Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Flying on the big iron

Last week I had to do some flying of the commercial kind, my destination was New Orleans. Obviously since there are no direct connections from Charlottetown to the "Big Easy", I had to make a couple of stops on the way down, via Montreal and Dulles.

I arrived at the airport very late, (eight minutes before my flight was scheduled to leave - damn taxi). I checked my bag and since I was very late I obviously needed to be punished so all I received from the customer service agent was my boarding pass for the first leg of my trip. Once I landed in Montreal I would have to leave the "secure zone" and go out to the United Airway's desk, stand in line and get the rest of my boarding passes.

I took my punishment quietly and thanked the ticket counter guy... at least he let me on. Since I was the only passenger in the whole entire airport that wasn't already on the aircraft I went quickly through security, they were all shaking their heads at me in disbelief, but they "processed" me quickly, I finally boarded the aircraft (a 50 passenger regional jet) and the door was immediately shut behind me... Whew I made it!

The flight down was fine and before we knew it we were in New Orleans and running around in light T-shirts. My checked bag was MIA but United assured me that it would be on the next aircraft which was due in two hours and that they would deliver it to my hotel that night (They kept their word).

The week went fast and before I knew it it was time to head north again. Everything went well until we got to Halifax. The weather coming into Halifax was crappy and the rough ride was making some of the passengers firmly hold the seat-backs in front of them. To me it felt like we were actually flying for the first time in the whole trip. It's amazing how smooth commercial travel is, you only have to fly small Cessnas for a short while to appreciate it!

We landed without any further drama and since we had a couple hours to kill we grabbed supper, for airport food it wasn't all that bad actually. Our Air Canada flight was scheduled for 6:15 but it got delayed due to a mechanical reasons, now this is what flying in Canada is all about! We finally boarded a replacement aircraft some three hours late. (Air Canada did not even offer us a complimentary coffee for our three hour wait, - great customer service). We rather quickly departed the airport and about 20 minutes later we arrived back home in Charlottetown, but we soon found out that our checked baggage didn't make the flight. I can only guess that Air Canada was in such a hurry to at least keep this aircraft on schedule that they didn't have time to load all our bags, which we had checked some five hours earlier at the Air Canada desk in Halifax.

So I and about ten other passengers filled out lost luggage reports and were assured that our bags would be tracked down and delivered to us. The ticket man told me that I could actually go to the Air Canada website and "just follow the links" to check on its location from the comfort of my computer.

The next day after wasting ten minutes trying to find the magically hard to find lost baggage web page, all it told me when I entered my information was that it didn't know where the heck my bag was. (Good luck trying to find the "link" - I finally gave up and did a key word search).

Literally 15 minutes later the Air Canada rep called me to tell me that he had my bag at the local airport and that I'd have it in a few minutes. This was great news but it kinda left me perplexed regarding Air Canada's bag tracking application called WorldTracer, it would seem that it couldn't locate my bag even when it was only a few miles away, let alone in the whole wide world. A great waste of time disguised as customer service if you ask me.

When my suitcase finally arrived at my home the main handle was completely ripped off and hanging by one side. I can only guess that the Air Canada's guy must have assumed that this was the condition in which they had received it. A few minutes later when I opened it all my clothes were completely soaked, I'm not talking damp I'm talking soaking wringing wet all the way to the middle of the suitcase. It was raining the night before and they must have left my bag out in the rain for the whole five hours! Thank god I left my training material in a plastic bag or all of it would have been destroyed. Great customer service.

Back on the Air Canada's website I finally track down the information that I need in order to get my bag fixed. It seemed that I have to take my bag back out to the airport and have the local ticket guy inspect it in person. Talk about going in circles. Now I get to waste more time, gas and money on parking. I approach the desk and present my bag for "personal inspection". He looks at it and then goes into the back office and quickly returns with a form which he starts filling out. After a couple of minutes I asked him what he's doing, since up to this point I am completely in the dark. He tells me that they are going to ship my bag across the country to the Air Canada repair shop and have it repaired. He hands me a piece of paper and tells me that I should have it back in a couple of weeks.

I take one long last look at and I have to refrain from waving good bye... I don't beleive that I'll ever see it again.

To sum it all up my trip was great until I got back to Canada, or should I say Air Canada. Then I waited for three hours in Halifax, finally got a damaged bag containing completely soaked clothing, and a encore trip back out to the airport to send my bag on another trip to the AIr Canada repair facility. Let's not forget that there's a chance that I might have to go back out to the airport and eventually pick it up again.

Next time I might drive to the closest American carrier just to avoid Air Canada in the future.


At 2:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Air Canada: "We're not happy until you're unhappy"

At 1:59 AM, Blogger Rita Roy said...

How about flying without an aircraft. Check this out where the fusion man had performed an historical flight with jet wings:-



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