Sunday, September 25, 2011

Air Canada

I'm thinking that before I begin blogging about my Vancouver life so far, it would make a lot more sense to first make mention of my time in Calgary - my hometown, the place where I was born, and all that jazz.

I'll start by saying that I was really only there for under two weeks. I arrived on a Thursday, and by Saturday... wait, first, let me tell you about Air Canada...

What can I tell you about Air Canada? Air Canada is cheaper than most other reasonable airlines that make the flight from Seoul to Vancouver to Calgary. There are cheaper ways, but they usually involve flying on some airline that employs out-of-date craft and requires travelers to change planes in five locales with a collective stop-over time of nearly 36 hours. Being that I wanted to get to Canada in reasonable time, and being that I wanted to bring my folding bike with me for the year and didn't want to have it thrown-about among various airlines, I went with Air Canada.

Air Canada, once one has traveled on just about any other airline, in comparison kind of sucks. I know it makes me sound like an ass to complain about being able to fly as far as I recently did in such a short amount of time, but man, as left as I might lean, the affect that airline unions have had on that airline is noticeable and regrettable to put it kindly. I actually admire and commend Air Canada for allowing less-than-runway-quality physical specimens to put on the attendant uniforms for many decades, but I don't like how it seems permissible for attendants to A) treat ESL speakers as less than human, or B) react to the following situation in the following way: when I was offered a choice of roast beef (only one choice) and I inquired if it might be possible to have some sort of vegetarian dish - even simply more salad - because when my girlfriend booked the tickets, she forgot to mention the special meal request, I was told that I should "train" my girlfriend better next time.

It's not those collective experiences among others though that make me want to write complaint letters, but rather the treatment I received regarding the transportation of my bike. Let me do this in point form...

- My Bromptom folds-up to a suitable size for regular checked baggage. I purchased a soft-sided transport bag from Velofix, a bag recommended to me by the boys at Biclo bike shop in Seoul. By all accounts, this is the best way to transport the Brompton as it's light, and you can transport clothes along with the bike by folding the clothes into sturdy plastic bags to act as padding. My bike was padded to the extreme by the time the zipper was done-up.

- Air Canada charges an additional $100 for an over-sized or overweight check-in bag. They charge $225 for an additional piece of luggage. This was not communicated to me clearly when I spoke with the representative for Air Canada at the Incheon Airport from Seoul. When I arrived, I paid $225 when I had expected to be paying $100.

- In addition to the $225, I was told that I needed to pay an additional $55 to mark it as "fragile" and to have it be treated as a bike - handled with more care and placed into the special baggage area with skis, guitars, and the like. Before I even got on the plane, I was paying an extra $280 to transport my bike.

- To my surprise, upon arriving in Vancouver, after waiting by the special baggage claim area for over 30 minutes after making my way through customs, my bike never turned up. I made my way over to the regular baggage carousel and there it was - my bike rotating around with the rest of the suitcases - the "fragile" stickers partially ripped but still on the bag.

- I then took the bike through the Canada transfer hallway where I spoke with an Air Canada employee about what had happened. He apologized profusely, threw another 3 "fragile" stickers on the bag, and assured me that the bag would be handled properly on its way to Calgary.

- As I was sitting in my window seat in Vancouver waiting for the plain to load, the luggage truck came careening toward the plain and made a hasty hair-pin turn by the conveyor belt. Guess what went flying off of the truck. The luggage clowns grabbed my bike from the tarmac and threw it ("fragile" stickers efficiently visible) onto the conveyor belt.

- Imagine how pissed off I was on the flight home.

- When I arrived in Calgary, my bike had once again been placed in regular baggage. I immediately went to the Air Canada's baggage area at Calgary International and told them my tales of woe. They wanted me to open the bike in front of them, which I did to reveal that a closing clasp had snapped in half, and the rear wheel when folded out had been whacked out of line. I'm pretty sure that there had to have also been some unnecessary stresses put on the joints.

- The bike has been fixed (thanks to Bike Bike) in Calgary and at minimal cost, but a cost nevertheless.

- I am in the process of requesting a refund from Air Canada. Specifically, I want to ask that I get my $55 "special treatment" fee back from the airline because, man - if that's special, I would hate to think what would have happened had it not been marked with bright red "fragile" stickers. I think we all know the answer - "fragile" stickers read as "throw" to the people who are most responsible for reading them.

- I'll keep you posted on what happens, but I'm not hopeful. When this airline strikes, I'm going to have a hard time being on the side of the employees. Just sayin'.


Andy Irwin said...

Man that sucks. I'd push really hard for a bigger refund than the $55. At a bare minimum, I'd be demanding all fees paid for additional luggage and costs incurred for repairing the bike to be reimbursed. I'd also emphasise the behaviour of the cabin staff and the disrespect you felt towards your girlfriend. Push hard and don't relent. Warn them that if they don't respond to the email within a week, you'll be calling them. Then follow through. Keep calling and if they refuse you, demand to speak to their supervisor. You'll get the money back and send them a message. Be a pain in the arse. That's the trick. And then, blog about it again. The google spiders will find it.

Michael Boyce said...

fly westjet?