Six weeks had passed since I had booked it, and it was finally the day to take my first trip on the Embraer 190. The afternoon dragged slowly by until finally it was time to catch the bus to YOW. Upon arrival, I quickly realized that the airlines were still working through quite the backlog from the wicked winter storm that had affected YYZ, YUL, and YOW (in short, most of Air Canada’s operation!) the day before.View Large View Medium
I printed out my boarding pass at the express kiosk and got in line for the “express” baggage drop. Thank goodness for the express line: it only took 30 minutes to drop off my sole piece of luggage! However, I had given myself plenty of time. When the agent processed my bag, she began to tell me I needed to run to a gate, but paused when she realized I actually had lots of time, unlike most everyone else in line.
I walked downstairs and was glad to see the line for security was very short. I passed through and made my way to gate 17, which, I noticed, was still boarding a WestJet flight. “This can’t be good for an on-time departure”, I thought to myself.
I grabbed a couch overlooking the gate where a Zoom 767 was preparing for push-back. Soon, I heard that my flight had indeed been moved to gate 14. Apparently, our aircraft was on the ground and they just needed to wait for the AC 767 at 14 to push and they could bring ours in. That’s when I noticed what appeared to be an A320 waiting on a taxiway, and I tried to convince myself that it was not ours. No, it couldn’t be ours – we were flying a brand, spankin’ new E190! Alas, it wasn’t to be, and I watched in dismay as a lowly A319 pulled into our gate.
Boarding was delayed about 45 minutes. Once inside, I slumped into my window seat just aft of the wing, hoping for a quick departure. Clearly, AC’s operation was still reeling from the storm, as it took 20 minutes before they even began loading baggage. I watched as a ramper used the belt loader to check for ice on the back of the wing, and could tell there was some amount of ice or frost and he was making a call as to whether it required de-icing. It did, so after push-back we headed towards the pad. I had never been on a plane that required de-icing before, so it was kind of interesting to watch, if slightly annoying to have to wait for. Finally, we headed towards RWY25 for departure. Take-off was quick, and I watched as the lights of Ottawa receded into the distance as we gained altitude and speed.
I was one of the lucky passengers. Most of them had tight connections in Toronto, surely some of them being the last flight of the day. The guy beside me was supposed to have been in YYC 36 hours before! I was pretty sure that there was at least one more flight to YXU that evening, so I wasn’t too worried. The crew promised they would provide as much information regarding connections as they could, but in the end they simply didn’t have any.
We made our way to cruising altitude of 28,000 feet, and I looked down at the mostly dark expanse of Eastern Ontario. Soon, I noticed the lights of Toronto. Flying into a large city at night really gives you an appreciation for just how massive it is.
It must have been pretty gusty out, because our approach to RWY24R was just about the wildest I had experienced – we were rolling and yawing all over the place! It was neat to see from the inside an approach that I had photographed from the ground many times before. You really are close to those hotels on Airport Road – what a view!
We slowly taxied to our gate, arriving about an hour-and-a-half late. Deboarding can only be described as mass panic, as everyone rushed to try and make their connection. I bypassed the mob that had surrounded the agent at our gate, and asked an AC employee where the Jazz flights depart from, as I had not been in T1 before. She pointed downstairs, and I made my way to the Jazz counter. After waiting in line for a few minutes, I handed the lady my boarding pass for my now long-gone connection, and asked if it would be possible to get the next one out. She tapped away and within a minute I was holding a pass for a flight that was already boarding. Score!
I quickly called my parents to let them know I was on the next flight, and got in the short line to board our Dash 8-100, C-FABA. All told, I spent maybe 10 minutes in T1, when my original connection was to be an hour long.
Photo © Peter Stuhlmann - CYOW Airport Watch
I had been assigned seat 2A, a window seat directly beside the propeller, and I had no one beside me. This just kept getting better! When the F/A passed by and offered a free paper (Globe or Post!), I was convinced it must be a dream. I guess going from a stressful flight to a more relaxed, on-time one really makes a difference!
In what seemed like seconds, we began our taxi out to RWY23 for departure. Take-off was short, as is expected in a Dash 8, and I settled in for the short hop to London. The atmosphere was almost festive on-board, as people chatted loudly; it was a nice change from the dreary environment of the previous flight. I looked down on what was either Guelph or Kitchener-Waterloo (it was hard to tell), then the town of Woodstock, then Ingersoll. Next thing I knew, we were landing on RWY27 at YXU. The illumination from the landing lights allowed me to see the subtle changes in propeller pitch as we slowed and then taxied to the terminal. I was home!
All that remained was the baggage situation. As I barely made the connection, I knew it would have taken an Act of God for my bag to have made it to London with me. As expected, it didn’t, and as I type this I await its delivery.
I began the trip convinced that next time I should just take the train, and ended it thoroughly impressed by Air Canada. Though there were (numerous) early delays related to the storm the day before, they managed to get me home only 45 minutes later than scheduled, with a minimum hassle.
There is only one area I think they could have reasonably improved. Next time, AC, use the E190.
[Edited 2006-02-19 18:51:17]