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Saturday, October 22, 2011

Air Canada 616

Air Canada gets lots of bad press.  Threatened strikes and lost luggage, late flights, employee rudeness and attendant crabbiness.  If you bring up the subject of Air Canada, each person has a story; not all of them are positive.

I flew with Air Canada on a recent trip to New York.  The ticket agents were helpful and friendly; the staff were pleasant and went out of their way to accommodate my needs and to answer my questions.  All went well until the last leg of the trip home. The flight itself from Toronto to Halifax was uneventful, except for weather related turbulence and heavy rain with unpredictable winds.

As we began the landing process in Halifax, approaching the runway and decreasing speed, suddenly we were ascending.  The pilot spoke to us saying that front controls for the airplane were not working properly.  He said that we would try again to land after circling to get into position.

We circled for nearly 20 minutes.  The pilot indicated that front end controls were still not working… there would be emergency vehicles on the runway … we were re-routing to a longer runway.  He also assured us that the landing would be normal.

This seemed to me to be more disquieting than if he had said we were having problems and the landing would be if-y.   How is it helpful to say there are front end mechanical issues on an Airbus 320 and then to say, “It will be a normal landing”?

The lights went dark and the cabin filled with heavy, thick silence. We circled and circled for nearly 45 minutes.   My husband, waiting in the terminal said that the boards indicated that our flight had arrived; probably some screw up caused by our plane starting to descend to the runway in the beginning and then having to ascend rapidly.

We did land in Halifax, eventually, albeit roughly, with considerable bumpiness.  I felt relieved to be on solid ground and the cabin occupants burst into stress released conversation, the false brightness that anxiety passing brings.

We landed as smoothly as possible without benefit of the flaps down and the flare out that planes generally use to slow themselves to an easy, gentle descent to the runway.  Emergency vehicles were nearby

These had been tense moments.  And I felt grateful to the experienced pilots of flight AC 616 from Toronto to Halifax for knowing how to land a huge airplane with 200+ passengers, despite some necessary parts not working.

Perhaps, we were never in much danger.  I don’t really know.

Perhaps Air Canada needs a tune up on personnel, customer relations and luggage tracking; I don’t know about those issues either.  I only know I am thankful that pilots with experience and calm determination got us out of the sky on a rainy miserable night with minimal discomfort despite mechanical problems on the Airbus 320.

Thanks to Air Canada for a safe landing!



Gwen Buchanan said...

You sound awfully calm after that nerve wracking experience.. Glad it all landed well and you are safe and sound.

Carol Steel said...

Me too. It wasn't very comfortable at the time it was all happening. However, my experience with Air Canada was good overall.