It seemed easy. Air Canada has two nonstops a day from Seattle to Toronto. One leaves at 7:30 a.m. and arrives at 3:05 p.m. The other leaves at 11:30 a.m. and arrives at 7:05 p.m. I consulted with my friend Judy who'd be picking me up. She said the earlier flight would be better because she could pick me up before rush hour. So I made my reservations. On Expedia. Two one-way flights came out cheaper than a round trip via the Air Canada site. $600. I hate to pay that much for a four-hour flight, but I'd rather do that than save money by making one or two stops.
I usually travel on Alaska Airlines, and I get notified by email AND text if there's going to be a flight delay. I guess I forgot this trip might be different. I woke up at 4:45 a.m. and we left the house at 5:30 a.m. At that hour the drive is 35 minutes from door to airport departure dropoff. My husband Art pulled away from the Air Canada terminal. I checked in via kiosk, which checked my passport and printed me a ticket. Boarding time said 12:00. I figured there was something wrong with the computer program. When I looked at the departures board, though, the time was the same. Flight 540 to Toronto, scheduled to depart at 7:30 a.m., was "delayed until 12:30 p.m."
I called Art. No answer. I texted. No response. I hoped he would turn around right away and come get me so I could go home for a few hours instead of hanging out at the airport. He did call - 45 minutes later, when he got home. Too late. By then rush hour traffic was in full force in both directions. I would be waiting for five hours.
Security was easy via TSA-Pre. I ate breakfast at Anthony's and checked the departure board again. Two flights to Toronto by now - 11:30 a.m. leaving on time, and the delayed flight at 12:30 p.m. I left the secured area, waited in line at the Air Canada desk for 20 minutes to see if I could get on the earlier flight. Nope. Completely sold out. I went through security again, found a seat at gate A-7, and waited four more hours. Picked up all my stuff (carry-on bag, backpack with computer, and CPAP) went to buy a mocha, came back for another half hour.
At 12:15 p.m. the gate agents started talking to the gathered passengers. "The plane is undergoing maintenance. The crew is here. As soon as the plane arrives at the gate we will begin the boarding process."
at 1:00 p.m. the plane arrived at the gate. "We are issuing meal vouchers for passengers on the delayed flight to Toronto. Please come to the ticket counter for your voucher. I gathered my gear and stood in line for my voucher. "It's for $10. You can use it here in the terminal or on the plane, but we've been told there's limited food available for sale on the aircraft. We'll begin boarding in ten minutes so you probably have time." I trekked to the food court and bought a chicken salad sandwich and a spinach salad. Boarding began. I was in Zone 4, the last to board. Found my seat, stashed my carryon and CPAP, slid my backpack under my seat.
The captain spoke to the passengers. "Thank you for your patience. The reason this flight was delayed is that the airplane broke yesterday. We needed a part and it didn't arrive until this morning. As soon as we're ready to depart, the jetway will be retracted and we'll be on our way."
Ten minutes later the captain spoke to the passengers again. "Thank you again for your patience. Unfortunately, the ground crew is unable to detach the jetway from the aircraft. We will let you know when that has happened."
Fifteen minutes later: "We are having to have the jetway manually detached. It will require a different kind of air compressor [thingy] to start our engines. This should not take too long."
I texted my friend Judy and told her I'd text her again when we landed so she'd know when to pick me up at Terminal 1. Then I turned off my phone.
We pulled away from the gate at 1:30 - six hours late. The flight was uneventful. The plane had about 32 rows, two seats on each side. Not as big as the 737s Alaska uses. And the seats were comfortable enough. Flight time was just under four hours. As the plane's wheels touched down in Toronto, I turned on my phone to text Judy, and realized to my consternation that I had no service. I was in Canada now and I don't have international coverage. I cast about in my mind for a way to reach Judy. I decided when I got through Customs I'd open my laptop, log onto Facebook and ask an online friend to text her and let her know where I was.
That's what I did. My old friend HeeSun Gerhardt (college roommate for two years) was online. I told her what I needed and she, being a good sport, sent Judy my message. Five minutes later I emerged from Terminal 1 and Judy was there to meet me. Thank you, HeeSun!
When I travel, the journey starts in my driveway. I never know what will happen. I'd say half the time it's an ordinary, unmemorable trip to our destination airport. It's the other half of the time, though, that I remember.
I do have a voucher of apology from Air Canada for a flight discount. I have to pick it up online within 90 days and use it to fly within 13 months. Maybe this is the year for the Maritimes?
EYE FRECKLES / ROBERT BRAULT
2 hours ago