The guide had put wake-up calls for the nine of us at 5:45 for our 9:10 flight to Madrid. We were lodging in a small hotel called "Coral" which was basic, but clean and renovated. So at 6:15, everybody met at the small restaurant in the lobby of the hotel where we took our last breakfast before leaving for our long journey home. The management of the hotel was kind enough to open their restaurant just for us as it normally opens at 8:30. At 6:45, we packed our bag in the luggage compartment of the bus with our guide and our teacher and under the curious look of the bus driver that was bringing a group of 9 to the Malaga airport in a 44 seat bus. We had mixed feelings and a bit of melancholy at this point, sad to leave the warmer climate of Spain and going back to reality but also happy to return home. The riding time to the airport was short, only 15 minutes. By 7:00, our guide was inside the new terminal building of Malaga Airport looking like us for the counters checking-in pax for flight JK 548. We found them quickly and the guide asked, at my great disappointment, If she (the Spanair agent) could check the whole group in a bunch. We did not do that in YOW a week earlier because our teacher and ourselves thought it would be simpler to check us in all individually (and it was). The JK agent did not think it was a good idear but she did it as no passengers were waiting after us. It was a nightmare. I took the lead as our guide left us there. The agent did not really understand english neither french and took over 15 minutes to get our boarding passes but at least, she gaved us 3 boarding passes each up to YOW which surprised me because that flight was not a codeshare. But AC and JK are partners so it seemed to work. She didn't not tell us where to pass security neither from which gate the flight was leaving but fortunately, our boarding passes showed the gate number. Horror, I was stucked in seat 21E, middle seat, middle row on the 767 from MD), Spain">MAD. The AC agent on the phone in Canada had told me that the JK agent could change it in AGP because she couldn't and as I desperately tried to explain to the agent that I wanted a window seat on MD), Spain">MAD-YYZ, she simply didn't understand. It was now 7:30 and I walked with my travelmates in the impressive check-in area of the Malaga airport. I found no viewing facilities so I sat down with my travel friends but I soon got up again and went to ask another check-in agent that spoke good english and was much more friendlier than her colleague beside If she could change my seat assignment. She explained that Spanair had no access to AC's seating charts and I'd have to wait in Barajas (Madrid) tro change it either at the AC counters or at the Spanair "transit counter". She apologized and wished me a nice flight. We proceeded around 8:00 to security where their was no line and we all went threw quickly. Now, the large picture windows gave me good views of the runway and the apron. A Iberia 757 was parked at the gate and some Spanair further away, including our A320. The traffic did not seem heavy that morning. We quickly went to Duty Free where I spent my last Euro cents and we went to the gate around 8:20. The Iberia 757 was headed to the same place as us, MD), Spain">MAD and their bording began about 10 minutes before us. If there was something unpleasant in Spain, it's that people smoke even in the non-smoking areas around the gates.
March 9th, 2003
Spanair JK548 AGP-MD), Spain">MAD Sched dep/arr: 9:10/10:10
Taxi began at: 9:11 Took-off 9:17
Landed at 10:02 At the gate 10:06
Photo © Konstantin von Wedelstaedt
Boarding began shortly after our arrival in the waiting area at 8:35. We descended the long ramp and got on the bus. We were quickly driven to the a/c that could be seen parked beside a MD-83 or 82 (not sure). Today's plane was EC-IEJ, a nearly-new A320 (JK's A320 are all pretty new compared to those of AC). We were welcomed by a friendly, courteous purser and I took my window seat 8A and noticed the exceptional legroom provided in JK's economy class. A noticeable difference between Spanair's business class and north American carriers is the 3-3 config. they use in the 320s, same as economy. Soon enough, doors were closed, economy was nearly full and the purser announced in Spanish and english our short 40-minute flight time to MD), Spain">MAD.
Airshow was turned on just after the safety briefing and at 9:17, we took off from runway 14 and climbed rapidly over the low ceiling. I enjoyed Airshow very much, something I haven't yet experienced on Air Canada. Service started and a small plastic case was handed with pastries and a ill-tasting orange juice. Time passed quickly and we were still above the Sierra Nevada mountains when we began our descent to Madrid. The flight was still very smooth even on final approach and we had a hard landing for this exceptionally smooth approach and we exited the runway in maybe 10 or 12 seconds, I really thought we were going to miss the taxiway but the captain applied the brakes really hard to make it. We had now about 4 hours to kill before boarding would be called for the MD), Spain">MAD-YYZ sector and I looked everywhere for the Spanair "transit counter" but did not find it. We decided to stay inside the secure area and cleared customs leading to Terminal 1. MD), Spain">MAD is not as nice as AGP but has wonderful duty free shopping facilities. The Terminal was crowded that Sunday and flight were called about every 5 minutes. Lots of Iberia but that's a delight for a Canadian eye. At around 11:00, me and a 'mate went for a quick snack and a pit stop before joining at noon the rest of the group at the gate where a EL AL flight leaving before us took what seemed hours for us, but sincerly, I understand that. Around 12:30, the AC (Globeground contracted agents If i'm not mistaken) arrived at the gate desk and I asked for a boarding pass change but they simply answered rudly, the flight is full.
March 9th, 2003
Air Canada AC837 MD), Spain">MAD-YYZ Sched dep/arr: 13:45/16:40
Pushback: 13:40 Took-off: 13:58
Landed at 16h15 At the gate: 16:25
B767-300ER C-FMWP, Built 1993
Photo © T Silgrim
Photo © Garry Lewis
Boarding was called right on time at 13:05 and a group of about 80 elementary school kids went for priority boarding and we went just after. Again, buses took us to a remote stand quite far from the gate just beside the cargo area. I managed to change my seat from 21E to 17C just after borading with one of my travel colleagues who wanted to sit with her friend sited in 21D. Surprise, surprise, 17C is the aisle seat in the emergency exit, I had twice the legroom! You simply can't refused that! I then realized that my plug for the earphones and the reading light was lying on the seat and advised of the FA which had the wonderful idea (Please detect sarcasm here) to pacth it with duct tape. We had one of AC's senior crew today but they were very professional and friendly in their way. Newspaper in English/French/Spanish were distributed and the safety briefing soon began. We took-off from 36L and climbed steeply above the clouds to FL330 with an estimated flight time of
8 hours and 15 minutes. Although that 767 will celebrate it's 10th birthday really soon, the interior had seen better days. In the lavatory, the oxygen mask was falling down and the light, burned. I advised the purser who fixed the mask. The IFE system had constant problems, the message "Please Select Another Channel" appearing constantly during the movies and short features. In fact, they showed the exact same two movies that those on the inbound leg, The Truth About Charlie and Annie Hall. I listen to them this time has I had watch the first one sleepily on the inbound flight and had missed the second. I again advised the crew about their mistake but they simply answered they couldnt' do anything. Meals were served with a choice of either Paella or Chicken and I opted for the later. So-so. The chicken breast was tasteless and dry but the cake, the salad and the Camembert cheese and Swiss chocolate were nice. The crew came over and over again to offer complimentary wine/juices and coffee/tea and gave water 'till they ran out just before landing. The seatbelt sign was kept on during long periods of time has we encountered light to moderate turbulences. A snack consisting of a Ham and cheese sandwich and something else I can't remember (orange juice?) was served about an hour before we started our decsent to YYZ. The purser advised that we would have a very bumpy approach and landing in YYZ.
And I had never experienced nor expected what was coming. As we felt the heavy wing shaking us in all senses, the edge if our right wing nearly touched the runway upon landing. I was glad for once to be on the ground and sleepy after the 8:15 minutes ride. Our bodies were still in the now late hours of the evening of Spain. We still had a connection to make. The lines at the Canadian customs went pretty quick even tough they were huge. By 17:15, we were rushing for the tunnel to T2 at YYZ and went threw security pretty fast and looked for the raptor gates. We followed the signs and our A319 was already waiting at the gate.
March 9th, 2003
AC 462 YYZ-YOW SCADA dip/are: 18:10/19:10
piggyback: 18:14 Took-off: 18:17
Landed: 18:58 At the gate: 19:02
A319 C-FYNS Built 1997
Photo © John Kelley
Boarding was called at 17:35 and I was getting very tired at this point so all I have to say is that we took-off from what I think was 24R, the crew was much younger and Hospitality half-full. I enjoyed the sunset and by 19:20, everybody had their luggage, none had lost any since check-in at AGP by JK and we said good by, see you Tuesday and I found the comfort of my bed an hour later after that very long journey.
Overall, Air Canada satisfied me. They lost no luggage, the crews were OK, nothing fancy or special but they did their jobs. I understand that given AC's financial fiasco, they performed quite well. Clean planes, good meals and punctual. And they brought me from point A to B safely. As for Spanair, the crews were courteous, professional and good-looking. Clean, new planes but ground services seemed a bit disorganized. Overall, I'm very satisfied.
Hope you enjoyed it, feedback is appreciated.