Thursday, November 20, 2008

Air Canada: Sort of trying really hard to win you back.



I recently flew to Vancouver from Montreal. It's an arduous haul (almost 6 hours - longer than flying to the UK. I could be having my morning pint at Heathrow by the time the Vancouver-bound plane reaches the Rockies), but with the right distractions, correctly-timed snacks, and hydrating beverages (but not too many, especially if you're stuck in that dreaded middle seat), it's bearable. What makes it thus is Air Canada's "in-flight entertainment system", i.e.: those small LCD screens tucked neatly in the back of the seat in front of you. It's a rather nice perk. When it works. Which it didn't on this particular flight, or at least, not consistently, which seemed to tick a few people off, or at least, the flight crew anticipated it would, enough to offer every single passenger a redeemable coupon for 5% off their next booked flight. Call me unselfish, but that seems like an overly generous offer for an airline that was flirting with bankruptcy protection just a few years ago. Five percent of 650$ is $32.50. Multiply that by 200 people and that's $6,500 out of pocket just because a few people couldn't watch an Adam Sandler movie. And just when I thought Air Canada had changed its slogan to "We Hate You Too".
But luckily, though, there aren't just Adam Sandler movies on offer. They actually have a "Canadian Film" category, (wouldn't want to accidentally come upon an Atom Egoyan film as we flip our way through the usual Hollywood fare, now would we?) and last June I watched Guy Maddin's My Winnipeg on my way home to Winnipeg, and loved it all the more for it. I then watched an NFB documentary about how difficult it is for Canadian film makers to get distribution in Canada. Natch.

An unfortunate thing about the system though is that it's a rather delicate and temperamental beast. So much so that flight attendants are obliged to add the following warning to their safety procedures spiel: "PLEASE BE PATIENT WITH THE ON-FLIGHT ENTERTAINMENT SYSTEM. DO NOT TAP THE SCREEN REPEATEDLY OR IT WILL CRASH THE SYSTEM". I swear they actually used the word "crash" on an airplane. You'd think that would get the message across. But what do people do when technology doesn't immediately respond, spoiled as they are on high-speed instant-gratification? They hit it harder. Then they pound on it. Then the person sitting in front of them turns around and pounds them.
Where are my earplugs and Gravol when I need them?

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