Travel blog by a global nomad

16 Mar

Where Air Canada fails, someone else will succeed?!

I wish this was a tale of some young airline valiantly taking on Air Canada and winning, but its not. Its another tale of how Air Canada fails to deliver on service where others can… I think I am clearly developing issues about (former) government owned airlines (Air Canada, British Airways and Qantas leap immediately to mind) and how ineffectively they are managed and how their former national/government alliance seems to prop them up in the face of the worst customer service on the planet!

Today though, my tale begins by gazing out of my front room window and instead of seeing the (usually) grey waters of St John’s Harbour, I see horizontal snow and not much else. I went online to see if my flight to Labrador had been cancelled in light of such poor visibility. The St John’s Airport website departure page is haemorraging red. I scroll through the flights and see actually… its only Air Canada that is cancelling flights. Continental Airlines, Westjet, Air Labrador and Provincial Airlines all seem to still be flying. I call Air Labrador just to be sure, and they say all flights are still departing on time.

I call the taxi company and ask for a taxi. We both agree I have to walk up the hill a way, wading through the 25cm snow drifts and hunkering down into the blizzard smashing into my face to get to the taxi. So I carry my bag (deeply thankful this isn’t one of my international expedition with 2 bags both weighing about 25kg each!) up the hill to my waiting taxi and clamber in, breathless.

As we drive to the airport, softly and silently as the roads haven’t been cleared yet and we are floating on compacted snow only, the radio announces that Air Canada has cancelled 2 more flights. We pull up to the terminal and the Air Canada counters are empty, but Provincial Air and Air Labrador seem to be doing brisk business. I trundle my suitcase over to Air Labrador and check my bag in, amazed they are still flying when Air Canada is cancelling. “Oh yes,” they reply, ‘we even have a plane taking off right now…”

I went through security half an hour before my flight and got into the departure lounge just in time to see a dark blue plane materialise out of the grey gloom and snow. Air Labrador is painted on its side… It rolls up to the departure gate and people dash down the steps, through the snow (small plane) to the terminal entrance. It landed when the visibility cant’ possibly be more than 100m?

At 10.50am, we board the plane, a friendly lady letting us do the 30m dash to the plane in small groups so that there will be no long queues in the blizzard waiting for someone to go up the steps into the plane. When my time comes, I can’t even see the plane as the snow is blowing right into my face and I just blindly wade through snow drifts until I nearly bump into the propeller of the plane.

At 11am, right on time, the propellers begin to turn. We are told there will be a slight delay while the plane is de-iced, and then we’ll be on our way. By 11.20am, we are revving up the engines and take off into the grey gloom…

Just like that. Air Canada, with all its state of the art navigation and landing equipment and new planes, can’t take off or land, but a little Dash-8 plane can?!

Me thinks if I can, in future, I will be flying either one of the local airlines (if flying local) or Westjet to increase my chances of getting out of St John’s!

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