This is a rambling and rather pointless story, I know, but I just wanted to document it.
I left Vancouver on Friday, December 27 headed to Toronto on a red-eye flight. All was normal as it wasn’t “The Busiest Flying Day of December”. Thank you, Air Canada.
By some booking “mishap” (we’ll call it), I had a layover for nearly 12 hours in Toronto and that gave me the time to take TTC from Pearson all the way to Union. Just a TTC token now worth $3.50 compared to a one-way ticket on Airport Express asking for nearly $30. It’s highway robbery! I took a bus to Lawrence West Station then the subway down to Union.
Where you used to be able to stash your luggage in a locker (Union VIA Rail train station, Union Bus Terminal), you cannot now and the Toronto City Airport where I would take my next flight is too small to hold luggage. So I went around the corner from Union TTC station and parked myself at the Second Cup at Bay and Lakeshore, right below where I used to live. I only kind of dozed off twice and wasn’t there as long as one other guy I noticed was parked at the cafe for a long-term. At two o’clock, the BFF was available and we met up and got a late lunch. Seeing as I had luggage and this massive “Toblerone bar”, BFF’s husband gave me a ride and I was on time for my 5:30 p.m. flight even with waiting for the world’s shortest ferry ride. Only … my flight was delayed by 3.5 hours. BFF had evening plans so I kicked it in the Porter lounge and there are definitely worse places to hang out.
Fast forward to my January 2 flight from Halifax to Toronto. Just the day before, mum and lil sis missed their flight to Toronto because they arrived at the airport and were dropping off their bags inside of the new 45-minute check in/bag drop cut-off. That $150 per passenger to rebook a same-day flight hurt….
Daddy had to work so he dropped me off with 1.5 hours before my flight. I didn’t mind too much exploring the Halifax airport for the first time in a while. Usually I’m sitting with my parents just outside of security for as long as possible then making a beeline towards the gate. There were minor delays in Halifax and stopover Montreal.
On the evening of January 2, there was a big snowstorm that hit Halifax. So, you could say I just escaped that. The liquor store closed. I joked it was a hard hit on Haligonians since it was also closed on January 1 – twice in a week. The military (navy and air force base) closed. Public transportation was suspended. People were advised not to go out and Daddy said it was the scariest driving for him ever. Even Tim Hortons were closed.
I left Toronto for Vancouver on Saturday, January 4 because Sunday, January 5 is “The Busiest Flying Day of January”. My 10:00 p.m. WestJet flight seemed to be endlessly delayed. First, we waited for passengers from a connecting international flight to join us. Then we waited for their luggage to be loaded. Then we had frozen so we went to get de-iced. It felt particularly worse because there was a non-verbal “babbling” toddler on his mother’s lap right behind me who cried and fussed for the first two hours. All in all, the delay was just over an hour but after we had boarded the plane, which feels worse. With no built-in entertainment system and no USB or power outlets to keep my devices charged for six hours, I caved and rented a tablet. I thought I would kill (142 + 92 + 93) minutes watching We Are The Millars and Planes and Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs 2 but – unlike advertised – only Planes was loaded on the tablet. Ugh. I scribbled notes in a tiny notepad and fell asleep to Monsters University after I had watched The Hangover 3 and two episodes of Two And A Half Men.
But all of my transit inconveniences pale in comparison to Monday, January 6.
Mum was booked on a 9:00 a.m. flight out of Toronto, to arrive in Halifax at 1:40 p.m. local time via Montreal. But the 9:00 a.m. flight was cancelled and she was rebooked on the 2:15 p.m. direct flight to Halifax. An easy two hour flight that stretches throughout the day – I shook my head. While Toronto and Halifax airports were experiencing a number of cancellations and delays – making quite real the Travel Alert my company’s travel agency sent out regarding midwest and northeast US problems – Montreal looked shut down. Nearly everything was cancelled. Mum watched as her flight kept getting delayed by half an hour and the gate changed twice until they finally decided it was departing, “officially” at 5:15 p.m. More like 5:45 and mum said she was in the air for over three hours and they hadn’t arrived and she didn’t know where she had landed.
It turned out to be Montreal, an unscheduled stop. And when mum didn’t know when her flight would continue on, I checked with Montreal airport and confirmed with the Air Canada website that the next leg was cancelled. Mum and hundreds of other passengers were stranded and put up in the Sheraton airport hotel and given a website and phone number to call to re-book their cancelled/delayed flights. The culprit seems to be cold temperatures, freezing rain, high winds and a pile-up of problems continuing from the past two days. Mum can’t understand why the plane didn’t turn back or just keep on going. Daddy says it’s tremendously foggy in Halifax.
Mum only has a flight reference number from her first cancelled flight and then was issued a boarding pass with unknown booking reference and thus has no credentials to re-book her flight using the Delayed and Cancelled Service and the phone number provided is busy with no opportunity to put yourself in queue for the next available agent. There is murmuring they could be stuck in Montreal for two nights.
My parents had anticipated that mum would be back in Halifax in the early afternoon so they could open the restaurant after a five-day hiatus. Since mum was absent, my daddy made the executive decision to keep the “Open” sign off but took orders over the phone from people who would come by to pick them up.
I read all the news articles about delays in Toronto, Montreal and Halifax. People stuck on the tarmac for hours because there were more planes than gates because no one was going anywhere. Long waits for baggage. A “ground stop” for several hours in Toronto. You wouldn’t bat an eyelash at this weather a few weeks from now but it kicked off The Busiest Flying Weekend of January delaying those passengers and thus affecting passengers after the weekend.
So it’s understandable how no one was immediately re-booked on a new flight and the long queues on the telephone lines. Mum got a “guaranteed” seat on a morning flight after two nights stay in Montreal but could wait on standby for two flights the evening before. She got onto the late afternoon flight and should arrive about 30 hours later than originally planned. Who knows about the luggage thing.
Another kicker: as I was looking through mum’s emails, I saw that the January 2 flight she and Lil Sis were late for and denied boarding and penalized/charged $150 to take a later flight was actually cancelled. It seems like they were denied boarding around the same time the cancellation notice came by email so I don’t think they should have been charged. So starts another battle with Air Canada.