Saturday, June 10, 2006

Simpson on Air Canada

The Globe's Jeffrey Simpson departs from being irritating, to become down-right unreadable.

It used to be that Simpson's favourite hobby horse was to bitch about VIA rail, and wish he had flown instead.

Now that he has decided to fly, he has gone and written an absolute smear column against Air Canada.

Now, I'm not a huge fan of Air Canada, but I've never hated them either.

But with Simpson's selective use of the truth, and selective use of worse possible experiences, largely anecdotal with few explicit references, if not completely made up based on mumblings overheard in the check-in line, he paints a picture of a horrible, cold and sadistic airline, out to torture its customers with some perverse sense of glee.

The fact is, look south at any mainline carrier in the US. American, Delta, United, Northwest; their level of service pales in comparison to Air Canada's. In addition, all of them are struggling just to survive. Among the so-called 'legacy' carriers of North America, Air Canada is one of the few to survive and now after restructuring, it is just starting to make some money in the face of high gasoline prices. Not to mention being hobbled with an inefficient cost structure thanks to its early days as a crown corporation.

Simpson says attitudes start at the top, so Air Canada's management is to blame for poor service. Ok, so WestJet is better? Yeah, if you define "better" as "engage in corporate espionage".

Air Canada is a rare bright star in the airline landscape, and we should be glad that they are a success today. Simpson cites the airline's thirst for profits as the reason for their 'evilness'. It's not a thirst for profits that drives them, it's a thirst for profitability. The airline needs to make money just to survive. If that means cutting out pillows and blankets, so be it. Would he rather they cut it from the safety and maintenance budget?

Simpson asks where the food has gone on AC flights. Well surprise, WestJet never served food. Simpson complains about Air Canada's ageing fleet. Ageing fleet? Air Canada has the youngest average fleet age of any North American airline.

Simpson asks why Air Canada ignores rural Canada, and delivers crap service when it doesn't ignore them. I suppose those locations will just have to rely on WestJet, or CanJet. What's that? They don't serve those communities either? You forgot to mention that, Jeffery. He says to bring on Open Skies, the proposed opening of the Canadian domestic market to US carriers, as a solution to the rural lack of service. Well, if our own airlines won't operate on the route, why on earth would US airlines do so? An unprofitable route is an unprofitable route. Open Skies solves nothing.

Simpson complains about having to deal with a call centre in India to find his lost luggage. Well, sorry Jeffrey, but you're probably talking to a lot more Indians than you think whenever you call any company's call centre. Maybe Air Canada skimped a bit, and didn't go for the western-accent trained Indians. And please, get with the times. Nobody checks luggage anymore (a tiny nod to Dean. But since you're waiting to pick me up in baggage-claim anyway...)

The rest of Simpson's article comes off as sour-faced grumbling. At the best of times, his columns rarely have anything new to say. When he does say something new, he's intellectually lazy about it.

disclaimer: the author of this post has an Aeroplan number AND a WestJet Gold airmiles credit card.


1 comment:

A BCer in Toronto said...

I wonder how much Jeffrey flies other airlines. And I wish him luck finding a Newfoundland to London, England flight on Westjet.

I like WestJet, and I like Air Canada. I fly to the States all the time, and I'd take Air Canada over any of the various American airlines. United is passable, but the others are really sub par.

Air Canada gets a bad rap, but the things he complains about are common in the industry. No one serves food anymore on domestic flights in coach class. Who cares, the food sucked anyway. Just pack something, or pick up something at the airport. It's the economics of the modern airline industry, esp. with the high fuel prices.

As for the age of the planes, he's out to lunch there to. I flew US Air last month on an ancient Airbus, Air Canada's fleet is far newer and in much better shape. And I love their new Embraer regional jets.