Air Canada is really annoying me, but somehow I’m not annoyed. It’s all very confusing just like their bilingual magazine.
Air Canada is one of those airlines that never ceases to annoy you, but somehow they always manage to make you feel ok about it. It’s like they have a permanent get-out-of-jail-free card that will pull you round again to their way of thinking. I call it ‘Le Force’.
I’m writing this sitting on a flight from San Francisco to Toronto, and to my surprise and no insignificant delight, they have a 110v power outlet on the back of the seat in front of me. In fact all seats in economy have their very own AC outlet.
Now this is of course a GOOD THING. I could talk about just how dangerous this might be, the fact that a North American AC outlet has exactly the same dimensions as the double-pronged headphones they give out, passengers carrying travel irons, straightening irons, hair dryers and coffee warmers – but that would be a whole other post. For my needs right now I am simply grateful.
So that’s the good stuff…
Air Canada’s website is the most annoying in the world.
It’s not that it’s intrinsically a bad website – in fact the booking procedure is surprisingly intuitive, but they fail in one huge and mind numbingly stupid way… the website times you out if you so much as sneeze.
This has happened to me twice now, the last two times I have used the site. It can take a long time to go through a flight booking. You have to carefully choose all the right options, liaise with colleagues via Skype (as I was doing), enter frequent flyer numbers, read up on all the new terms and conditions (buying meal vouchers in advance?) forsaking checked baggage, aeroplan miles and other items to reduce the overall bill, digging out your credit card, double check, triple check etc.
Just as I finally went to click on purchase I got the dreaded ‘You have been timed out for inactivity’. What it is actually saying is “Thank you for being patient and getting to the front of the line. Now f*%k off to the back”.
The irony is that I was all too aware of this timing out possibility and had deliberately tried to keep things moving along, clicking on things randomly to ‘stay active’. And it STILL timed me out!
But here’s where Air Canada’s dual personality rears its double head. You are forced back to the very beginning – the home page, and it has remembered all your basic flight details – your chosen flight dates and arrival/departure cities. Since these are always the most stressful and annoying bits of information (you’re terrified to make a mistake), this is a very GOOD THING. So even though you’ve just pulled out all your hair because the system has screwed you, you now realize the task of re-entering everything is only about 70% of what it was to begin with. They hit you over the head with a baseball bat, then offer you a massage to soothe the pain.
Air Canada is going the way of budget airlines and charging for meals in economy, even on medium haul flights like San Fran to Toronto. This is a BAD THING obviously, but then there’s a surprise – they now have branded meals and sandwiches from the likes of Subway, Harvey’s, President’s Choice and Swiss Chalet. Where were those options when they were giving them away for free?!
I knew in advance about the new ‘Onboard Cafe’ because of the strange option to buy meal vouchers in advance at the time of booking. I went for the ‘get a $7 voucher for $5′ selection, thinking I would probably get hungry on a 5 hour flight and want to actually EAT something!
I was half expecting some ‘gotcha’ like I needed to collect the vouchers at check-in or print them out from an obscure link that no one has a chance of seeing. Fortunately they didn’t want to hit me with a bat this time, instead they simply didn’t have anything left over that I actually wanted. How many cafe’s do you go to where HALF the menu is sold out?
So they invite you to their castle for dinner, ask you to overpay for the cost of the meal in advance, starve you for a few hours to get your taste buds salivating, give you a glimpse of the feast that awaits you, then tell you there’s nothing left because you were at the wrong table, and still take your money anyway. Thank you very much. Remind me to come to your house again!
As I was sitting down in my seat the captain came on the intercom and made an announcement about the ‘great new multimedia and video on demand system that he was sure everyone would enjoy’. This coincided with me spotting the surprisingly w i d e screen LCD in front of me and an intriguing USB port to the left.
Sure enough the early tests looked promising – contemporary icons for News, Movies, TV, Audio, Games and Kidstuff. Delving deeper into the layers there were a range of branded VOD offerings from known Canadian TV stations and I figured I could genuinely enjoy myself for this flight with a variety of different experiences – a movie, some TV, some news, some games, some music, the geographic map.
But what did exactly half of these 6 options have to say….?
Being unable to sleep in economy is hardly a new thing – airlines have been screwing their passengers for years on this one, but come on fellas… power in economy, interactive gaming system, strange and unknown USB port, and NO FOLD OUT HEAD RESTRAINTS?
British Airways lead the world on this one with the most simple system of all – a couple of padded arms that fold DOWN which you can wedge your head between. It’s simple physics that works and adds nothing to the weight and little to the cost – COME ON PEOPLE!
If like me you have delighted at the new e-gizmos that let you check in without having to speak to anyone, avoiding long queues in the process, then you would have been bowled over by the queues for BAGGAGE DROP that I had to deal with flying out of Toronto airport.
I waited 28 minutes in a queue to hand over my baggage – a task that took 20 seconds. I was told the reason was they were rebooking passengers whose flights had been cancelled, and they didn’t want to send those people to deal with another queue somewhere else. This is a noble excuse but it screws everyone whose flight is NOT cancelled. The dual personality strikes again!
I’m so confused by all this ‘She loves me, she loves me not’ that I am now finally exhausted. Maybe I can finally put my head down and get some sleep. Oh no, I can’t…!