Striking contrast

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Is there some secret society of airline employees in charge of scheduling the annual strike lineup? If there is such an organization -- and I suspect there is -- they're doing a bang-up job.

This week Air Canada is at the plate, with flight attendants scheduled to wheel-lock their beverage carts at midnight tonight. Today's deadline represents a fairly quick turnaround time for Air Canada workers, who just last year staged a 13-day pilot walkout that cost the carrier more than $170 million.

Airline execs, however, have found a damage-control tool that may help keep at least one side of their Canadian bacon fat out of the fire: their own Web site. Passengers who log on to the Air Canada site today will find detailed information about how to cope if the airline is forced to suspend operations. This is a far cry from last year's strike when passengers were left to stew in the dark as tickets went unhonored by other carriers and refunds trickled out slower than glacial melt.

What a customer-service breakthrough! An airline is providing passengers with information before they need it. What's more, it's using the Web to do it. The Internet: It's not just for cheap tickets anymore.

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