Via Rail youth promotion for Canada's birthday heads off the tracks
Published Thursday, March 30, 2017 4:12AM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, March 30, 2017 9:59PM EDT
Via Rail’s patriotic promotion to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday with the nation’s youth certainly went off the tracks.
The offer – unlimited travel in July for those aged 12 to 25 for $150 – went live on Tuesday.
Myriam Djilane, 25, thought it was “a great way to celebrate Canada, to encourage young people to go travel across their own country because most of us don’t travel across our own country because it’s too expensive.”
But when she tried to jump on board to buy a ticket, the website crashed.
“Very frustrating. I kept refreshing. I had two computers going on.”
She tried to call, too. No luck.
Via reassured panicked riders on social media that there was an unlimited number of discounted passes available and they wouldn’t run out. But by early Thursday morning it announced there was a cap on the special tickets.
“Bon voyage!” the company tweeted. “All the Canada 150 Youth Passes have been sold. 1,867 young travellers will discover Canada this summer.”
Get it? In honour of Confederation. But with almost 6 million Canadians between 12 and 25, odds were lottery-like slim to get a pass. Many took to Twitter to vent their frustration using #ViaFail.
Public relations professor Bernard Gauthier said the promotion had “enormous potential” but he gives the company a D on execution. It should have been clear from the start that passes were limited, he says. Instead, Via left young people feeling betrayed.
“With Millennials, you’ve got a generation of consumers now who are a little more guarded. They’re more cynical and I think to disappoint that generation right now could be very costly for them in the long run,” said Gauthier, who teaches at Conestoga College.
Via didn’t answer questions about their handling of the promotion but did say it had to limit passes due to train capacity. It also boosted the number of golden tickets to 4,000 but they were sold out before dawn Thursday.