Thursday, May 17, 2012

Just when I was starting to not hate Air Canada with every fibre of my being

I have, unfortunately, had to fly quite a lot in the last couple of months.  I hate travelling by air, for the most part.  North American airlines are shit and the whole airport scene just touches every anger button I have in the deeper places.  Everything that is wrong with western society is encapsulated right there in that epic walk from the curb to your seat on the plane.

However, I was recently starting to feel slightly less antipathetic towards Air Canada.  The main reason is that despite their outrageous prices, shit routes (why the fuck is there not a direct flight from Montreal to San Francisco around the xmas holidays?!), absolute shit customer service, they actually do have nice planes.  Even more, they have an excellent audio-visual service.  To the team that designed their seat backs screens, to the team that engineered the deal with the content providers, to the managers who approved the policy of free TV and movies and finally to the people who actually choose the content, my hat is off to you.  Bravo on a job extremely well done.  Not only do they have the latest Hollywood blockbusters and well-chosen hit TV shows (from Britain as well), they also have an excellent selection of Canadian classics and old Hollywood classics.  They have several Republic Serials (I watched two episodes of S.O.S. Sailor with Bela Lugosi as evil Dr. Boroff) and they had the original The Thing!  Okay, that is impressive.

Compared to the US airlines, which are a disturbing precursor to the future of the 99% in America, Air Canada is like a first class cabin on the Orient Express in 1936.  The US airline planes are just a sick joke, cattle cars, physically damaged, no room, a blinking CRT monitor hanging from the ceiling that you couldn't even find in a dumpster today.  It's just depressing.

So I was actually feeling a bit of relief getting on an Air Canada plane.  And was slowly starting to try and feel a bit more positive about them.

Then, like a sucker, I tried to actually participate in their worldview and signed up for Aeroplan.  My wife has had it.  She is smart and steady and has accumulated miles enough to get us both a free (ish) trip to Chicago.  Even though Aeroplan and all the mileage air miles bullshit is the worst scam in the world and stands for everything I hate in this faux-capitalist society (I will spare you the essay on why airmiles are so wrong), I decided I should just buck up and take advantage of it.  Or at least minimize the screwing I am taking every time I buy a ticket.  So I did it.  And the whole thing already sucked from the beginning.  Another number I have to remember, another stupid website shouting at my joyously about all the "rewards" I could get, another fucking password.  But I did it and I am trying to get it to work.

But it's taking a while to get into the habit.  For my latest trip, I didn't have my number with me when I booked it.  Later, when I was checking in online, there was another problem and I ended up having to call Air Canada.  When I had resolved the initial problem, I also said "oh yes, I forgot to put my aeroplan number in.  Could you do that for me?"

"I'm sorry," came the response.  "You've already checked in."


"You've checked in.  You won't get any mileage if you put your aeroplan in once you've already checked in."

"Why not?"

"Because you've already checked in."

"Yes, I get that, but why?"

"I can cancel your check-in and then put your aeroplan number in but you will have to check-in again."

"But I don't want to check in again and risk losing my seat.  Why can't you just add it now."

"I can add it now, but you won't get any miles for it."

"Why not?"

"Because you have already checked in."

I will spare you the several other iterations of this back and forth, except that I will add that the woman on the other end of the line spoke to me with thinly-veiled contempt and finally ended with the classic, "that's the way the system works."

This is where Air Canada is so absolutely fucked on so many levels.  First of all, what kind of shit system is that?  I guarantee you that if there is a reason why they can't do it when you check in, it is some lame reason that has to do with some way they are screwing the customer and nothing to do with any limits of technology.  Second, the way they don't educate their employees as to any of the reasons for the policy decisions of "the system".  And thirdly, the fucking arrogant attitude of their staff.  I wish you could hear how contemptuous this woman's undertone was.  Air Canada is famous for it.  An air of bored superiority with their customers.  Why do they get away with this?  Because they have a fucking monopoly.  We don't have a choice of airlines, so we are forced to put up with bullshit like this.

So to the gang of running dog fuckfaces that made it impossible for someone to add their aeroplan number to a flight after check-in but before they have actually flown, may you end up on the 32nd circle of hell where you spend the rest of eternity on hold while little monkeys throw shard-edged aeroplan cards at you.

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