Fredericton — Days after Air Canada was ordered to shell out $21K to two francophone customers who complained that their language rights were violated while flying, the airline has decided that now, all passengers need to speak fluent English and French before they can board.
“It’s only for domestic flights — we’re not being unreasonable here,” said Air Canada’s head of communications Allison Berkshire. “This is just to cover our ass in case some more crazy people come after us for being inconvenienced in their imaginations.”
The passengers — who had complained before about language issues on their flights — this time won their battle, saying that the English words were larger than the French ones on emergency exit doors; that the seatbelts were engraved with the word “lift” but not the French equivalent; and that the French boarding announcement was not as detailed as the English one.
“Obviously these are ‘totally legitimate issues,’ and we promise that we’ve already addressed them,” said Berkshire, using exaggerated air quotes and rolling her eyes dramatically. “But we realize that we’re not safe from whiners like this who will find any damned problem and try to squeeze money out of it. So if you’re not fluent, just book with another airline. Please.”
We asked why the rule about bilingual passengers specifically.
“Well what if some English-only speaker were seated next to a francophone, who tried to strike up a conversation? The misunderstandings that would ensue — even if one person were just asking about their seat-mate’s holiday plans or where they work — could easily lead to a lawsuit,” continued Berkshire. “It wouldn’t be as tragic as…like…the peanuts package not saying the word ‘arachides’ in as nice a font, but you know.”
When Canadians want to book domestic flights with Air Canada, they will now have to translate a five-page document from one language to another on the website, wait for a certified bilingual employee to verify that it’s accurate, then book the flight.
“Holy, this is gonna be inconvenient as all get out!” cried anglophone Neil Peters. “I might as well just go back to high school for all the trouble this’ll be…maybe I can pay some student to translate it for me? I’m kinda rusty in French these days. All I remember is how to ask to go to the toilet. Is that what the document is about?”
Berkshire reassured customers by saying that, in all they do, “Air Canada is just trying to make sure everyone is treated fairly — well, everyone who complains, at least.”