Wednesday’s Words of Wisdom (And Whimsy)

Posted on March 1, 2023 under Wednesday’s Words of Wisdom with one comment



Free Parking


“Falling in and out of love with you,

Falling in and out of love with you,

Don’t know what I’m gonna do,

I keep falling in and out of love with you.”

Falling in and Out of Love – Pure Prairie League

A saga about WestGuess Airlines.

Flying used to be fun.

Surely you remember those good old days when flights were reasonably priced, planes flew on time, unlimited checked bags, you received a nice hot meal and a few free drinks, agents were friendly. You get the picture.

And then, flying ceased to be fun. There are lots of reasons why travel now is as much fun as having a case of hives. In a piece I wrote at Christmas, it took me five days to get home from the north. Most of the issues were weather related so I won’t till that soil again.

Last week, I travelled to Victoria, B.C. for some dog therapy. Very good friends of mine were heading out on a southern vacation, and they asked me to look after Cooper, their poodle. I had done this once before a few years ago and I really enjoyed it. Cooper was good company and we walked twice a day, rain or shine.

My itinerary was very simple. It consisted of a direct flight from Halifax to Calgary avoiding the unfriendliest airport in the world. It is in Ontario. You have three guesses and the first two don’t count. The second leg was a hop from Calgary to Victoria. It’s a good thing that I wasn’t flying into you know where because there was a storm which snarled travel and nearly brought out the army. There may have been 10 centimeters of snow on the ground. The weather in YHZ (I’m so cool using these airport codes) was perfect. I’m hometown proud and think Halifax is one of the friendlier airports in the country, if not the planet.

The plane taking us to the west coast was sitting on the tarmac when we got to the departure gate.

The only smart thing I did prior to departure was to scarf down a massive hamburger. In many ways, it would be “The Last Supper”.

Getting away on time looked very promising and important to me and several travellers who had tight connections in Calgary. The cattle were herded as has become the norm. Our boarding passes indicated the pen where we were to gather before being allowed on board. For some reason, boarding started later than it should have and right away, we were on the clock. It was a full flight, and it took an eternity to get everybody seated with carryon bags in the overhead bins and one other piece under the seat. I checked my phone and by the time they started to show us how a seatbelt worked (really?), we were 45 minutes behind schedule.

The weather didn’t do us any favours. The first three hours, the plane was fighting heavy winds and was buffeted around. It was one of the most turbulent flights I had been on in a long time. This prevented the staff from distributing a gourmet meal of cookies and pretzels.

I checked my phone a few times and I knew that there was a very good chance that we wouldn’t make it to our connecting flight. We landed and once again, time stood still as it took a full 15 minutes before the cattle were released from the plane. All hope was now lost. But wait, one of the flight attendants got on the blower and announced that all connecting flights were patiently waiting for us. There were a few cheers and a sigh of relief from this weary traveler. It was now 11:00 p.m. Calgary time – 2:00 a.m. back home. I had been on the go for 20 hours.

When you’re in a hurry trying to catch a connecting flight, it is almost a certainty that your gate will be as far away as humanly possible and still remain in the province. I didn’t run but I must have looked like one of those race walkers. We resembled a herd of wildebeests crossing the Serengeti. We arrived at the gate and stared in disbelief. The plane had departed. All of the other passengers who had connecting flights suffered the same fate. It was now nearly midnight, so we all scurried to the WestGuess courtesy counter, soon to be renamed the non-courtesy counter.

In fairness to the two agents working the counter, they had likely been listening to a litany of complaints all day long and their patience was as thin as the people in front of them. When they saw hordes of angry passengers heading in their direction, they decided to close the courtesy counter. They instructed us to go down to the baggage level in the airport and speak to the folks at the check-in counter. When we arrived, there was one lonely, haggard agent standing out on the floor fielding questions. The answers that she provided turned a tired exhausted coterie into an angry mob. We were informed that missing our connecting flight was not the fault of the airline and as such, we would not receive a hotel voucher or a food voucher. This did not go over well. An understatement. Where would we all lay down our heads? The agent calmly explained that we could try one of the two airport hotels although she said they were likely full. Had we been so fortunate to get one of these prized rooms to lay our weary heads, we would have had to shell out a measly $400. With many travel delays in the previous two days, she thought that getting a room in Red Deer or Edmonton would be a better option. I’m kidding, of course.

We were then directed to go to the WestGuess check in counter where three agents fought off a barrage of irate passengers. Standing in line, I could easily hear the exchanges between tired passengers and tired agents. Not pretty. I was able to discern that vouchers are not issued for things like inclement weather. The weather in Halifax earlier that evening was perfect so you can scratch that one off the list. The agent then gave us the second reason why we would be spending the night sleeping on chairs or on the floor in the reception area outside of the security area. You see, the airlines have been trying to maximize profits which, by the way, is completely fair. When they started charging for checked bags, the public, being savvy and Scottish (!) decided to circumvent this by not checking bags and jamming as much personal property into their carryon bags. This produced immediate consequences- delays getting all of these carryon bags to fit on the plane. As a matter of fact, airlines are now offering people to stow some of these bags in the belly of the plane at no charge to free up space. Maybe if the airlines in their infinite wisdom would allow one free checked bag (like the good old days) this problem would be eradicated quickly. What the agents explained to every customer was that it was THEIR fault that the flight was delayed. This was not accepted with grace or decorum. There was a young girl standing behind me. She was in tears. I found out during the night that this was her very first flying experience… and possibly her last. I felt bad for her and an elderly couple who were completely flummoxed.

When I got to the counter, I looked at the agent and said, “I am not going to get mad at you.” His relief was palpable, and I thought for a moment that he might leap over the counter and hug me. I simply wanted to know when I might fly the following day and to secure a boarding pass.

It was now 12:30 a.m. My flight to Victoria was for 7:00 a.m., a scant 6.5 hours away. The agent told me that I should be at security no later than 4:00 a.m. At that point, I was very happy that I wasn’t able to secure a $400 hotel room. That would have been the most expensive short stay (3.5 hours) in history. I wandered down to the security area and grabbed a seat. People were curled up on the seat and stretched out on the floor. Charming. The guy next to me was snoring. No. Thundering is a more apt description.

The only good news in this ordeal is that I was the very first person in line when the security area opened up its doors at 4:00 a.m.

My flight to Victoria was uneventful and 31.5 hours after crawling out of bed the previous day in Antigonish, I had arrived in Victoria.

I am a substitute schoolteacher.

WestGuess. You get a big time fail.

“Because I used to love her,

But it’s all over now.”

It’s All Over Now – The Rolling Stones

Have a great weekend.

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