On my way back from Seattle last Saturday, I had another small travel adventure (my adventure on the way there is described here).
A blizzard had been announced back in Toronto (it was known by Friday afternoon that we’d get a lot of snow – 30cm+). So I tried calling Air Canada the night before to get some advice and potentially re-book my flight to Sunday. Of course, I had no luck with that as they didn’t pick up the phone (or rather, I hung on for around 30 minutes and decided it wasn’t worth the pain in my craned neck to try any longer).
On Saturday morning, I got up at 5am, received an SMS from Air Canada (good use of technology there, btw) saying that the flight was delayed by about 30 minutes, and made my way to the airport. Everything went very smoothly, and before long I found myself at the gate, Starbucks and muffin in hand. Flight AC540 is the regularly scheduled Seattle-Toronto non-stop flight, and it’s become a bit of an old friend.
So we embark on the small but comfortable Embraer plane (the new Brazilian planes Air Canada uses on these flights) and get going. The flight takes 4 hours and 30 minutes gate to gate. Everything seems suspiciously smooth.
When we get to the Toronto area, the trouble starts. We circle between Toronto and Waterloo at least twice (I think it was maybe three times), but they close runway after runway at Pearson Airport, and our fuel – I assume – gets lower and lower. Finally, it’s decided that we’re being diverted: we’re going to South Bend, Indiana. It turns out this isn’t too far from Chicago (not that I knew this when I was there… all I saw was a bleak but dry airport).
In South Bend, we don’t get to leave the plane… we’re refueled and Air Canada practically auctions off the last remaining pay-for food items to the highest bidders. According to Air Canada’s website, we’re supposed to be leaving there within the hour and arrive in Toronto at 8pm. We were originally scheduled to arrive at 3:15pm or so, but okay – there’s a blizzard.
Two problems: they need to transmit the flight plan to us, and we don’t have take-off instructions for South Bend, Indiana. This is not an airport Air Canada typically flies to, so our planes don’t have the South Bend, Indiana, runways programmed in their on-board computers.
How are these things transferred to us, you ask? Glad you did. By fax. Yes. We’re living in the 21st century, and flight plans and runway descriptions are faxed from airport to airport.
As it turned out, Toronto faxed them, but United’s fax machine in South Bend, Indiana, ran out of toner halfway through. So we waited an extra hour or so.
I was home at around 11pm. At the luggage carousel, someone cheekily (I assume) changed the display board to alternate between saying ‘AC540 Seattle’ and ‘AC540 South Bend.’ Since that’s not an airport Air Canada officially flies to, I thought it would be a good picture to capture for posterity. Sort of like a Moment of Zen (thanks to The Daily Show).