This blog is being written on my Blackberry at 21,000 feet above somewhere in Ontario (and later, over Quebec). I am about to finish a 48-hour whirlwind trip to Cambridge, Ontario to create a custom Amazing Race Canada fundraiser. It was an honour to be approached by a service club who was keen on hosting a fundraiser to selflessly benefit another organization. While in Cambridge, I was shown around this organization’s facilities and I am left with a sense of pride in my ability to contribute to their success by building them an Amazing Race Canada course as a vehicle to raise money for their new building.
Before the Zonta Club of Cambridge contacted me about this race, I never even knew of this city. I had heard of Cambridge, England and Cambridge, Massachusetts, but not one in Ontario. Once I learned where it was, I set out to create an itinerary to get me to this place. I could drive, take an almost 8-hour train ride, fly to Toronto and then get there somehow. Not excited by the time commitment these options would require, I researched the nearest airport to Cambridge. Good news, there’s one 15 minutes away. Checked Air Canada – no service to Kitchener-Waterloo. Same for Porter. Like solving a maze, I started at the destination and worked backwards, going to the airport’s website, and found a company called “Bearskin Airlines”.
It turns out that Bearskin Airlines launched non-stop service to Montreal only 2 weeks before the day of my research. Seemed like a lucky break! I checked flight dates and rates. To my happy surprise, for $119 plus taxes and fees each way and in only 90 minutes of flight time, I could be in Kitchener. Great. Book it.
So I use the handy web booking tool and here begin the issues. I select 2 $119 fares and click continue. The booking confirmation screen comes up at shows: “Fare: $262” plus the itemized taxes and fees. Hmm.. Last I checked, $119 plus $119 equals $238. I open a new browser window to see if I might have been too slow and lost the $119 fare. Nope. Still there.
A call to Bearskin Airlines to inquire about their math earns me an explanation that there are $9 and $3 fees added to each fare for each direction for various reasons. I ask why they are not itemized like the others. This question gets me a “you’re the 4th or 5th person to ask that in the last few weeks” and gets me transferred to their “marketing” department. There, I am told that they are sorry for the confusion and are working on the problem. Really? What’s so difficult? If you can itemize all of the other fees (and ones that require a calculation, no less) how is it so impossible to itemize 2 constant ones? If the fee is constant, and is added to EVERY flight, why not just include it in the fare? To answer my own question, that would be too honest and upfront.
I booked the tickets anyway, giving them the benefit of the doubt and leaving the conversation with “I hope this will be fixed before the next time I fly.”
Fast forward to Tuesday. I arrive at the airport for my flight. I am greeted at the check-in desk and given a hand-written boarding pass (!!!). As I go through security, the agents are baffled. There’s no bar code to scan. I am waved through. The X-Ray agent is stumped by there not being a seat number on the boarding pass. “General Admission?”, I answer with a shrug. No reaction. She either doesn’t get it or doesn’t find it funny. Oh well. I get to the gate along with the other 3 passengers (!!) on this flight and we are told that there are no bathrooms on board. “Would you like to go before we leave?” Shouldn’t this have been mentioned during the booking process? Again, to answer my own question, that would have been too honest. It might have even cost them a sale and we can’t have that.
We live in a sad society when we can’t even warn someone that they won’t be able to relieve themselves for fear of losing $119 plus fees (or $131).
Some may say that they didn’t lie to me. Fine. They never said there were bathrooms on board. However, any company that operates with the word “airlines” in their name groups themselves with other “airlines”. In my experience, there’s always been a bathroom on board airlines I’ve travelled. If your “airline” doesn’t offer this service, I think you have a responsibility to mention this tinkle, uh, I mean tiny little fact. At 21,000 feet, we can’t exactly pull over to find a bathroom.
As I write this, my return flight just touched down in Montreal. I have to pee really badly. Get me out of here.