Thank you for your latest correspondence regarding Customer File No. 4846625. After all the other correspondence, which required me to scan and email copies of boarding passes, compose several other messages, and wait on hold for around 45 minutes, I was relieved to see the “Refund request for advanced seat selection” subject line appear in my inbox this morning.
As I explained to a customer service representative (pictured at left) more than three weeks ago, I paid $80 for your seat-selection service so my two daughters, aged 4 and 7, could sit with their parents — both their parents — on your Aug. 4 overnight flight from Toronto to Paris.
Your website clearly indicated that the aircraft involved, an Airbus330-300, featured a 2-4-2 seat configuration — that is, two seats on the outside of each aisle and four together in the middle. Indeed, we departed on Aug. 4 specifically because the aircraft allowed us to sit together.
Imagine our surprise when, upon boarding the plane, we discovered that its replacement, an Airbus 330-200, featured a 3-3-3 layout.
Granted, we did have the same seat numbers we had purchased, but the aisle now separated one of us from the rest. My wife and I tried to switch seats so we could both sit next to one daughter, but we were told this wasn’t possible. We couldn’t very well put a small child in an aisle seat all by herself, so my wife, bless her, sat between the kids in the middle section while I flew solo on the other side of the aisle.
Do you know what it’s like taking a red-eye flight with two small children in aisle seats on either side of you? My wife didn’t sleep a wink, what with beverage carts and passengers bumping our kids’ outstretched extremities. My flight was no picnic, but suffice it to say that the experience ranks just below childbirth on the list of spousal sacrifices I can never repay.
If nothing else, I’ll definitely buy her something nice with the seat-selection refund, despite the fact that I just received this:
We acknowledge receipt of your refund request for the following seat selection. Unfortunately no refund can be processed in the file because equivalent seats were given after the aircraft substitution. Originally you booked row 9 on Airbus330-300 where the configuration is 2x4x2 and you selected 4 seats in the middle section before the wings, after the aircraft change we assigned equivalent seats on Airbus 330-200 where the configuration is different and we do not have a row 9 complete, the configuration is 3x3x3, we assigned row16 the middle section and aisle across before the wings as well. Please see below our Terms and Conditions:
"Subject to operational requirements, it may be necessary to change the aircraft type operating your flight. Should this occur, we will try to match your seat request on the substituted aircraft. This, however, cannot be guaranteed. Air Transat will then assign you an equivalent seat. If we cannot assign you an equivalent seat, we will contact you to ask about your seating preferences. In the event that we are unable to assign you an equivalent seat, you may be entitled to a refund…”
Thank you for telling me what I already know about the flight. I also know the definition of “equivalent”: “Corresponding or virtually identical especially in effect or function.”
It’s pretty obvious that being separated from the rest of my family is not "equivalent" to sitting with them (especially in effect or function). This is not open to interpretation – it is a fact.
The thing is, we weren't the only family affected by the aircraft switch. Another foursome, with an infant no less, had paid to have access to the bassinet at the front of the coach cabin, which the new aircraft lacked. Thankfully, the mother was moved to a window seat to make nursing easier, but I have to wonder: Were they denied a refund too? Maybe they gave up when faced with the shocking run-around I'm experiencing. If that is the case, shame on you.
You know what? I don’t want my money back any more. I don’t want you to read this, and think, “This Adam Bisby is incredibly gifted, handsome and eloquent, and he’s got tens and tens of readers, so we had better give him his money back tout suite.”
It’s not about the $80 any more. What I want is for you to change your ridiculous terms and conditions. Do the right thing here, and I will accept my hard-earned $80 — along with one of those self-inflating life vests I’ve always wanted — and hand it straight to the woman who really deserves it (and plenty more besides).
Adam “Customer File No. 4846625” Bisby