Sunday, 27 April 2008

Air Canada - I really, really, really mean no.

I had intended to use this BlackLOG to write what a great ski holiday we had, for in truth it was. It’s just that Air Canada managed to excel even themselves and so have usurped the ski part yet again. So, by way of further compensation I have added some more ski photos at the end of the Blog.

After the no-fun that was the flight out to Canada, I had resigned myself to a similar experience on the return leg. Again, the internal part was great, although our flight to Montreal was delayed about 15 minutes. Once again the plane had seat-back movies with a vast selection of films. I caught most of “The Kite runner” all but the last 5 minutes, Grrrrrrrr. (When will airlines put in a little button by your seat that lets you put a request to the pilot to fly around again so you can catch the end of a film?) We had a tight connection for our London flight but had been assured in Vancouver that the delay would not be a problem. As we landed, the head stewardess even took the trouble to trundle down the isle with her Zimmer frame and announce "Would all passengers not looking to get connecting flights please remained seated?". (Like that’s going to happen). This was replaced by the message, just as we were leaving the plane “Would all passengers who think they are getting connecting flights (I’m sure there was then a slight pause and what appeared to be a faint giggle) to London and Paris, please remain in the lounge where a representative from the Airline will give you further instructions.” I.e. bullshit PR to placate you until you have left the airport. Two plucky passengers managed to avoid the trap and sprinted to the departure gate for the London flight. (At this stage Mrs B and I were still attempting to clamber over Canadian passengers, who were milling about the isle asking each other “What do they mean by "remain seated"?” and then “Oh sorry, am I blocking you ?” At least they were polite in their obstructiveness.) The plucky duo made it to the London flight departure gate while the plane was still loading but were refused access, despite having boarding cards for the flight. The reason given was that you are not allowed to fly if your cases are not on board. (Try selling that one to the thousands of people who have flown out of Heathrow's Terminal Five recently). Their luggage had been unable to clamber over the Canadian cases that were milling about the hold.

I suspect it was all a ploy by Air Canada to sell on our seats at a profit and force us to fill up the empty flight the following day. The airline representative was the normal smarmy git (SG) whose one task in life is to get you out of the airport as soon as possible and will tell you anything to close the deal. As a group we asked the SG why it was not possible to delay the flight by 15 minutes. His impressive answer was that they did not want to risk inconveniencing other passengers with a connection in London. That made us all feel so much happier and we were soon asking our new found friend for his address so that we could send him hate mail (sorry I appear to have spelt Christmas cards incorrectly). After a half hour more of bovine scatology from SG and a realisation that there was no chance of getting an onward flight that evening, (Mrs B and I tracked down a flight to London that was still available but that turned out to be to London, Ontario, so we decided on balance not to pursue it) 23 of us reluctantly conceded and agreed to Air Canada’s accommodation arrangements, the Airport Holiday Inn.

Airport Holiday Inn – including the Wedding reception from hell.
I'm not sure which airport is referred to in the hotel's title. Whilst we may have landed in Montreal, the transfer seemed to take so long that it might have been the Toronto Airport Holiday Inn. The SG from Air Canada assured us that there were courtesy buses running every 10 minutes so we were shocked when it took us the best part of an hour to get one. I think he was suffering from judgement issues because he also described the hotel as top notch with a swimming pool and full facilities. Well the swimming pool looked more like a cesspit and the only facility of note that I witnessed was the light switch for the bathroom which was actually sited in the shower. Great fun if you fancy playing Life and Death lottery. I didn’t, so chose to shower in the dark. This proved a bonus as it meant you could not see the cracked tiles or cockroaches.

Looks like the Canadians do know
how to have an exciting time, even if
that only involves showering with an
element of danger …...

This was possibly the worst place we have ever stayed in and that includes the Motel 6 in Mammoth, California with it’s sodden shag pile carpet and the old Schoolhouse Kirkcudbright with it’s hot and cold running mice, plastic sheets on the bed and the creepy owner, Mr Lazar, like a character who would not be out of place in “The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen”. I hope I have established for the record that this was a hotel for avoiding, not for spending 24 hours of your precious life, let alone celebrating an important event in your life. Of all the places you can choose to hold a wedding reception in, the Airport Holiday Inn Montreal (or was it Toronto?) should remain very low on the list. In fact I would recommend a bike shed, the gent’s toilets of an East London Pub or even the outside lane of the M25, before this establishment. I was initially impressed that they had bouncers, but on closer inspection it became clear that they were actually guards employed to stop the wedding guests and possibly the knocked-up bride and the baby's father, aka uncle, from escaping. I have a horrible feeling that the guards may have even press-ganged a couple of unfortunates who strayed too close to the reception entrance. Thanks once again Air Canada “You really know how to spoil us”.

If you can believe it, it gets even better. When we got back to Montreal airport, after our excursion into, let’s say, the more interesting side of hotel life (Is it possible to have negative star hotels? 'Cos this establishment put a very convincing argument for minus five of them) We discovered that the flight that only yesterday could not be delayed for 15 minutes under any circumstance was….. delayed for two and a half hours.

What every passenger dreams of seeing!
Well the ones going somewhere they don’t
want to go……....

Sadly the SG was not around for us to congratulate him on his spin technique before collectively stringing him up, in a warm and friendly way.

Is that Peter Stringfellow with Mrs B?

I was going to take a picture of Mitch to
show the snow above our knees.....
unfortunately an American offered to
take the both of us but some how managed
to miss the snow line. Doh!

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