Air Canada Introduces In-Airport Concierge Service - 2001-01-29
<B>Air Canada Introduces In-Airport Concierge Service</B>
By Carolyn Green
In an effort to garner increased loyalty from its highest paying customers, Air Canada this month launched a new program, Concierge Service.
While other airlines offer similar services, Pierre Bourbonniere, Air Canada's manager of airport products, networks and the Star Alliance, said the airline's program differs from the competition because it's available to any traveler who purchases an Executive First ticket, Air Canada's business class brand, as well as to all Super Elite members of the airline's frequent flyer program, Aeroplan, regardless of the class of service they're flying.
Bourbonniere, who noted that Air Canada does not offer a first class service, said most other airline concierge programs are available only to first class passengers or to the highest tier members of their frequent flyer plans, not to both.
"The direction we're taking is to provide the ultimate experience for our Super Elite members and Executive First passengers," said Bourbonniere. "These people are basically homeless because they're always on the road. They're looking for a friend at the airport, a warm person who can recognize them and someone who really understands their needs."
The service, introduced in mid-January, is available at eight Canadian airports--Calgary, Edmonton, Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Vancouver and Winnipeg--14 international destinations, including Beijing, Frankfurt, Hong Kong, London and Paris, and three U.S. gateways--Chicago, Los Angeles and New York.
Although Air Canada flies to more than 40 U.S. cities, Bourbonniere said the service is required primarily at hub destinations where many passengers make connections. Because Boston, San Francisco and Miami also have many passengers making connections, he expected the service would be expanded to include these destinations later this year or in early 2002.
Bourbonniere said the airline has trained 176 concierge agents at the International Concierge Institute. In addition to traditional skills associated with a reservations agent, he said training focuses on customer expectations, guest management, conflict resolution, team building communications, grooming, leadership and cultural diversity.
Concierge agents, who are located at business class checkins, business class lounges and departure gates, also learn techniques to remember passengers' names. As well, they must learn to handle situations when they cannot accommodate a guests' needs.
To distinguish Concierge Service employees from traditional ground agents who wear hunter green uniforms, members of the special corps don a black suit with a special name tag.
Bourbonniere said that concierge agents, who work with hotel concierges in 26 countries, can perform just about any task.
"They are told that there's nothing they should say "no" to as long as it's legal," said Bourbonniere, adding that frequent requests include making theater bookings and hotel and restaurant reservations. However, more unusual requests include providing help to passengers who left their passports at home or their airline tickets in a hotel, he said.
Unlike hotel concierges, Bourbonniere said tipping by passengers is discouraged. "We tell people not to accept tips although there will be circumstances when they feel they cannot refuse for whatever reason," he said. "But in those circumstances, we ask them to report it to us.