the worst airline in the Industrial World
I don’t’ like surprises. And, I don’t enjoy traveling because of the stress involved - the stress of earning enough money to pay for tickets, the stress of reserving tickets, the stress of getting tickets, the stress of getting to the airport, the stress of checking in, the stress of security and passport control, the stress of waiting, the stress of lining up, the stress deplaning and lining up again. On the outbound portion I can only relax once the aircraft is rolling down the runway. So when surprises interrupt my travel plans I go ballistic really fast. That’s what happened this July, when I was informed by my Japanese travel agent the day before my more-than-one-year-anticipated vacation was to begin that my Air Canada flight was cancelled (for “crew maintenance”) and rescheduled for the next day.
When I first came to Japan I habitually traveled to-and-from Canada at holiday time on Canadian Airlines (Canadian Airlines International, successor to the long defunct Canadian Pacific). I enjoyed Canadian. The Tokyo-to-Toronto route was always plied by the aging DC-10 jet plane. (For some reason I never understood the shorter Tokyo-to-Vancouverroute used a larger Boeing 747 jet.) Eventually Canadian encountered insurmountable financial problems - a small carrier from a small-population
country in competition with many much larger carriers in the heavily-used Pacific routes - and was bought out by Air Canada. I never liked Air Canada very much, first because their employees look fat and ugly, and they sound loud and rude to me. Come to think of it, so do many Canadians. In addition, Air Canada is fantastically expensive, more than American carriers. But I stayed with a Canadian carrier - first Canadian International and then Air Canada - because I am loathe to use a cheaper American airline company that would force me to transit through the U.S. Of course, I have done that. The last time was during our last full family holiday in August 2001 - just weeks before the September 11th terrorist attacks in the United States - when we transited through Minneapolis in both directions. Traveling is already stressful enough for me that I shun the added worries of having to transit through an intermediate airport, with baggage claim and customs, etc. Plus, I just don’t like the idea of entering the U.S. With my Secret Service dossier I might be flagged, detained and searched going through American passport control. So without barring the possibility of transiting through the U.S. on a cheaper flight again some time in the future, I have usually prefer to pay more (a lot more) to stay Canadian all the way.
When Air Canadabought out Canadian, though, it immediately encountered operational problems. First, it inherited the budget, schedule, personnel and other problems of Canadian. Second, it tried to offer a full Canadian/Air Canada flight schedule - double the commitment for what is, really, a medium sized company. So Air Canada quickly spiraled into bankruptcy and has been operating under bankruptcy protection management for the last three or four years. Don’t be misled, today Air Canada is still a bankrupt airline.
I think they quickly discovered an excessive schedule of flights that could not beentirely filled with customers. At first, the company was flying mostly American Boeing aircraft. They quickly eliminated the direct Tokyo-to-Toronto flight, revising the schedule for a Vancouvertransit stop. Next, they ditched the Boeing aircraft in favor of smaller, easier-to-fill, and more fuel efficient four-engine Airbus A340 craft and then reinstated the direct Narita-Toronto flight. (Air Canada most likely leases its aircraft rather than owns them outright, making it cheaper to operate and easier to change models and designs as passenger needs and economy indicate.) This year the Narita-Toronto route returned to a Boeing design.
A few years ago the pilots’ union contract expired. Negotiations were ongoing for a new contract, but that did not prevent the union from issuing daily threats to strike. I was in a panic every day because my travel plans were already confirmed and paid for and this was happening right in the middle of my schedule. Every day in the newspapers I would read something to the effect that,
“Air Canada’s pilots union says they are set to commence strike action tomorrow.
And then, “AC pilots union announced at a press conference that they will not commence strike action until the day after tomorrow.
And then, “AC pilots union cancels plan to strike, but says strike action is imminent. This went on for months, literally. Talk about juvenile! Idiots!
Then there was that time last year, in June 2006, when weather forced aircraft to stay on the ground in Toronto. Boarding my plane was an hour-and-a-half late and then, once aboard, we sat there in our seats inside the fuselage for more than six more hours before finally taking off! How can I be consoled for this year’s fiasco? Well, for starters, the airline can refund my¥400,000 ticket price to me. That’s not compensation for ruining my plans because no amount can compensate me. Next, every employee in the world of Air Canada - customer service call center operators, flight crews, cabin crews, ground crews, baggage handlers, and head office executives and their secretaries can commit mass suicide. That won’t be enough, but it will help me.