Intolerable Treatment By Air Canada Staff
Flying back from Paris to Toronto December 27, 2008. Air Canada staff on long haul flight spent most of the 8.5 hours standing in the galley talking to their friends who were also on the flight. Had to go ASK for water after no stewards had come around for more than 3 hours. This seemed to annoy the steward greatly, as I had to walk into the galley to ask.
Asked this steward for directions on how to navigate Pearson airport, as due to flight delay, I was now in danger of missing connecting flight. I asked if there was any assistance provided to get me to my connecting flight. I was told "you're on you're own". I asked for directions through the airport system to speed my way through. I was told "go through the hallway, to level three" and he walked off. Pearson Airport is MASSIVE and has three terminals. I had no idea what hallway he was talking about and level three was in fact, the wrong place for domestic departures.
At 3 P.M. Toronto time, for reasons unknown all, walkways in Terminal 1 were non-operational. Walked at least 1/4 mile with luggage to my gate. Flight at the gate desk was posted as being ON TIME, even though the clocked showed it was already an hour late. Woman at desk REFUSED to communicate, answer any questions from any of the confused passengers and snapped at all customers who were merely asking when the connecting flight might leave, or if it would. We are not idiots and yes, we do understand that weather causes delays. This is NOT what any of the CUSTOMERS were asking, we only wanted a status update.
After 5 hours of waiting, suddenly the gate board changed to read a Halifax flight. No information was given regarding where the flight to Winnipeg had gone. 100 passengers were milling about trying to help each other, huddled around one man with a Blackberry who was getting web updates on Air Canada cancellations. Air Canada woman at desk continued to stare into space.
An hour later, she finally announced the flight was indeed cancelled. She put a 1-800 number up on the board for rebooking. An elderly gentleman could not read the number and Russian travelers could not understand what to do. They were in the same boat as the rest of us, who are Canadian and actually read English. The elderly gentleman and the Russians were spoken to so patronizing and with such contempt, I was embarrassed.
Finally, we were yelled at by the Air Canada woman to go to Air Canada customer service desk and re-book, which was "down the hall". If you've ever been to Pearson Terminal 1 you will understand that this could mean anything - What hallway?, we wondered. Like dazed cattle, we wandered off.
I tried phoning the number this crabby woman posted from a pay phone 10 feet from her desk. After being on hold for 1 hour, I very politely asked her if she could step over my way as I had a question. She refused, even though she was standing at an empty desk. I explained that if I hung up and walk to her, the last hour would be wasted. She said "that's not my problem". All I wanted to know was whether or not we should give up for the night and find a hotel in Toronto. She picked up her purse from the desk and walked away in the middle of my sentence.
I tried another Air Canada agent at another desk that was also empty. I just wanted information and directions. She stood there and talked on her cell phone to her girlfriend for 15 minutes as I watched, before finally looking at me and yelling "I'm on the phone - can't you see that", and continued talking about last night's party.
This seemed pointless, so I walked off in search of SOMEONE who could direct me.
I spent 1 hour wandering around Pearson Airport trying to find the Air Canada customer service desk. Never did. I'm not a stupid person and can follow directions. None posted.
Finally I left the secure area and tried the main Air Canada ticketing desk. A very rude "Air Canada Ambassador" (insert sarcastic snort here) was yelling at the group that this was not the desk for rebooking a flight, but only for buying tickets. "Where do we go to rebook?," said the group of dazed cattle. "I don't know," she snapped and walked off.
I went back through security again (always a pleasant experience) and wandered with the rest of the passengers. The elderly man was sitting down, he had no idea what to do, or where to go and could not continue walking around and around.
Finally, I stopped an Air Canada pilot walking through with is flight luggage. That's right, a PILOT, and politely asked him if we should give up for the night. He was the only human who treated me with courtesy, and he and a navigator walked me to another Air Canada gate and asked the woman there if she could get me on a flight to Winnipeg. Credit where it's due, she tried and did provide a boarding pass on the next flight, but warned the plane was still in Ottawa so would be delayed another 2 hours at least, if it arrived at all. At this point, I had been in transit over 22 hours and was ready to pass out.
I went to sit down for 5 minutes and have a bit of water and think of what to do. I then went back to the gate only to find it deserted. I could no longer find my flight on the departures board, so I went BACK OUT SECURITY again to find the "Air Canada Ambassador" (insert snort). I asked, very politely, if she could tell me if my flight had again been cancelled and what I should do, as it was no longer on the departure board. She said, "How should I know, do I look like I have a departure board in front of me?" I said, what do you recommend? She snapped that I should go back through security to my original gate. I explained it was deserted. She walked off in the middle of my sentence.
I went BACK THROUGH SECURITY again (that's three times for one domestic flight, each time having my luggage searched) and finally found a departure board the showed the gate of my flight to Winnipeg had been changed, but the flight was not cancelled. It was at least another 1/4 mile walk back through the terminal to the other side, where lo-and-behold, there was my flight departure gate and the 100 CUSTOMERS I had been wandering with for the past 8 hours.
I saw the pilot who had helped me earlier also waiting and went to thank him for helping me. I will not use his name to protect him, but he said he is embarrassed by the treatment Air Canada gives it's customers and HE ALSO HAD BEEN ON THE PHONE FOR THREE HOURS, trying to get information on what plane he was supposed to fly, and said the PILOTS are treated one mere step above the customers. He also said he is waiting for retirement desperately and tells all his friends and relatives to fly WestJet.
The flight was again delayed 2 hours, because this time, while we had an airplane ready and a pilot and co-pilot ready to fly, there was no steward crew.
Finally after 29 hours of being in transit with this airline, I was in my seat ready to head home. My overhead light did not work, nor did the in-seat television screen. I politely mentioned this to the stewardess and said "I realize you can't fix it now, but you might want to make note of it". She snapped "I can hardly do anything about it now". I re-explained that I realized this, and was just pointing it out so she could make note and tell the maintenance crew and she said "I guess you'll have to be content with sitting here with your eyes closed." I am not making this up.
The steward on this flight made a deliberate point of bumping my arm on every pass through the cabin. I really don't know why, as the seat across the aisle was open and there was plenty of room and I merely had my arm on the armrest - that is what's it's there for. He acted like a man who thought he was doing us the biggest favor possible by bringing a cart of water through the cabin.
I will sum up the hell of this experience by saying that yes, we CUSTOMERS do realize Air Canada does not control the weather and that flight delays are a part of travel. All we wanted was some information, communication and assistance to get home. What we got was silence, sarcasm and indifference.
Were it not for this kind pilot, I would likely still be lying on the floor of Pearson Airport. As with everyone who has posted here, I too can say, I WILL NEVER FLY AIR CANADA AGAIN. It was a debacle from start to finish and I've never been treated so poorly by a business before. With the exception of 1 per cent of the staff that do try to be human (thank you to the kind pilot and the woman who did book my on the following flight), Air Canada is staffed by surly, angry and indifferent human beings who could not care any less.
I don't know if this is a symptom of morale problems within the company and unhappy staff, but if it is, I recommend these individuals leave their positions and find something that makes them happier. They're going to have to leave soon anyway, as more and more and more of us refuse to use this airline. It is my sincerest wish that bankruptcy follow shortly. I don't say that lightly as a Canadian. If you are reading this, try WestJet. At present, they still seem to try to accommodate the paying CUSTOMER. Air Canada might want to take some lessons.
Arrived in Toronto.