• Kevin Lamport

What is "fair?" - a blog, in 1000 Words or Less

Canadians are a generous population. We’re tolerant and polite. We celebrate the underdog. We’re not loud or pretentious; we don’t wave our patriotism in another person’s face. I’m stating generalizations obviously, but I think these traits, among others, describe us accurately. They’re something of which to be proud. That pride can occasionally lean toward quiet arrogance when we compare ourselves to certain nearby countries, which is also fine...as Walt Whitman said, “If you done it, it ain’t bragging.” Too much however, makes a person blind to flaws and as a populace, we're not immune. What stands out to me are the moments of cheapness that make certain individuals believe the world owes them something, the belief that if he doesn’t get something he feels entitled to, whether or not he’s earned it or paid for it, he's being treated "unfairly."



Covid became a reality in Canada in February. During the first few days of March, many Canadians still hoped they’d be able to take the spring vacation we all look forward to, after putting up with a long, cold winter. A week later it became obvious nobody was going anywhere. As with so many families, the vacation my wife and I planned and paid for over the previous several months, was scrapped. Just like everybody else, we started figuring out how to get our money back for hotels, Air BandBs, car rentals and flights we could no longer use.


I had four flights booked, a return international flight and a two, regional European flights. I upgraded our tickets on the international flights and spent as little as possible on the regional flights. When it came time for refunds, the regional airline offered us a full credit, if we flew within a year’s time from the original booking date. That option became impossible, as we’ve all discovered. Ultimately, after several weeks, I was refunded a very small percentage of my original fare…not an ideal or pleasing outcome.


At this point, many people might be tempted to say, “What? That’s not right. That’s not fair. You paid for a service you did not get. Your entire purchase price should have been returned.”


Those people would be 100% unequivocally wrong.


Each ticket class comes with different rules and restrictions. I bought the cheapest tickets available knowing full well what the conditions were. The airline was abundantly clear: in the case of cancellation I would be given credit for future travel. I would not get my money back. I knew this and yet, I bought the tickets anyway and ignored the limitations:


It’s a short flight,


I don’t need leg room,


I don’t want a meal,


I don’t have checked bags.


The international tickets I purchased were a more expensive fare class. They were fully refundable. When travelling internationally it’s definitely worth saving for a few extra months if possible, to buy a ticket with more associated “perks.” As it turned out, it’s also a good idea when the world experiences a contagious plague. When the time came, I wasn’t given a credit for future travel, I was given a full refund.


Essentially, I got exactly what I paid for in both cases.


Credit for future travel, rather than refunds, is not a practice exclusive to Canada. It happens around the world, which is why I highlighted my experience with the regional European airline. So, while I understand everyone’s disappointment about cancelled vacations, I am not sympathetic to those who complain about not getting a full refund and who suggest an airline's bankruptcy would be a reasonable alternative, when that allowance was not part of the ticket for which they paid.


Government’s job is to look after its citizens. They do that in a manner consistent with the philosophical leaning of the party, which in the Liberal’s case, means giving away hundreds of millions of borrowed dollars (in various forms) without accountability or explanation. The "leader" of our country would have people believe the 400 million dollars the government "gave" Air Canada was some kind of bail-out. It was not. It's important to remember that when the man-child speaks, if his mouth isn't making staticky white noise that makes ears bleed and teeth grind, he's flat-out lying. The money was part of the wage subsidy program. It was used by businesses large and small, from one side of the country to the other, to mitigate lay-offs so that all the people who may have otherwise lost their jobs, would not have to draw EI, which would have cost the feds even more.


Canada’s Minister of Transport, Marc Garneau, has said, “Before we spend one penny of tax payer money on airlines, we will ensure Canadians get their refunds.” Even for the Liberals, a party without a whiff of fiscal responsibility, this short-sighted statement defies logic—ticket refunds have nothing to do with financial aid. They are separate, unrelated issues. Despite its absurdity, Garneau’s statement was met with happy agreement from people who feel they were screwed by an airline. Apparently, rather than supporting, regulating, protecting and generally ensuring a safe and viable aviation industry (his job, in other words,) a certain segment of the population think it more acceptable for Garneau to sacrifice the tens of millions of dollars the industry contributes to the Canadian economy, as well as jeopardize the direct and indirect livelihood of tens of thousands of people…as long as that certain segment gets what it wants.


We all felt the pain of the lockdown in the spring. Months later, the economy has staggered back to life. Most businesses have reopened and are figuring out how to operate under previously unknown restrictions. As much as the aviation industry wants to get back to business too, it’s hamstrung by factors out of its control, closed borders and fourteen-day quarantine restrictions, to name the two most significant. Consequently, it is asking the government for the same considerations countless businesses were afforded earlier in the year; not a cash infusions but financial latitude that will allow them to operate until the restrictions disappear. Somehow though, this is seen as an unacceptable request. What is good for one business is not good for a second because…business number two hasn’t refunded money it is under no obligation to refund...I guess? Seemingly, to the people yelling about refunds, that's what "fair" looks like.


Wow. Mind boggling hypocritical.


Look, I get it. You bought a non-refundable product that did not fully meet your needs based on due diligence you didn’t do. Since assigning blame is easier than accepting responsibility, you direct your righteous outrage at the large, faceless corporation with the fat bank account. Your bad decision was validated by a person who thinks your vote in the next election is more important than ensuring the sustainability of an industry he’s supposed to care-take. But, as long as you get what you want, it's all good because you’ll be able to say the outcome was “fair,” even though fair as a concept doesn’t exist outside of an elementary school yard.


Yay you.


Getting away for spring break is something many of us look forward to but it is not an inherent Canadian right. It’s something for which a person has to pay. If a person finds airfare cost prohibitive, he has choices:


Don’t go.


Save longer.


Hitchhike.


Don’t upgrade to the newest iPhone.


Buy an affordable ticket.


If he chooses the last option, he does so accepting the limitations associated with that fare class. Every airline, from the smallest northern operator to the largest flag carrier, owes its customers many things, chief among them is safety. It doesn’t owe a person a refund for something he didn’t purchase.


Demanding something a person hasn’t earned or paid for is a character fault. It is not the airline’s fault. I find it shameful that some people are so selfish and shallow and have so little regard for their fellow Canadians as to believe and suggest that a "fair" outcome is a refund they don't deserve and further, if they don't get that refund, a perfectly acceptable alternative would be blithely watching an entire industry fail, to hell with the fall-out. I'd like to say this attitude isn't the Canadian way, but using "fair" as a synonym for "self interest," happens far too often to make that claim.


Personally, I'd prefer we were known for our positive traits.


Kevin


This post ran long. Sorry. I'll compensate and make the next one short.


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