Clearly in the realm of #FirstWorldProblems, while traveling to Halifax to spend a couple of days with my parents, I added another “travel woes” story to my life’s list. I was traveling alone, and there was no one around to hear my sarcastic comments, so as I went along I jotted down my thoughts and feelings on a timeline. My plan was an evening Saskatoon-Calgary flight connecting to a red-eye onto Halifax. That didn’t work out. If you’re a fan of WestJet, I recommend you skip this…
November 23, 9:02pm I just heard the dreaded words “maintenance issue”. There’s a plane at the gate that landed about a half hour ago and it looked like we’d be off to Calgary no problems to make my connection to Halifax. Not sweating yet, but the agent’s faces are not as cheery as they were ten minutes ago.
9:25pm Just got the “we have no update to update you with” update. There’s a clock ticking in my head. Lots of maintenance guys getting on and off the plane and there’s two dudes looking up at the right engine. Didn’t this plane just land from Toronto? What kind of life and death experience did all those folks barely avoid?
9:45pm Original take-off time and I’m still sitting at the gate. The WestJet gate agent apologizes approximately 37 times before letting us know that she’ll have more information in 3-5 minutes.
9:48pm Approximately 21 additional apologies into her spiel, there’s still no update. According to her, they’re “talking to Calgary.” Not sure what that means, but it probably isn’t a good sign. More people now outside looking at the engine.
9:51pm I’ve become acutely aware that while I was packing some last minute items back at the apartment, my wife was reading facts about the movie “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” to me from a magazine. Should have see that as the omen it was.
10:08pm Someone just took part of the cover off the engine. As we all looked out the window watching this, WestJet finally decided it had to fess up that this plane is never taking off. The group of us at the gate aren’t aeronautical engineers, but an exposed engine…. Not good.
10:09pm Even better than the “we have no update” is the new update: “For those of you with connections in Calgary, we won’t be able to tell you your new connections for about an hour.” Say what? If this was an Air Canada flight, I’d have already been able to have been rebooked via their app. Am I flying in the year 1997 tonight?
10:51pm Lineups at the counter handled by two overworked people. While waiting about 10 people back in line, I finally get through to the WestJet call centre. They get my flights rebooked after accidentally booking me into Winnipeg rather than Halifax. Seriously, given the choice of flying WestJet to Winnipeg tonight, I’d rather get there by car. Or unicycle. At least my arrival time would be predictable.
10:53pm I call my Dad back in Halifax to let him know I won’t be arriving at the airport at 6:30am in the morning. I’ve woken him out of a dead sleep. Only half certain he recognizes he’s talking to his son. Depending on the odds, I’d lay money on him waiting at the Halifax airport wondering where in the hell I am in a few hours.
11:19pm I finally get to the desk. “I’d like a hotel room or two taxi chits to get to/from home and back here for my 6:13am flight to Toronto.” I do the mental math for the length of nap I’ll be able to squeeze out and am immediately upset I asked for taxi chits. Agent, far too cheerful for this hour of the night, tells me her system can’t print out two taxi chits, so a hotel it is. I’m stunned. As a former IT professional, I can’t believe no one saw this use case, but leave the desk relieved. I’m going to get to spend a night in a hotel a 3 minute drive from the airport and a 12 minute drive from my own home. Weird. She tells me she’ll be back to me in a minute or two. She lied.
11:40pm I get back in another line and wait. The agent actually can’t print out any hotel or food vouchers for me, so sends me downstairs to the baggage check area where someone can get me on my way. Seems dubious, but I go along with it.
11:43pm Small airport, I’m downstairs in a flash. Of course, there’s no one around. Ten minutes later, a person emerges with a kennel holding a 12 week old Newfoundland puppy who was bound for Abbotsford, BC tonight. The furry little guy also had his flight canceled. Nice to know WestJet doesn’t discriminate based on species. He’s handling it a lot better than me. To get his revenge on WestJet, he’s peed all over the inside of his cage. Well played puppy, well played.
11:51pm I apologize profusely to the airport cabbie for this terrible fare he has to take. He’s in good humour. He had a fare earlier today that headed down to Davidson, so he’s of the mind this is just averaging things out for him today. Super cool guy. We shared some laughs on the $5.25 cab ride.
November 24, 12:01am Why are some of the nicest hotel rooms in brand new hotels, near airports, that I only get to stay in for a grand total of like 3 hours? If you ever come to Saskatoon and want to be nowhere near anything, but have a hotel room that’s larger than my apartment, the Marriott Courtyard is your place.
3:20am My alarm went off and scared me unlike anything I’ve experienced recently. I had no idea what was going on. I was having hallucinogenic dreams. I do the mental math… I should have been less than an hour away from landing in Halifax. I briefly imagine all those happy people on that flight from Calgary that are 3,400km closer to Halifax than am I. Lucky buggers.
4:03am Showered, bleary, I’m back where this all started yesterday afternoon. I am the only person at the Saskatoon airport. Weird feeling.
5:39am They’re starting check in for my flight to Toronto, and I’m struck by the amount of Roughriders clothing around me. Something like 2/3 of the people are dressed head to toe in Riders green. Now, you see a lot of Rider green in these parts, but this catches me off guard as a weird statistical anomaly. Only explanation – it’s an older group getting ready to board; old people must like Rider gear.
5:41am As I stand up, perhaps from sleep deprivation, I realize, the Grey Cup is in Toronto on Sunday. This is a plane full of people heading to the Grey Cup to party. Did anyone tell these people the Riders aren’t in the Grey Cup this year? I can almost bet that there will be more Riders fans in Toronto than fans of the Ottawa team that’s actually playing in the bloody game.
6:00am Plane door closes, I’m in a window seat, and there’s no one beside me in the middle seat. The only free seat on the plane is beside me! As I like to call this – “Economy Accidental Executive Class”. I’m starting to win again!!!!! Feel immediate dread that I’ve jinxed some aspect of my travels today.
10: 38am (Eastern) After landing in Toronto I get a text from Dad saying “See you 6 00 Hfx” Love that he recognized me on the phone last night. I read the next text from him: “Looking forward to it dad.” Smile that my Dad texts. Smile more that he thinks he has to end his texts “dad” so I know who’s sending them. He probably feels that way about me when I’ve looked under the hood of my car and say to him “I have no idea what any of this does”.
10:59am For the information of temporarily stranded passengers in possession of a $15 WestJet food voucher – at the Pearson Terminal 3 Starbucks that $15 will get you a grande coffee, a blueberry muffin, three granola bars and two bananas. That’s about as close as you can come to ensuring WestJet fully pays through its nose for your inconvenience. You’re welcome.
6:02pm (Atlantic) Landed in Halifax and waiting for the plane to unload. Mom and Dad will be waiting at the bottom of the escalator for me. It’s about 12 hours later than expected, but somehow that doesn’t matter much now. Good to be back in Halifax. Who knew.. writing snarky comments has been good therapy and has kept a smile on my face for much of this trip. Wonder if that puppy ever made it to Abbotsford…