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Air Canada 'reaching higher' in training

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An Air Canada passenger jet

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An Air Canada passenger jet

After criticizing some of Air Canada's service policies a few weeks ago, I received a couple of emails suggesting I had been unfair.

In the column, I clearly suggested the singular employee in question was not indicative of the way most Air Canada employees communicate with their customers.

I underscored the real problem was Air Canada's policy of overbooking clients. I stated thereafter that those who had booked ahead of time have a right to expect an available seat upon arrival at the airport. They should not be intimidated with the belief they might not be able to get on the flight because they did not secure a seat online before arriving at the airport.

It's noteworthy Air Canada was recently forced to increase its compensation to victims of overbooking.

Considering the pressures for wage and benefit reductions the Air Canada employees have had to endure over the past years, it is a wonder they still serve with such grace and politeness.

But the reality is there are frequent lapses in individual service imperatives.

As Air Canada prepares to launch its new airline division in a couple of weeks, it must recognize this; the employees of Rouge will receive mandatory service training from arguably the best company of its kind in the industry, the Disney organization. The training arm of the Walt Disney Co. does an amazing job of passing on their philosophy of 'reaching higher' in educating those who flow through their system.

What is surprising is Rouge is making employees pay for their own training. The company will deduct $49 per month from employee paycheques and will be committing them to paying any remaining amounts outstanding if they leave the organization before a three-year period.

This is the opposite of what seems to be current practice, where training costs are paid by the employer and the employee is only required to pay for part of that training if they should leave before a designated period.

At the same time, taking on the philosophy of the Disney organization will undoubtedly create a strong culture of service.

QUESTION: As a confirmed traveller who still must work for a living, I feel that two weeks of holidays is simply not enough to satisfy my desires to explore the world. I have read that other countries offer more paid vacation days. Is that correct?

ANSWER: While corporate holiday obligations after five years of work in most Canadian jurisdictions increases to three weeks, it is a fact Canada's vacation policies are among the worst against the richer countries of the world, the category into which Canada falls.

The reality is only two other nations are stingier than us when it comes to paid holidays. They are the United States and Japan, according to a recent study of the 21 richest nations compared by the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

The United States is at the bottom. They have absolutely no mandated paid time for vacations or holidays. That will explain why you can shop on Christmas, Easter, President's Day or any other day many would think stores would be closed.

While the average number of paid holiday days provided by most companies in the United States is 10 days, they are not obliged to do so.

Japan, like Canada, must give its employees 10 paid holidays. Canada is ahead of them because of the number of paid national or provincial holidays such as national Labour Day or Louis Riel Day in Manitoba.

Other countries have minimums between 20 and 35 days. Austria is in the highest group while most European countries offer a minimum of 20 paid days.

QUESTION: I am getting mixed information on whether my husband can or cannot enter Mexico. He has drug felonies from many years ago. The last one was in 1999, and the other one was in 1989. When we applied for our passports, there were no barriers to him getting his passport processed quickly. When I called the Mexican consulate office, they told me there would be no problem in his entering the country. But I'm worried and don't want to lose our money. Any advice?

ANSWER: I've been to Mexico many times the last few years and have never been questioned about any past run-ins with the law and, for the most part, have never been asked other serious questions as my passport was stamped. I've always been able to easily enter the country, so I can understand the assurances you receive from people that suggest you would not run into problems.

At the same time, I think you have a right to be worried. The idea someone who has drug-related offences might be allowed to enter the country if questioned seems incomprehensible to me.

I'm not familiar with what information is shared between Canada and Mexico about individual citizens. While it would seem you might not face any challenges, to suggest you would not be questioned or prevented entry is speculative, and I could not give you any easy assurance.

Ron Pradinuk is president of Journeys Travel & Leisure SuperCentre and can be heard Sundays at noon on CJOB. Previous columns and tips can be found at www.journeystravelgear.com or read Ron's travel blog at wwwthattravelguy.ca.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 8, 2013 E3

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