Thursday, December 9, 2010

Special Edition: Part III - Terminal Velocity and Panic in the Skies

Part I of our Road Trip Recap can be found here.  Part II is here.

After our harrowing experience on quasi-flight 4547, we returned to the terminal where three American gate agents were working.  All of the scheduled departures had taken off, so the terminal was empty.

The agents told us that there were two flights coming in and that they were seeing if they could turn one of the planes around to bring us to Toronto.  The even posted a 8:30 pm departure time at the gate.  So we waited around, hopeful that we'd get there sometime that night.

Around 8:15, they made an announcement: the flight was cancelled.


I said to myself, " not again".

To their credit, they said that there was an Air Canada flight departing at 8:55 and that they would try to get passengers without checked bags on it. I made an absolute beeline to the ticket counter and was second in line.  Problem was, the agents did not have authorization to issue new tickets.  They had to call Dallas for permission.

So here's my issue: As soon as American knew our flight was returning, why didn't they have the agents back in Boston start working on a contingency plan?  They had ample time to get things in order upon our arrival. Never mind the fact that we were all somewhat shaken.  No food or drink vouchers.  Not even an apology or any expression of sympathy.

So it's around 8:30 and time's ticking away as we await for the tickets to get issued. I'm hell bent on getting on that flight.  Our hotel room was paid for and if we didn't get on this flight, we had no assurances that wed get there in time for the game. Finally, we get our new tickets and are told to go to the Air Canada gate which just so happens to be on the other side of terminal B.  Problem was that that part of terminal B is on the other side of the parking garage, so we had to sprint.

Bags in tow, a bunch of us, maybe 15 or so, dashed through the American terminal, across the roadway, through the garage and straight to the security line.

We quickly got our jackets off, bags on the conveyor belt and tickets in hand.  Some of our stuff went through the x-ray machine.  Then the TSA agent took a look at our tickets and told us to hold up.  Not only were we not at the Air Canada gate (we were at the US Airways one), we had something else working against us.

"These aren't valid boarding passes."


Apparently, the tickets the American agents issued to us had to be exchanged at the Air Canada ticket counter.  So we gathered our stuff again and mad a mad dash to the Air Canada ticket counter where there was one man working.

"Can you call them and ask them to hold the flight?" we asked.  He responded politely that he couldn't, but assured us that he'd be able to process all of our passes in time. Sure enough, he did.  We ran to security and they got us through in a very timely fashion.  I was excited, exhausted and exasperated.  I actually ran down the gateway, Heather trailing behind.  We got to our seats in the back.  It was night and day from our other flight.

This plane was brand new. Air Canada flight 369 was on an Embraer 175, a much larger jet with full size seats, video monitors in the seatbacks and USB ports to charge electronic gear.  Those of us who were on the other flight were joking a bit over what we just endured, but ultimately, we just relaxed as much as we could.

We took off and I was smiling.  I knew we were good to go.  That's when Heather turned pale as a ghost.

"I think I left my wallet at security."

Just then I got the ultimate feeling of dread.  Not because she didn't have her credit cards or money (she had her passport on her).  No, we freaked because the game tickets were in there.  In our rush to get to the new flight, with so many people running around and tossing stuff on the conveyor belts, it was highly likely that something was going to get lost.

We were still climbing, so we couldn't get up to check her backpack for another 10 minutes or so.  They were the longest 10 minutes in recent memory.  All the while, I was going through different scenarios in my head as to how we could get our tickets re-issued: Calling the Vice President of the Bruins who we have a relationship with, telling our sob story at the ticket window the next morning, even scalping new tickets.

Finally, the seatbelt light went off.  Heather jumped up out of her seat and grabbed her backpack.  She unzipped the big pocket as we gazed with anticipation.

There it was.  Oh thank god.  Whew.

Ends up that she left a bunch of magazines I had brought behind, but that was the only collateral damage fortunately.

The flight attendants came around with beverage service.  I thought about grabbing a beer, but their choices were bad and worse.  So I went with a coffee.  Heather went with a Coke.  Now here's where Air Canada get some kudos - their Coke is the real stuff, made with sugar, not with corn syrup.  It's a nice touch.

The flight was incredibly smooth and relatively short (the bigger jet apparently travels significantly faster than that piece of crap ERJ-135).  We landed at Pearson, passed though customs and bid farewell to our fellow passengers.  We had noticed on the flight that there was a shuttle bus (the Airport Express) that left the airport and headed downtown to a number of area hotels, including ours, for $19.95 per person.  This was significantly cheaper than the $55 plus tip we'd need for a taxi.  So when we got outside, we found the kiosk to buy tickets.  We were told that if we were to pay buy cash, just wait for the bus, which was coming in about 10 minutes.

The bus arrived, we paid our fare (there's a discount if you buy two tickets at a time) and got onboard.  The bus had power ports and WiFi, so we grabbed our phones and got online to let everyone know we had arrived and were ok.  We pulled into the Delta Chelsea around 11:45, checked into our room, dropped our bags and headed down to the hotel bar for a well deserved drink.

We got back to the room around 1:00 and passed out while watching Rogers SportsNet.  Besides, we had a long day ahead.

Up Next: Part IV - Donuts, Doonies and Don Cherry

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