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For those who may not be familiar with the term “constructive dismissal”, it refers to the act of creating an intolerable environment so that unwanted employees will leave of their own accord and without severance. It is illegal.

I recently had the great misfortune to travel to Orlando for a psych conference on Air Canada’s new “destination” airline, Air Canada Rouge, which the company has the temerity to call, “A new way to get away”. Since the web site isn’t particularly explicit as to this specialty airline’s market positioning, I will take an educated guess and say that it is intended to compete with discount airlines that fly to “mass” tourist destinations at very competitive prices. Unfortunately, for the business traveler unable to plan a month ahead, the price remains very high ($1000 to Orlando from Montreal via Toronto); adding insult to injury.

If you’re the aforesaid business traveller going to the same place as all those tourists, you’re in for a nasty shock. The seats have been stripped and slimmed down so that they take up an absolute minimum of space. There is no entertainment unit; the company streams videos to your smartphone or tablet (if you have one). The seats are squished together to an extent that I have never witnessed….they make flying regular Air Canada Economy flights feel like First Class. The seats are clearly not intended for anyone 6 ft tall or over. The guy in the middle seat next to me was 5’10” and about 180 lbs. and he was at the comfort limit (we had a nice discussion about the seat configuration).

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In my case, it was literally impossible for my torso and legs to occupy the same space. My legs had to be splayed off to both sides and I had to quickly grab my knees and pull them up to my chest in order for the carts to pass without giving me a patellaectomy! The space is so limited that the chair table comes down to rest at a 45 degree angle on your chest! It should have been a clue when I noticed that the AC Rouge staff are all young, thin, svelte people who look like they came off an Abercrombie & Fitch photo shoot (remember that…”We don’t want fat, ugly people in our clothes?”). I looked at one of the male flight attendants as I struggled to put my knees in front of me and I said, “This is inhuman”. He looked at me sympathetically and whispered, “I know what you mean, we get tons of complaints each flight….but the company doesn’t care”. I looked about me….all the taller/stouter guys were grimacing in pain as they tried to sit down.

Of course, Air Canada would never say that they don’t want tall, fat or both tall and fat people on their planes. That would not only be suicidal (has Abercrombie & Fitch ever recovered?), but it might even be illegal. The answer is quite simple: They have constructed a space that is simply extremely unfriendly and painful for the aforesaid demographics. The message, while implicit, is clear: Too tall, too fat….fly business class…not our problem. As Donald trump would say….”You’re fired”.

Rouge….”A new airline to get away from”.

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