Two grand for a new suitcase (laugh emoji)

Readers of Tank’s Travels would have good reason to question my sanity (read: aspic photos). But, I’m likely not going to spend $2K on a suitcase.

Rimowa makes good suitcases. But, they come at a high price. The company has been around since 1898 (bought by Louis Vuitton in the last few years, which may be the kiss of death). They made the first ever polycarbonate (hardshell) suitcases. Their aluminum cases are legendary and OMG so pricey.

There isn’t a suitcase on the planet that can withstand baggage handlers. Hardshells, like my purple Salsa Air (a discontinued model now called the Essential Lite) crack. Aluminum cases get punctured or dented. Damage comes and goes with the territory.

Funny thing is Rimowa tries to spin the damage as a badge of worldliness and a good thing. As in, ‘the expensive and now dented aluminum suitcase for which you paid $2,500 now has character. Every bit of damage represents a special memory of your travels’.


Rimowa is big on selling image. Insinuating discerning travellers will take notice of you and your expensive suitcase and won’t that make you feel special.

If the owners of Rimowa saw how I dress when I walk through an airport with their product, they’d be appalled. Picture the opposite of style and elegance.

I digress. I won’t be buying a $2,000 suitcase (well, probably not), and I’ll always love my Rimowa Salsa Air, which now lives under my bed as storage for diving gear.

I’ve joined the Rimowa discussion page on Facebook for advice. Rimowa-ers love to connect I’ve discovered.

Advice so far: buy aluminum, only use aluminum on private jets, check polycarbonate and use aluminum as carry-on, buy a Tumi suitcase, buy an Away aluminum suitcase.

Also, buy a Pelican case. Interesting. This, I’m researching. More to come.

Next trip is end of June. Lots of time to decide.

Crap the #airlines make us do



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.


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.


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



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.


Airplane + bus to #LaPaz, #Mexico – saving $ getting there

Take a look at the price. This is why I'm flying and busing - to save money.

Take a look at the price. This is why I’m flying to San Jose del Cabo and busing – to save money.

There are often cheaper ways to travel, if you’re willing to hunt around.

Recently, I outlined how I came to purchase airfare to Mexico for a scuba diving trip in October.

I’m diving in La Paz, a 3-hour drive from San Jose del Cabo. SJD is home to the state’s large tourism-focused international airport. An airport served by many airlines. The airport I’ve elected to use. La Paz also has a airport. It’s smaller, but would be more convenient.

Doesn't get me all the way to my destination, but a lot cheaper.

Doesn’t get me all the way to my destination, but a lot cheaper.

There’s the catch. I’ll need to spend a night in San Jose del Cabo and take a bus to La Paz. Here’s the cost breakdown in CDN dollars.

  • Airfare: $490.91.
  • Cab fare to downtown San Jose Del Cabo hotel: $20 or city bus: $4.
  • One night hotel in San Jose del Cabo: $73 (Walking distance to bus station and La Paz bus the following day.)
  • La Paz bus fare return to San Jose del Cabo: $40
  • Total: $624 CDN, if I take a cab from the airport. $604, if I take the city bus.

Price to fly directly to La Paz:

  • Airfare: $815 (two stops each way – longer travel time than flight to SJD with one stop)
  • Hotel: $140 (for an extra night, in hotel where I’m booked for the remainder of my stay).
  • Airport transfers: $30
  • Total: $985 CDN

I’ll pay for convenience when it makes sense. In this case it doesn’t. Firstly, the difference in price is staggering. Secondly, I’m looking forward to the bus ride – during day time hours – so I can see more of Baja California’s countryside.

In this case, price and experience trump convenience.

One #Mexican destination – #airline prices SO varied


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.

No glamour in this flight attendant’s job

United Express 1410

A plane better suited to transporting toddlers, not adults.

When Tank was a wee girl, she wanted to be a stewardess. That’s what they called flight attendants back in the day. It promised glamour and travel to exotic destinations. Later on in life, Tank opted for another supposedly glamourous job in journalism. Both were illusions.

Since leaving journalism, I travel on a fairly regular basis. Recently, I witnessed what I think are the worst possible working conditions for a flight attendant, or in this case, two flight attendants.

It was aboard Skywest Airlines, doing business as United Express. Denver, Colorado to Vancouver. A Canadair Regional Jet. Think of it as a toothpaste tube with wings. A toothpaste tube being squeezed for three hours.

I was lucky. I’d upgraded to a slightly more comfortable seat in business class. It was from this vantage point I witnessed the flight attendants in the cramped galley.

What hell it must of been for them. The least comfortable workplace in aviation history.

The worst workplace in aviation history?

The worst workplace in aviation history?

Room enough for only one flight attendant to stand and one to sit.

The seated person forced to move if a pilot or passenger asked to use the toilet.

Yet, they were pleasant and jumped to attention every time a passenger hit the call button.

There was nothing remotely glamourous about the job, and still they did it well.

I wish this pair a future of spacious galleys with ample seating on bigger airplanes.

I hope their employer appreciates them.


The other British Invasion #travel

The pool was teeming with Brits.

Britannia ruled the pool. Look at the sunburn on the woman on the right. Ouch.

Newly arrived Brit tourists get a briefing from their tour operator.

Newly arrived Brit tourists get a briefing from their tour operator.

Why would a Brit, living so close to the Mediterranean, fly all the way to Puerto Vallarta on the west coast of Mexico?

I don’t get it.

Why not the Caribbean? Why not Florida?

This was a burning question during my recent trip to Puerto Vallarta. (The other was whether it was possible to make the ‘beverages’ any weaker than they were.)

Started when I heard the accents. My parents are Brits. I know the accents well enough to know that some of these folks were from northern England as well as the south.

As luck would have it, I met Desmond, a Londoner who’d travelled to PV with his buddy. I put the question to him. Why fly for more than 11 hours here when there are lots of hot, sunny places closer to home.

“It’s great. We came on the Dreamliner,” he said. “We’re staying for two weeks.”

Now, this was my tenth time to PV and I’d nary heard an English accent before. Why here and why now, I asked Desmond.

Seems a popular tour company in the UK, Thomson, aka First Choice, has dumped some of its flights to Greece in favour of western Mexico. The draw for Desmond? The chance to see a new part of the world.

travel info

But wait, there was more.

Seems the price was right too. Rode with an American couple back to the airport on departure day. They’d been conducting their own research. Apparently, Thomson was offering incredible deals, about $1100.00 CDN dollars (roughly 600 GBP) for one week. Slightly cheaper than what I paid flying from Vancouver.

I get it. Thomson and some of the hotels had probably done a deal, during low season, to attract first time visitors to PV. And God knows they need a new source of tourists. This part of Mexico has been hurt by economic problems in the US, fears about drug cartel violence and frankly, the fact that the beaches on the Caribbean side are nicer.

An interesting lesson in the way tours are offered and priced in different parts of the world.Brit briefing


Rude #travel: pump up the volume


Shut up, loudmouth

Shut up, loudmouth.

I’m cursed. Another flight, another jerk.

This guy picked a fight in the boarding line up with a snide remark suggesting I didn’t belong there. (I was in the correct boarding group, thank you very much).

When he turned around a second time, I put up my hand, told him to not talk to me again, called him rude.

Thankfully, I wasn’t seated next to him. End of story. So I thought.

Nope. I was seated across the aisle (three seats over) and two rows back. I might as well have been sitting on this jerk’s lap. He was so loud I heard practically every word he said.

As I discovered in the line, he felt compelled to share his every thought and feeling.

Felt sorry for the unfortunate soul seated next to him – who had to listen to this guy ramble non-stop for about two hours. Must’ve been torture.

Among the things he talked about:

  • The price of postage.
  • “I did a masters.”
  • “I freaked out every time the flights changed.”

Here’s some sound advice from Tank. Please stay home. Don’t travel. That way you’ll never have to be freaked out. As well, you’ll serve humanity by allowing people like me to nap on planes, in relative peace.

This jerk has earned a spot in…….

Tank’s Travels Boor Hall of Fame

What up @United Airlines? More good experiences

United appears to be cleaning up its act. At least where I'm concerned.

United appears to be cleaning up its act. At least where I’m concerned.

In a recent Facebook post to me, a friend – who’d been screwed by US Airways/American a few days earlier – wrote that any flight that isn’t lost at sea, shot down or lands you on CNN in connection with an in-flight brawl over seat reclining should be regarded as “the best flight ever.”

I’d like to add one more: any flight on United Airlines that doesn’t end in tears.

Tank’s Travels readers will know about my horrible experience with United in San Francisco in 2012. United is the only airline that has made me cry. At the airport. When I had a dehydration headache, swollen ankles and nowhere to stay overnight in a city with NO rooms available at any of the airport hotels.

Tank versus United Airlines

Three days into my relentless social media campaign against the airline, the aforementioned friend suggesting I kick it up a notch and take my grievance to the top. I was irritating enough to merit a $300 voucher for a future flight.

Smart move. While I waited a year to reluctantly use the voucher, I’ve since travelled five times on United, based on the positive experiences I had on the voucher flight and since then. I wouldn’t have gotten back on United if the voucher hadn’t been offered.

Things haven’t been perfect, but rather perfect-ish. Some planes have left the gate a wee bit late. On the flip side, the flight crews have been happy, helpful and friendly. My luggage has arrived at the correct destination, as have I.

Last week, I flew to Puerto Vallarta with a connection in San Francisco. Went without a hitch, notwithstanding a 30 minute delay due to some weirdness with air traffic control in Vancouver.

My flight home through Denver also went well, although the United Express terminal is a rung of Hell that Dante (of “Inferno” fame) would appreciate. (I’ll blog about this at a later date).

Keep up the good work United Airlines. I’ve got two more trips booked with you in the next six months.

For now, I’m buying into United’s ‘friendly skies’ slogan. For now.

Gouging 101: Tank’s take on CDN airline’s NEW #baggage fees

Overhead bins already jam packed BEFORE this new charge. It's going to get worse. Unless you want to pay more.

Overhead bins already jam packed BEFORE this new charge. It’s going to get worse. Unless you want to pay more.

Had the pleasure of sharing a cab recently with a Delta Airlines pilot. Naturally, the conversation turned to the horrors of modern day flying.

To wit:

  • oversold flights.
  • jam packed flights.
  • overhead bins full.
  • airlines allowing people to exceed overhead luggage quantities and size.
  • reclining in economy where space is tight and precious.
  • being nickeled and dimed: food, blankets, pillows.
  • general rudeness of frustrated travellers.

The pilot offered this observation, “about every 20 years, the airlines are in the position to make money and they’re in that position right now.”

So, I wasn’t surprised when Canadian carriers Air Canada and Westjet announced last week they’d be charging $25 CDN for checking the first bag. What surprised me was how quickly Air Canada piled on. Thought they’d use the opportunity to hammer Westjet in the PR department. Greed always wins out.

The airlines call this ‘unbundling’. Making you pay for what you ‘want’. Wanna check a bag? Pay for it. Wanna meal? Pay for it. The airlines argue unbundling is fantastic for you because it keeps flying economical by allowing them to keep fares low.

Nice try at messaging, but that’s bullshit.

A lot of U.S. and international airlines adopted this approach ages ago. Air Asia, a low cost carrier I flew with last year in Southeast Asia, offers cheap base airfare. Then, you pay to add stuff on. Want lunch? Pay. Want advance seat selection? Pay. Want VIP boarding? Pay. Check a bag? Pay. It’s unbundling to the power of 10. I didn’t mind because the base fare was inexpensive.

But that’s not the case with Air Canada and Westjet. Their base fares are not ‘low cost’.

Here’s what I predict will happen. Wanting to line their pockets even more, airlines here will begin charging people for advanced boarding. Wanna get that coveted overhead bin space? Pay $30 or $50 and they’ll let you board early. United already does this. So does American. That’s the future. So, you pay whether your luggage is in the overhead bin above you or in the luggage compartment below you.

Now, the airlines will tell you new fees can be avoided by getting their credit card, flying premium or being a frequent flyer. That’s fine for folks who have money to travel and can afford premium seats or have paid business travel.

The airlines are gouging because they’re in the position to do so. This is how the market economy works. And unfortunately if we want to fly there’s not a thing we can do about it.