Your seat is guaranteed.

I just booked a flight at the Air Canada website. After they happily took my money, they offered to let me select my seats. I did so, only to find that there were no available seats on one leg of the trip. Concerned about that, I called their web help line, and spoke to a person named Smith. I told him that I was concerned that the flight was overbooked. He merely dismissed my concern and told me that my seat was guaranteed.

So I took a look at Air Canada’s Overbooking Policy:

Overbooking: why it happens and how it affects you

  • You may want to know if your Air Canada flight is overbooked. At any time, this information will be provided upon request.
  • In Canada, customers who are denied boarding on an Air Canada flight due to overbooking are eligible to receive compensation in the form of travel voucher or cash. In other countries, customers who are denied boarding on an Air Canada flight are eligible for compensation subject to local rules and legislation.
  • Customers who are denied boarding an Air Canada flight due to overbooking will be booked on the next Air Canada flight with available seats.
  • When appropriate, Air Canada will provide denied boarding customers with meal vouchers for airport restaurants.
  • In the case of overnight delays, Air Canada will provide out-of-town customers who are denied boarding with meal vouchers, hotel accommodation and transportation to and from the airport.

The Air Canada representative would not tell me if the flight was overbooked, even though I requested that information, a clear violation of this policy. And the policy also makes it pretty clear that my seat is not guaranteed, but that I am eligible to receive compensation, and they will book me on the next flight with available seats.

I booked the flight because I needed to be somewhere. A later flight won’t work for me. So though they happily took my money, they provide no actual guarantee for my travel schedule. Clearly it is their convenience that matters, not mine.

So I sent a note to their Customer Care people, and got this response:

The reference number for your question is ’060720-000243′.Thank you for your email. We endeavor to respond within 3 business days.

Breaking down the code, mine is request number 243 today. And they’ll try to get back to me in 3 business days, meaning by next Tuesday. For some reason I don’t feel better.

Travel is strenuous enough. Worrying that you’ll actually get the seat you paid for doesn’t make it any easier.

As Jerry Seinfeld said:

You know how to take the reservation. You just don’t know how to keep the reservation.

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