My “Best” travel experience (so far)

Well, if it has to happen, it has to happen all at once. I am certain Murphy’s law is very much applicable to my recent travel experience. But on the bright side, my luggage always showed-up.

As the law says: “if it can happen, it will happen”. I must have been pushing my luck for way to long as I rarely have major problems while travelling, except a few luggage delivery delays (never lost), which I avoid by having only carry-on most of the time. But now, travelling seems to catch up with a vengeance. My trip from London (UK) to Boston (USA) via Montreal (Canada) at the end of February 2006 has been an interesting experience that I would rather not repeat in the near future, to say the least.

Everything started very well on a Friday afternoon. I got to the London Heathrow airport well ahead of schedule, got the great news that I would be able to use my upgrade voucher (thank you Air Canada) and was relaxing at the lounge… nothing was preparing me for the next 2 days to get to Boston. But back to London… the flight takes off on time, the power-plug for my laptop works and I get ready for an uneventful flight over the Atlantic. Shortly after take-off, the captain announces that the expected temperature in Montréal would be -2° Celsius with risks of freezing rain. As I only have a connecting flight within the same terminal there, I don’t really get worried about it.

Seven hours later, while starting the descent, the captain announces that the temperature at our arrival is actually -17° Celsius and that there are very strong winds. This made for quite a shaky descent, but we finally landed on time and I had plenty of time to catch my connection. Customs was very quick (Montréal has a separate customs waiting row for customers in transit) and then started the wait for the luggage. The only thing I can say is that I knew I should have only travelled with carry-on luggage!

After almost one hour, my luggage suddenly arrives. It seems that because of the bad weather, the unloading was a lot harder than normal. Yes, the luggage did arrive on the same plane. The bad news is that this only left me with 25 minutes to catch my connection. An now the fun really begins.

The connecting flight from Montréal to Boston I was scheduled on was cancelled because of the weather conditions. No big problem as they transferred me to the next one scheduled to leave about two hours later. But if planes are cancelled because of meteorological conditions, that does not mean the next one will take off.

And, yes, that flight was cancelled as well. As this was the last flight of the day between Montréal and Boston, I had to be transferred to one the next day (not the first one which was already overbooked, but the one at 2pm). And to make it even better, outside of rescheduling me, Air Canada’s answer was that they are sorry, but as this is because of weather conditions, there would be nothing else for me. I therefore had to find out a hotel for the night (keeping in mind that I had pre-paid my car rental and hotel in Boston for that night, so that I would double-pay my hotel for that night). Lucky me, there where still a few rooms available near the airport.

But before I head to the hotel, I wanted to confirm that everything was looking good for the next day. I had to wait well over an hour in a massive line at the ticket desk (and there where no priority lines for frequent flyers / business class – Air Canada, this should be fixed). At about 3.30 AM GMT, the time-zone I was in, I got confirmation that everything “should” be fine the next day and I headed to bed.

As their office was closed during the night, I contact the travel insurance company on Saturday morning to learn that my policy does not cover for the hotel night as this would be the responsibility of the airline company… not sure why I would take a travel insurance if it doesn’t cover problems that can occur during my travels! Looks like I will now have to start a long back-and-forth between the airline and the travel insurance company to get this resolved, but that’s another story.

I came back to the Montréal airport early so that I could make sure to get on the plane. Over night the weather conditions did improve drastically, and the departure screens didn’t show any “Cancelled” messages, only a few “Delayed”. Good news! Almost :)

So I wait a few hours. The massage-service that you can get at Montréal Airport should be available at every airport, and the Air Canada lounge is nice with free WiFi Internet. At 13.35, the boarding process started and I go through the gate. I got stopped just before getting on board of the plane by the flight crew because they would have to change the “flying-machine”. And so starts another first experience for me, the de-embarking process before take-off. Anyway, we go to the new gate, wait about 30 minutes to learn that the second plane was not ready to fly.

And now for the good new. In French, there is a saying that got contradicted this time… “jamais deux sans trois”. Well, the third plane was the right one and I was finally on my way to Boston with 22 hours delay. Once landed, my luggage arrived at the conveyor, my car rental and hotel room where waiting for me. And the most important part, which was the purpose of my visit to the Boston area in the first place, I had a wonderful dinner with one of my best friends and his wife.

I love when stories finish with a happy ending, especially when someone I know or myself is the main character :)