As I am sure many of you know, ORD practically shut down due to thunderstorms last Thursday. Unfortunately, this chaos did not subside overnight. Because of the cancellations, all of the flights zeroed out, and my upgrades did not clear. I noticed the zeroed out flights, and decided to arrive at the airport extra early just to be in a good position for getting out, since I knew that things were going to be completely insane. Little did I know just how insane things were going to get.
I got the first warning sign when arriving at ATL, and seeing the departures board with both the Delta and American flights cancelled, yet the United flight was still showing as on time. I checked in and then proceeded to the main security check-point, because the north checkpoint had not opened yet. When I got to the front of the line, I noticed that they were trying to put 3 people through the full body scan for every one person going through the metal detectors. Of course I opted out, and had a somewhat surly agent. After this, I proceeded to try to grab a bite to eat out at Concourse A, because ATL has a much better selection for breakfast than ORD.
While grabbing my food (around 5:15am), I received a call from United informing me that my flight to ORD was cancelled. Not a good way to start the day, especially since I had woken up even before my alarm went off in the morning. I tried calling back, but was not in a position for good reception. I eventually just got my food and headed to the United gates to try and get my rebooking done there. The line was not long, and they were trying to get the 5:45 flight to IAD out. I was not in a rush, as there is no service to YVR from IAD. And in addition, I knew from looking things up that the regular United routings to YVR were sold out until late Friday Afternoon. This would not work, as I wanted to go to the kick-off party, and try and meet up with Mike beforehand.
We tried some creative routings, but the general issues were that the early flights getting to the key connecting hubs were sold out. The earliest departure without going into crazy multi-airline routing was not until Noon. This did not work real well as it did not give me any chance of arriving early because the earliest arrival with one of these routings was 6pm PT, and not arriving early enough to even attempt to standby for an earlier flight. Fortunately the agent working the gate was a good one, and once we found the best option (4pm departure on Air Canada from YYZ) began looking for ways to get me to YYZ earlier in the day. Unfortunately Air Canada had no space from Atlanta until the afternoon, but Delta had space on their 9:45 flight. Although I could be confirmed no earlier than the 4pm departure, this at least got me on a flight that gave me time to attempt to standby since Air Canada runs hourly flights from YYZ to YVR, and at worst I could enjoy the domestic Maple Leaf Lounge.
So I headed over to the gates displayed for the flight and checked in. I was going to be flying a CRJ-900, which is the most tolerable of the CRJ family, but then that does not set the standard that high. The flight departed on schedule, though I was reminded how much I need Economy Plus on United. Although my knees were not being crushed, it was not the most pleasant of flight experiences.
Arrival at YYZ was fairly straightforward, and much better compared to last time I flew Delta to YYZ. They have closed concourse A, so now there is no need to deplane by stairs, enter the building vestibule to then immediately get on a bus to get to customs. With concourse B passengers can just directly enter the building and proceed directly to customs. While the terminal is still not a pleasant experience, it is not completely miserable. In some ways, the Terminal 3 customs area is similar to the United terminal at JFK in how worn the area is. This is a stark contrast from the nice fancy customs hall over in Terminal 1.
After clearing customs and picking up my bag, I took the train over to Terminal 1 to check-in for my Air Canada flight and try to check-in. I encountered a wonderful agent in the Super Elite line, as she allowed me to standby despite policy being against it, because of all the travel issues. She did tell me that all the flights to YVR were full because of the hockey game that night. She also advised me to run to the gate, as my chances were extremely good for getting onto the 11:00 flight. The reason for running is that it was 10:30 when I checked-in.
So of course I emptied my pockets and rushed over to security, where I had one of the most pleasant and efficient security experiences. I'll talk about it later this week in depth, but it shows how with some additional technology, we can make the screening system a lot more fair. The gate was at the far end of the concourse, so it was a sprint to get there. They were loading the back of the plane, and just as I arrived they called my name for clearing the standby list and assigned me my seat (a middle one, just like on the 4pm, except I'm further up now than I was), and I also noted that I was on a latitude fare, which includes free food for the flight, in addition to the bonus EQM.
So I got settled onto the flight, plugged into the video on demand that Air Canada offers, and started watching the BBC comedy series Come Fly With Me, while also looking through the Onboard Cafe menu to choose what I would be eating. In addition to the free meal and snack, they offer discounted options to upgrade your dining to either a traditional first class meal, or add an alcoholic beverage. Because I have not had much to drink in a while, I decided I needed to start building my tolerance back up for the weekend that was to come, so I did the $5 buy up to a wine for my drink, since Air Canada does serve good wine even in Economy. For the meal I decided to go with the Quiznos Flatbread Pizza, as I have an extreme distrust of pre-made sandwiches, especially for the Economy cabin.
I will be honest, I have had better pizza from a public high school cafeteria. It was flavorless, the peperoni bland, and the flatbread bordered on the disgusting. I did finish it because I needed the food since I was trying to avoid eating again until dinner, which was a long ways away. The wine was decent as usual, and I was able to enjoy the flight (at least as much as one can when seated in the middle seat). Unfortunately because of the good inflight entertainment, I was not able to get the nap I had hoped to get during the flight.
The flight landed at YVR about 15 minutes late, and I went to baggage claim to get my bag (which had been tagged as standby so they knew that I might clear on the flight) and it did not arrive. I checked the bag, not because I needed to heading out, but I knew that I would need to check a bag coming back. They gave me a decent amenity kit, and would have my bag delivered to the hotel coming back. They were quick to process the issue, my bag was located by the time I arrived at my hotel, and my bag ended up arriving after midnight.
I'll cover the full weekend in future posts, including my thoughts on city bus tours and the various parties and events of TBEX.