Mr. DBM and I just spent a very pleasant few days down in Southern California with our prospective brothers - one in San Diego and one in Newport Beach. When it was time to leave, we headed for the airport, ready for our two short flights home.
First leg: United, from San Diego to San Francisco.
Things not looking good when we arrive. The previous flight has been cancelled and there are loads of people queuing up to reschedule flights, connections, luggage etc. Then our flight gets delayed - low cloud cover in San Francisco. It was fog on the way down, and now it is low cloud. Apparently, they need to be able to see to land in San Francisco. If that were the case in Vancouver, flights would be permanently delayed for about 10 months! Anyhoo, not a problem, since our connecting flight would be delayed too.
Now, you may find this hard to believe, but I am actually a very patient person when it comes to problems that cannot be avoided. It is no one's fault that it is foggy, cloudy, windy, lighting, snow, ice, a tornado or hurricane, a plaque of frogs on the runway or rats eating through the signalling cable. What I have a problem with is incompetence and the ways in which paying customers are handled in such trying times. United did an OK job in keeping us informed. Not great, but OK. We were kept up to date on the departure time of our flight and we always knew what was going on. OK, so I was not happy, I just wanted to go home, but some things can't be helped. Mr. DBM did enquire if I would be blogging about our delays when I got home and at this point I said no, this didn't warrant a rant. So what happened to change my mind?
I'll tell you what happened - Air Canada, that's what!
Second leg - Air Canada, San Francisco to Vancouver.
When we arrive in San Francisco, we are told to ask the UA representative at the desk about our connecting flight, so we do. The response - “Well, that is Air Canada, I don't know about Air Canada flights.” I point out that it is a code share flight, sharing a code with UA and so she should know. Well, she can tell us about another flight going to Vancouver, but not ours. Great, thanks very much. So, we go and look at the departures board - no flight to Vancouver listed on that. OK, how about we try the information desk? Well, they vaguely wave us off in the direction of the International Terminal, since that is where Air Canada flies from. OK, so we shall wander around the terminal until we find a gate that says Air Canada to Vancouver. There's a plan - it is not the biggest airport in the world, afterall, so, that is bound to work. Off we wander, hoping that our flight is delayed, since we have no idea how long it might take until we stumble across our desired departure gate. As we wander, we find one Air Canada gate - Gate 68 - there is no one there and no flights are listed, so we continue our random search. We then find another gate - gate 61 - again, no one there, no flights listed. At this point, the gates change back to UA flights and then end. OK, so, none the wiser, I try a UA representative again. He just tells us to go and check with the agent at the Air Canada desk. I point out that there is no agent at the Air Canada desk, he ignores me and manages to find another client that he can help. So, we wander back to the departures board. Aha! A flight to Vancouver, departing from Gate 69. Excellent! Back we trot, only to find the departure board there says that the next flight is going to Washington D.C. Not really a place that I have been dying to visit, but what the hell, we shall hang around here for a while, since it is the best lead we have so far.
While we are waiting, a few other lost souls bound for Vancouver wander by, including a Japanese woman and her daughter. They actually have a boarding pass with a gate number on it - Gate 61. Aha, perhaps that is where we should be? But the board does say 69..........Then, lo and behold, a rare and endangered sight is encountered - an Air Canada agent. Oh no, my mistake, it is a cleaner. Well, we could try asking him - nope, no go, he does not speak English.
OK then, we shall continue lying in wait, hidden behind the pillar, camouflaged by the palm tree, waiting for the shy and elusive Air Canada agent. Surely one has to arrive soon to deal with the Toronto flight at gate 68? Our wait is not in vain - an agent arrives. He busies himself with ignoring all of us and tidying up his desk. So, I go up and ask him which gate the Vancouver flight is leaving from - Gate 61. I go and tell the Japanese women that we are supposed to be at Gate 61, but since neither one of us is sure about this new information, we decide to divide and conquer - we will go to 61 and they will stay at 69. Whoever is right will go back and fetch the others. Cunning, eh? As we are making our way to gate 61, the Air Canada agent makes an announcement.
"For those of you who are unaware, the Air Canada flight to Vancouver is leaving from gate 61"
Well, that's nice - make it sound as if we are all complete idiots for being at gate 69, when obviously the flight is going from Gate 61. I trot back to pick up the Japanese ladies and off we all go with purposeful, confident strides, to Gate 61. Guess what - there is no one there - no flight details on the board, no agent, no plane, no nothing. Well, I guess we could wait?
Next arrival - the duty free man, with all the duty free purchases for the Vancouver passengers. He is about as happy as we are, pushing his alcoholic wares from gate 61 to 69 and back again. But he seems quite confident that we are leaving from Gate 61, so Gate 61 it is. Until another agent arrives. Unfortunately, she is none the wiser than us, the Japanese or the duty free guy, but at least she has a radio. Much back and forth chatter...........................yes, you guessed it, back to gate 69. And who told us this? No, not the agent, but the duty free man!
Right, now even Mr. DBM is getting mad. The natives are getting restless, there is much murmuring amongst the passengers, some nice, polite Canadians are about to be pushed beyond their niceness limit. We all troop back to Gate 69, which still claims to be flying to Washington, still has no agent present (the one from Gate 61 obviously decided that showing her face at gate 69 might not be a good idea) and still does not have a plane there. ENOUGH!!!!! Back to gate 68, where I talk to a young agent with beady black eyes, a nose concord would be proud of and a very gay voice. For an authentic rendering of this conversation in your mind, make sure you remember the very gay voice and that anything I say is said in the most sarcastic voice you can muster.
Me: “Excuse me, but are we at the right gate for the Vancouver flight?”
Me: “Well, the board says this flight is going to Washington.”
Concord: “Yes, but that is the next flight.”
Me: “Well, how are we supposed to know that - perhaps you could change the board?”
Concord: “It is a UA board, I can’t change it.”
Me: “Well, there must be some way of letting us know what is happening. We are all getting a little tired of traipsing between Gates 61 and 69.”
Concord: “I could make an announcement.”
Me: “Thank you, that would be helpful.”
The announcement is made, a plane arrives and we finally make it back to Vancouver. And the moral of this story? The obvious one - never, ever fly Air Canada if you can avoid them. The less obvious one - If you have to fly Air Canada, go to the duty free, order a large bottle of tequila and then follow the duty free guy around until he finds the gate. If all else fails, at least you can mug him and do some tequila shots.
Flight delays I can stomach, but incompetence really, really bugs me! And Air Canada flies high when it comes to incompetence. And you know what bugs me even more? The fact that my tax money - my hard earned tax money, is used time and time again to bail this useless, irritating, incompetent airline out. Why, oh why can’t we just let it fold in its wings, curl up its little toes and die a quiet and painless death. Let it go, let it rest in peace. We Canadians have far better things to sink our tax dollars into. We need bribe money to keep Quebec happy, we need to spend billions on keeping an up to date list on all those law abiding citizens that keep guns (what, the criminals aren’t going to register their guns too?), we need to spend hundreds of millions on fast ferries that can’t actually go any faster than normal ferries since the engines break down and their wake is too large (don’t worry, we now have new ferries that were made in Germany and they actually work. The “fast” ones were sold for about 5% of their cost and now sit next to the highway leading to the ferry dock, mocking us all as we drive by). See, we have lots of things to spend our money on.
So, I am now back home and I can relax, knowing that everything around here runs on time, things happen according to our schedule and the levels of incompetence are low - except for when the cable guy comes around. Tess is very happy to have us home and spent half of last night drilling into the side of my head and sucking on my hair. I think that Willow is also happy that we are back. She did sit on the cat tree and stare at me for about 2 hours last night. I suspect she was thinking “Don’t ever leave me alone with that crazy, catnip addled, half wit of a half sister again or I will kill you,” but she must have forgiven me, since she finally came to bed and drilled and drooled into my armpit for the other half of the night.
Tuesday, 29 July 2008