TORONTO – Air Canada may be on the verge of ushering in a new year, but a recent flurry of activity on social media suggests the country’s largest airline is stuck in a previous century.
Twitter has been abuzz after a Calgary-based customer accused the airline of discriminating against women who decide to keep their maiden names after marriage.
Chris Turner voiced his complaints publicly after attempting to transfer a travel voucher to his wife, who does not use the same surname as him.
“Hey, @AirCanada — your (very helpful) phone rep tells me I can’t transfer a voucher to my wife pre-flight BECAUSE SHE KEPT HER NAME. Really?” Turner tweeted.
The ensuing exchange with the airline prompted a flurry of support from digital spectators as well as a rival pitch from a competing airline.
Air Canada itself, however, said its voucher transfer policy is more nuanced than the social media chatter would have people believe.
Spokeswoman Isabelle Arthur said customers are free to transfer vouchers to anyone they wish, but not all transfers can be accomplished over the phone as Turner was attempting to do.
“If the last name is not the same, documents must be sent for a refund to avoid fraudulent use which unfortunately has occurred in the past,” Arthur said in an email. “This will no longer be an issue as gift cards, which are fully transferable, become more common place (sic).”
Arthur said those documents, which include the voucher endorsed by its original owner as well as the itinerary receipt, can be submitted electronically through the company website.
Refunds may be issued before the flight in question leaves the ground, she said, touching on one of the issues that troubled Turner.
He did not respond to a request for an interview, but his Twitter exchange with the airline suggested he would have to purchase another ticket for his wife and wait to be reimbursed once the travel voucher had been transferred. More pressing for Turner, however, was his perception that Air Canada had failed to keep up with modern naming practices now common with today’s Canadian families.
“Maybe let your bosses know that those of us who are not married to June Cleaver find this deeply insulting,” he wrote.
Others were quick to chime in.
“(T)hat’s a terrible policy. Name change traditions vary widely: Quebec, same-sex marriage,” wrote one Twitter user.
“Not to mention the ones from cultural traditions where identical surnames never happen?” countered another.
Others voiced their discontent more succinctly.
“Hello A/C – 1950 wants its policy back.”
One of Air Canada’s competitors, WestJet Airlines, also jumped into the fray to advertise its own more lenient transfer policy.
“Credits with us are transferable to anyone of your choosing,” read a post from the corporate twitter account. “You can make the booking for them or transfer the $ their account.”
WestJet did not respond to a request to clarify the finer points of its policy, including whether documentation needs to be filled out.
Rival Porter Airlines said it, too, has tried to maintain a more flexible approach to travel vouchers.
“Vouchers issued by Porter are transferable to anyone prior to travel at the discretion of the voucher holder,” said company spokesman Brad Cicero.