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Planes, trains, and automobiles: YYZ-YVR-YCG (oops! YLW) -YVR-YYZ in J on AC

Planes, trains, and automobiles: YYZ-YVR-YCG (oops! YLW) -YVR-YYZ in J on AC

Old Jan 4, 08, 2:53 pm
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Join Date: Sep 2005
Location: YYZ
Programs: AC E35K
Posts: 6,917
Planes, trains, and automobiles: YYZ-YVR-YCG (oops! YLW) -YVR-YYZ in J on AC

Background: A major snow storm swept across North America from December 14-17, hitting YYZ on the 16th. AC has status levels P(restige), E(lite), and SE (Super Elite) at 25/35/100k status miles. E and SE get lounge access and the usual priority waitlisting, etc., and status pax get different types of paper upgrade certs. One type is called a SWU, that can be used on any flight to upgrade into J from a flexible economy fare which AC markets as "Latitude" fares. If there is upgrade space available, these fares can be upgraded at time of booking. SE also get the benefit of a network of Concierges at major Canadian and some international airports. Concierges are there to help out with things when they go wrong. Jazz a regional carrier that operates many shorter AC flights.

Starting December 17 my boss (SE) and I (E) started making our way to Trail, BC, on business. This will involve travelling to Castlegar (YCG), which is situated in a valley in the Rocky Mountains. It suffers many delays and cancellations in winter months due to poor visibility, giving it the nickname "Cancelgar".

Monday night at YYZ was the day after The Storm of the Century . Things were pretty tense in the domestic part of the terminal with many overcrowded gates serving flights to points east with flight numbers in the 2000s. Not everyone was getting to board even these rescheduled flights. I had some last minute Christmas cards to send out, so I set about the terminal looking for some I can buy. The first magazine spot doesn't have any, nor do the second and third. The last one down near the end of the pier has some, but one fewer stamp for sale than I need. I eventually visit all the other shops again before I find any more stamps and end up buying more than I needed as though my life depended on it.

Anyway, despite several evenings in hotel rooms and many hours in planes, I never actually send the cards.

I get to our departure gate just as the sign changes to a 20 minute delay past 6pm. My cell phone nags me. Text message from AC notifying me of the delay. I had heard that feature never worked. Of course everything works for Zorn, as I like to tell people. My travelling companion and boss, who is SE, heard of the delay in the lounge, and he doesn't saunter out until boarding is well underway.

We were on ~$500 Latitude fares upgraded at the time of booking, an excellent deal for a 4.5h flight. We are in 2DG on an international configuration (with 60" pitch) 333. I like the spacious middle section, but one needs to board early to find bin space since there is nothing overhead these seats. By the time my boss shows up it's too late. I upgrade the two of us with some SWUs and away we go. An FA takes my jacket and, much to my surprise, even puts my rollaboard in a closet since there was no bin space left.

After takeoff those of us with status have our meal orders taken. "Chicken or beef". Wine flows freely from the first drinks service throughout the rest of the flight. Eventually we get a tray with a salad, oil and vinegar, butter, salt, pepper, and a Lindt chocolate. Warm rolls are offered and my chicken dish is brought out soon enough. It is decent food, good for airline food, with a nice sauce and roast potatoes and veg, and plenty of a nice white wine whose provenance I do not recall. After dinner I recline for a few hours' sleep, then to wake up and read for a bit. Near the end of the flight the crew come around with little cards to use to claim miles or voucher compensation for the IFE that didn't work. I hadn't noticed. I though it had been an excellent flight with an upbeat crew in the J cabin.

Then they announce that it is the captain's last flight ever, hopefully due to retirement and not because the cockpit was in flames and we were done for. His family is all on board. The FA is pretty emotional making the announcement. The FA making the French announcement didn't seem to care. After landing we were sprayed by some fire trucks. I'm surprised it didn't make the news "OMG! AC PLANE MET BY FIRE TRUCKS! NO REPORTS OF SURVIVORS AT THIS TIME!" We leave the plane and check in at the very nice YVR Fairmont within the terminal itself. I spend a few hours playing with the control panel near the bed that operates all the lights in the entire room, then I go to sleep.

On Tuesday we are due on the 8:20 flight to YCG. I eat some breakfast in the very nice YVR domestic lounge. There is a selection of cereals, toast, fruit, juices, and hot beverages. A lounge attendant takes away some of my dishes, noting that I shouldn't sit near messy dishes what with the fancy suit I was wearing (i.e. what is a 12 year old boy doing by himself eating breakfast in the lounge :roll: :lol: )

My boss finds me in the lounge and we make our way down to the armpit part of the terminal from which the Jazz flights depart and wait. At about 8:45 they make an annoucement: "We are going to attempt a landing at Castlegar." Well that sounds promising. It's the thought that counts, I guess. We board the Dash-8 and fly to YCG. After an hour or so I look out the window and see the runway. The FA is sitting the jumpseat as we get into position for an approach. Her phone rings. "Oh, OK." She sounds disappointed.
The captain announces that the clouds moved in and we have to go back to YVR. An hour later we land right back where we came from. I think De Havilland designed the DH3 to be able to just make it from YVR-YCG and back.

Although my boss is SE he is accustomed to things going smoothly and doesn't know many of the proactive tricks to make things happen. Fortunately I am insane and do know them, so with my beauty and brains, and his priority contacts, I advise him to call the SE desk immediately we get to the gate to get us on the next flight, which they do .

As we enter the terminal at YVR they announce that all YCG flights for the day are cancelled and advise people to to the customer service line, to achieve what exactly I'm not sure. Of course we don't waste our time in that line. Instead we head to the lounge to see if the agents there can help us. On our way there I suggest getting a flight to Kelowna (YLW) and rent a car for the ~3.5h drive to Trail.

As it turns out there is a flight to YLW that is delayed, so the lounge agent suggests going to the gate to see about getting on it. The gate is right across the concourse from the lounge. The agent there is pleasant but obviously used to pax trying to get things out of her, and the immediate reaction is that there is already a long waitlist and there would be little chance of getting on. We show our BPs from the YCG flight and explain the situation to her. Amazingly she is able to change our ticket so that it goes to YLW instead, and waitlists us to get on the flight but offers little hope to us.

Our YVR-YCG ticket was cheapest economy, and the agent mistakenly advised us that the waitlist goes by fare paid. I gently prod her to enter our FF numbers, which enters our status into the equation. She does so, and about a minute later she calls us back and gives us BPs with comp upgrades into J (not that it mattered on such a short flight with no special J service, but the bigger seat and status recognition was appreciated).

So good news for us, but the delay continues. It is near lunchtime so we head back to the lounge, by which time there is soup, bread, salad, and condiments on offer, and the self-serve bar is open. I have a light lunch and hard earned glass of red wine. I fire up the laptop to use the free wireless to rent a car at YLW and send messages to the people expecting to meet us that day.

We both head downstairs to the business centre to print some things and otherwise Get Some Work Done®. I check the gate every once in a while to see if boarding has commenced. Eventually it does, so I pack up and head out. My boss follows a little later.

After a pleasant short flight in J on a 319 we pick up the rental car and I put my bags in the back. One of the zippers on my bag is open, and to my horror I realize I had left something quite valuable back in the lounge in YVR. I ask my boss to call the SE desk to get the YVR concierge telephone number. I call the E desk to get the YVR lounge phone number. I call the lounge and explain my predicament. I give them my cell # (long distance for them) and they ask me to call back in 15 min. Fortunately a minute later they call me back and say they found my belongings and they are safe and sound.

By this time my boss is talking to the concierge who offers to look after my things until one of us gets back to YVR later in the week, or to ship it back to me if that doesn't work out.

Well, that was exciting! Now for a pleasant drive to Trail.

Through the Rockies.

During a snowstorm.

First we drive down Hwy 33 to near the US border. This is not a terribly major highway. Visibility is poor and the road is snow covered. There is little traffic to help lead the way. While I am an experienced winter driver, the road was also quite twisty and the elevation changes resulted in substantial temperature changes. My boss is very uncomfortable and the drive is very slow.

We decide it would be best to stop somewhere for the night, except there really is no place to stay. We stop at a small gas station (with no gas for sale). As soon as the lady sees us she shouts out "ARE YOU HERE FOR SAUSAGE ROLLS?" Um, no. We ask where there might be a hotel on the way to Trail. She says they used to go to hockey tournaments in Grand Forks and there was a Super-something there (Super-8? No, something else) but that was about 4.5 hours away (which it wasn't). We decide to press on.

Eventually we make it to Hwy 3 and head east. The last mountain pass into Grand Forks is a little unpleasant even for me, with snow, blowing snow, and fog/cloud obscuring the view. In some ways I'm glad I couldn't see very well, because in many places there was really only the road, a snowbank, and the tops of pine trees visible just off the road.

There is a Ramada branded motel there, so we stop for the night. It took about 3h to make it this far.

The next morning we eat a quick breakfast and head out at 6:15 to get to Trail, hopefully in time for 8:30 when our meetings start. The next mountain pass is still in poor condition, so I'm glad we stopped when we did the night before. Then we go off Hwy 3 to 3a, which is even less travelled and more snow covered. Anyway, we make it to our meeting at 8:25. Total drive time was about 5.5h.

Our meetings go well. My boss is due to return on Thursday, while I will stay until Friday. Unfortunately since I have the car, I'm obligated to drive it back to YLW at the end of the week. There is one YLW-YYZ flight each day, so I book a Latitude fare on it for Dec 21 so at least I can get home on time. I get the upgrade for this flight, which is nice. But since I'm not going through YVR, I can't pick up what I left in the lounge. So it's important that my boss's YCG-YVR-YYZ flights work out.

I drive him up to YCG Thursday morning. He runs in and the weather is touch-and-go, with the flight delayed by an hour (for now). I head back to Trail for more work and he promises to call me to keep me up to date. It turns out he does make it out, and the concierce delivers my things to him, so that issue is resolved.

Being on my own now I decide, on a bit of a whim, to drive back to YLW on Thursday night. That way I won't be pressed for time the next morning. I also book a flight from YLW to YVR because it is my preference to fly YVR-YYZ as originally planned. The YLW-YYZ flight is operated with an Embraer 190, which is a nice new plane, but my original YVR-YYZ is scheduled to be on an international configured 763 with 60" pitch.

The drive to YLW is a little hairy, but not nearly as bad as on Tuesday, and I make it back in a little over 4h. The next morning I am able to say "I stayed in a Holiday Inn Express last night!" I check-in for my flight using a kiosk, so I don't get my YVR-YYZ BP (different itinerary). The flight to YVR is on another Dash 8 and is pleasant and scenic over the mountains.

I head to the lounge to check-in for my last flight of the day. She says "You're in 1A. I can move you if you don't want the bulkhead seat." The international 763 was supposed to have 1-2-2 seating in J, and when I had upgraded the only single seat left was 1A. I said I'd move back, but I wanted a single seat.

"They're all single seats," she replied. Jackpot! The plane was going to be on of the refurbished international 763s with 1-1-1 lie-flat pods in J. I decide to stay in 1A. This is my first flight in one of these planes.

It's amusing to watch boarding from 1A on these refurbed plane as everyone expresses shock when seeing the J cabin with all the pods. "Wow!" "I wish we could afford to sit up here!" and many other comments.

My seat works perfectly. It takes a little playing around to get the seat into a good position. I opt for the white wine again for this flight. Meal orders are taken by status again, and I go for a beef dish this time. I watch an episode of The Office, drool over Pam, then watch The Simpsons Movie as it is something easy to watch and I'd be unlikely to spend $ to rent it. The food was good, pot roast style with a rich sauce and nice veg again. The crew was upbeat and attentive, but it was the seat that stole the show. I found I didn't like the perfectly flat position, as it is flat to the plane, which is not perfectly flat to the ground. I felt I was tilting toward my head. But a quick boost to the back of the seat and it was perfect. Unfortunately the flight was a fast 3h30 so I didn't get to enjoy the seat for longer.

We land in YYZ and 25min later I'm home. It turns out they had just rented The Simpsons Movie and my children teased me "ha ha daddy didn't get to watch it!".

Ha ha, daddy was upgraded. In your face!
zorn is offline  
Old Jan 5, 08, 2:50 pm
Join Date: Jan 2004
Location: SYD
Programs: UA 1K, VA Platinum, IHG Spire Ambassador, Hilton Diamond, Marriott Gold, Coles FlyBuys
Posts: 2,768
Fun trip report, sounds like the trip went pretty well, all things considered!
TrayflowInUK is offline  
Old Jan 6, 08, 7:24 pm
Join Date: Mar 2001
Location: SYD
Programs: OZ*G, VA gold, NZ*G (Elite), QF bronze, Hyatt Explorist, HH Gold, Bonvoyed ("Gold")
Posts: 5,096
Nice report! And good to hear some positive comments about AC domestic service, and the new seats. I've got SYD-YVR-YYZ-NYC and back and back again coming up in the next few months so I'm looking forward to trying it out for myself...
mad_atta is offline  

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