The recovery in the airline industry comes with downsides for travelers who want to fly abroad: more expensive tickets due to rising fuel prices and longer-than-usual wait times with customer service for a few more months in case of unforeseen circumstances.
Like Air Canada, Transat AT wants to pass on increased spending “as much as possible” to consumers through fare adjustments and other tools, such as a fuel surcharge, the Quebec tour operator’s president and CEO said. Annick Guerard. Wednesday, on the sidelines of the annual meeting of shareholders.
The increases vary by market and the strength of the competition, said Ms.I Guerard. Customers of Air Transat’s parent company pay a surcharge of between $20 and $40 per ticket for kerosene, the main expense of airlines.
” [Le supplément] It has increased in recent weeks and will continue to increase if fuel does not stop rising,” she said, by videoconference, accompanied by members of the tour operator’s senior management.
According to data from the International Air Transport Association, the price of airline fuel, as of April 22, had risen 119% compared to the previous year. After soaring following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, prices contracted 5.5% in April.
In Canada, the average price for a round-trip ticket to an international destination is currently around $940, according to the Montreal app. Hopper, specializing in particular in ticket reservations. This is a 19% increase from pre-pandemic prices.
Presenting first-quarter results on Tuesday, Air Canada’s top management also mentioned price adjustments to absorb the skyrocketing increase in its energy bill. The company also explained that fuel surcharges, as well as fee increases for services such as baggage and meals, were among the options being considered.
“The ability to pass on fare increases and optimize our spend is key to managing this market disruption,” said Amos Kazzaz, Air Canada’s chief financial officer.
Flight delays, postponements and cancellations have multiplied since the start of the pandemic, which has tested the patience of travelers. They often had to wait several hours before they could speak to a customer service representative, as airline call centers could not keep up with demand.
Transat AT is no exception. In recent months, Press has received many testimonials from clients who have found themselves in this situation. It will still be some time before everything returns to normal, admitted Mr.I Guerard.
“The service is acceptable, but it still doesn’t meet our quality standards,” he says. He would say that by early summer, if we hit our hiring goals, we should be back to a normal state where we respond in less than a minute. »
In a message sent to her clients last November, the president of Transat AT described waiting times as “unacceptable”. The return to normality was expected “soon”.
Six months later, a message stating that waiting times “are much longer than usual” is still clearly visible on the Air Transat website. As for Air Canada, where customers’ patience has also been tested in recent months, waiting times at service centers are “longer”, we warn. On Wednesday afternoon, the country’s largest airline did not respond to questions from Press about this situation.
At Transat AT, a call center employee who requested anonymity for fear of retaliation from his employer recently said Press recruitment was difficult, staff turnover was high, and training was condensed.
“Face-to-face training usually takes six weeks, and I had a three-week telecommuting training,” this person explained. they get very involved [chez Transat], but it is not for everyone. There are fewer and fewer travel credits to process, which speeds up the process. »
In recent “months”, the tour operator has added around 100 agents to its call center, which employs about 300 people, said its spokesman, Christophe Hennebelle. Fifty additional hires are planned.
More money from Ottawa?
After borrowing an additional $43.3 million from the federal government, Transat AT is still talking to Ottawa for more money to try to recover from the pandemic. The company did not specify the sum, but it will be more “modest” than the 700 million that it made available last year. To cut costs, the tour operator has halved the size of its Montreal headquarters, which occupies six floors. Transat AT had 5,800 employees before the health crisis. The tour operator’s workforce should hover around 5,000 employees when it returns to its pre-pandemic level of activity, according to its president and CEO, Annick Guérard. This reduction will be possible thanks to a “review” of the “organizational structure” of the company.