Thursday, February 03, 2005
Stoking the Flames at Air Canada
Sent to The Toronto Star, January 20, 2005:
Delayed Due To Strike
I was sitting in a bar in Dorval, it was 8 PM on Wednesday, January 19; I had my boarding pass in hand, I had been through security, I had plenty of time to savor my beer and calamari before my hour flight back to Toronto at 10PM. But then I heard the announcement that my flight, and in fact all remaining flights to Pearson for the evening, were cancelled due to a wildcat strike.
Well, I fumed, drank my beer, ate my calamari, called my wife, who logged onto Air Canada’s web-site from home and check out the latest information for me. She didn’t find out anything more than I already knew. However, she did come up with an Air Canada reservations number that I could call to find out more information. I called the number and it was busy — go figure.
From the bar I went to the AC desk at Gate 2 to find out what, if anything, the airline was going to do about the cancellations. There was an AC employee at the desk, but she wasn’t answering questions, so I went to the RapidAir desk, which was right beside Gate 2, and asked about alternate flights. She booked me on AC 483 for the next morning at 5:30 AM. It was about 8:30 PM, my flight was in 9 hours. I asked the RapidAir attendant if AC would be putting up stranded passengers for the night. She told me to save my receipts and submit them. I thought, yeah right — my lawyer will be contacting your lawyer, but said nothing and walked away with my new booking information.
I talked to a few other stranded passengers and some planned to drive the 6 hours back to Toronto, one had made arrangements to take VIA Rail, but I decided to wait the 9 hours and fly back to Toronto.
After some hours of waiting I wandered over to Gate 12, where my flight was to depart at 5:30 AM and decided to wait it out there for a while. A few minutes later two flight attendants entered the area and typed some data into the computers and started to talk. They spoke mostly in French and being the good Western Canadian that I am, I do not understand French very well. A few minutes after that 7 more people entered the area. They were laughing and joking together, talking about the wildcat strike. I figured they were drunk; or, like me, frustrated passengers using humor to keep their spirits up for what was likely to be a long wait.
Apparently, they were waiting to get on a special flight heading back to Toronto. I just listened and tried to concentrate on writing but I was too tired, and they were too loud, so I put away my laptop and leaned against my chair.
One guy joked about the fact that the flight attendants were going with them, “Hey, we got stewardesses,” he said, “at least we get drink service.”
Someone said jokingly, “I think there’s a private jet going out — maybe you could get on that.”
No had been speaking to me up until this point — I don’t think they actually expected anyone to be at the gate so early — but I jokingly cut in with a comment like, “I’ll take that.”
Then one of the AC employees waiting for her flight turned to me and said, “You know we work for AC.”
I said, “Yeah, I guessed that.”
At about 1:30AM — I had been waiting for 5 hours at that point — their plane landed and a flight crew entered the area of Gate 12. The AC employees then filed out the door for their flight back to Toronto.
On the way out one waved to me, “I’m sorry,” she said. I shrugged and waved back. What do you do? I was getting on the 5:30 AM flight (AC 483) which was still 4 hours away and they were now going home. Sucks to be me.