Saturday, September 9, 2023

Flying The Unfriendly Skies Of Air Canada

The latest complaint to surface about Air Canada has really taken first prize for customer abuse and it almost seems like the airline is running an internal contest to shock and awe its passengers. To try and force people to sit on a seat covered in vomit, throw them off the plane when they refused, and then make them pay for another ticket to fly home after threatening to put them on a no-fly list is like hitting a grand slam. Sadly this complaint is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to customer service with Air Canada, already at the bottom of the pile for North American airlines when it comes to reliability.

The tales of lost luggage, missed connections, lousy food, unsympathetic staff, and other horror stories plague all the airlines but the arrogance of Air Canada is in a league of its own and everyone has a favourite one they like to share. The fact that it's basically a monopoly is part of the problem but it's also the toothless/non-existent Passenger Rights in this country that allow Air Canada to flout its arrogance with such impunity. But it wasn't always this way.

In the good old days flying was an exciting pleasure, not something you fretted over and dreaded. Friends and family could join you for a farewell drink at the airport bar before you boarded your flight and there were often standby passengers at the boarding gate hoping to get a cut-rate seat on the airplane if the flight wasn't sold out. If you had a change of plans you could sell your ticket to anyone and the airline didn't care as it was yours to do with what you wanted. 

Nobody had to show any ID and you certainly didn't have to have your luggage torn open, your belt and shoes removed, and all your liquid toiletries stuffed into a separate plastic bag. Your baggage would always arrive at its proper destination and there wasn't a charge for bringing it with you. Overhead bins were for small carry on bags and briefcases, and there was even a closet to hang suits and coats. 

Once everyone was comfortably seated, with a decent amount of leg room, a pleasant looking stewardess with a friendly disposition would come around after take-off and ask if you would like a cocktail. On overseas flights drinks of course were free and, after a couple of hours, a tasty dinner would be served, complete with real cutlery, cloth napkins and your choice of wine. Then, when the dishes had all been cleared away, coffee and liqueurs would be served.

People used to get dressed up when they went on a flight, just like they used to when they went to work, most people were reasonably slim and trim so they fit into their seats, and flying was considered a step up from riding a bus. Not anymore. The cabin of a typical airplane now resembles a third world bus full of overweight passengers wearing beach wear and gym clothes and carrying bundles, baskets, and cages of half-dead chickens.

The trouble with airline travel is that, on top of the ridiculous security precautions everyone has to endure, it has become a race to the bottom. Everyone is looking for the cheapest ticket rather than the best service and, as a result, the whole experience has deteriorated into a glorified bus ride (unless of course you can afford to travel first class) with airlines doing everything they can to cut costs. Add to that a lack of competition and you have a perfect storm for guaranteeing a miserable experience.

There's an old saying that it's the journey not the destination that counts and with airline travel such a frustration it's no wonder train travel is making a comeback and cruising is more popular than ever. Yes airline travel is quicker but it's certainly not as pleasant and, with airline travel contributing to 10% of global emissions, it's not very environmentally friendly either. Sadly there's no going back to the glory days of air travel but the skies can be a lot more friendly if we simply avoid having anything to do with Air Canada. 

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