Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The New Air Canada Crew(ing)

Far be it from me to whinge or complain about anything, but I do have a question.

I have just flown from Winnipeg to Toronto, a two-hour flight in the late morning, and witnessed a rather circumstance, that hearkens back to the Old Days of Air Canada.

Air Canada today, I have to say is pretty darned good. Much improved, both in equipment but mostly in attitude. Gone, fortunately for both their customers and shareholders, are the evil days of predominantly gnarly flight attendants glaring and challenging the slightest whim that a fare-paying passenger might have; gone are the days that none regard as Good-Old, where passengers were to be seen and not heard, and the imperious glance of a “stewardess”, for that is what they were then called, had one apologising before the crime could be committed.

Until today.

I was fortunate to be sitting in business class (AC 264 / 11 Oct for anyone who cares) among the crème of the airline’s passengers. A grand each way is the cost of this cosseting, and judging by the full cabin, there were several who paid their way; some were like me, travelling on points, some upgraded through their continuous use of the airline and some presumably company employees squeezed in at the last moment. However, all in all, we were a pretty valuable bunch to Air Canada.

The flight time is a shade under two hours, and for the first hour and a bit all went swimmingly. Then, our two attendants decided that it was their lunchtime, and service stopped. Not only stopped, but should a passenger happen to venture past their curtain and return leaving it possible to glance at the attendants eating and reading, the curtain was slammed shut.

As soon as the aircraft started its descent, they came to life. When I asked what they had been doing, and why I/we had not been offered a further sample of their delectable Malbec, I was advised in absolutely no uncertain terms that they had no lunch break scheduled on the ground, and so this was it.

And so I ask, perhaps rhetorically, but perhaps an Air Canada or union executive might care to enlighten me, why on a two-hour flight, it seems reasonable to take a thirty-minute break? Should we, the paying passengers have got a discount because of the abandonment caused by the crews' inability to make the two-hour journey without sustenance? And what of the pilots? Were they, too, forced to work on growling tummies, needing to abandon their duties for a feed?

Really, this is not good enough. I have sympathy for hungry flight attendants, but they should simply not abandon their charges, and whether I drink too much or not is hardly the question here, I might have wanted water for a life-saving pill. Yes, we could have rung the bell, but being well-trained to expect the withering look this action elicits so perfected by flight crews over the years, nobody dared.

It is a pity, because just as we started to revel in the New Air Canada Caring Mode, out popped a glimpse of the old cloven hoof. The situation is by no means irreparable! A single abandonment among hundreds of Caring Moments does not indicate a complete relapse.

It is, however, worrying that on a two-hour flight, a thirty-minute lunch-break can be scheduled.