We Won’t Fly Central Mountain Air Again

The check-in women at Central Mountain Air looked at me blankly. “It is not our responsibility. Sign here, the baggage was inadequately packed and we’re not liable for damages.”

I stared at them for a moment. Waiting for even a hint of an apologetic tone. “I beg your pardon, but I have yet to run across an airline that does not supply bags for car seats.” It’s a safety issue. I could understand it if car seats came with bags and I was just too lazy to pack one. “Central Mountain Air has always supplied them in the past. How was I supposed to know that the policy changed?”

The response was a flat, “We don’t do that any more. The policy changed.” Still not a trace of the S word. Sorry. How un-Canadian.

This was after waiting an incredibly long time for them to check in one family ahead of us – we’re talking three women taking eons to do a simple task. They were inefficient to put it mildly – two of them checked my ID.

As I left, I suggested politely, “You know, car seats are mandatory for children. It would be nice, if when a policy is changed like this, people are notified when tickets for children are booked.”

“Oh. Uh. Okay,” one of them replied in a yeah-whatever tone, already looking to the next in line.

I went back and pointed out to them that a simple ‘sorry’ would have been appreciated. What do you think they did … apologized? Of course not. “We did say we were sorry and that the policy had changed.” I shook my head. “No, you didn’t. You just said that the policy had changed. I didn’t hear a sorry.” This was their cue to offer that simple word. Nope.

Now don’t misunderstand me. I get it, policies change. What I’m peeved about is the total and complete lack of understanding of the meaning of ‘customer service’. I’m shelling out (okay, my Nana is shelling out) a total of nearly eight hundred dollars for around one hour in the air. They’re saving on baggage weight with charging full fare for a child. They can afford a bag to protect a car seat.

But even more so, they can afford to train their representatives to offer a decent apology.

This was my second unsatisfactory interaction with them. Last time I flew back I waited in a long line, only to be told that they didn’t have us listed on the flight. They told me to stand aside, that they’d deal with me once all the booked passengers were checked in. I objected, showing them the reservation number, and was waived aside. So I stewed. And heard passengers commenting that they knew the flight was full as they had however-many people in their choir and that’s how many seats were on the plane. At the end of all of that, it turned out that there was a charter flight leaving at the same time as the regular flight, and they were too overwhelmed to deal with me. Why they couldn’t just say, “Excuse us, we’re sorry, would you mind waiting while we deal with this charter group,” I do not know. Why they had to tell me I wasn’t on the flight to Vancouver and probably wouldn’t be able to go despite having already paid for my seat and missed their competitor’s flight I also don’t know.

What ever happened to customer service? What happened to the ability to recognize that a passenger who has a choice in airlines should be treated nicely and politely, with an apology when inconvenienced? Why was I treated like I was being done a favour in that they were allowing me to fly on their airplane for heaven’s sakes what did I expect? Why did I get ATTITUDE? (I should note that the pilot and captain were friendly and nice, and that nothing was wrong with the flight itself)

Notice I said that I have a choice? It’s not even that I can choose to rent a car and take the ferry for much less money though it takes much longer. There is another airline that flies there. Pacific Coastal Airlines. We flew to my Nana’s with them.

The major drawback to Pacific Coastal is that they fly out of the south terminal, not the main one. It’s a little longer to drive, and it’s a little difficult sometimes to get a taxi.

But here’s a handy comparison between the two …

Check-in: Pacific Coastal employees were all cheerful and smiling. There was no rush, I was quickly and promptly helped. They weighed Cameron for the fun of it. When they couldn’t find me on the list, they apologized for the delay. When I had to walk ten feet to pay by interac, they apologized. Very Canadian. Central Mountain Air? Well, you’ve already read of my experience there. No smiles, no real assistance, total bitchiness. Three of them doing the job of one at half the speed. I couldn’t pay by interac – credit card or exact change for your fare.

In-flight service: Pacific Coastal serves a choice of apple or orange juice, then offers a selection of packaged snacks – granola bars, two varieties of cookies, rice crisp squares. Central Mountain Air? Nothing. Oh, and the ‘award winning’ flight mag in Cameron’s seatpocket was missing its front cover, looked like someone had wiped some part of their anatomy with it. Ew.

Seating: Pacific Coastal has older air craft. The snob in me turns up my nose at some of them … but they did just acquire I think several newer ones. Still, there is a choice, a solo seat or pairs – it’s a 1 + 2 arrangement. So Cameron and I can sit together. Central Mountain Air has zippy-looking planes, with a 1+1 arrangement. In other words, an aisle between me and a two and a half year old.

The Walk: At the destination they’re in the same building, so same stuff. But in Vancouver they use different terminals. Pacific Coastal has a nice set-up, there’s no real walking except outside to get to the planes, and that’s short. Central Mountain Air is at the v-e-r-y end of the longest wing of the main terminal I’m pretty sure.

Baggage retrieval: Pacific Coastal you just walk in at Arrivals in Vancouver and you’re right there where the baggage is delivered. You can stand and watch them unload the plane, drive the truck to the terminal, and unload your bags. Central Mountain Air you’ve already walked and walked and walked. Then you have to find out which carousel your bags should arrive on. Then you realize that in fact they came in on a different one. So really, no wait, since they’re arriving at that point.

So yeah. In summary, Cameron and I won’t be flying with Central Mountain Air anymore. The only reason I can see why anyone would choose them is if they have connecting flights in the main terminal. Even then, I’d be hard pressed to chose them.


12 responses to “We Won’t Fly Central Mountain Air Again

  1. Great to get the lowdown on Central Mtn Air. I have never flown to Williams Lake before and had to decide between CMA and Pacific Coastal. Now my choice is easy. Thanks Onein36million

  2. Central Mountain Air is an affiliate of Air Canada……..(otherwise known as ‘Air Don’t Care’ with no need to compete).

    And, if you were being paid an obscene salary with a generous assured pension at the end, and all for putting out a minimal token effort…….. you might feel the same way.

  3. I too loathe CMA. Yes I understand it was my fault for arriving late but when a customer is apologetic and sad after being told her flights been missed. Is it an airlines policy to yell at the patron for not arriving on time in front of all the other passengers at the airport and saying too bad you’ve missed your flight you can’t show up 20 minutes before departure and expect to board. And I understand not using a friendly tone but she actually was yelling at me! When asked how to proceed. Simply replied you’ll have to call the reservation line. That was very rude and embarrassing. I will be sure to include this review on as many websites I can think of.


    • Hi Samantha,

      I’m really sorry, haven’t been keeping up with my blog lately so I just now saw your comment. It makes me sad that the airline still hasn’t gotten it together, still isn’t listening to complaints about customer service.

      I never did fly with them again. There’s a great float plane service that flies from the harbour walking distance from where my Nana lived. And I bought a car. Sadly, though, I don’t even really go up there much any more, as my Nana passed away a year ago.

  4. Please… don’t complain about Pacific Coastal having “old” planes. The fact that they get you from A to B safely should be good enough. They do their job like they should.

  5. It’s a shame you don’t understand the pressures of working in the airline industry. At all. If you did you might be sympathetic to hear about all the loser human beings who treat us like shit. Things have changed since then and it’s rather childish to hold a grudge against something where you have a choice. Don’t fly. Drive or take the bus to Nanaimo. And stop acting holier than thou about your precious little car seat bag. Don’t take things so personally. You don’t know what the CSA’s day was like. Maybe she got yelled at already by an asshole who shows up late and whines like a little baby because he missed the flight. As airline representatives, they’re not caretakers of your lives. Come prepared and you’ll be better off. By the way, Pacific Coastal is a poorly run airline with shoddy operational standards. CMA has a codeshare with Air Canada but that doesn’t mean their apart of Air Canada. It’s its own separate airline. Also check out the Pacific Coastal employee reviews on glassdoor.ca. It might show you just how “great” the company really is.

    • Wow – yes, that was a long time ago. Honestly, with a family of five now, we drive. Or send a kid up on a float plane. It’s been years since I used either of those airlines. But on re-reading that old post, and remembering, wow. I still think that if a policy changes, the people working there should at least be kind and patient and explain it. Yeah, maybe the person I dealt with was having a bad day, and is only human, but I’m allowed to react to being treated rudely too. I never said they were caretakers of my whole life … just expect a little politeness.

  6. Yes, it really is tough when customers hold service providers responsible for poor service………… after all, your tender little feelings should be everyone’s primary concern! Suck it up honey, life just isn’t fair.

  7. We have used CMA on numerous occasions and have been very happy with them every time. This has been on their route from Kelowna to Smithers. There has never been a problem and we love being able to bypass YVR! Would definitely use them again.

  8. We fly Central Mountain Air from Quesnel to Vancouver often and the ladies at the check counter are fantastic! Good service, cheaper than flights from Prince George and you can leave your vehicle at the airport for free.

    • Awesome. I’m glad to hear positive reviews, maybe they’ve changed. Please keep in mind, my review/complaint was YEARS ago.

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