Monday, July 02, 2012
Ah, our national airline
(This was supposed to go up on Canada Day, but the internet at the hotel collapsed before I could post it. So let's pretend it's still July 1, shall we?) So on this, our national holiday, let us consider a national instution and pastime - Air Canada. Because the airline is an institution and hating it as much a national pastime as watching hockey. And today we got to see the very thing that makes Air Canada something you want to punch in the face, but also kind of admire. And before you express concern over the admiration, keep in mind that surveys constantly rank Air Canada as one of the best airlines operating in North America. It baffles people, but really, you're not flying on enough American air carriers. Once you do, you kinda respect what Air Canada is doing a bit more. Today was supposed to be fairly straight forward - get Boo on a cargo plane. The plan was simple - get up around 6, have him at Air Canada Cargo around 6:30, he gets transported to the airport around 7, goes on a plane around 8 and then heads to St. John's where he summers with his grandparents. Things went off the rails around 6:31 when we arrived at Air Canada Cargo in Ottawa and there was no one there, even though the office hours state it opens at 5:30. The place was closed. Keep in mind we confirmed this flight a month ago, was told the offices would be open and it would be business as usual. Not so much. So after some waiting around, and discovering that no, they weren't running a little late, we managed to flag down someone in the warehouse. Seems he was the only one who came into work that day. The agent and office staff - no idea. And he couldn't book the dog because he didn't have the codes or training to do it. And as this was 7 am, on a Sunday, on Canada Day. No one was answering their phones. Thus began The Stress. Because the dog had to go out today. I let Cathy take to the lead when dealing with this, not because I'm not capable, but because a stressed out and pissed off Cathy is far scarier than I am. She made it pretty clear to the poor bastard at Cargo, then she wasn't happy and, what was worse, there was at least one more level she could go to, and it wasn't going to be pleasant if she had to go there. I've seen it. It's not pleasant. You don't want her to go there. Thus ensued many frantic phone calls. Cathy's parents were involved. The 8 am flight came and went. The Stress was building. A complete stranger who was dropping off mail from Canada Post offered to watch the dog for us for a few weeks if we couldn't get him out today. No reason, just wanted to help out obviously stressed people. Which is astonishing when you think about it. Finally, there was a resolution. I'm not going to get into the details because I'm fairly certain rules, and possibly laws, were broken. But Air Canada staff rallied at the last minute and Boo managed to get on a flight and made it back to St. John's today. Which is what makes Air Canada awesome and frustrating at the same time. The fact they had almost no staff at Cargo, nor could they find anymore for more than 90 minutes who could help makes you want to smack your head (or the senior managers at the local Cargo office's heads) against a brick wall. But when the crunch came, ordinary staff rallied, helped out, were extremely apologetic (and sided with us in our frustration) and managed to get the situation resolved. On a Sunday morning. On Canada Day. Ladies and gentlemen....your national airline. Much like the rest of Canada, it's frustrating and often doesn't work the way it ought to. But the ordinary people can still rally and surprise you. And because it was said to us many times today as we wandered around Ottawa and made me smile every time - Happy Canada Day.