Log Cabin Chronicles

Royal Orr

Flying the Friendly Skies
of Canada

or, nobody treated us like cattle


The amalgamation of Air Canada and Canadian Airlines after decades of ferocious competition is one of the biggest news stories of the year in Canada.

The resulting confusion has resulted in almost endless horror stories about flying in this country, from canceled flights to lost baggage. The federal government has stepped in and appointed a former NHL referee as an airline consumer watchdog.

Criticizing the big monopoly airline continues, however. Just as an example, Aislin, The Montreal Gazette's political cartoonist, has referred to Air Canada as "Air Cattleprod."

I don't doubt for a moment that lots of people have been mightily inconvenienced in some way over the last few weeks, but here's an alternative perspective.

I flew with a cameraman to Halifax last Tuesday. When you're with a cameraman, you don't travel light. We had seven extra pieces of baggage between us. Awkward, heavy stuff and most of it fragile to boot.

We were trailing it along on a big trolley in a lineup at the Air Canada desk at Dorval airport that seemed to go on forever. I worried at first that we were about to become an airline horror story ourselves.

But while we waited, we were asked three times by pleasant Air Canada reps about our flight times. When things got a bit tight, we were moved to the head of the line.

Because we had so much heavy, oversized baggage, they sent us to the "special services" counter. A very courteous woman processed our boarding passes without a problem, even though my ticket had been changed twice by phone from the hard copy one that the travel agent had sent me.

Our baggage was checked, including all the extra paperwork required for fragile contents. No problems at all, from desk lineup to plane.

On the way back, we were on a Canadian Airlines flight and the service was even better.

In Halifax, a smiling, chatty ticket counter agent helped us put together some of our luggage in heavy plastic bags, tying them shut with strong plastic tape and covering them with "fragile" stickers. That way, we didn't just get through check-in quickly, we actually paid $40 less for excess baggage than on the flight down.

There was a slight delay deplaning in Montreal, it's true -- maybe fifteen minutes. But none of our very expensive baggage was lost. Everybody was super-friendly and helpful. Everything was done with plenty of time to spare.

Nobody treated us like cattle.

Of course, one decent flight to Capistrano does not a summer make.

But I thought the folks who work to make your flight an efficient and pleasant experience should know that mine definitely was.

Now, I would like them to do something about their fares. But that's another story and another column.

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