Airport hospitality

Posted on November 16, 2007
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              RCMP Tazered a Polish passenger in the Vancouver airport and he died. A video tape the RCMP originally tried to suppress seems to reveal that there was no reason to use that level of force.

          An autopsy did not reveal what caused Robert Dziekanski’s death. It may well be that it was not the shock.

            Beyond the question of over-reaction by the police is one of what transpired during the 10 hours prior to the police intervention.

            The man, who did not speak English, and was to meet his mother, received no help whatsoever from anyone in the airport. His mother had told him to wait by the baggage carousel. She forgot, or did not know, she would not be allowed into that area. In smaller airports like Moncton, families routinely meet and greet at the carousels.

            No one helped the mother find her son and, in fact, she was eventually told he was not there.

            There was a time when I would have found the callous neglect and discourtesy extended to the Polish passenger,  not only shocking and disgusting, but hard to believe. A Pacific Western passenger agent once offered my family his own apartment as a place to rest and freshen up during an Air Canada strike. You read that right: Pacific Western agent – Air Canada strike.

            Sadly, now, I don’t find it at all hard to believe .

            Airports themselves were never very co-operative. They operated like all monopolies treating their clients like recalcitrant detainees. They herded us like cattle and exploited us like mountain country border guards.

            As security has become more and more an issue at airports, the level of disdain for customers has become more and more pervasive.

            A case in point is the total lack of concern for passengers who turn up at security with an item that isn’t allowed on flights. In my case, I once forgot the little Swiss Army knife, scissor, nail file, tweezer, toothpick, multi-tool I carry always. The knife blade is one and one quarter inches long. An assassin could do as much damage with a sharpened pencil. The tools cost almost $30 now.

            Security was just going to take it. Fortunately, because it was Moncton, I had time to scurry out to the parking lot and put it in my car.

            Airport administrations make no provision whatsoever to keep such a thing for you until you return or to buy a bubble package and mail it to yourself. Solutions that simple should have been put in place years ago. Airports either just don’t give a damn or enjoy mistreating their customers. One wonders what becomes of the items confiscated.

            I travel extensively. In Germany, France, Italy, Greece, Russia and especially downtown New York City, when I’ve needed help, I’ve been offered it promptly.

            Now, thanks to Vancouver airport staff and the RCMP, Canada is a video star on You Tube as a definitive example of how to be mean and cruel and dangerous to visitors.

            We all share the shame.

            Now, what do we intend to do about it?

            We must ensure that airport administrations get a crash course in manners and customer appreciation. Let’s each demand they start behaving like service providers and care givers rather than military prison guards.

                                                            DAC

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