Tag Archives: Air Transat

The Ease of Automated Answering Systems

With the advent of computers people said, it will cut down on paper usage, we’ll have far less need. As we all know, this was not the case and in many ways paper consumption has increased with the ease of being able to print pages off of a computer screen. Not to mention all those businesses that archive in paper because the computer might crash and wipe out sensitive, even insensitive information.

Everything is automated now. A mechanic can’t seem to troubleshoot a car by listening to it and tinkering. They have to plug it into a computer. If the power goes out, how many of us sit at work and twiddle our thumbs because we need the computer? Many if not most companies have gone to automated answering systems. But like the advent of computers and hope for less paper, have the automated answering machines made for less questions and easier answers?

How many times have you called up some place and there is such a long list of: If you want service, press 1, if you want sales, press 2, if you want accounting, press 3, etc. that you zone out and actually miss the one you should be listening for? I’ve done this. The most annoying is when you know that you have to talk to a real live person but it lists all the options except that one; you then have to go to a submenu and perhaps another submenu. Either you find out the button for real people or you don’t and have to hit * and # and 0 hoping one will work.

The most frustrating aspect of the automated system happened once when I had to pick up some friends from their return flight to Europe. I had Air Transat’s name and the flight number and the city it was departing from. So I called to check that the flight was on time and couldn’t find anything listed with that flight number or that city. I tried to call Air Transat but it was completely automated with flight departures and arrivals, rules for flying, etc. but there was no other number nor way of contacting a real person. I checked the phone book, I checked the website and no luck.

So then I thought I could call the airport and find out if they had any other information on where the flight had gone. My friends hadn’t contacted me to say they were delayed so I had to presume they were coming in but when? Well, the airport too has only an automated line, if you can even find that. This was a few years back so perhaps they have a tangible person in case you want to call and say, oh, I don’t know, you saw a terrorist with dynamite strapped to his chest driving into the parkade…but don’t bet on it.

I was still nowhere after a half hour of pushing buttons. I finally resorted to calling all the other airlines that had flights coming in that night from that area. I can’t remember which airline it was but I finally found one, only one, that had a live person. It might have been Air Canada and I may have called the flight reservation number. I explained my dilemma and the woman was very nice, trying to help me track the flight down. It took sleuthing on her part too as it turns out the Air Transat flight did exist but landed first in Toronto where they changed the flight number and its point of origin to Toronto (but didn’t put that on my friends’ tickets.) So the flight was coming in at the right time but with a different number and city altogether. That bit of sleuthing took over an hour.

I always thought they put in these automated systems to cut down on labor and having to pay more staff, but I think it is a reverse measure. It was put in to irritate the hell out of people and when they finally get a real person they’re relieved and don’t notice if that service is worse than it would have been without the messages. And I think it keeps people employed, because now they’re needed to fix the issues that the automated bots have caused. As well, should you become furious because of the system that leads you on a merry trail all over but never gets you to where you need to go, you can’t yell at anyone because no one is there. Saves them wear and tear, I guess. But, I know that with all the automated systems and when I make a call, about 85% of the time I actually need to talk to a person so it just seems to be a way of slowing down the incoming calls.

Leave a comment

Filed under Culture, flying, memories, people, travel

Glasgow and the End of the Journey

Today is Canada Day and I’m off travelling out of town. So here is the last of my journey to Ireland and Scotland from Fall 2007.

Our last day in Glasgow started with the museum and then we went off to St. Mungo’s religious museum. Housed in the oldest standing building in Glasgow, it was a fairly bland exhibition and the building wasn’t that interesting. So we walked up the street and over to the Glasgow Cathedral, but it was late in the day and it turned out it closed at 4:00. The guy was really just locking up so he said you have five minutes.

I zoomed around taking pictures, without actually really looking at the place. The Cathedral is supposed to be one of the few gothic cathedrals in Scotland, especially one that is whole and still used. It was built in 1471 and really is a fine example of gothic architecture. I wished I’d had more time to actually look.

Ireland 2007–Glasgow

After that we tried to find our way back to Will and Erin’s. Unfortunately I’d forgotten their phone number. We also got lost because a helpful lady had told us what bus to catch back but it turned out there were two buses with the same name and a different ending, thus splitting and going varying routes. Which meant backtracking.

My sister was done. We had to walk about three blocks to catch another bus, after doing a partial return route. She thought we’d been walking for hours when it was less than ten minutes. 🙂 A very drunk Scotsman chatted with us (we had to catch a bus outside a pub, of course) and it turned out it was the other bus stop across the street from the pub. So he was a very drunk, yet helpful Scotsman.

So we finally made it back, with Will and Erin wondering what had happened to us. The next morning we flew out on Air Transat but not without issues. My sister had called them several times before she’d left and confirmed how many bags she could take on the plane, and on carry-on. She confirmed with the person on the phone and asked about leaving from Scotland. He confirmed with his supervisor that yes, she could take a bag and her camera bag as well.

Well, it turns out they have their own rules. My sister ended up paying overweight baggage because of it and was rightfully furious because she had to pack one bag into everything else. My recommendations: don’t fly Air Transat if you’re flying more than two hours. The seats are small even for someone 5’4″. If you need a special diet, they’ll lose it or muck it up badly. And someone travelling with you will probably get a special diet they didn’t order, as I did. They’ll tell you one thing and do another and not be the least helpful or apologetic for it. The seat selection (if you want to sit with the person you’re flying with) cost extra so that super cheap flight turns out not that cheap in the end.

Europe and Great Britain especially have tighter baggage allowances and the airline won’t always know what it is or get the info confused. The attendants on Air Transat were very nice and helpful but everything else convinced me I won’t be flying with them again.

At least the return trip was more pleasant. The plane wasn’t completely full so I went and chatted with this Scotsman, Ian MacIntosh who lived in Calgary. That way, my sister and I both had extra room.

Over all, Ireland was a great trip. The trip was from Sept. 26-Oct. 16. I want to go back and explore more of western Ireland and some of the south. I think I’d fly into Wales and then from Wales to the west of Ireland. Of course I’ll have to buy a camera again, but that’s a tale for tomorrow…

Leave a comment

Filed under art, Culture, flying, food, history, Ireland, life, memories, people, religion, travel

Things to Know About Traveling

Here are my posts (originally on blogspot) about my trip to Ireland last fall. One of my most popular posts on this site is the two-part “Stones of Ireland.” I decided people searching those out might enjoy my other posts on Ireland. The first four were what I managed in two weeks while traveling. After that I’ll post the entries with pictures. This was first posted 9/27/07

Well we made it. Just slept like the dead in Dublin and we’re off to a slow start.

Backing up, it was a bit of a whirlwind beginning. My friend Lorna picked me up around 7 and my flight was leaving at 10:10 pm. Plenty of time, right? Well originally this flight had been leaving at that time and going straight to Glasgow, but along the way Air Transat changed it to Vancouver, via Calgary onto Glasgow. I looked at all the changes when my sister first sent them and thought the only change was Calgary, after initialing thinking they had shortened our flight by a day.

So here we are at the airport and there is hardly anyone there. I naively said, geez they say get here three hours early and there’s no lineup. We walk up to the counter and I tell them the flight. They say no it’s gone already. But then these guys (more airport security than the ticket people) say they don’t work that counter; go over to the Air Transat counter. We do and the woman says it’s too late, it’s gone, it leaves at 8:00!

At this point my stupidity is dawning on me. I misread numerous times 20:10 at 10:10. I know the 24 hour clock but my brain had been stuck on the previous time. This woman calls upstairs as I’m breaking into a sweat (literally) and finds that they can get me on the plane but not my suitcase because the plane is packed. I’m going, what can I do and she says nothing because it’s a charter flight and only goes out once a week with not agreement with the other airlines.

But somehow, bless their hearts, a guy comes down, checks my baggage, almost forgetst to give me the boarding pass and then I have to take my luggage to the xray machine. The guy there jokes that I have to wait a half hour. Then I speed through security, luckily without any additional searches and jump on the golf cart they have waiting, lacing up my boots as we go, thanking them profusely. I got on the plane but if we had been 5 minutes later I would have been hooped and my sister would have thought I was dead when she got on in Calgary. I was lucky and the plane was not late in taking off.

So then my sister gets on in Calgary and she’s put on 50 pounds in 6 months from thyroid issues. Let’s just say the small Air Transat seats are more crowded now. We got into Glasgow and went through the cattle gates for the passports with the customs guy joking that he wasn’t happy because we were going on to Dublin.

A note to people travelling to Ireland: you can’t very easily get a direct flight from the West Coast so it’s Gatwick or Glasgow for joining up a new flight. Glasgow really has two airports, which we didn’t know at first. Glasgow International only has Aer Lingus that flies to Dublin (about $150 CDN) and Glasgow Prestwick (about an hour away by bus and train) has Ryanair (only) and is cheaper. But if people tell you (even those that supposedly live there or are Irish and go all the time) that you can just book when you arrive from all of these different airlines, they’re mistaken. There are only those two and though we could have made it to Prestwick in time for the late night flight, there were no seats left.

So we had to take Aer Lingus, but first we met up my friend Erin who is doing her PhD in Viking archaeology in Glasgow. She fed us and let us freshen up (and we saw these lovely foxes, the local vermin, in their back yard). Then we caught a taxi back to the airport and caught our flight, an hour late because the plane malfunctioned and they had to get a different one. So we left at 11:20 pm instead of 10:15. We finally got to our lodge and into bed at 2 am.

Scary things: a phone call requires constant money put into the machine. A call of a few minutes cost about 2.5£. Yikes. About 5 bucks. Glasgow is pounds. Ireland is Euros until you get to the Northern parts. And now, it’s off to see what we can of Dublin after our late start.

1 Comment

Filed under Culture, entertainment, flying, humor, Ireland, life, memories