Poor Air Canada? Or is all this bad p.r. their own fault? New Hwy. 401 centres
Fascinating story by former Star reporter Paola Loriggio, now with Canadian Press, on how Air Canada is suffering from a toxic labour situation.
It's nothing new, really, but it's still anything but good for business when the business section headlines scream out about more trouble for Canada's biggest airline.
In her story, Loriggio quotes industry observers as saying AC has to purge its toxic culture and win back frustrated consumers. And soon, given the heat being applied by WestJet and Porter.
"There's a poisonous labour climate in there, and that's more than their image - it's already their identity now," said Gabor Forgacs of the Ted Rogers School of Management at Ryerson University. "If they want to right this ship they need to make big changes."
Bitter contract disputes, pilot book-offs and other issues have certainly given the airline a black eye. Kenneth Wong, a marketing professor at Queen's University in Kingston, says the company's very size is a problem; suggesting it's easier to keep high morale and service quality at a higher standard in a smaller work force.
Perhaps. But what use is that, really? Is Air Canada going to sell off routes or planes to become smaller and happier? I don't think so.
Maybe they offered some suggestions in their interview with Loriggio, but I don't see any hints or potential solutions being offered up by any of the experts. Maybe it's a situation where the big guy, Calin Rovinescu, has to roll up his sleeves and do a TV appearance a la Galen Weston with Loblaws. Hopefully with a little more camera presence, of course.
I kinda doubt it would work, to be honest. But I would think Air Canada would be turning over every stone (and finding every other cliche in the book) in an effort to turn their soggy image into something crisp and bright and appetizing.
I'm curious what YOU think. I've read the odd quote from people who say nobody flies Air Canada unless they have to. I think that's an overreaction, personally. I don't like the labour disputes but I sympathize with all airline workers - including pilots who sleep on overnight flights to Europe and wake up startled and react wildly to perceived threats from other aircraft, as happened in January. It's a very, very difficult job. Could Air Canada workers be friendlier? No doubt. I mentioned the other day I was on a flight from L.A. to Toronto earlier this month and was in a seat where the overhead light didn't work.
I mentioned it to the cabin attendant and he just shrugged and said, "I guess you got the burned-out light," and then walked away. Truly appalling. Not to generalize, but I can't imagine a WestJet worker being so blase about a problem clearly of the airline's making, minor as it was in the scheme of things. Of course, I might not have been able to get the WestJet worker's attention as he possibly would have been at the front of the plane telling airplane jokes, the way one of them did on a flight I took from Florida to Toronto last year - and boy, did that get annoying after the fourth joke.
There's no doubt Air Canada has image problems. But how severe are they? Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have issues you want to raise...
HIGHWAY 401 MAKEOVER
It's great to see the Globe and Mail story this morning on how Ontario and Quebec are revitalizing their highway service centres. They were getting a little tired, for sure, and it's nice they've used local stone and lots of glass in the new buildings. And that they'll be providing the odd Starbucks for folks who want something that actually tastes like a cafe latte, versus those insipid, dreadful versions they sell at Tim Hortons. (For the record, I prefer Tim's for a regular cup of "normal" coffee, but I'll take Starbucks for a cappuccino or cafe latte, hands down).
Anyway, it's all great that these centres are being spruced up. But why do we have such big, commercial centres in the first place? I mean, Highway 401 (mostly) goes past some pretty large communities, all of which have Subway sandwich shops and Mickey Dee's and Tim Hortons and Starbucks. Why not do what they do in the U.S. and build more of these centres with parks and picnic tables and washrooms and tourism information and bypass all the commercial stuff? I mean, how many more Tims do we really need on the highway?