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OPINION: The Blame Game – Travel vs. travelers

“Sorry the microwave you ordered is back-ordered, should be here in about 4-6 months.”

“Your new car is delayed for delivery until sometime towards early 2024.”

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“We are short staffed, and just slammed in the kitchen; your dinner order will be another 45 minutes to an hour.”

All of these explanations are completely acceptable to the average Canadian these days. Our general response. “That sucks…. Supply chain issues, right?” or “We get it’s so hard to staff up. “

However, not if you are a traveler, or tourist in today’s environment, this level of empathy it seems doesn’t exist. You’re on board your arrival flight and the cabin crew makes the dreaded announcement “Folks we are to held back here for roughly thirty minutes, due to overcrowding in the arrival’s hall.” Passengers start to lose their preverbal minds, taking to social media, of losing it on the inflight crew. Throwing temper tantrums on board like a 10-year-old who wants a brand new bike.

Why is it every industry gets a pass but not the aviation / hospitality industry?

Airline shaming is becoming a daily occurrence and I’ll tell you, it’s not a good thing for anyone. The relationship between the customer and the inflight crew, gate or ramp staff, check-in could very well end up being irrevocably damaged if we are not careful.

This is not a Pearson Airport in Toronto issue. It is not Canadian issue. This is a Global issue.

For better or worse, flight delays, long lines for security and customs, being held at the gate upon arrival is the “new norm” for travellers. Get used to it. If you don’t like it, stay home. As an industry we had better start advising clients to be well prepared and expect the worst as it relates to their journey. In the end, if we don’t prepare travelers for the inevitable pitfalls of traveling in the current environment, rest assured somehow the finger will point at the travel advisor. The handling of the customer service issues, baggage, refund, etc. will fall on the lap of the travel advisor.

Here’s the thing; the workers who make travel possible around the globe are only going to take so much of the ongoing shaming and abuse, and they are starting to push back.

British Airways has voted to strike amid staffing woes. Alaskan Airlines has authorized and future strike if talks and mediation fail. Schiphol Airport has announced mandatory flight reductions to carriers to reduce congestion and ease workplace challenges.

Air Canada announced last week that passengers can change flights which were originally scheduled to depart out of Pearson to Billy Bishop without fees or penalties. (Which as a reminder does not have US customs, all US bound departures clear in destination). Brit Rail has announced strike dates.

So, where does the finger get pointed? COVID and the pandemic.

Thousands, upon thousands of baggage handlers, border security personnel, flight attendants, ramp staff, airport food and beverage workers, were all laid off during the pandemic, many of whom have found other jobs and are not returning. These are jobs by the way where customers don’t shame them and treat them like dirt every day. (that was a thing prior to the pandemic as well in case you have forgotten). Bringing back employees or hiring new employees takes a considerable amount of time, training, and re-certification. My understanding is that a new hire for Canada Customs is six months of training.

Canadians spent months demanding the reopening of travel. Our wish has been granted. Now deal with the growing pains as the industry ramps up.

When will this all end? Likely not until the late fall.

As a reminder to all of you reading this; if you push airline crew too hard you could very well end up being banned from flying on their airline. Don’t even ask what could happen if you push your luck with US or Canadian Customs. So be patient, cut those in need of some slack, and empathize, it’s a long, long, drive to Cancun, or Los Angeles and an even longer journey by sea to France or Jamaica.

Here are a few tips to make life easier when traveling over the next several months.

1 – Do your best to pack light and only do carry on.

2 – Prebook your UBER or cab in advance. Driver shortages are causing delays for on-demand calls. (Yet another industry which has gotten a pass BTW)

3 – Pull all out all your electronics from your carry on. If you don’t your bag will end up being checked further delaying you and others in line.

4 – Place all your liquids under 100 ml in the Ziploc bag and place in the bin when going through security. Don’t try and sneak through sunscreen or tooth paste over 100 ml. Buy it when you get to your destination.

5 – Get a credit card which provides priority security access, Visa infinite Privilege and Amex Reserve or two which come to mind.

6 – Arrive earlier than you think you should.

7 – Get a NEUXS card.

8 – Book a fare class which will provide you with zone 1 or 2, or even 3 when boarding which will give you better access to overhead bins. Your Travel advisor can assist with this.

9 – If you can afford it, and you book early enough book a seat in business class and all your worries will be left behind.

10 – Smile and say Thank you.

11 – It will all be over once you get to where you are going, the beach or your own bed will make it all worth while.

We also need to start toning down the rhetoric – travel Influencers, bloggers, and self appointed “experts” need to take a deep breath and think before tossing a member of the industry they love so much under the bus publicly. Complaining about being placed on a customs hold, delayed baggage or even that you can’t get a croissant before 6:00 AM is not doing anyone any good and simply fuels the flames of the blame game.

Breathe, bring a carry-on bag full of empathy and hand it out whenever you can.

Oh and if you do plan on traveling this coming winter. I suggest you book now; availability will become an issue and pricing will go up with limited inventory, and you could avoid a fuel surcharge which inevitably will happen.

Pitter patter, getatter! (sic)

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