Dear Air Canuk: Thanks for nothing

I hope you don’t mind that I am writing to express my disappointing disappointment with my experience on a recent flight on your airline.

I hope you don’t mind that I am writing to express my disappointing disappointment with my experience on a recent flight on your airline. My Better Half (B.H.) and myself had booked a short holiday to the United States of America, and were initially quite impressed with ourselves in that we (I) actually booked this flight over two (2) months in advance, instead of my usual habit of attempting to book a flight several hours or so before of takeoff. I mistakenly assumed booking so far in advance would result in better seats at a better price. How foolish of me to be so efficient.

To put it one way, and come to think of it, there is no other way to put it, this flight sucked. We took your email advice and somehow managed to figure out your convoluted website long enough to check in “On Line” where we found that checking even one suitcase costs $25.00 ($76.00 American) each way just to be able to bring some stuff with us on our trip.

This of course causes planeloads of people to avoid this money-grabbing fee by dragging large “carry on” baggage the size of garden sheds and filling up the overhead bins with bags that are clearly so illegally oversized and heavy that they should be transported separately, perhaps in a Hercules military aircraft.

There they are stuffing and jamming things they can barely lift, holding up everyone else behind them (us) who have no hope of finding overhead bin space by the time we finally get to our seats at or near the back of the airplane.

And speaking of seats, when we went to choose our seats which is very important on account of our knees don’t work as well as they used to and therefore an aisle seat is pretty much compulsory for us, I found that there is an extra $15 fee charged just to choose a seat from a diagram that shows that very few aisle seats are left.

And even if I do consent to pay the unfair ransom to choose my own seat (not in a million years!) and that of the B.H., then there are (of course) no two seats together anyway.

I personally prefer to sit with the person I am travelling with, especially if it happens to be your Better Half. Apparently on Air Canuk, this is clearly too much to ask for.

So the only thing left is to cross our fingers that our seats, determined by the same Airline Voodoo Ouija Board Lottery that randomly determines flight fees that change every few minutes, come up as the coveted Exit Row or Bulkhead seats.

These rows have so much more legroom that you can almost stretch your legs out half as far as you can in a normal chair (but not quite) and you don’t really have to be a human pretzel or a Yoga master (although it would help) to endure the flight without severe foot, knee, hip and back cramps exacerbated by several hours of suffocating claustrophobia.

But get this: for the first time in the history of airline gouging your company just introduced extra fees for sitting in those rows with a meager 2 to 4 inches (I looked it up) more room. $27 for the privilege of being fairly, instead of significantly uncomfortable. And guess what? The longer the flight, the more you pay for that 2 to 4 inches. For a 1600-miles flight it will cost you $46!

I kindly ask you: What’s next — $5 to use the lavatory? $8.50 for a key to unlock the window shade so can look out the porthole? $2.75 to be able to turn on your reading light? Ten bucks for the fresh air nozzle?

I have an important question for you. Have any of your staff been forced to sit in the seats in the newer airplanes? Of course not.

We flew in an Airbus 319M — the new “Air Canuk Red” service — with three seats on each side of a center aisle. It didn’t take a genius to instantly realize something was missing. What was missing was some room. Oh, and some comfort. Any comfort at all, would be comforting. And what about travelers who are not average height and weight (i.e. the majority)? Do you really think people in this world are getting smaller??

I fly quite often and I can honestly say, because why would I fib, that this was the most uncomfortable three hours I have ever sat through. And I’ve been to the opera.

I had the dreaded middle seat (of course), but my much smaller selfless Better Half selflessly insisted on taking that awful seat which put me at the window seat, with a large man on the aisle.

This meant I had no hope of either of us getting out to go to the “Lavatory” because, believe me, once you finally wedge yourself into those Red seats, you are trapped. It’s much easier to tolerate the excruciating pain of ongoing kidney damage than to attempt to extricate yourself from a tiny inside seat that is barely half an arm’s length from the seats in front of you, and with three adults in a space for one normal passenger.

A little digging on the interweb and I found out my claustrophobic cramps were in fact not my rampant imagination. Airlines, especially yours, have been silently shrinking the seating areas in an attempt to stuff in more people and make more moola. Shame on you.

Someone once told me that when you write a letter of complaint you should always ask what you would like the complainee to do. I could certainly tell you what I’d like you to do with those dumb seats, but suffice to say it would be nice if your airline would put the customer comfort first for a change, and make the seats and rows bigger instead of smaller.

Oh, and also, in the meantime you could automatically transfer all my future ticket bookings to EastJet.

Yours uncomfortably,

Harley Hay is a local freelance writer, award-winning author, filmmaker and musician. His column appears on Saturdays in the Advocate. His books can be found at Chapters, Coles and Sunworks in Red Deer.

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