tickets.
    The conditions probably already say no upgrades
    There are a finite number of seats and it’s most likely business was full anyhow
    If you read this twits twitter account his message didn’t garner much support
    The tax payer funds many atheletes training They don’t pay their air fare
    Most people in a similar position are quite modest, however there are always a fools who use social media and don’t appreciate what they wrote will backfire

  44. Too bad the Gold Medalist did not direct his upgrade request to Revenue Management. Surely that would have resulted in an instant upgrade.

  45. It’s embarrassing to see elite athletes forced to fly economy. Many of them are not wealthy, in fact give up wealth generation to focus on sport. It is made worse by the fact that sports administration is so corrupt….with vast numbers of officials, hangers-on, shysters all with snouts in the trough/hands in the till.

  46. @Paolo

    Agree +1. I also think this post is excessively harsh by Lucky. Its rather childish of him to slander the athlete as pathetic. He’s achieved far more in life than Lucky tbh.

    This athelete has also been gentlemanly enough to apologize. Really appreciate that.

  47. @Alvin,

    And yet Canada with 11% the population of The USA still managed to win more medals.

    Don’t get me started on Ryan Lochte and the other US swimmers in Rio Olympics 😉

  48. Seriously, what is wrong with the commenters on this and other travel blogs lately? It seems that every story turns into a commentary about politics or social issues and a series of personal attacks. I follow this and similar blogs to learn some new travel tips and read about travel experiences. Isn’t that the point of a travel blog? I enjoy hearing reader’s travel stories, but could do with a few less rantings.

  49. long haul AC is a good hard product on the 788/9
    service and food…not so much
    If there are empty seats un biz…why not upgrade the kid
    although to tweet shame was wrong

  50. Sandra – You seem really sensitive about this issue. Your interpretation of Lucky’s post re: Delta not upgrading the US Gold Medalists seemed off to me. I thought Lucky was being pretty fair. Now, you are ranting here.

    What really shocks me though is that we haven’t heard from Debit yet on this issue.

  51. Tourist to fisherman: You’d better put a lid on that basket of lobsters hadn’t you?
    Fisherman to tourist: Whatever for?
    Tourist to fisherman: Well those lobsters could climb on top of each other and get out!
    Fisherman to tourist: Oh no. These are CANADIAN lobsters.
    Tourist to fisherman: CANADIAN lobsters?
    Fisherman to tourist: Yep. As soon as one gets near the top the others’ll drag it back down again!

  52. It’s cheap on AC’s part to basically pay the organization, but ignore the individual (75k aside) who makes the organization successful. Support means support, they just brought the right to use the logo.

    Also- the Olympic Team would not worth a dime without these people who train hard and go compete out there- and they should have negotiated something for their athletes.

  53. Occasionally we hear about passengers in F giving their seats up to men and women in uniform. At least some of us understand the medals that adorn real heroes don’t come in gold, silver or bronze.

  54. Alessan! I’m with you! The comment section has really become entertaining as of late!
    The Nice Paul! Eloquently stated!
    Tim! Go back and review the comments. Debit is back there whining as usual! Looking for us to collectively to go aww, poor baby! I hope he doesn’t hold his breath waiting for that to occur.

  55. @WW – You said “Athletes are mainly in it, seeking their own glory. Their self-centred and obsessively honed talent is often totally useless, in the real world. Why should they be called ‘heroes’ and have special treatment??”…….So according to your logic, only athletes that can apply those skills to the real world should be allowed in the Olympics? So I guess a lot of artists, musicians, actors, writers or mathematicians should all quit unless they make a living off it? Are you serious?

  56. @Callum

    The article states:

    “Renewed its Altitude Podium Program to provide qualified athletes 35K status and access to International Maple Leaf lounges while competing abroad”

    The athlete we’re talking about has 75k status, so he undoubtedly earned that himself, since it isn’t 35k.

    Why don’t you just read?!

  57. Can any of you do a 1620 in midair? I didn’t think so. You don’t have to cure cancer or eradicate hunger to be an awesome/decent person.

    Anyways he apologized as @Satzumas noted. Tempest in a teapot.

  58. @Red

    AC Y trans Canada is so much better than any US airline that I question whether you have flown much.

    Olympic athletes travel so much to international competitions that I wonder why Lucky would even doubt his status. Possibly 5 to 10 TATL’s a year?

  59. Remove this freaking kid from the team representing Canada until he grows up! What a shame to have him to be a Canadian! What a jerk!

  60. I am an extremely infrequent poster here but an almost daily reader. I appreciate Lucky’s reviews as well as those of his team. However, who is this “Sandra”?? Such aggression!! Where does this all come from? Astroturfing or what?

  61. I could not care any less about whether or not AC upgraded some athlete as long as I get preference for the meal selection since I pay for my biz tickets with cash.

Leave a Reply

If you'd like to participate in the discussion, please adhere to our commenting guidelines. Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *