Air Canada – The Un-Canadian Airline

11 Aug

I have flown many times with Air Canada – the inefficient, government propped-up, teetering on the edge of bankruptcy, under-staffed, mismanaged and generally supercallicraptasticespiallitrocious airline that dominates travel to, from and across Canada.

Given my experiences, I find Air Canada very, very un-Canadian. What do I mean by un-Canadian? Well let’s first review some Canadian stereotypes.

Canadian Stereotypes

  1. Canadians are polite and respectful
  2. Canada is a caring nation
  3. Canadians are tolerant
  4. Canadians are beloved in foreign countries
  5. Canadians are similar to Americans but superior (it’s a stereotype, I didn’t say it was true so don’t kill me, America!)

Item after item, Air Canada fails to meet the world and Canadians’ own perceptions of what it is to be Canadian.


Air Canada is NOT polite and NOT respectful to its customers

I am not saying that the people that work for Air Canada are not respectful. In fact, I have found them very polite, well trained, helpful and respectful. I am speaking about the organization itself. As an organization, Air Canada is shitty to its customers. For example, they are known to cancel flights on very short-notice for reasons that are NOT weather related or related to mechanical issues. They will not contact you about the flight cancellation until you are already at the airport and in line to check your luggage. Someone in upper management makes the decision that its cheaper to deal with customer complaints than to fly a craft that may be half-full. They know that very few people, once they have reached their destination, will file a complaint or seek compensation – a very Canadian trait. The organization puts their ticketing staff in the unenviable position of having to explain the situation to angry passengers and rebook them on flights that may also be cancelled in the future. In another example, Air Canada is constantly short-staffed which makes it difficult for them to implement contingency plans when ‘shit happens’. If your flight is diverted to another airport due to bad weather or you miss your connection and are forced to stay at the airport during the ‘witching hours’ of the morning, Air Canada will not have sufficient staff available during that time to tell you what you need to do or where to go or how long it will take before someone will be there to assist you. You’re just supposed to sit there (if you can find a place to sit) for 3-4 hours and wait until someone shows up. If you try to call the 800 number, you will not get through for at least 90 minutes, so I hope your cell phone is charged or that you’ve got money for the pay phones.

Air Canada is NOT a caring airline

Please see the above. Not only do they treat their passengers like shit, they overwork their staff and put them in position to be yelled at and maligned. For example, they never have enough staff on hand for check-in during peak times, so you have very long lines when you get to the airport. You will need every minute of those 3 hours before departure. You will not have time to stop at the duty free shop. These lines are usually a lot longer than the other carriers. Not cool.

Air Canada is NOT tolerant

Air Canada is completely inflexible. Sometimes the staff will try to help you out or want to help you out, but the system and policies that they have to work with stifle them. For example, I was scheduled to fly to an international destination and I bought my ticket on aircanada.com. According to some arbitrary policy, which was not sufficiently highlighted, I was supposed to go to an Air Canada location and pay by credit card in person. I have never had to do that before, not for this or any other destination. Nevertheless, the website required my credit card information, and seemed to have charged my credit card, even sending me to a page confirming my purchase of the ticket. Imagine my shock and anger when I got to the airport on my date of departure to find that my reservation had been cancelled. The agent at the check-in counter scrambled to get me on my flight, which was almost fully booked. It took 45 minutes of phone calls, waiting on the system to update and her terminal to unfreeze before I was on my way. Others have not been so lucky. Sometimes Air Canada doesn’t even have a pre-established policy or procedure in place, so the staff is left to their own-devices and often they’re not on the same page with each other. One staff member will tell you one thing and the next staff member you talk to will tell you something completely contradictory, so the staff ends up looking like idiots. Any organization that constantly sets up their employees to look like idiots deserves to go bankrupt.

Air Canada is NOT beloved in foreign countries

Oh, no, no, no! Not if I have anything to say about it. Just like other shitty airlines, Air Canada will play games with their passengers and their luggage.
”Hey, would you like a voucher on another airline so you can get to your destination faster?” DON’T DO IT! It’s a trick! The other airline may not have the space for you and may not have a pre-established relationship with Air Canada to do the transfer. You could be on stand-by for a very long time. Air Canada is just trying to free up some seats on an over-booked flight and passing you over to another airline so that you will become their problem and not Air Canada’s.

Air Canada is NOT superior to American Airlines or other North American carriers

West Jet is better. Frak it! I’d rather fly Bearskin Airlines if it flew to Toronto. Air Canada may have a newer fleet and offer better in-flight entertainment, etc., but in terms of getting you where you want to go with minimal stress and aggravation, they are no better than American Airlines or Delta-Northwest.

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