Saturday, October 29, 2022

"Post-pandemic" travel

Itchy feet. The summer of 2022 is the first time since rolling COVID lockdowns that the public is able—ready and eager—to travel en masse at pre-pandemic numbers. But is the industry ready?

It certainly wants to be. Airlines will happily sell you tickets regardless of whether they are. COVID-19 first struck when I was preparing to return to Australia after a year in Canada, and as nations were closing their borders Air Canada was offering to sell you some kind of future-proof fare: buy it now and travel later when you can! One might politely call it voluntary credit, or more accurately call it a sucker bet. And when Australia committed the internationally criminal act of closing its borders to its own citizens, Air Canada was happily selling flights to Oz that didn't exist, as I learned from one half of a stranded young Aussie couple I ran into working in a supermarket to fund their forced stay after buying such nonextant fares. They were advised by an airline employee they ran into to double-check their tickets because "we don't have any outgoing flights." Sure enough, their limited funds had been fraudulently snatched and tied up in one of those marvellous Air Canada future-proof credits. What efficient corporate crooks. The CEO's bonus has to be funded somehow.

When I recently flew out of Dallas, Texas, there was an appeal at the gate by American Airlines for six passengers willing to forgo their flights to Oaxaca, Mexico, for a $600 voucher because the plane was overbooked. How is this legal? I feel sure only one or two people would ever volunteer, if indeed any at all, and that we left behind some unhappy travellers when we departed the tarmac.

My own subsequent flight out of Oaxaca, getting me to Costa Rica via Cancun, was unilaterally scheduled to four days later by Volaris Airlines. Nice. At least I was notified? "Hey, we screwed you! If you would like to do something about it, cancel your flight!" So I did, and got a refund (a credit!) which I then immediately applied to a more expensive ticket via Mexico City that would keep me on schedule. Honestly, you constantly have to keep your wits about you with these bastards.

Even just testing domestic waters in Canada, I tried to fly within British Columbia and couldn't even get out of the airport. The airline offloaded my backpack and my flight took off without me when I was stuck in security for an hour as a hundreds-dense queue was processed through a single operating luggage scanner (of three available). When I alerted the queue attendant who was masquerading as competent security staff that I was being paged for the second time—perhaps they could bump me to the front—I received the following answer: "I'm sorry sir, you'll have to ask the people in front of you. We just do security." I wore an aghast emoji for a face. A genuine arsehole would have done exactly as she requested and caused utter chaos in the queue, while I looked on and applauded. Why am I not an arsehole when I need one.

Understand one thing about flying in 2022: the industry does not give one shit about you. Happy travels!

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