Crap the #airlines make us do

 

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Photo I took from zone 3 lineup.

It happens with every flight I’ve taken in recent years. Ever since airlines introduced the zone system for boarding.

Nowadays, folks line up long before their zone is ever called. The reason: access to precious overhead bin space. At least in economy.

I detest the airlines for making me do this. But, I do it. Every time. I want my bin space. I need my bin space.

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Line extends way back.

Dog eat dog. It’s a shit show. Boarding a plane is painful. And nasty. I’ve seen passengers report other passengers to airline staff for contravening the carry-on limits on size and number of bags.

The only way one can extricate oneself is to pay for premiere boarding access. Or premium seats. Which most of us cannot afford.

The greedy airlines are raking it in these days and always on the lookout for more ways to gouge us. I hate them for this.

I hate the way people in business and first class look down their noses at us behaving in such an undignified manner.

I also hate being the person in that lineup, right near the front. But, there I am.

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Fool fails to board airplane without ID

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“Hey dude, where’s my ID?”

So, here I am at YVR waiting to board an Air Canada flight. Heading to Edmonton. It’s 6:45 am.

Electronic boarding pass is on my phone and “government-issued photo ID” is tucked into a pocket in my purse.

Tank is nothing if not well-organized. Other travellers, not so much.

Can’t help but notice the ‘Dude’ seated behind. What I picture a 62-year-old former roadie for Uriah Heep to look like. 

As the flight begins to board, Dude realizes he has no picture ID. Gets his buddy on the smartphone and says, “hey, you forgot to give me back my ID last night.” 

WTF? 

Who lends their ID to someone, except when you’re an underage teen and your older sibling lends you his/her ID to get into the bar?

Next, Dude is at the counter in search of something ID-ish in his wallet. Found nothing. 

Next, he asks the nice Air Canada lady if he can get on the plane without photo ID. Nope to that.

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Being told he’s NOT getting on the plane without photo ID.

So, Dude never makes it on this flight. Dude is a dud. Methinks this could be a teachable moment for Dude. On second thought, maybe not. To his credit, he never raised his voice to anyone. Didn’t freak out on airline staff.

I’m always surprised people this incredibly stupid travel. I suppose I shouldn’t be.

@AirCanada challenge – 20 days, seven flights – kill me now?

 

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Mummified on Air Canada.

Let’s imagine Air Canada is a good airline.

Do your homework and you’ll discover Air Canada doesn’t suck as much as we think. Don’t believe me? Check out what it’s like to be a frequent flyer on United or American Airlines.

ACs counter service is usually good. I haven’t projectile vomited on the food since the late 1960s. (Or maybe that was BOAC). As a bonus, AC tends to not crash its planes and kill people. (Google ‘plane crashes in Russia’).

Still, it’s not perfect. Air Canada’s public affairs department is clueless and delusional. I frequently, as a CBC reporter, sought quotes for stories and they always failed me. When they did speak, it was crazy talk.

Conversely, the folks who staff the Air Canada Twitter feed are quick to respond and act on complaints. They, evidently, didn’t come from the public affairs department.

Here’s the challenge. Seven Air Canada flights in 20 days. Five with a checked bag. Economy seating. Epic failure or utopia?

Leg #1: Vancouver to Montreal: So, AC switched out the plane I originally booked on for a smaller one. Airbus 320 to the 319. Meant seats got changed. I still got a window seat. My brother got his aisle seat. Sat further away from each other than expected. I’m guessing this made him extremely happy.

Plane is packed, the overhead compartments filled to the brim, but there’s leg room. The barbarian in the row in front has reclined. This always pisses me off.

Flight attendant found a way to save me money on my food purchase, as long as I agreed to buy chocolate. Who could refuse that deal? Since brother is across the aisle, I don’t have to share. Score 10/10. Service excellent. Flight staff cheerful. Left the gate ten minutes early.

Leg #2 Montreal to Quebec City: Arrived at the airport I call Dorval. Which is what I’ve called this airport since I was a child growing up in Montreal. Which I’ll always call this airport. My brother says I have to call it Trudeau airport. This ridiculous practice of naming airports after politicians has got to stop. Because if we don’t we’re going to end up with Mulroney International Airport and Harper International.

Flight delayed for two hours, then cancelled. Then, put on the late flight. New boarding passes issued without hassle. Checked luggage made it. Score 7/10. (Marks lost for a surly customer service rep at Dorval who didn’t want to talk about the delayed/cancelled flight).

Leg #3 Montreal to Vancouver: Check-in fine. Boarding fine. Got space in the overhead bin. Barbarian in row ahead reclined. In-flight service fine. Luggage arrived. Nothing to moan about. Score 10/10.

27/30 – interim score.

Legs #4 & #5: Vancouver to Portland – Portland to Vancouver: Prop plane. Jam packed. ‘Skychecked’ my carry on, so no fighting or crying about overhead bin space. Nothing to bitch about. Score: 10/10 & 10/10.

47/50 – interim score.

Legs #6 & #7: Vancouver to Fort St John – Fort St John to Vancouver: Another packed flight, which I didn’t expect, since oil & gas is in the toilet. Small seats. Big people. Woman next to me and her buddy on the return flight mummified themselves by covering up their heads and faces with scarves, ball caps and a hoodie. I think they were from Alberta. Checked luggage arrived. ‘Plane-ing’ and ‘deplane-ing’ without a hitch. Score 10/10 & 10/10.

  • FINAL SCORE: 67/70. 

I feel like I’ve failed all the Air Canada haters out there.

Next flight: Edmonton on Canada Day. Let’s see how Air Canada performs on Canada’s national holiday.

 

Flying to Palau, Mexico & the Galapagos for under $1500

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Yup. That’s right. Return trip to Palau in Micronesia, one way to Cancun, Mexico and a return trip in business class to San Cristobal, Equador. All in 2016.

All for less than $1500 combined to cover taxes, airport improvement and other air travel related fees.

Last year, I flew to Roatan, Honduras, business class. As well, I did a return trip to Edmonton in economy. The year before that I flew to Roatan and the year before that it was Grand Cayman. Both in economy.

How am I doing it? Airline points.

I accumulate some points from personal travel, but most are from charging on a credit card with rewards that can be taken on Star Alliance flights.

The trick is to use the points when you get enough for a trip. Banking them is a mug’s game, because the airlines routinely downgrading their value = more points needed to travel to destinations.

My Star Alliance-points piggy bank is pretty empty right now thanks to the trip to Equador to dive the Galapagos later this year. As well, my focus, right now, is on building points elsewhere.

I’m trying to accumulate enough rewards for my return trip from Cozumel (or Cancun) on Canada’s ‘low cost’ airline. That means the credit card for Star Alliance flights has been put away. Instead, I’m charging everything on a different credit card that will allow me to accumulate ‘dollars’ on the ‘low cost’ airline, dollars I can use to buy a cheaper plane ticket.

I collect Air Canada Aeroplan Miles, United and American Airline miles, and Westjet dollars. I’m also enrolled in the Air Asia frequent flyer program.

One downside to points flights. You often get the crummiest connections with the occasional long and overnight layover. This doesn’t bother me. Booking in business class means access free access to airline lounges in airports. As well, I’m happy to camp on an air mattress in an airport I deem to be safe, if necessary.

There are points advisors on the internet with lots of recommendations. Many of them, though, are for U.S. credit cards, with huge points rewards when enrolling. We in Canada can’t access those cards or the sign-up rewards. Our choices are more limited. But, it’s still possible to fly on points.

PS: A few days ago, United changed my points flight to Mexico – cancelled the flight I was on and rebooked me onto a flight that left Houston BEFORE I flew out of Vancouver.  I had originally booked to fly to Cozumel. Now, the only way to make it work was to fly into Cancun. That’s fine. Been looking for a reason to dive cenotes (underwater caverns) near Playa Del Carmen. Now, I can do that (the photos will be amazing) on my way to Cozumel.

 

Annoying traveller smackdown

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Okay, maybe I’m being a bitch. But, WTF is wrong with these people?

You’re on a plane for two hours. The flight crew gives you the Mexican travel documents at least an hour before the plane lands. The documents are in English. You’ve got plenty of time to fill them out before you get to the customs hall at your destination.

But no. You don’t bother.

Because, what’s better than being the centre of attention at the airport by holding up the other passengers from your flight at the customs lineup while, cluelessly standing there, you dig out your passport and boarding pass, ask around to borrow a pen and then set about filling in the travel documents who should have attended to on the plane.

Inconveniencing people means having power over them. Don’t it feel good?

These are the photos I snapped in the customs hall. Before the police officer instructed me to stop.

I had my documents ready and pushed past these folks. People can mess about all they like. Just don’t be a nuisance to the rest of us.

 

 

One #Mexican destination – #airline prices SO varied

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What a range of prices, routes and times. Yikes. (Prices in CDN dollars.)

Here was the plan:

Scuba diving trip to La Paz, Mexico in October. Leaving on a Tuesday (one of the cheapest days of the week to fly). Returning the next Wednesday (also a cheaper day to fly). Flying Vancouver, Canada to San Jose Del Cabo, then taking the bus north.

Sunwing, a Canadian charter airline, doesn’t fly there on those days of the week. On the days it does fly, the price was $760 CDN. As well, Sunwing is a bit of a crapshoot. The flights always seem to be delayed or making unexpected stops to refuel etc. Not, IMHO, a reliable airline.

Westjet, another Canadian airline, doesn’t offer flights on those days. On the days it does fly, the flights ranged from about $700 CDN to more than $1000 CDN.

So, I began searching the scheduled airlines.

You get used to making connections when you travel out of Vancouver. There are limited non-stops and direct flights when travelling outside of Canada.

I collect Aeroplan points, so my first choice is always with Star Alliance airlines, such as Air Canada and United. But, only when the price is right and the timing works.

In this case, Air Canada was stupidly expensive (this was NO surprise) and United’s return flight was stupidly long.

So, American won my business. It offered the best price with the best travel times. I flew with American to Grand Cayman a few years ago, with three connections (LA, Miami, George Town) to get there. Planes were new and service good.

I’ve also booked a flight to Cozumel on American Airlines for December, so I’m now committed to building air miles with American and the One World Alliance.

One thing. I’ll have to stay one night in a hotel in Cabo before taking a multi-hour bus ride to La Paz. This option was still cheaper than flying into La Paz’s airport. I’ll price that out for you next week.

Montreal 2015: Cosmo, Cote St Luc BBQ + Pendellis round two

Street where I grew up in Hampstead, Montreal

Street where I grew up in Hampstead, Montreal.

Off to Montreal this week. Taking my older sister, who hasn’t visited since we moved west in 1976.

We were part of the mass Anglo exodus that left following the 1976 Olympics. Many families parked in Toronto. We didn’t stop until we got to Vancouver.

Montreal is a pretty old city, unlike Vancouver, and the ‘look’ doesn’t seem to change much.

I like that.

The plan is to hang out, see some friends and eat. To visit the same haunts as last year. This time though, not going to do it in one day. That was a idiot move.

Really looking forward to having a Mishmash at Cosmo. More than 1,000 calories and I don’t care. My sister is excited about Cote St Luc BBQ. We have fond childhood memories of the delivery guy pulling up to the house.

My mini Mishmash. YUMMY.

My mini Mishmash. YUMMY.

Huge portions.

Huge portions at Cote St Luc BBQ.

Love this city. Be good to us Air Canada.