So it all started when I came across a cheap ticket, which I had been casually looking for while in between work, right after midnight. While I knew that I had Calgary on my mind for the holidays, I had also wanted to spend some time in Seattle for New Year’s, and while I remained undecided, ticket prices fluctuated by the minute. Having looked for tickets on again, off again, I simply decided to get out of Victoria and purchase a ticket for same day travel: I had some 8 hours to pack, sleep, and get the hell out of my apartment. Oh yes, did I mention it was shortly after midnight that I got my $69 each way tickets between Vancouver (YVR) and Calgary (YYC)? Gotta love these days of almost non-existent advance purchase days, especially when faced with the lowest ever fare on this segment! Having quickly packed, planned out the land/sea transportation and slept for just 3 hours, it was time to get the show on the road.
Called for a cab and hauled my suitcase downstairs, heading for the transit bus stop. See, to fly out of YVR, I have to catch a cab, a bus, a ferry, a bus, and another bus (!). Nothing new for, as my trips always seem to involve some crazy routings. And this time, I was running late, with the late arrival of my cabbie. To make it a little more hairy, buddy decides to take me elsewhere, and would not follow my directions to the stop I had wanted. Kept my cool however, and hopped on the bus with room for my huge suitcase. The bus was the milk run from downtown Victoria to the ferry terminal, and at last count, I had fallen asleep and awoken about 4 times. Got to the ferry just in time for boarding, and opted to keep my suitcase with me as opposed to checking it in, since I knew I had to make a dash for the next bus – many other foot passengers, and what this means is if you have a large suitcase and there is no room to store it on the bus, you may be SOL. Ferry ride did not disappoint, it was boring as hell. First in line to get off, I made my run to the bus and got comfortably seated, and the last connection was not bad either. Approaching YVR, I recalled the days I would spend spotting east of the north runway. The sight of large aircraft had me smiling too…
Finally at YVR, decided to checkin as soon as I got there, as I did not want to haul my luggage around with me – I had about 2 hours to kill. Having checked in from home, all I really needed was to print out my boarding pass at the machine, and have my bag tagged. On a serious note here, AC allows you to checkin from home, and if you are unable to print your boarding pass, you can simply print it out when you get to the airport. Can anyone read between the lines here? I could really print 5 copies of my boarding pass at home so that my relatives could see me off at the gate. And if I forgot to print one off for cousin Joe, no problem, I can still print one more at the airport! Anyhoo, as my luck would have it, I was faced with yet another strict agent when dropping my bag off, and she had me weigh it. Nothing new, it was overweight. I swear I can never bring this bag to be below the limits, ever! And I had only packed it about 2/3 of capacity. Experience has taught me to always have an empty shopping bag laying flat on top. So, like a Nigerian going home for the holidays (a daily sight at any KLM counter), I opened my bag right in front of the crowd and offloaded the 4 lbs of stuff that would make the agent happier. Bag in hand, strolled around the building that I once considered my home airport. Took a peek at the airport’s development model, which is quite impressive. Grabbed lunch at the international terminal, and headed back to the AC domestic terminal (was surprised at DL’s redeye flight to ATL scheduled for some time after 2200). Once past security, headed straight to the gate at the pit. The area I call the pit is actually the far end of the AC domestic terminal, which is active at all times and where all Dash-8 flights share a single gate and waiting areas don’t seem to be assigned to a single flight. While other parts of the airport have been upgraded, the pit is still run down, with old seats, dirty washrooms, dimmer lighting, and old-school gate signs that still employ letter cards. On a busy travel day, like the current holiday season, finding a seat close to your gate can be tough, and given the lack of open space, people tend to line up for their aircraft throughout the seating area. The proximity of gates is quite nice however if you are connecting to another domestic flight, since chances are, the other gate is just 2 doors down. I sat close to the gate of the last late-afternoon flight out to Toronto to see some action, as they can be fun to watch, and saw some poor standby souls trying to get on a full flight. There were five of them, and not one was able to get on, and were told to try their luck for the last flight out later on in the evening.
Date: December 19, 2005
Flight AC 222
It was finally time to board for my flight. When I checked in online earlier in the day, I had ensured that I was seated on the left side of the plane, since I was disappointed a while back about the amount of legroom forward of the mid-cabin lavatory. My seat on this flight was just two seats behind the exit row (the exit row, which is the first Econ row on this aircraft, is a bulkhead with limited seating – note to self, never request that seat on a 321). I took a peek at the gate agent’s screen when she scanned me in, and noted that 78 people had checked in for this flight (sorry, don’t have total # of seats on aircraft). Upon taking my seat, I noticed that there were at most 3 pax in Business class. Flight departed on time, and up we went straight into the very low clouds. Thanks to the current season, it gets dark way too early to see anything from the air. Given the short amount of sleep I had the previous night, I was knocked out until I heard the final announcement that we were about to land at YYC. A smooth landing later, we were at our gate on time, and deplaned shortly thereafter. At the baggage carousel, we had to wait quite a while before started making its rounds, and my humungous bag took its sweet time to arrive. I was however out of there after about a half hour.
Calgary is a great city, growing exponentially thanks to the oil that the province produces. There’s quite a lot of construction going on, and yuppies are seen all around town. This trip was one of many to Calgary, and I have to say that I enjoyed it most. It is the longest trip I made to the city, and got to explore and enjoy it. Did the touristy thing on a previous trip, going all the way to Banff. This time however, it was simply R&R. Christmas was great, and so was New Year’s. Went to the Saddledome to watch the Calgary Flames get burned by Nashville. I have to say that hockey becomes even more enjoyable once you have attended a game – same cannot be said about baseball however, as the one and only game I attended did not make sense at all, and I vowed never to attempt watching. I got to do some spotting at YYC a few days before the end of my trip, which, other than the sight of CRJs and an ERJ in UA’s new colours, nothing was exciting. The rate at which aircraft were moving was not that exciting either.
Date: January 4, 2006
This break was not going to go on forever, and now that the holidays were over, it was time to head back to Victoria. Packing involved adding a second bag to accommodate my Boxing Day finds, and alleviated the suspense and pressure of not being able to put an overweight bag through. The flight was scheduled for an 815 departure, but upon checking in online, found out that it was delayed to 840. Got dropped off at the airport at 730, and proceeded to counter #2, the baggage drop off (if anyone is not familiar with things at AC, it seems that the majority of passenger use the kiosks to checkin, and sometimes, you will only find one human-powered checkin counter. You then proceed to #2 to have an agent tag your bag (and possibly weigh your bag), then drop your bag off at #3. The agent at the baggage drop off was laid back, like the one I had encountered on my last trip, and I proceeded to dropping my bags off (note: no weighing involved). I then headed straight for security. During my last trip, I got burned by standing on the left-most queue, which took some 25 minutes to get through. This time, I went through the middle, and was only in line for about 5 minutes. The left queue was backed up to the door, as if the line never moved from my last trip! I headed to the gate area to lounge on one of the many leather armchairs. The flight was further delayed to 850, although boarding announcements came on at 805. Once on board, we waited quite a while before pushback. I was now one seat closer to the exit row. A cool set of crew was on board, with one very cheerful oriental female flight attendant, and a male attendant that seemed to have awoken just before the pax got on board, with a burly beard and uncombed hair. He reminded me of hippies I see in Victoria, with unkempt hair. Finally after pushback, we passed by the Westjet hangar that only had one B732 with its tail painted over, unlike my last trip where I saw as many as 5 aircraft including a B738. Upon entering the active runway, I was also able to see what now seems to be the BAe graveyard, all aircraft having their logos and tails painted over. We departed without further delay and enjoyed some great views of the eastern most part of the Rockies. It was cloudy below some 15 minutes into the flight and choppy at times. I dosed off for a bit and awoke as we were approaching YVR. Having broken the clouds, we flew over the northern part of Greater Vancouver, and enjoyed some great views of the west side of Vancouver, UBC and of course, YVR. We headed out towards the Pacific and banked left for final approach to the North runway. As we approached, we flew over what seemed to be a tanker boat, which was quite the sight from above. Landing was very smooth at 915, and we taxied by the international terminal passing a parked Skyservice A319, two UA 737s, China Airlines’ B744 and an AC763 in Star colours parked at the domestic terminal. It is still quite early for much action at YVR, as the big ones are set to arrive post 10AM from Asia. As soon as the seatbelt light came off, got up and headed to the door. Business class only had 3 or 4 passengers. I ran out of the aircraft to the baggage claim area, so that I could pick them up and head to the coach service to Victoria, which had a bus departing at 940. With two checked bags, I did not want to take the transit service as it would just be too tiring, and I need to get home as quickly as possible to attend classes at the Uni. The coach bus from the airport to the airport to the ferry reeked of urine, and am glad we transferred to another one upon arrival. I am now on the ferry heading out to Victoria, it’s 1121, with ETA at home being around 1345.