Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Old and New

I am writing this from my hotel room in Edmonton. Clearly, then, I managed to get here. But I got here after a really good flight. I need to give a shout out to AIR CANADA and both their ground and on board crews. They were helpful, kind and generous with their time and their expertise. They really made the trip one that is memorable because of the service I got. From my arrival at the airport in Toronto to getting the rental car in Edmonton every single person I met from Air Canada was helpful. It almost felt like someone had done a course on exactly what my needs were and how to most effectively support me. I have found that Air Canada typically offers pretty good service (I won't fly another airline) but yesterdays trip was way more than pretty good.

I want to tell you of an incident though, that was, for me, surprising and funny. We were the last off the plane. I don't like people pushing me uphill and though I can't walk very far, very well, when there is an incline, I try to walk it. So, I did. I got about two thirds of the way when I turned a corner and found a steeper, longer ramp to the top. By then I knew I was over exerting myself and that I simply couldn't do this last bit of the trip without resting.

I asked for and was given my chair and I told them to give me a few minutes and then I'd tackle it again. The woman who had been sent to meet me at the gate to provide help with getting to baggage was talking to another woman behind me. They both were absolutely sure that they, together, could push me up the ramp. I began to protest saying that I don't want my weight or my disability to hurt anyone. They said that they would get speed up and let momentum take me up the ramp.

I put my feet on the footrests, I felt their hands take hold of the handle and then ... they began to run! We hit the incline and flew up it. We were at the top in seconds. They were both laughing and congratulating each other. One of them said that it was good that's she'd got a workout by 'bringing in the hay' the day before.

From there we needed no more assistance because Joe and I could do the rest by ourselves. We thanked them and they grinned and waved us on.

For the whole day, from the arrival at the airport in Toronto to the top of the ramp in Edmonton, I knew that they were providing help for me, juggling things to get it right, but never, not once, did I feel like a bother to them.

Not once.

At one time, years ago, the essence of customer service was that staff made you feel important, it has devolved in recent years to the point that good customer service is that the staff don't make you feel like a bother.

I got old and new yesterday. I felt like I mattered and I didn't feel like a bother.

That's remarkable, for anyone travelling in a wheelchair, that's just plain remarkable.


Anonymous said...

I started flying Air Canada after reading a blog of yours from a couple years back. I also travel often and I agree that Air Canada seems less hostile to customers with disabilities than other airlines I have traveled. I'm traveling with them in a few days and had begun to get the "worries" that disabled people get when traveling by plane. This blog was timely for me.

Princeton Posse said...


Lynn said...

People just want to feel valued. Each day we need to take the time to listen to what people have to say as we don't know the circumstances behind their situation.
Dave I am glad my co worker and I could make your travel day a good experience. Thanks again and I hope you enjoyed the wind through your hair on the way up the ramp
Lynn Air Canada Edmonton

Tony Turtlo said...

hi dave, i am a retired ac employee but my daughter and many friends still work for the airline and appreciate your comments. curious, are you a member of ccd (Council of Canadians with Disabilities)? reason we ask is that my daughter says ac is the recipient of many complaints from customers who do not get the level of service delivered in a timely fashion as expected and promised. but she and others say it has to do with the lack of staffing assigned to handle passengers who require wheelchair service as indicated on the boarding passes. she says the complaints have reached the gtaa at yyz, who in turn have said they have no choice but to remove this from the contract, which their union has fought before (circa 2000 when i was still there) and is fighting to keep once again. she says the other workers they want to use from gtaa/acap-swissport, are no less capable and in fact most customers like yourselves, applaud what the cssa's (passenger agents) do to provide service, despite the odds of inadequate staffing. your insight would be valuable, thanks...