Dear Diary (as imagined by the Dominion of Canada)

Lordy, lordy what is a middle-aged Dominion and ex-colony to do? You try and make these visitor/tourists happy. After all, most people won’t even consider coming for a visit unless it’s for the 48 minutes of summer we have each year. So I try and make myself presentable, I cleaned up the attic (if you don’t count “dumpnado”, the simmering unextinguishable garbage dump in the far north that just won’t go out), swept the front steps, and invited all my old friends back (free trade agreements with Korea, Europe and some S. American neighbours — the ones who really make it a party]).

So what do I get?

— A snippy British woman who came with her girlfriend for a visit and wasn’t happy with all the cars she inconceivably encountered within major cities of all places.

— short term guests who come to Alberta for visits from Denmark and China and end up getting attacked by bears and complain that cars don’t come quickly enough to come cart them to medical facilities.

— a smitten Galway lad who encounters one of my own fair daughters on a Ryan Air flight to Dublin and thinks he’s charmed his way into her knickers only to lose contact with her at Passport Control.

So what is it to be world, more cars, less cars or should we just make out in the back seat so we don’t have to play Marco Polo in the Customs Hall?

Best let us know, we middle-aged gals ain’t got much time left until the mosquitoes go into hibernation and we start pulling out the woolen undies.

As they say on Game of Thrones, “Winter is Coming!” And you saw how that turned out for the Starks.

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The Canadian Air Farce: Part Two

This time, we are travelling from Saudi Arabia back to Canada and have, unfortunately, purchased the ticket from an online travel site. I say “unfortunately” because it gave The Canadian Air Farce a pre-text to go into their default mode, which is a Freddie Prinze impersonation from “Chico and the Man:”

“It’s not my job,” only this time with an outrageous French-Canadian accent instead of a Hispanic one.

The first leg of our flight has us travelling from Khobar to Frankfurt, where a five-hour period between connecting flights awaits us. Wondering how I’m going to fill the time, just as in Part One, the point soon becomes moot. A hellacious thunderstorm in summery Germany diverts us to Berlin. Not just us, everyone going to Frankfurt. The entire airport is in fact closed. After an hour or so on the runway in Berlin the storm has passed and we fly into a very crowded and chaotic Frankfurt airport. The scene even made CNN that day as thousand of people try and re-book flights. Volunteers are walking around giving away free water and food to keep passengers in line from fainting.

Smugly looking at the hours-long lines for Lufthansa and other European airlines, I walk directly to the Air Canada check in counter, where there is not a single person in line. There, a little man in a big uniform with a strong French-Canadian accent snootily informs me he cannot give me a boarding pass since I did not purchase my ticket from Air Canada directly. He informs me to go to the Lufthansa counters, smiling wickedly and pointing to the lines. Several hours later, I am at the front and am politely told it’s an Air Canada ticket and they must give me the boarding pass. I explain I’ve been there already and they suggest I try the Saudi airline. I finally find them in the basement (closed, since there are no current flights). Seeing my distress the angelic lady at the Aer Lingus counter listens to my story and asks to see the E-ticket. Despite my having no connection to her airline, she flashes her ginger anger and gets to work on the phone. Several calls later, she is on with Air Canada and tears several strips off of them for leaving a passenger stranded. She gets the Air Canada rep’s name and counter number and tells me there is a boarding pass waiting for me there.

Sure enough, some four hours after I first arrived at little-man-in-a-big-uniform’s counter, I am back there again, receiving my boarding pass, which was always his responsibility and well within his ability to give. I do not gloat. I do not show anger. I do ask for an apology. I receive none. He is offended I ask for one. I ask him if they treat all their ELITE frequent flyers this way. Sniffing his Gallic nose, he dismisses me as just another unreasonable lout and doesn’t seem to care less that I inform him I will be flying other airlines, any airline, whenever I possibly have the option outside of the Canadian monopoly Scare Canada holds.

Preferably Aer Lingus!

The Canadian Air Farce: Part One

It is a drab and dreary day on the cusp of winter, but not quite in its depths yet. The sky over Pearson Airport is slate grey, a fitting colour for the sleet that falls from it. Pearson is the second airport of five I will pass through before my journey is done. Waiting in the departure lounge, I am concerned over the short connection time I have at Heathrow airport to make my next connection, when that worry is wiped clean. The intercom announces mechanical problems which will delay the flight for an expected hour and a half. My connections at Heathrow are now moot.

When we arrive at Heathrow a few minutes before midnight the Air Canada ground staff are efficiently waiting for the five or so of us whose connections have been dashed. They have re-booked flights for us the next day, passed us our e-tickets and hotel vouchers and escorted us to airport shuttles. They do this quickly, as their shifts have ended at twelve and they are now past that time.

My new flight to Dubai is not scheduled to leave til mid-afternoon the next day, past hotel checkout time. And here our story begins. The hotel clerk asks for payment for an extra day as it is past checkout time and the airline only booked the room for one day. I politely tell him that is for Air Canada to cover, as they made the reservations in their name, not mine and they clearly knew the flight’s departure details. She tells me I must wait while she contacts the airline. I tell her that I’m leaving for the airport as I have a flight to make. The hotel and Air Canada can sort it out between themselves.

After negotiating the considerable security procedures at Heathrow, I make it to the front of the Etihad Airways check-in counter, where I am told my ticket has been cancelled by Air Canada. When I inquire as to why, I am told I have been re-booked on an Air Jordan flight travelling through Ammam. Hasn’t Air Canada told me of the change? How strange!

I again wait to get to the front of the Air Jordan ticket counter. Here, I am told that yes, Air Canada re-booked me on a flight through them and the flight has left 3 hours ago. They sound puzzled that Air Canada never informed me of the change, even though they clearly know my hotel details as they arranged them themselves. No, I answer, they did not contact me with the change of reservations by email or by cell phone. When I ask what to do next, Air Jordan advises me to go the Air Canada ticket counter. I find it but is is unmanned. I return to Air Jordan the politely offer to phone Air Canada. A message is passed to go back to Etihad as they will re-book me a flight through them. No whisper of any apology is made.

I make my way to the front of the Etihad line and am told the good news that they do indeed have a reservation for me now, just not on this flght as my previous seat had been released. Not to worry, it’s only six hours waiting in the airport for the next flight.

The flight is uneventful and I arrive In Dubai where I must spend a night in the airport for my connecting flight to Basrah, since Canadians are no longer on the list of nationals eligible for visas at the airport. After a long night and morning, I board the afternoon flight and am enjoying a sparkling beverage standing in conversation with fellow passengers when I feel the plan bank about half an hour out of Basrah. Sure enough, the pilot comes on the intercom and informs us we are returning to Dubai as the Basrah airport has been closed. Etihad re-books us on the same flight the next day but I once again have 24 hours to kill, possibly sitting in the airport as the visa problem remains. Etihad kindly sponsors me for a visa and puts me in a hotel for the day with meal and transportation vouchers. We are told the Basrah airport had been shut down because it was under mortar attack and all airspace had been closed.

A day later the flight arrives uneventfully in Basrah.

Thank you, Air Canada, for your usual level of service. A 25-hour journey has been turned into a 3-day one, all without costing me any extra for the additional hotel and flight bookings. What incredible generosity.

Please bring in open skies for Canada. Without competition on international routes out of Canada, nothing will change.

Scare Canada

So, I’m standing in line at the luggage carousel waiting for my luggage, facing in the direction of the belt when I receive a full body check in my back from behind and hear the non-sequiter apology, “Excuse me, Sir,” at the same time. Brushing off my pants and getting up, I see an Air Canada attendant slamming people out of the way to get to a bag.

Might be the best service any of us received from this company in decades. For those who aren’t familiar with its unique brand of branding, the Canadian government has had to appoint a government ombudsman whose sole job is to deal with complaints from this monopoly server.

In the next few days, I’ll share two of my favourite stories of complete lack of customer service from this fine example of Soviet-era customer service.