Don't blame me

Air Canada's Robert Milton sidesteps the critics.

Robert Milton has managed to pilot Air Canada through the worst period of its history (and survived) by not taking responsibility for anything that has bedeviled the airline since he joined the company in 1996 as chief operating officer. Case in point: his recent speech to Toronto-area business people on Nov. 15, where Milton — now CEO, chairman and president of ACE Aviation Holdings, Air Canada's parent — blamed everybody but himself for the airline's rocky descent into bankruptcy protection during the past two years.

Air Canada's legendary poor customer service? That would be the fault of the airports and Canada's immigration and customs procedures, “which could only be devised by a sadist.” Never mind that other airlines seem to manage without the same customer backlash.

Air Canada's non-competitiveness on price? Let's blame the federal government's protectionist air policy. Forget the fact that the policy has actually benefited Air Canada the most historically, preventing all other Canadian airlines from being able to challenge its monopoly on international flights.

As for customers being unable to use their Aeroplan points on flights they want, that's the fickle public's fault for all wanting to go to Florida on Friday nights. “If you're willing to go to Regina at 10 p.m., we've got room,” said Milton. Gee, thanks, Robert.

The one thing Milton did take credit for is hiring Celine Dion as Air Canada's new pitchperson, after her abysmal record promoting Chrysler cars was cut short. Judging by the number of tortured grimaces that greeted Dion's promotional introduction of Milton, he'd better start looking for a scapegoat for that move, too.