Here's a trip report where I started off literally wandering around Canada. It's not that bad, as I had a goal of St. John's, Newfoundland, but I wasn't sure if I was going to get there or not, and if not, I was going to do Montreal or Quebec City. My other goal was to head over the pond to Heathrow, but England was having a huge flood.
I spent Thursday and Friday before the week of Thanksgiving in Chicago on business and planned to go somewhere as soon as I got out of my meeting on Friday. I had the whole subsequent week off and needed to get to where family is (in Louisiana) by Tuesday +/- a day. I planned to make it there (to SHV) on Monday evening for good measure. I tentatively had some plans with my mom on Tuesday.
So I started off in ORD and got out of my meeting, or it was winding down, at about 1:30pm. I was checked in for the 3:30pm to YYZ, but changed it to the 2:30pm to YUL, which was booked 33/50 on American Eagle. When I checked in at the machine, it let me choose a seat, and I picked a row in the back on the 2 seat side that looked like I would get both seats to myself. I didn't have any plans regarding where to stay. I had set up plans on Air Canada to fly YUL-YHZ-YYT on the next morning, which I arranged and got passes to do on the previous night at ORD. In fact, I went downtown Thursday night for the free late night at the Art Institute of Chicago, and sort of hurried back to make it to ORD before the ticket counter closed so I could get all my different passes that I would need on Air Canada and Continental Express.
I bought all the contingency plans that I anticipated needing. As it turned out there was one more I needed! What I'm talking about buying here, for those who might be confused, are passes using the employee travel agreements between my airline (AA/AE) and other carriers. We can fly standby on each other's airlines, but it requires paper ticket passes, so they take some advance planning. And if I end up in YYT, which is a city that AA doesn't serve, and I only have one pass to get home, and if I can't get on that flight, then I'm stuck. So it's best to have a few backup plans. For example I had YYT-YYZ on AC and YYT-EWR on CO.
So, as I said a few lines up, I made a spontaneous decision to go to YUL, partly because I knew a passenger on the YYZ flight and didn't want to ruin my trip before the trip started!
N609AE (Former Trans States with the Blue Tail)
We taxied out on time for a 2:35pm departure. They said it was to be a 1:45 flight or something like that. Maybe 1:30 (I don't remember now). It was shorter than I expected. I flew YUL ORD one time and was on the plane for 4 hours, but that was due to deicing, high winds, and waiting on a gate for an hour.
We quickly took off only waiting for one CO 737 ahead of us. I get so turned around I'm not sure of our runway, but I *think* it was 14L. Then we quickly made lots of fun turns to thread the needle for a clear path to fly by ORD and over Chicago on our way to the Northeast.
After takeoff we had the beverage service and I also purchased a trail mix for $3 feeling a bit hungry after having an early lunch.
Heading north and east, the sun set quickly. Sunset in Chicago and Montreal was around 4:30pm that week.
A new moon above my Embraer's Rolls Royce engines.
There was a medium sized line in the passport control area which took a while to get through. Entertaining was a crazy woman who had been on my plane. Onboard, she saw me fold my jacket and place it in the empty seat next to me (she was sitting in front of me with her husband or whoever). She handed me her jacket and asked me to fold it and place it there too, and then complained when I didn't display the same care with her jacket as I had used on my jacket.
During the flight she was a bit odd. After landing she completely freaked out when she couldn't find something. She made a big high-energy production of it as she went through all the seats. I never could tell what it was. I think mainly the problem was that she was on drugs or something.
In the customs line she got in 3 different fights with the same lady behind her, attracting the attention of some customs officers. Then in the actual line to speak to an officer at passport control she kept leaving one line and going to the other, while the man she was with kept rolling his eyes and looking embarassed. She didn't get kicked out or anything drastic, because I think she lived there, being a Francophone.
While in the same line, I observed two other things of note. 1. They have a single entry line, rather than splitting visitors and residents apart like most countries do. 2. There was a big Marriott built into the terminal I could see through the skylight that I definitely didn't remember ever being there. Not having a hotel reservation, I decided I would check out the Marriott, as my original tentative plan was to stay at the YUL aloft hotel.
When one thinks of Quebec and things with French influence, one thinks of great French food. Here's one of YUL airport's offerings!
Sorry, I shouldn't joke. I really enjoy Montreal and have visited a few times. My one big complaint is the lack of a train to downtown, especially since they already have a subway system in downtown. I elected not to go downtown because it was going to cost me about $15 for a shuttle bus downtown and $35 for a taxi back.
Here's a view outside the terminal. The Marriott was brand new and the terminal was new too. I remember there was a bunch of construction last time I was at YUL and I guess that's what they built! I went into the Marriott and asked if they had any rooms and then asked if they had a discount for either airline staff or AAA card holders.
It turns out they had a great rate for AAA card holders, so I took a room. The hotel was very modern, with new fixtures everywhere, great lighting, just a thoroughly modern and nice hotel. Here are some shots:
Fireplace by the coffee bar.
Just a shot of some seating area.
Blue lighting in the hallways
Yes that's a door. But look. There's no place to stick a key!
You hold your key near the door and it unlocks for you! I was able to put it in my wallet and hold my wallet by the door and it worked! A wireless key. What will they think of next!
Sorry I didn't take pictures inside the room, but it had high ceilings and looked fresh and new.
After I got to my room, I checked the computer to see how the flights were looking using www.iddeals.com which is a new website (for me at least) and it turns out that it's rather accurate for finding out flight loads. My YHZ-YYT flight had sold out and was overbooked. So I spent a good hour or maybe two planning how to get to YYT and settled on YUL-YYZ-YYT the next morning.
The only problem was that I didn't have a pass to get my YUL to YYZ and would need one before checking in for my flight, so I called the AA nonrev help line and got it set up. I would still be required to get to an agent in the morning early enough to purchase the pass and then check in at Air Canada.
I listed myself on the 8:00am-9:15am YUL-YYZ as it seemed the emptiest and best chance for me to get on. Then the 12:15pm YYZ-YYT. It included a 3 hour sit in YYZ, which was fine by me. It's much better to plan it safe rather than miss a flight.
While doing all that planning, I had a great view of the YUL international gates and got to watch the KLM MD11 push out, as well as Royal Air Maroc, Air France, British Airways, lots of Air Transat. It was a great view.
I woke up at just after 5am and made it downstairs to the AA ticket counter a little after 6:00. It was packed with a huge line, so I was a little nervous. I purchased my pass at about 6:30am, so the line went quickly enough even though its length was a bit intimidating. Next to the AA checkin was a kiosk where you can check in for any airline and I switched it to Air Canada and checked in for AC 403 to YYZ. It didn't give me a seat, but gave me a standby card.
I went to the domestic area of the airport and went through security, which didn't take long at all. At about 7:20am they called my name and gave me a middle seat on the A319 to YYZ. I was happy to get a seat!
Here's my A319
Seat 20B middle
Since I was in a middle seat, I don't really have any pictures, but I have some great comments in praise of Air Canada.
This was the most comfortable middle seat experience I have had except for the middle seat in J class on a 777! AC seems to have lots of legroom, plus having on demand video/audio at every seat on mainline really makes AC a nice airline to fly. It helped that the people next to me were normal size and not huge.
The flight was more or less full. A few empty middle seats remained. That was a good thing, because, flying on another airline, I'm generally the last person to get a seat.
For the inflight service, I had some coffee and they gave a morning biscuit (cookie). I used my Bose headsets and the crew were selling earbud headsets and also giving out adapters for free as the A319 had the 2-pronged headset plug.
I think I dozed off for a few minutes and then before long we were approaching YYZ. There wasn't much to see as we were over cloudcover the whole way.
Here's my E-190 to YYT.
This was my first Embraer 190 experience. I've flown on a few Embraer 170s that were on Republic or whatever branch of that regional behemoth for USAir Express.
There were lots and lots of standbys which made me a bit nervous. As it turned out, everybody cleared, so I got on and had seat 23F, which is a window behind the wing. I think row 32 was the last row. When I was boarding the flight attendant said my bag was oversized and would probably need to be checked. She at least was willing to let me try. It easily fit into the overhead bin, so I don't know what her problem was. One thing I am always conscious of is making sure that no place on my bag bulges, such as outer pockets or whatever. Bulges are what makes bags not fit in overhead bins.
The Embraer had huge windows as I expected and lots of legroom. I would say the legroom on the A319 and E190 was as good or greater than that of the AA S80, which has very generous legroom. It's probably in the 33' or 34' range.
And check out the TV!
The magazine and safety card, which, being a good earth friendly person, I left in the seatback pocket.
And... Here is the takeoff video at Toronto
I think they said our flight time was to be 3:01 and we were going to cruise at FL380. We were over clouds most of the way there. By the time the cart got to my row, no sandwiches were available, so I didn't have any food on the plane. I had lunch in YYZ before departing, so I wasn't planning to eat anyway.
They had three flight attendants, one of which worked the Executive cabin and two dedicated to Economy, though the third helped out in Economy too.
I watched a couple shows but mostly listened to music and read a book on the flight.
Our arrival time was 4:42pm, which was actually just after sunset in St. John's so you'll see the lack of daylight in my landing pictures. The sun is going down already in this shot at altitude.
Here's a view of the water as we were descending. The captain had warned us about the wind. It was gusting at 65km/h from the northwest! It was going to be a bumpy landing!
Here's an attempt to show some whitecaps, but they show up better in the landing video.
Here is the landing video at YYT
Yeah, it's blurry. Sorry! The low light didn't help my picture-taking!!
They said it had been raining all day but was finally moving out with the gusty winds picking up.
It was a friendly little terminal of 8 gates served by Air Canada, Porter, WestJet, Provencial, for domestic operations. For international, there's the airline that flies to St Pierre and Miquelon (French Territory) on ATRs (which I cannot remember the name) and also Continental Express to EWR.
I went to a bed and breakfast that was in a good location and was clean, comfortable, but the people who ran it weren't very personable. In fact they never even spoke to me, which made me a bit uncomfortable. I was only planning to stay one night, though I ended up in St John's for two nights.
St John's was one of my long-time goals, as it has always captured my imagination flying over it on transatlantic flights. Plus, there's lots and lots of history here. One place I need to return to see is the L'anse aux Meadows archeological site, where there is a Norwegian settlement dating from between 970-1000AD.
Based on comments from other trip reports, I won't bore you with a big history lesson, but will suffice it to say that St. John's has a lot to offer if you either like history, geography, aviation, or bars/pubs.
For History--One area of history I like is the Elizabethan age of developing the British Overseas Empire and Newfoundland was absolutely key for that, and kept its strategic importance in the two Great Wars of the 20th century.
For Geography--It's 1600 miles to Limerick, Ireland and 1300 miles to New York.
For Aviation--You can look up at night and see all the transatlantic flights, plus it gets its share of diversions, being the biggest runway at the edge of North America. Gander, 120 miles away is of course more famous. I didn't find out if you can tour Gander Center or if there's anything worth visiting aviation-wise in Gander.
For Bars/Pubs--They boast the highest per capita number of bars and pubs in North America of any city. George street is the famous street of nothing but pubs and bars. I was turned off by how much marijuana is freely smoked there, as that's not my cup of tea, but that's my only complaint.
And otherwise, the place is very photogenic and the people were universally nice. I went to one live show in a pub that was pretty decent.
Here's the view from my bedroom in my B&B. Sorry for the blinds, but that's that best I could do! It was my first view of St. John's in daylight.
Here's a view down toward the "Narrows" and out into the Atlantic.
I love how colorful this place is!
Here are a bunch of pictures I took while out sightseeing, and then I'll finish up with a description of my trip home.
Here are the Newfoundland and Labrador dogs which were bred on this island.
In this picture is the easternmost point of North America
OK Now done with the sightseeing, the plan was to fly back to YYZ on the 5:30pm flight. Since the sun goes down at 4:30pm and I'm not much of a bar-hopper, and even if I was, the whole street smelled like marijuana, I had decided to start back to YYZ that night.
The Departure board
A light and airy terminal
It is a Jazz station even though it gets lots of mainline. The check-in machine didn't give me a seat right away, but I think there were about 18 seats open.
I had read on a trip report on a.net that there was an observation deck, so I found it and was a bit disappointed. I was hoping for more, but here it is.
You can't get close to the glass, so the view is restricted. Looking straight down are gates 3 and 4.
This view puts it in perspective.
I guess I didn't take any pictures beyond this. When my E-190 landed, I overheard the crew getting off tell the crew that was taking over about some seal problem that should have been reported upon landing in YYZ, but they failed to report it. So it would cause a maintenance problem now in YYT. Maintenance was then called, and we waited for about 2 hours before they cancelled the flight!
I had to decide what to do. First of all, thanks for the free wifi at the gates YYT!!
I was thinking about taking the Continental Express 8:50am to EWR, which had about 25 open seats still. After the line of cancelled people died down, I asked a friendly Air Canada agent for some nonrev advice. First I asked if they would take my YYT YYZ pass on a YYT YUL flight if all the YYZ flights were full. The agent talked me into taking their 5:00am YYZ flight as it was still showing more than 20 open seats even after the cancelled people were rebooked. She said everyone was asking for the 7:00am departure rather than the 5:00am and they were upgrading the 7:00am departure from a A319 to A320, so there was room for everybody. I decided to go with the two YYZ departures and failing that, taking CO to EWR!
About 10 minutes before cancellation time, I called the Sheraton at YYZ and asked them to cancel my hotel reservation and then they got me a good rate at the Sheraton Newfoundland, so that was my plan for the night. I didn't want to go back to that B&B. The Sheraton Newfoundland said on the website it was under construction, but when I got there, it was nice and clean.
I only had $15 Canadian and was going to use the ATM, but the one at the YYT airport was broken. Luckily the cab driver was more than happy to take US money. He said many cab drivers prefer it over Canadian, which I couldn't believe, being so far from the US.
Here's a picture of the interior of the Sheraton Newfoundland! I walked through there earlier in the day attempting to warm up a bit during a walk.
It was snowing pretty hard that night and rather cold, so I stayed in at the hotel, which had a nice bar/restaurant. I also needed to decide that, upon arriving YYZ at 7am if I wanted to go to DFW or hang out in YYZ for a bit. I decided to see a museum exhibit I had been wanting to see for a while. The Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit at the Royal Ontario Museum. So I added that to my next day's agenda.
I woke up at 3:00am and got ready quickly. I phoned the front desk and asked to have a cab available in about half an hour! She said no problem! When I got downstairs, she remarked that I didn't stay with them for very long. I asked if I could get half off my room since I only stayed half the night! I was checking out just after 3:30am. I was at the YYT airport at 3:45 or 3:50, which was plenty early for the sleepy 5:00am departure. The airplane for this flight arrives from YYZ at 3:30am! A semi red-eye.
When I checked in at the kiosk, it allocated me a seat! I chose 24F, which was an empty row of 2 seats, and I got both seats to myself.
5:00am-6:55am (3:25 flight time)
Here's the boarding process.
I think I slept most of the flight. The one problem I've noticed on all night-time E-170 and E-190 flights are the bright strobes on the wing are not shielded and can be a nuisance in the rear cabin.
After flying more than 3 hours, here we are landing at YYZ at sunrise!
While parking, I spotted N828AW.
And here we are at YYZ.
I checked my bags at the Sheraton YYZ with a bellman and then took the bus to the train to get downtown on my way to the Royal Ontario Museum.
Here it is!
Look how the modern structure interrupts the neo-Gothic building.
I went through a couple of exhibits waiting for 11:00am, which is when I could go in the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit. I did that (sorry pictures were forbidden obviously since the documents are fragile, damaged, and 2000 years old).
It was a great exhibit that I recommend. They spent plenty of time putting the history and culture of the time of the documents into perspective, which I appreciate.
I went for a quick stroll before heading back to YYZ airport.
When I got back to YYZ, I checked in requesting J class on AA. I realized the 738 to DFW had downgraded to a S80, which is really only 8 fewer seats and the same cabin up front. It was booked 7 or 8 in the front and only about 65 in the back, so there was plenty of room.
Cubana at YYZ!
A 777 in Vancouver 2010 livery
I used my Priority Pass to hang out in the Admiral's Club for a while, catching up on email, and then on my computer noticed that they started allocating seats to standbys. It looked like I was definitely going to get J class, so I went to the gate and got seat 5F. It was a MD80 with wifi onboard.
While sitting at the gate, I just happened to look out and see an EK A380! That was a surprise!
We taxied out a few minutes early, since we had a light load, and took off quickly.
You can see how the A380 dwarfs Alitalia in the top right here.
So I turned on my laptop and enjoyed the novelty of having internet inflight. It's great having flightaware available in flight!
After the bowl of warm nuts and the hot towel, I was served a meal that I didn't get a picture of. I got the tortellini with a salad and the dessert was a warm chocolate chip cookie. At least half of the time I get the pasta dish, since it's very consistently good. They have added a lot more variety to the meat entree slections, but I generally stick with the pasta. I'm not saying the meat entrees aren't good. I just prefer the good pasta!
I could tell we were definitely in the US, since an airline that doesn't dare venture across the US's borders flew by us outside...
Sorry for the bad pic.
We parked at D34 at DFW at about 5:49pm just ahead of this 777 parking at D33. The time is significant because we were due to arrive at 6:19pm and I was planning to connect to a flight to SHV. I made a negative 9 minute connection!
Our scheduled arrival time was 6:19pm and the scheduled departure time to SHV was 6:10pm. Our actual arrival time was 5:49pm and actual departure time to SHV was 6:20. Arrival gate D34. Departure gate D6. I made it! There were a few seats on the American Eagle Embraer 140, so they gladly gave me a seat just as they were getting ready to board.
As we taxied out to SHV I noticed an ExpressJet ERJ at D15 doing some sort of charter.
Wow that was really a long post! I hope I didn't lose too many of you in the details. One thing I wanted to convey was how fluid sometimes a trip can be when nonreving, which is the complete opposite of most people who are tied to a specific flight at a specific time on a specific route due to the structure of cheap nonrefundable tickets.
Thanks for reading and I look forward to your comments!
[Edited 2009-11-29 21:59:12]