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Air Canada: The Long, Slow Descent Of An Airline?  
User currently offlineMcdougald From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Posted (14 years 1 week 6 days 11 hours ago) and read 2717 times:

Two types of newspaper and magazine articles tend to draw my attention: those about the airline industry, and those about the retail industry.

Sometimes lessons from one can be applied to another.

One of the most important lessons I've learned from watching the retail industry is that complacency and arrogance kills. Not always immediately: sometimes a company can let things slide for years, even a few decades, before the chickens come home to roost. But, sooner or later, they inevitably do.

Such arrogance and complacency may be settling in at Air Canada. The flag carrier is cutting back on its frequent-flyer program, but it's being selective about it. The cuts are to apply to domestic flights and flights to the Caribbean, the Bahamas and Bermuda: the routes where Air Canada gets the least competition from other scheduled, full-service carriers.

Delta Airlines, meanwhile, is offering bonuses to help fill seats. Profitable retailers do it all the time to get people into their stores: gift with purchase promotions, bonus points for using the store credit card and all that. And it works: even low-cost operators use some of those techniques.

Air Canada has decided it doesn't have to do any of that stuff. Nobody else can offer frequent flyer points and a meal on a scheduled flight between Toronto and Vancouver, so why not cut back on the generousity? After all, it's still something.

Yes, they will achieve some solid cost-savings, for now. But once an airline begins to believe that it can coast along, being opportunistically generous wherever there's competition and less so where there isn't, all because it is the dominant brand, it's a tough habit to break, even in profitable times. Sometimes even after new competitors show up.

As in retail, as the complacency rises, market share and sales erode: slowly, even almost unnoticeably, at first; then more rapidly. The whole organization begins a long, slow descent until it reaches the bottom, or a good problem-fixer takes the helm, or a new competitor arrives on the scene with something innovative, and knocks the existing players into a tailspin.

Air Canada, perhaps unwittingly, has commenced its descent. But, toward what?

15 replies: All unread, jump to last
User currently offlineCanadi>nBoy From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 1, posted (14 years 1 week 6 days 10 hours ago) and read 2605 times:

Mcdouglad, very well said. I concur with your opinion of AC. Now, this is my opinion, but I feel part of the
huge problem with AC, and believe me, this carrier has many, is the fact that there is still in place amongst management and employees (most, not all) a mindset that dates back to the days when AC was a Crown carrier, and its employees felt they were "above and
beyond" the competition, notably CPAir. There was then, and still is now, a maddening arrogance and an inflated collective ego at Air Canada, and I, like many
Canadians, am heartingly sick and tired of it. In many ways, AC still believes they are the darlings of Ottawa, and this arrogance has reflected in every aspect of their operations, from scheduling to customer service, or lack of.

Kudos to you for your "downward spiralling" comments.
I agree completely. I also am a big believer in the
"what goes around, comes around" theory, and AC is going to be paying the fiddler one day soon, big time.
Robert Miltons arrogance and ignorance has proven to have made a strong impression on the majority of his employees. This man has validated the negative behaviour so apparent with many passengers who have
dealt with AC. Now, to be fair, AC does have many wonderful employees, however, unfortunately, they have proven themselves to be the exception, not the rule.

I have flown AC at least 40 times in the past year and a half on business and pleasure. I too have noticed a
marked decrease in service. The sad thing is, AC truly doesn't seem to care about this at all. They damn well should. And they had better keep an eye focused over their shoulder, as a Westjet B-737 has taken off and is climbing to cruising altitude, closing in on Air Canada fast. Clive Beddoe is a man who is truly in touch with the travelling public. My hope is that as Westjet grows, Mr. Beddoe and Co. maintain their grassroots

Air Canada? In short, Milton and the board have GOT to go. No question about it. This man has done more damage to AC and its reputation than any other CEO I can think of. Milton is a man who I truly believe never gave a damn about AC's reputation and its passengers from the start. His main focus was to nurture and stroke his own exaggerated ego, and inflate his stock options in AC. He has fouled up EVERY project he has implemented. (need an example? look at the disaster the "180 Day" campaign turned out to be. Hell, the campaign never even MADE IT to 180 days!). In short, as a CEO, this man is a public relations disaster. He has treated the ex-Canadi>n employees like dirt from day one, and this is no exaggeration. He has made it very clear to them that in his eyes, they will always be one notch below the AC employees. You don't think that this blatant favourtism is reflected in both the CP and AC groups as they go to work each day? And THIS thinking is going to create a unified work force? Think again. How can the AC employees be targeted for their arrogance and lack of customer service skills when their main influence for their behaviour sits in the CEO chair?

The only way for AC to truly recover, refocus, and rebuild its image, and restore pax confidence, is for a CEO to step in and correctly identify the fact that AC has ceased to be a Crown Carrier since 1988. They are NOT the flag carrier. They are a private airline that happens to fly the Maple leaf on its tail. New and comprehensive training methods must be implemented for new employees. The current ones, most of them, are far too tarnished to be re-focused.

The sad thing is, Air Canada is an airline that has so
much bloody potential. Too bad they never lived up to that potential. And the question is, did they ever come close at all?

Just my thoughts.

User currently offlineSpyderz From Canada, joined Apr 2001, 651 posts, RR: 0
Reply 2, posted (14 years 1 week 6 days 7 hours ago) and read 2544 times:

I'm speechless! Well said both of you, and I totally agree. All I can ever think about Milton though is on that Air Farce episode where he planned to bring back passengers by having every month a Robert Milton bobble-head day where everyone would receive one. The bobble-head was just excellent, with his big bulbous head sitting on top of it. Anyways, let's just hope AC can improve.

User currently offlineFallingeese From Canada, joined Apr 2001, 2097 posts, RR: 16
Reply 3, posted (14 years 1 week 6 days 4 hours ago) and read 2525 times:

Well said Canadi>nBoy and Mcdougald.

I agree with all of your points. I was once a Canadi>n kid but when Air Canada started to put it's reputation in a downward spiral I guess in a way I jumped. Air Canada could have a very fine product to offer if the management team was on target, instead of looking at other possibilities. The carrier is there, and is capable of being a truly world class carrier. But instead it's focussed on less key area's inwhich less proft stands to be made. When the carrier runs into trouble it runs to the government for money. They got themselves into the hole, now all they have to do is get out of te hole. How hard can it be?....
Image is a problem with Air Canada, but so is attitudes you experiance within the carrier. Have you ever tried to book flights over the phone? It's a pain, trust me. Many different operators, none of them are clued into what they should be doing, then out comes the fare!

The title "The Long, slow decent of an airline" is very fitting, especially in Air Canada's unique situation. But the title "How much red is too much?" fits too....

A former Canadi>nKid turned Westjetian....thanks to Air Canada.

Mark McWhirter...Contrails Photography
User currently offlineWatewate From Canada, joined Nov 2000, 2284 posts, RR: 1
Reply 4, posted (14 years 1 week 6 days 4 hours ago) and read 2511 times:

You can't blame Milton, or anyone for that matter, for AC's arrogance. If you're the only game in town, there's no need to go above and beyond for customers. It was bad with CP around, it's worse with non-existent competition in the east.

User currently offlineMcdougald From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 5, posted (14 years 1 week 6 days 4 hours ago) and read 2505 times:

Thank you, Canadi>nBoy and Spyderz, for your comments.

Canadi>nBoy wrote: "...main influence for their behaviour sits in the CEO chair?"

That raises a good point about corporate culture. What goes on at the top ultimately filters down through the ranks. It's a fact that chief executives ignore at their peril. A few CEOs, most notably Gordon Bethune, Herb Kelleher and Clive Beddoe, have understood this rule and conducted themselves accordingly. Their airlines have prospered for it.

Air Canada can be fixed with the staff it has. Peoples' behaviour tends to be shaped by their environment. In a friendly environment, people will thrive and go the extra mile. In a hostile environment, people hunker down and look for passive ways of expressing their anger and frustration with what's happening around them. A change of environment at Air Canada would make all the difference in the world.

User currently offlineMcdougald From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 6, posted (14 years 1 week 6 days 4 hours ago) and read 2494 times:

Thank you, Canadi>nBoy and Spyderz, for your comments.

And Fallingeese.

User currently offlineFallingeese From Canada, joined Apr 2001, 2097 posts, RR: 16
Reply 7, posted (14 years 1 week 6 days 4 hours ago) and read 2482 times:

Thanks for the extra post for me...I feel special! lol

"A prosperous airline is one that is positive" a quote by me

Alright so it's not by some famous guy, but think about it. Westjet employees love their work. It's a great environment. Their hangar in YYC was incredable, everyone knew everyone, hi's and hello's just flying, wizzing around, and not a gimace nor a grin for being stranded at work. My experiances with Air Canada is far from that...now I know not all employees are negative but there is such an amount that it weighs down what little positive there is.

hmmm... I really like that quote, I gotta remember that.. and incase you forgot...

"A prosperous airline is a positive airline"

Mark McWhirter...Contrails Photography
User currently offlineMcdougald From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 8, posted (14 years 1 week 5 days 17 hours ago) and read 2446 times:

Fallingeese wrote: "Westjet employees love their work. It's a great environment."

Unfortunately, I haven't had a chance to fly Westjet yet, but I'd be willing to on the basis of word-of-mouth advertising alone.

An airline can offer all the amenities in the world -- lounges, hot dinners, legroom -- but the one thing that will most reliably keep people coming back for more are smiling faces.

I was in a conversation once, where one guy was talking about how he flew Westjet out to Calgary to see his son. He said he'd fly them again next time. The reason? Because everybody was so outgoing and friendly.

I agree, they couldn't have done it without paying close attention to the work environment. It's something that Robert Milton needs to pay attention to as he tries to restore Air Canada to profitability.

User currently offlineCanadi>nBoy From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 9, posted (14 years 1 week 5 days 12 hours ago) and read 2425 times:

Mcdougald, you are absolutely correct in your statement that the negative environmental culture at AC CAN in fact be transformed by a positive CEO.
Clive Beddoe has proven himself to be the quintessential
Grand Poobah!!  Smile/happy/getting dizzy I think the last time I have seen such a negative, spirit-sapping culture at a carrier was TWA, when it was headed by the horrid Frank Lorenzo.

Spyderz, Fallingeese, Watewate, your comments are right on the money.

I too have not had the opportunity to fly Westjet, but friends and clients of mine who have only have the most positive things to say about their flights and overall treatment from WJ staff. Many remain steadfast in their decision to avoid AC in the future whenever possible. Can't say I blame them one bit.
It's too bad AC has come to this, but as I said, the seed was planted a long, long time ago.

Happy Flying, fellow Canadi>ns!!

User currently offlineCanadi>nBoy From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 10, posted (14 years 1 week 5 days 12 hours ago) and read 2424 times:

Watewate, I had originally had stated I agreed with your comments, however, re-read them as I was rather tired when reading the responses to this post. Allow me to politely disagree with you.  Smile/happy/getting dizzy

With all due respect to you, sir, I do not concur with the theory that AC being "the only game in town" grants it the license to validate the horrid and atrocious treatment the majority of its passengers receive.
Quite frankly this explanation does not wash with me at all. A business is a business, and you had bloody well better have the correct and positive customer service policies in place if you wish to SUSTAIN your position in ANY industry. There is simpy, in my mind, no excuse whatsoever for bad customer service, period. And it only validates my point of the high level of arrogance evident at AC.

Milton and Co. had better change their tune fast, or else they will indeed pay dearly for their actions over the past few years. "The only game in town"? For how long. One thing I have learned from being in this industry is "never say never". Never assume ANYTHING in the voliatile world of commercial aviation. Miltons arrogance will indeed prove to be his Achilles heel. His blindspot. When you're "number one", my friend, the only place to go is down, as Mcdougald stated, in a "long, slow descent".

Just my thoughts.
Kind regards

User currently offlineLymanm From Canada, joined Jan 2001, 1140 posts, RR: 1
Reply 11, posted (14 years 1 week 5 days 11 hours ago) and read 2407 times:

Awwww, poor Mcdougald. Did you get stiffed out of getting Super Elite status this year and need a place to vent? Pooooor you!

Just kidding, hehehehe.

I agree with you 100%. Although, I don't think Milton has done as bad a job as everyone says, but I admit he has made more than his share of mistakes. His problem is that he's got the creativity and charisma of a fish. Bring someone new in, rejuvinate the company. A HUGE factor in customer service is employee morale. Right now, AC just keeps getting bad news after bad news. A new management team is bound to shake things up a bit, and for the better.

buhh bye
User currently offlineMcdougald From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 12, posted (14 years 1 week 5 days 9 hours ago) and read 2400 times:

Lymanm wrote, tongue in cheek: "Awwww, poor Mcdougald. Did you get stiffed out of getting Super Elite status this year and need a place to vent? Pooooor you!"

LOL!  Laugh out loud

I wish! I haven't flown since June of 1998, which is way too long. I need to find an excuse to fly somewhere.

(Meanwhile, a friend of mine was lucky enough to go on a business trip to Toronto. So, what does he do on the plane? He sleeps! I can't believe him...  Smile )

User currently offlineFallingeese From Canada, joined Apr 2001, 2097 posts, RR: 16
Reply 13, posted (14 years 1 week 5 days 4 hours ago) and read 2375 times:

I'm pretty much just a Westjet flyer now. It saved us $1000 bucks this comming December for a round-trip flight between YYC-YWG. The last time I fly Air Canada the flight attendant blew a gasket. Some baby wouldn't stop crying and she just couldn't take it. She stomped off never to come back. The economy passengers had to wait a while to get their food.

Mark McWhirter...Contrails Photography
User currently offlineMcdougald From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 14, posted (14 years 1 week 4 days 13 hours ago) and read 2345 times:

Fallingeese wrote: "Some baby wouldn't stop crying and she just couldn't take it."

Some passengers are like that, too. I heard that a passenger found himself in hot water after throwing a temper tantrum at the AC check-in counter at YWG. (Apparently, it wasn't his only run-in with the airline for bad behaviour.) The reason? He couldn't get an upgrade, and screamed that he didn't want to sit in coach surrounded by howling infants.

(For the record, I do support Air Canada on this one. No decent company should tolerate abuse, whether from management, staff or customers.)

User currently offlineFallingeese From Canada, joined Apr 2001, 2097 posts, RR: 16
Reply 15, posted (14 years 1 week 4 days 4 hours ago) and read 2319 times:

In some ways I agree though some actions should be tolerated.

Mark McWhirter...Contrails Photography
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