Mexican Airport Misery: Aeromexico VS Air Canada
September 10, 2014 7:58 AM   Subscribe

Due to a late departure, various snafus in the Mexico City airport, and some extremely unhelpful and unsympathetic ground personnel, our recent trip from Acapulco (Aeromexico) to Toronto (Air Canada) via Mexico City turned into an expensive nightmare. I have googled various keywords, checked out several FlyerTalk forums and gone through similar MF threads, but I haven't located anything remotely helpful. I am hoping the hive mind can help suggest how to seek compensation. Unhappy details below the fold:


1) On Thursday, Aug 21, 2014, my wife and I took Aeromexico Flight AM-310 (departure time 20:23) from Acapulco to Mexico City, intending to catch Air Canada flight AC-990 at 23:55 to Toronto. Our luggage was tagged to go straight from Acapulco to Toronto, and we were told that boarding passes for the Air Canada flight would be issued in Mexico City.

2) Flight AM-310 was greatly delayed: we left General Juan N. Álvarez International Airport more than one hour late. Our airplane landed at Benito Juárez International Airport at about 22:45, which theoretically still left us ample time to catch our connecting flight at 23:55, but we had to wait another twenty minutes or so for our plane to slowly taxi to the arival gate before we could finally deplane.

3) By the time we got into Terminal 2, the Air Train had already shut down, so we grabbed our carry-on luggage and proceeded at maximum speed to catch the red bus to Terminal 1 and raced all the way down the corridors to the Air Canada ticket counter, but it had already closed. We then jogged back and forth (twice) between security and the Air Canada office on the second floor, to no avail. Although we showed security our Toronto reservations and the seat numbers we had already chosen on the flight, we were not allowed through because we lacked boarding passes.

BACKGROUND: On our flight from Acapulco, we had made the acquaintance of a young lady who worked for Air Canada and was booked on the same flight to Toronto. Our friend logged onto the AC employee database and discovered that there were still several empty seats on our flight. We pleaded and pleaded with security to please notify the employees at the Air Canada boarding gate that we had arrived and were waiting to board the flight. We were standing at the security checkpoint a good 30 or 40 minutes before our flight was to depart, and not many people were waiting for inspection, so there was plenty of time to make our flight. The Air Canada supervisor told the security officer that they were well aware of who we were (they had our names on their list), but they would not bend the rules to let us through. They said we could take the next flight to Toronto at 13:50.

4) We next tried to find a hotel at the airport, but they were all booked up (Hilton, Camino Real etc.), so we took a taxi to the Zona Rosa, but all the respectable hotels we checked out were also full (214 pesos for the taxi). When we returned to the airport, I realized that both of my sandals had broken from the strain of constant racing, so I had to walk the remaining distance in my socks. Exhausted from our tremendous exertion, at 02:30 we wound up trying to nap on a luggage conveyor in a less noisy corner not far from the Air Canada check-in counter.

5) When we woke up at around 04:00 and walked over to the Air Canada ticket counter, we were shocked to discover that Air Canada would not honor or refund our three previously-purchased tickets for Flight AC-990 (fortunately, my 89-year-old mother was not able to join our impromptu marathon). To add insult to injury, AC insisted (1) that we buy new tickets to Toronto (which cost us an additional $1591.18 Canadian dollars) and (2) that we wait on standby for possible seats on Flight AC992, leaving at 13:50.

6) At this point, the accumulated stress, combined with intense anxiety over being able to reach Canada in time to catch our flight back to Taiwan (most of which are fully-booked at this time of year) and sheer exhaustion, took its toll: I felt nauseous, had trouble breathing, and my heartbeat was getting more and more irregular (I’m 64). Fortunately, my wife, a well-trained professional nurse, was able to stabilize my condition until an airport doctor came about 40 minutes later and assured us I was merely stressed out.

7) While waiting for the afternoon flight, we also discovered that our luggage from the Acapulco flight, which was to have been transferred to Air Canada the previous night, had not even arrived yet (12+ hours after landing!). For the first time in my life, I had no choice but to rest in a wheelchair and pray that my wife, who does not speak Spanish, would be able to make her way through the maze of poorly-signposted corridors all the way over to Terminal 2 to the Aeromexico offices to retrieve our luggage in time for us to board our flight to Toronto.

8) Fortunately, with the help of the cheerful Aeromexico ground staff, the luggage was eventually located, and my wife had the presence of mind to hire a porter (150 pesos) to bring the luggage back to the Air Canada counter. With only minutes to spare (regular pasengers had almost all boarded already and several other people were waiting on standby waiting to grab the few remaining seats), we were granted permission to occupy two widely-separated seats (Surprisingly as it may seem, our AC friend, who had a legitimate ticket for the original flight and a reservation just like us, was the very last person to be granted a seat).

9) On August 22, at 13:50, we finally took off for Toronto. We arrived in Canada exhausted from our ordeal and saddened by the loss of one whole day out of the two days we had originally planned to stay.

QUESTION: Who should we contact for redress, Aeromexico or Air Canada?
posted by juifenasie to Travel & Transportation around Mexico City, Mexico (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I can't figure out:

1) Our luggage was tagged to go straight from Acapulco to Toronto, and we were told that boarding passes for the Air Canada flight would be issued in Mexico City.


2) To add insult to injury, AC insisted (1) that we buy new tickets to Toronto (which cost us an additional $1591.18 Canadian dollars)

It sounds like it was a codeshare flight and it was their own fault you missed the connection (because the first plane was delayed) which means you should not have to buy new tickets.

How did you book the flight? Through Air Canada or through AeroMexico?
posted by vacapinta at 8:13 AM on September 10, 2014

You may find this site helpful:

Basically, they take a cut of the claim, but they do all the leg work.
posted by Grither at 8:16 AM on September 10, 2014 [4 favorites]

It sounds an awful lot like Air Canada took advantage of your panic and worry to get you to buy a new ticket when they should have honored your existing one. I have missed connections on codeshare flights (oneworld) and my existing reservations were always honored with a seat on the next available flight with no cost to me.

You could try submitting this to the consumer advocate guy.
posted by poffin boffin at 8:20 AM on September 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

In my experience, when you book two legs of a trip on two different carriers, you don't have any kind of continuity of responsibility between the two segments of the trip. So, if an Air Canada flight had landed late and caused you to miss an Air Canada flight (or one of their code shares) you'd be booked on the next available flight. But if you book on two completely different airlines (and I can't find any information that Aeromexico and Air Canada are code shares), when you don't show up for the second flight it's basically as if you have missed your flight like any passenger originating from that city. Sometimes if you miss your flight they rebook for a fee but sometimes you're just screwed. (I cancelled a flight the day before departure because I was ill and they issued me the credit in full! Minus a $250 rebooking fee. The total cost of the original flight had been $266. So I was left with a $16 credit. )

If you booked with a travel agent or something similar I would start with your attempts at resource there -- flying on two different airlines with a departure time of midnight on the second flight is not the best plan: if you miss your flight, there likely won't be one until the next morning, all of the customer service desks are staffed at a minimum if at all, etc etc.
posted by kate blank at 8:24 AM on September 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

I have missed connections on codeshare flights (oneworld) and my existing reservations were always honored

Are they code shares, though? I don't see any information that they are.
posted by kate blank at 8:25 AM on September 10, 2014

If you booked Toronto/Mexico City round trip and a separate Mexico City/Acapulco itinerary then unfortunately it's on you to make your flights. The airlines are extremely unlikely to compensate you for the hassle.
posted by foodgeek at 8:31 AM on September 10, 2014 [7 favorites]

Are they code shares, though? I don't see any information that they are.

Oh, right! I was looking at vacapinta's comment and went from there. But yes, they're not listed as partners on either airline's website.
posted by poffin boffin at 8:39 AM on September 10, 2014

foodgeek: "The airlines are extremely unlikely to compensate you for the hassle."

If a flight is significantly delayed, then the airline actually is obligated to compensate the passenger. There is just a hellacious amount of paperwork and other tactics they use to try and make you not file the claim. It doesn't matter if there is a connecting flight or not. Even just a delay on a non-stop flight is eligible.

I'm not sure one hour is enough of a delay, but that's what the site I linked above is for. They'll do all the work, and you only pay them if you get paid.
posted by Grither at 8:49 AM on September 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

There are a few key pieces of information that will greatly affect the amount of compensation you are entitled to and likely to receive:

Was this a codeshare flight/did you buy one ticket for both flights? Or were the flights booked separately, one with AeroMexico and one with Air Canada?

How late was the AeroMexico flight?
posted by mskyle at 9:27 AM on September 10, 2014

First thing is definitely to figure out how exactly this was booked in the reservation system. Was it a single itinerary? Was it a codeshare?

And then even if somebody booked you badly so that Air Canada thought you were originating your travel in Mexico City, try talking to Air Canada.

BUT. You need to put your list of grievances aside when you do this. Aeromexico in all likelihood did not wrong you though that may depend on a couple of factors you will have to chase down. The Mexico City airport did not wrong you by having a midnight or being big, nor did security, or the hotels or the cab drivers. It is unreasonable to complain that the last seats on a plane aren't together as if it was done to personally spite you, that is an entitlement that violates the rules of space and time and reduces the sympathy of the listener instantly.

If this trip was booked as multiple itineraries and you were not told, you would be justified in raining down anger on whoever did it, but if that person was a travel agent you are probably not going to get any compensation.

It's understandable that you are traumatized by the experience and you want someone to make it better, but the only potentially fixable problem here is that you had to buy new tickets from DF to Toronto and maybe you shouldn't have had to. Address that first.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:37 AM on September 10, 2014 [8 favorites]

I'm sorry you had a bad experience. It sounds like your Aeromexico flight was delayed about one hour and twenty minutes. That is a pretty routine delay. Did Aeromexico say what the reason for the delay is? I wouldn't hold out much hope of getting compensation from them for this unless they are required to by law or conditions of carriage, but there's no harm in trying.

It may or may not have been within Air Canada's legal rights to insist you buy new tickets. Regardless I think that's a horrible way to treat distressed passengers, and wouldn't play well in the media. I would try to get a refund or credit for the new tickets they made you buy.

When you write Aeromexico and Air Canada, make sure you leave out most of the details in this post. I know it sucked that you couldn't find a hotel and that your shoes broke during this process but that is definitely not the airlines' fault. Similarly, they aren't going to compensate you because you were worried your luggage wouldn't arrive on time but it actually did. They aren't obligated to hold a flight for you and won't be held responsible for not doing so. That stuff makes you seem like an unreasonable person without a real actionable complaint so don't include it.

Short versions of the emails you should send:

To Aeromexico: Your flight was late and because of that I missed another flight and had to pay $1592. Please send me a check. (They will probably laugh at this but maybe you'll get something.)

To Air Canada: My flight on your interline partner Aeromexico (list of partners is here) was delayed and your station in Mexico made me purchase new tickets for $1592 which I only agreed to under duress. We were in a vulnerable situation with disabled and elderly passengers and we feel like your agents took advantage of that. Please send us a refund of the $1592.

I would wait to see what Air Canada offers and then decide how to escalate if it's insufficient. Good luck.

If a flight is significantly delayed, then the airline actually is obligated to compensate the passenger.

This is true only in limited circumstances that may not apply here.
posted by grouse at 9:40 AM on September 10, 2014 [10 favorites]

I want to thank Grither and poffin boffin for suggesting consumer websites that might be able to help out. My chronology of events was split up section by section to enhance readability, but seen from the POV of a third person such as Lyn Never, I admit that it does seem like a crybaby's "list of grievances." Thank you for pointing that out. The purpose of my list was to prove that we were not content to be passive victims: we used all possible resources and pushed ourselves to our physical limits to make the flight and would have made it with a tiny bit of cooperation from the powers that be.

Mexico City Airport rant:

Size in itself is not the problem: the way Mexico City Airport is run is what makes flight connections UNNECESSARILY problematic. Travelers should keep in mind that:

(1) if you are rushing to catch a flight, there are no people movers or golf cart vehicles to help weak or disabled passengers (maybe they are hiding somewhere). If you are merely exhausted, tough!

(2) the Aerotren/Airtrain service shuts down after 2300. If you don't have enough Mexican pesos on you (M$12.50 per person: they wouldn't take dollars) and you don't speak Spanish, finding the Red Bus to move between terminals could be problematic: the hallways are difficult to navigate (signposts and facility maps are hard to find) and given that DF is an international airport, surprisingly few people speak English.

(3) bureaucratic intransigence can also make travelers miserable: when we went through the airport in January, with over half an hour before boarding time, we still almost missed our flight because security refused to let us through: our boarding passes said 1:20 but the security agent said "This is a 24-hour airport, so your BP MUST indicate 1320. You are forbidden to go through!" By this time, our ticket counter had already closed, but pleading with the security agent and his supervisor did no good. They also refused to contact our boarding gate for confirmation that we were legitimate passengers. We ran back and forth between security and our airline counter; the second time, we spotted a luggage handler nearby who agreed to call the departure gate. After asking for mercy, arguing and almost getting into a physical fight, the security supervisor finally let us through, but took down the airline representative's badge number and promised there would be hell to pay if any problem later cropped up. The airline later told us that they have had such problems before, ONLY in Mexico City Airport.

If it is at all possible, I will never, ever travel through that [rude word] airport again. Forewarned is forearmed!
posted by juifenasie at 10:39 PM on September 12, 2014

I also want to thank grouse for a very thoughtful and practical reply. I'll contact both airlines by email and see what happens. If I can get my extra fares reimbursed, i"ll be satisfied.
posted by juifenasie at 10:46 PM on September 12, 2014

Airline Relationships: The Difference Between Interlines And Alliances

While googling for links to solve my problem, I gave up when I saw that Aeromexico and Air Canada were not part of the same alliance. Thanks to grouse, I now I see that I should have probed a little deeper.

I knew about code-sharing (a single flight) and airline alliances (mileage benefits etc.), but I had never heard of interlines before. Page 6 of THE AIRLINE INDUSTRY - A LOOK BACK ( explains that there is a hierarchy ranging "from cooperation through interlines, code-sharing, co-branding, varying alliances and merger." Maybe this information will help other people.
posted by juifenasie at 11:01 PM on September 12, 2014

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