One #Mexican destination – #airline prices SO varied

flights

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.

Sleeping rough at San Francisco Airport @sfo

My sleeping quarters. Private-ish and very comfortable.

My sleeping quarters. Private-ish and very comfortable.

I like the U.S. a whole lot more when the Canadian dollar is on par or worth more than the USD.

It’s bloody expensive for Canadians to travel anywhere in the world where the USD is an accepted currency or where travel packages are priced based on the USD = central America.

That’s why I refused to buy a hotel room for an overnight layover in San Francisco (SFO). It’s an expensive hotel room city to begin with. Even before you figure in the exchange rate.

Got in from San Salvador at 1:00 a.m. Had to collect my luggage and leave the secured area. Only needed to bed down until the United Airlines Lounge opened at 5:00 a.m. Flight to Vancouver was scheduled for 10:30 a.m.

Turned out to not be the hellish experience I expected.

neighboursThanks to Angel, my Honduran cab driver, we found a store selling air mattresses while on route to the airport in Roatan. $9.00 USD. Once at SFO, all I had to do was find a safe-ish spot, blow it up and begin counting sheep. Found a tucked away place in a passenger waiting area where others were sleeping. Some folks were underneath the block of seats.

Got busy setting up my ‘room’:

  • Positioned a luggage cart and my suitcase to block easy access to me.
  • Set the  ‘brown noise’ on my IPad.
  • Earbuds in. Eye mask on.
  • Set the alarm for 4:30 am.
  • Head down at 2:02 a.m.
  • Slept like a baby until the alarm went off. Then, snoozed for another hour.
me

Saving money makes me smile.

 

Sleeping under the row of chairs is also an option.

Sleeping under the row of chairs is also an option.

The hardest part of sleeping rough was deflating the air mattress.

Then, it was off to re-check my luggage, brush my teeth and find a comfy spot in the United Airlines lounge, where some asshole called me (and others) peasants!! With six cappuccinos in my system by that point, he’s lucky I didn’t rip his throat out.

I love my little blue air mattress. It will travel with me again. We may have another sleeping rough ‘date’ at SFO in October. Yippee.

 

“This place is for peasants”: boorish behaviour at SFO @united

We, the peasants, of the United Lounge at San Francisco airport. The peasant in front has two laptops.

We, the peasants, of the United Lounge at San Francisco airport. The peasant in front has two laptops.

I wish I’d had time enough to take a picture of this asshole and his companions. Three (two males, one female. The younger man may have been their servant) boorish travellers, botoxed to an inch of their lives. Wearing the type of travel duds you find in magazines targeting (insecure?) people who identify as sophisticated travellers. You know, the yacht club set.

I first heard, then noticed, the trio when they marched past me in the United Lounge at San Francisco airport. The lounge isn’t opulent, but has comfortable seating and snacks. Staff keeps it tidy and the refreshments replenished – always available to help the spoiled and clueless work the cappuccino machine.

But none of this mattered to the trio. They were looking for a VIP section of the lounge. Where, I guess, they could ogle and be ogled by their kind. Where, I suppose, they could mingle with superior human specimens, without being contaminated by the bottom feeders in the rest of the lounge.

“Is this it?”, the woman barked at the employee busy emptying a trash can. “Is there another section?”

Unhappy with the response, the three turned on their heels and sprinted to the exit.

Heading home to my 'low social rank'.

Raising my coffee cup to low social rank – the coarse, the unsophisticated, the uneducated.

“This place is for peasants,” the older guy remarked on his way out.

Raised by wolves.

 

 

 

 

 

#Pilot on the potty? What’s up with that?

Never seen a cart block potty access before.

Never seen a cart block potty access before.

What the ‘you-know-what’ is this?

A food and bevvie cart blocking my access to the potty.

A first and I travel on planes often.

Clearly meant to prevent passengers from taking care of their business.

It wasn’t there for long. Five minutes max.

What I don’t get is why?

Pilot on the potty? Why block the galley? I’ve seen pilots leave the cockpit and hit the can without the flight crew needing to ‘park’ interference.

I know. First world problem. Besides, I can probably hold it for a few more minutes.

Here’s the thing. Airlines have made flying (the ‘friendly skies’) so spectacularly horrid that they’d better deliver value and good service when I’ve paid for an upgrade. An upgrade that includes a bathroom that’s restricted to passengers in that particular cabin. An upgrade that’s the only way nowadays to enjoy a modicum of comfort on an airplane.

No, I’m not going to line up at the back of the plane for the other toilets. I paid for a premium potty experience, something I cannot afford to do very often. Get that cart out of the way.

One guess as to which airline did this.

Get that thing out of my way.

Get that thing out of my way.

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.

 

Tank’s Travels 2014 in review: a year of kooks, boors + crabs

Thanks for reading Tank's Travels. There's more to come in 2015.

Thanks for reading Tank’s Travels. There’s more to come in 2015.

The universe blessed me with another year of kooks and ill-mannered travellers in 2014. Plus, a few great animal stories. I’m grateful for the content.

Because we live on a planet full of fools, idiots and irritating people who travel, there are many more adventures in my future. Can’t wait.

Here are a few memorable postings from 2014.

Best experience: Had a ‘moment’ with a Nassau Grouper in Roatan, Honduras. Going back in March 2015 in the hope of reconnecting with this special friend.

My boyfriend. The Nassau Grouper.

Runner up: Never in my wildest dreams did I expect to see a whale shark in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Maybe it took a wrong turn. An amazing surprise.

Best travel deal: Roatan, Honduras. Great diving and inexpensive.

Best food: Cosmo in Montreal, Quebec. The signature dish, the Mish Mash, is to die for. And, with thousands of calories per serving, it will kill you. Going back for more in May 2015.

My mini Mishmash. YUMMY.

My mini Mishmash. YUMMY.

Biggest jerk: When coffee meets crotch. Karma at work.

Honourable mention: Think the airline lounges attract quality people? Thank again. These folks in the United Airlines lounge were barbarians.

Rudeness in the United Airlines lounge.

Most popular posting of the year: The rude, loud-mouth I really wanted to punch.

Most fun writing: Mr. Caracas visits Mexico.

Poster boy for Fruit of the Loom?

Weirdest thing: Watching a parasailor almost die. Dumb way to kill yourself.

Runner up: Really Fidel? Cuba’s crabs follow me to the can.

Honourable mention: The weird racist t-shirt guy introduces himself to Tank. Hilarious.

Click on the link in the story to see what the shirt said.

Click on the link in the story to see what the shirt said.

Can’t a girl even go to the can in peace?

Thanks for reading. Happy New Year.

Denver’s #airport terminal from #hell

 

Cramped, noisy, ugly basement terminal for United Express flights in Denver.

Cramped, noisy, ugly basement terminal for United Express flights in Denver.

A story about one of the most awful places on earth. At least when you’re travelling, really tired, awaiting a connection and have swollen ankles.

Welcome to Hell. AKA the United Express terminal in Denver, Colorado.

Narrow hallways, cramped seating, noisy, ugly artwork, retina-burning florescent lighting and crowded. All the charm of an industrial warehouse.

No one here looked happy. I was in a foul mood following an exceptionally long hike from the ‘real’, modern terminal, then down some stairs into this dungeon, where I discovered the few seats at the gate had all been taken. The gate agent seemed haggard. Left to handle all of us Vancouver-bound passengers on her own. That meant checking ALL passports and fighting over the size of carry on luggage. Plus, deal with people demanding seat changes.

This was a dreaded commuter flight. Not a proper United Airlines flight. Skywest doing business as United Express, under contract.

No frills, no comforts. More like cattle being herded.

Nothing against Skywest. The in-flight service turned out to be fine-ish. (The plane was better suited to transporting toddlers, not fully grown adults.)

Denver Airport. You need to renovate this pit or demolish it and rebuild. Pronto.