I have been at war with Air Canada since charged me to carry my folding bike. (see Air Canada Hates Cyclists)
I got a copy of Air Canada's response to my complaint, download pdf here . and have provided my own response to the Canadian Transport Agency, copy below the fold.
CANADIAN TRANSPORTATION AGENCY
Complaints and Investigation Division
Air and Marine Investigations Directorate
15, Eddy Street, 18th Floor
Attention: Ms. Pauline Leclerc
Re: Complaint by Mr. Lloyd Alter against Air Canada
CTA File No. 08-50589
Dear Ms. Leclerc:
I have reviewed the letter dated February 11, 2009 from Martine De Serres, Counsel, Regulatory and International for Air Canada. I take issue with the following points:
1) The letter reads:
“Air Canada’s handling fee is actually based on additional handling procedures required for certain items, including bicycles.
Indeed, bicycles usually require special care as they must be speciﬁcally picked up at the check-in counter or oversized area and hand-delivered to the baggage room, unlike other baggage, where are sent down the baggage belt. Again upon arrival, they are speciﬁcally hand-delivered to a special oversized belt or drop off. In some airports, this process can be quite tedious and time consuming, and implies the removal of a staff member from the baggage room, a distraction from this employee’s normal tasks for a special assignment to the handling of a bicycle. Consequently it is not “improper” or inordinate” for Air Canada to charge a fee for this special service.....
Items that that do not require special handling or that are not subject to special procedures are not subject to additional handling fees. (emphasis mine) Golf and skis, for example, can generally be sent down the oversize belt at most airports, as there is a straight belt. However, bicycles do not ﬁt or cannot be sent down the belt and usually require someone from the baggage room to come and pick up the item at departure, and hand-deliver it upon arrival.”
As I have noted, the Strida bicycle that I travel with was designed to ﬁt within the maximum limits set for baggage, is in a padded case, is sent down the belt like any other baggage on American and Porter Airlines, and does not require any special handling beyond what might be given for skis, snowboards or golf clubs. It was designed around these parameters. Therefore none of the above applies. But my most serious disagreement is reserved for a later paragraph:
“For obvious operational reasons, Air Canada airport agents must treat all special items in accordance with Air Canada’s policy regarding the items of its category, regardless of any special characteristics an item may have. Thus, our agents must treat all bicycles in accordance with our policy applicable to bicycles, regardless of whether they are foldable, and regardless of their weight and size. Check-in agents are not in a position to know whether folding bicycles require the same handling than [sic] a more traditional bicycle, nor are they in a position to know what size and weight a bicycle stops being subject to special handling. Consequently Air Canada must treat all bicycles in the same manner.” (emphasis mine)
Check-in Agents deal with an almost inﬁnite variety of bags and boxes of all sizes and are completely familiar with the use of the scales right there at check-in and no doubt reject or charge special handling fees for items that exceed 32 kg (70lbs) or exceed 292 cm (115 in) in combined dimensions. Check-in agents are therefore perfectly capable of knowing what size and weight a folding bicycle is.
If a bag is presented that meets these rules and can travel down the belt without special handling, the fact that it is a bicycle is completely irrelevant. Then neither argument presented by M. De Serres makes ense.
In fact, in this particular incident, the check-in agent didn’t even know what was in the bag, and had to ask. After I was charged for the handling of the bag, I deposited it on the same belt as all of the other luggage, and it came down the same ramp and landed on the carousel with all of the other luggage. On my return ﬂight to Terminal 3 on American Airlines, it hit the carousel in the midst of conventional luggage, so Pearson Airport luggage handlers appear to have treated it like conventional luggage. At least at the portion of its journey visible to me, it received no special handling.
Also, notwithstanding M. De Serre’s listing of the tariffs on other airlines for bicycle transport, I have travelled with this bicycle on American Airlines, Porter Airlines and United Airlines and not one of them charged me this tariff because they considered it baggage.
I was travelling with a bag that met all of Air Canada’s restrictions on size and weight and was packaged in a fashion that required no special handling and so far as I can tell, did not receive any. None of the conditions that merit special handling fees applied; there were no operational constraints, and no special handling requirements. It was a bag. The fact that it contains a special folding bike is almost completely beside the point.
As you can see from the photograph below, it is an odd-shaped bag, but is well padded and designed to be easily carried, and weighs under 30 pounds. I spoke with the American distributor, who tells me that in hundreds of ﬂights across the country and to the UK and the far east, never once has he or the designer been charged extra as a bike, and that it a critical issue in the design that it comply with transport regulations as a bag, rather than a bike.
I have been informed by the Chief, Tariff Investigation for the Canadian Transport Agency, that the gency may only order the carrier to amend the applicable term, condition or charge if such term, condition or charge is found to be unduly discriminatory and/or unreasonable. I submit that the term is unduly discriminatory because it treats a bag of appropriate size and weight that needs no special handling different from that given to other bags, simply because it contains a form of bicycle.
I submit that it is unreasonable because said bag needs no special treatment and none of the arguments made by M. De Serres in the regarding size, handling, tariffs applied by other airlines apply when functionally it is nothing like a conventional bicycle.
The purpose of the tariff, as stated by M. De Serre, “actually based on additional handling procedures required for certain items, including bicycles.” However no additional handling procedures apply when it is designed around the parameters set by the airline for baggage and when it is delivered in a padded bag designed to withstand the rigours of the airline and airport baggage handling systems.
I thank you for your consideration of this issue. I have pursued this because I carry the bike for environmental reasons, to reduce the carbon footprint of my travelling. (I also buy carbon offsets from Air Canada for every ﬂight). Air Canada makes a big splash about their environmental commitment and it just seems so hypocritical to charge a tariff just because, as the agent said, “its a bike”. Except when it looks like a bag, is no bigger than a bag, weighs no more than a bag, and needs no more handling than a bag, it should be treated as a bag.
Regards, Lloyd Alter