Warning! Although what you are about to read is a rant, I have tried to seek balance by including some humour. Sometimes, writing can help work through thoughts and rebalance those emotions. I wrote most of this on the flights from our recent trip to California. The first morning’s adventures was a stark reminder that Toronto isn’t working hard enough on their motto of “Toronto the Good”. Follow me on this little rant and please share your memories of travel chaos in the comments.
Let us start with getting to our destination – the airport. You thought I was going to say San Francisco? The plane ride is the easy part of this journey! Although we live in Toronto, we live on the opposite side of the city to Toronto Pearson International. We are starting our day battling rush hour traffic and aggressive drivers; the journey takes us over an hour.
Arriving at the airport, we are directed by signs to a kiosk to enter our reservation details and passports. This will also prompt us to pay to have our luggage join us on holiday and the printing out of the baggage tags. Travelling with a child you say? Well do all of this and then find out that the lovely kiosk doesn’t do baggage tags for strollers or car seats. We then have to line up for the next 45 minutes to get a baggage tag … with an impatient and bored toddler.
Since this trip is to the good ol’ USA, we get to go through customs at Toronto Pearson Airport. This requires another kiosk for us to scan our passports (again) and another line. All of the documentation is gathered ready to be handed over when I’m then told that my parents are not allowed to go through customs with us because we don’t live in the same house. So I separate all the organized travel documents to appease them. Once we reach a customs agent, we are ‘welcomed’ with a grimace, looked over like criminals and sent along your way.
We are not done yet … do you remember our luggage? The ones that we paid for an hour ago? Well, we’ve been dragging them around with us and now have the privilege to place them on the belt to (hopefully) go on our plane.
But we aren’t done! We now get to go through security – take off your shoes/coat/belt and “can’t you hurry up?” awaits us! Our bags get scanned – no liquids or sharp objects, of course – and you get the pleasure to pick up all of your stuff in your arms and limp off in your bare feet because you are being yelled at again to “hurry up!” since you are blocking the flow of people.
Finally, done with all these lines and it has been 2.5 hours since we arrived at the airport. I need a ****ing coffee – NOW – so line up again … to be yelled at by the coffee shop staff to “HURRY UP”. Can’t I finish placing my order before I pay for it?!?
Time to board the plane – pushed and shoved by the other passengers since evidently the plane will leave immediately once the fella in seat 23D is seated and damn the rest of the people. Planes take-off and land on the demand of the passengers, right?
We pay to select our seats beforehand so we can sit at the front of the plane (less noise in my opinion). This means we get to sit behind the 12 people who spent a stupid amount of money to sit in business class. Did you know that the washroom at the front of the plane is only to be graced by these precious 12 people? Tell that to the toddler that needs to pee and the aisle is being blocked by the beverage cart. By the way, I dared to use the sacred washroom and got told off for using it by the flight attendant. I had to pee – I’ll wet the seat next time. The other 120 people are waiting to use one of the two filthy toilets at the back of the plane.
Where am I going with this rant? I want to know where did kindness go? Why aren’t people nice anymore? I am grumpy writing this post – on the plane – because everyone I approached today didn’t smile. NOT ONE PERSON SMILED. I’m not sure if any of the staff we encountered actually saw a person in front of them. I don’t even think they noticed my joyful four-year old in front of them. We were just cogs in the system.
Perhaps the staff don’t see people anymore because they are over-worked? I can’t say the two kiosks we used today made our process faster. It just made it more frustrating. My first boss said that to keep your customers happy, you had to keep your staff happy. Well … Air Canada, Toronto Pearson Airport, and U.S. Customs have miserably failed.
*** Updated on the flight home ***
During our time away, we flew Virgin America between San Francisco and San Diego – the attendants were friendly and the whole experience was efficient. [The legroom was also heavenly!] We somehow got TSA-Pre access for security, which allowed for much shorter lines.
The Air Canada reps at San Diego airport were much happy and far more efficient than their Toronto counterparts. We were checked in, bags gone, and through security in about 40 minutes.
I wonder what is being done differently in California that meant the people were happier to the customers. There was no push/shove and no feeling of being rushed to get out of the way. There is a lesson here for Air Canada but I doubt they will seek the answers.
In the comments or on Twitter, please share your travel stories and whether you were able to still find some balance during the chaos of travelling.