Air Canada. Not exactly everybody’s favorite airline. In fact, quite the opposite. Celebrating its 75th anniversary this year, Air Canada is Canada’s largest and only ‘official’ airline since Canadian dropped off the charts in 2001. Serving over 178 destinations worldwide, Air Canada is the 9th largest airline in the world according to the number of places you can go. With exotic options on their list like Tokyo, London, Athens, Shanghai, Honolulu, Sydney, and Auckland, their global coverage is impressive. When you add the option of flying on Star Alliance partnering airlines, you can pretty much go anywhere in the world.
But despite all of this, Air Canada is not well-loved. Why? Largely due to their stringent and stingy policies that inconvenience travelers and leave them with a bitter taste in their mouth as they are forced to cough up extra fees for things like bringing skis or sports equipment as an extra piece of checked luggage ($20 per domestic flight, $70 for international flights), snacks on the plane (buy on board ranges in price from $2 to about $15, and all are credit-card only), perpetually climbing change fees (currently $75 + fare difference for missing a flight or making a change to your itinerary with a basic Tango fare), and reputably poor customer service (long line-ups, hold times on the telephone, and unpleasantly-mannered staff).
These shortcomings are countered by such amenities an abundance of touch-screen personal video systems, relatively new aircraft for most longer flights, and the availability of WiFi on certain select flights.
Despite all of these shortcomings, I still fly Air Canada all the time. Their Aeroplan points system lures me in. Other small Canadian airlines like Westjet and Porter may offer free snacks or sometimes have a few more staff at the airport, but there is something about the branding of this airline: the peaceful jingle of the bilingual flight safety announcements, the tranquil blue of the seats, the happy red and white Air Canada logo, and, of course, the ‘secret’ unmentioned bonus of free booze on flights delayed more than an hour. They never announce it, but if you order a drink and your plane is late, you can be sure that if you give a friendly smile, they won’t ask you for a dime. And as we speak, I am sitting on enough Aeroplan points to go to Brazil or Europe, round trip, for free. Decisions, decisions…