Sunday, June 13, 2010

Air Canada

Air Canada [sic] has won awards for service the past couple of years, according to this piece on the Economist's Gulliver blog.

This just cannot be right. I have told the joke that opens the Gulliver post on many occasions to explain my views about Air Canada, as it neatly summarizes my experience.

My favorite Air Canada story took place when I was teaching at Western Ontario. I wanted to fly from London, Ontario to Rochester, NY, to give a seminar at Rochester. This involved two short Air Canada flights, with Toronto as the transfer airport. When I arrived, the Air Canada gate agent would not let me "planeside check" my roller bag. I had, for some reason, to check it through the formal luggage system, which of course means time wasted at Rochester waiting at the luggage carousel as well as the opportunity for Air Canada baggage handlers to lose the bag in Toronto. I resisted but ultimately had to give in.

When I arrive at Rochester, I waited patiently (well, perhaps not so patiently) at the luggage carousel, but of course my bag did not arrive. I went and waited in line for the Air Canada luggage agent. Eventually it was determined that my bag had never even been loaded on the plane in London. The gate agents had decided that there were other, more important, bags already on the plane, so mine could wait for another time. In any case, I was told that my bag would be available at the airport early the next morning. So, Lance Lochner, who was at Rochester at the time and was the host of my visit, dutifully drove me to the airport in the morning. No bag. No reason. Just Air Canada incompetence. Probably they are used to dealing with Canadians who tend to take these things with resignation and good humor. I do not.

I ended up giving my seminar in the ratty clothes I had worn on the plane. I eventually got my bag back, but it never did make it to Toronto. It was this incident that led me to resolve to fly Air Canada only when absolutely necessary, a resolution I still keep.

So, at the risk of sounding like those folks who still go on about how Al Gore really won the 2000 election, I think there must be something amiss with the voting system that led to these implausible awards to Air Canada. Either that or all the nice staff from Canadian Airlines, sadly absorbed by Air Canada about a decade ago, somehow effected an astounding change in the business culture at Air Canada.

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