|"Hey Rocky, watch me pull some luggage out of my hat!"|
Ok, I've been writing posts from Italy lately, but I'm back now and just have to post this "open letter" to Air Canada. I hope to have some more Italy posts up soon, written post-trip.
This is also a bit of a rant, meant to be cathartic.
Dear Air Canada,
You have no idea how hard it was to type “dear” up there. Seriously. I'm trying to keep this civil, but it's not easy.
The problem starts on September 1st, 2011, when I'm trying to get home to the United States after 5 weeks in Italy. Do you know anything about Italy and Italians? Well, I can tell you that they never sleep. On top of that, they never let you sleep, no matter how much you want to. They just make you eat more than you need to, and blow cigarette smoke in your face (often while you're eating). Five weeks of gorging, sleep deprivation and smoke inhalation can do things to a person, make them kind of edgy and stressed and tired and reeeeeeally eager to get home. This is without even mentioning the apparent inability of Italians to wait in line and not shove you, while simultaneously forcing you to listen to them screaming into their cellphone at someone. Don't get me wrong; I love Italy. . . kind of the way you love a narcissistic adolescent who only thinks of himself, but has his charms, like you can't help it. He's emotional and predictably unpredictable, and funny, and quirky, and a pain in your ass. But gosh darn it, you've got to love him.
Anyway, it starts at Fiumicino airport, to which I have raced very early to make sure I'm on time, further depriving myself of precious sleep. I get there after lugging baggage from house to car to train to airport, only to wait in line for check in—not security, but check in—for more than 3.5 hours. Same line, not moving, and no one providing information or estimates or, more importantly, apology. A woman with an Air Canada badge did walk down the long line asking who was for Montreal, and telling us that when we reached the end of the line in a specific place, Montreal passengers should go to the left. Of course, more than three hours later when the line started to move, there wasn't even a left turn available anymore. It seems like there were 2 desk workers trying to check in 100 people. There was another woman who came through the line with an Air Canada badge, asking to see passports and putting a little useless sticker on our bags that said “Security ICTS” upon which she had written a number. I can't see any purpose this served. It didn't make things go faster, and we still had to go through security. She didn't inspect anything. It seems like a bit of theater, designed to make frustrated passengers feel like something was actually happening.
As time marches on and it becomes more and more clear that I will not make my connecting flight in Montreal, I get a little nervous. Up until the last few years, I didn't fly very often at all, and even when I have flown, I've never experienced missing a connection, so I don't know how this works. I stop the second woman when I see her again (more than an hour after the first time she passed by), and say to her, in English (the language she was clearly speaking to us an hour ago), that this plane is clearly going to be late taking off, and I'm confused about what to do about my connecting flight that I will miss. She looks confused as if she hasn't understood me, so I say the same thing in Italian. She replies in both English and Italian “Obviously” and seems quite perturbed by my question. I say, “yes, that is obvious, but what is less obvious to someone like me who doesn't travel a lot, is how this works in terms of me getting home.” I do not punctuate this sentence with a nasty name for her, but I confess to thinking it. I ask her what I have to do to get a new connecting flight, and rather than tell me, she decides to chastise me with “Everyone is having the same problem”. To which I say “Obviously, but not everyone is going onward from Montreal, and that doesn't answer my question about what I have to do, if anything.” Honestly, I was asking in an even tone, trying to get information. This woman needs to work on her people skills—sure, most of Italy's service-sector people do, but that's no excuse to be nasty and lacking in empathy. She's representing Air Canada not Alitalia, isn't she? Canadians are, like, the nicest people on Earth, eh? She eventually tells me curtly, after again repeating that everyone has the same problem, of which I'm perfectly aware, that the person at the check in desk will re-route me (this turned out not to be the case, but at least it was finally an answer to my actual question).
Here's the even more despicable part. A couple in line near me was traveling with an elderly relative. The elderly woman needed a wheelchair, and the people said to an Air Canada representative that they had requested this in advance, and now everyone was sending them back and forth to different desks and they still weren't getting what they needed. Yes, again, Italy is famous for sending people from office to office and back again, sure. But you're Canadian, remember? Your Air Canada rep, instead of bending over backwards to help these people like she should have, given how long the line was, how long it waited, and that there was no seating anywhere, passed the buck to “my colleagues at Fiumicino” whom she said typically get the wheelchairs requested to the people once they have checked in. Then she walked away, with no intention of helping these people further. Seriously? Even when check in takes more than 3.5 hours in line?
Now, if that elderly woman (who was clearly having some difficulty and using a cane) had collapsed in that line after all that time without anywhere to sit and no assistance, would her “colleagues at Fiumicino” have come to the line for her then, or would we have had to band together and drag the woman's body to the check in desk? Just curious about that, so I know what to do next time I fly Air Canada. HaHa! That was a joke. Do you get it? As if I'll ever fly Air Canada again after I write my scathing online reviews. Oh, c'mon. .. you know that was funny. Laugh a little. It could be worse. You could be waiting in line for three hours. . . .with Italians on cell phones . . .wondering which person will die first in that line, and if it will be safe for the rest of us to eat them if necessary.
Ok, so now is the fun part. After all this time, I get to the front of the line and to the desk, and the woman there won't even look up at me. She can't—she's busy typing an all-important text message to someone. I ask a question. She doesn't answer. She doesn't even flinch or look up. Just keeps hammering away with those thumbs on her phone keypad. I can apparently go screw myself after waiting 3.5 hours standing up with my luggage. She has important texts to send. When she's darned good and ready, she looks up and checks me in, barely looking at me. I ask about the re-routing and she says I'll have to check in with Air Canada when I get to Montreal, but right now I had better hurry up to the gate because the plane is leaving.
Yes, she actually said this.
The plane is leaving? But there are passengers for this same flight who are still in line behind me. We're all in line for the same flight and we're the only one's left here. You want me to hurry along now? Wait . . . do I have time to send a text message? They're really important, you know. The text would be to her, so I could get her attention, and it would say “Which direction is it to security and the gate?” She points to the left, and looks up to “help” the next person. Classy staff you've got there, Air Canada. Really, commendable.
Oh and this is the very best part: after this point, somewhere between Rome, and Montreal, and LaGuardia (because I was rerouted there, since no more flights were going to Newark that night), you guys managed to lose my luggage. Yep. For my five week trip I packed a lot of necessities that I use on pretty much a daily basis, and I have none of it now. The extra-large, red, hard-to-lose bag with my full name, address and phone number on it is still missing, and I'm not getting any help. I'm told to wait five days, and if I don't have it by then, I should fill out a form, after which they will “expedite” the tracing. Really? They aren't expediting it now, but only after 5 days? What are they doing now--waiting for it to walk into their office on its own? My tweezers are in that bag. Do you know how important tweezers are to a woman once she passes 40? Unless you're prepared to reimburse me for a couple cans of Barbasol and a scythe, you really want to get that bag to me, pronto.
Hey, merci, Air Canada. I really appreciate how much you value my business.