Well folks, “it ain’t over till it’s over” as wise Yogi Berra once said.Seems our problem of missing a flight at Nairobi was a harbinger of what was to become The Return Trip.
To give a perspective of the return timeline, we were dropped off at 5 AM Monday Montreal time at George airport, and by the time we arrived home, it was 7 PM Wednesday. My abacus is snowed under in Montreal, but I can attest that it is a fairly long time to be sleep deprived when traipsing through airports etc.
So, 2 hours from George to Johannesburg, 2 hours connection, 9 ½ hours to Istanbul. 9-hour connection and 11 ½ hours to Montreal. That was to be bad enough, but the gremlins got involved. Fairly tired after a long flight and arriving in Istanbul at 7 AM. Showers available but 2-hour wait. Bed not available as our connection was 9 hours and beds are only for connections between 4 and 7 hours!!??? Go figure. No problem, on time departure, great aircraft again and friendly crew. Somewhere over the tip of Greenland the Captain took to the mike to announce flight time and arrival at Montreal on time at 7:40 PM. Then the first sign of trouble was “the weather in Montreal is heavy snow.” Oops, alarm bells, heavy snow – no good.Glenn is dozing as we get near our destination and Sylvia is watching our progress on the monitor.
Over Montreal and after feeling some banking by the aircraft she sees three neat green ovals as we circle waiting to be allowed to land. Then a straight-line west which magically ends in Toronto. We had been diverted. Montreal was closed, and all flights were sent to Pearson. No announcements on board, plane taxis to a Gate, everyone stands up and moves nowhere. Most people sit down. 15 minutes later an import from Toronto airport announces the flight is canceled and will continue to Montreal on Wednesday. No precise time but “no earlier than 10:00 a.m.!
A dearth of announcements but enough to instruct us to clear Customs (bags to remain on board, so hand luggage only) second warning sign- Toronto was first port of entry so no way bags would go to Montreal on a ‘domestic’ leg. But, too tired to care so off we go. After a ½ marathon through the airport towards Arrivals and Customs, we arrive in an absolutely jam-packed Customs Arrivals Hall. Pandemonium with passengers not knowing where to go, which line to stand in etc. NOTE TO BLOG: We are in our home country, most passengers are not, and all overseas arrivals are tired and grumpy.Caught a break – saved by Nexus! Found the Nexus signs so eased our way against the tide of people and after using the machines and getting the critical Nexus Receipts we slink down a wall obviously heading to the Exit all the while getting many hostile stares from those in line for at least an hour if not two. Waved through Customs, onto baggage claim (we have none) and directed to a rendezvous point (Group Check-in) on Arrivals, one level down – somewhere.
Thanks to fast Nexus clearance we arrive at the designated spot to be told ‘Stand on the dark grey line” (later told not to move off it) – no kidding! 1200 stranded passengers on Star Alliance viz., Turkish Airways and Lufthansa.All said and done, an amazing job by the airline's reps but many aggravated people with crying kids and generally tired. First in line and business class got us in the first van heading to our hotel – the Sheraton. Twelve strangers jammed into this van- no seat belts and a frustrated F-1 driver. We passed every other vehicle on the 401 and northbound on the 404. Northbound at 130 kph – even I know the Sheraton is downtown. The Driver wouldn’t say where we were going! 20 minutes later we pull up to the Sheraton Park Something in Richmond Hill. 40 hours since arriving at George Airport but a great room for 5 hours sleep.
Still no idea about ETD but back to the airport at 10:30, exactly 30 minutes before the ticket staff opened up. Passengers arriving in droves and mass confusion as no Lines to stand in. 11:30 got new boarding passes and told to go to Maple Leaf Lounge for 2 PM boarding. Unbeknownst to us, the Boarding Passes, apparently on ‘Air Canada stock’ were invalid as the date was incorrect and the Turkish ground staff had written on them with felt pens to change Gate No., time of departure, etc. This we discovered as we were refused at the Maple Leaf Lounge (no bending the rules). Glenn asked if his Elite card would get them in and was told yes. Unfortunately, the card had expired at the end of February, so we were banished from the Lounge.
Sylvia took a seat and Glenn went back through security to get things fixed – big mistake!Told by Turkish Airlines that Boarding time was wrong, and then by Security that it was important to go to Air Canada Client Services and clear up the date issue. After 20 minutes in line, Glenn was told the whole Boarding Pass was invalid and furthermore neither he nor Sylvia was anywhere in the system. “I think I have to send you back to Turkish Airlines to get this resolved,” says the Agent with a strange look in her eye. Glenn said to himself “she is going to tear up our Boarding Passes’. Barely controlling panic, he meekly suggested that he would go back to the Gate where the other 300 passengers were and where Turkish Airlines Agents were. Although skeptical, she agreed, and so very deftly he snatched the Boarding Passes from her outstretched hand and moved very quickly away.
Meanwhile, Sylvia was thinking Glenn had disappeared into thin air, he was gone for more than ½ hour. But off to the Gate 45 we went, Glenn walked and I used the service cart has I was with 2 heavy carry-on's and Gate 45 walk the last gate in that section. We watch the new 1 PM boarding time come and go. Finally 1:40 PM onto the plane we go only to sit until 3:20 due to several delays of differing kinds e.g. technical, crew and weather in Montreal.Yep, new Customs
Declarations to the protest of many were handed out. Again Nexus to the rescue and we were first to get a baggage buggy and await our bags which were sporting ‘Priority’ tags. Yippee, Sylvia’s bag is first off, we were dumbfounded, as my bag had no tags, it must have been torn off in transit, how lucky is that!
Bummer, 45 minutes later, out comes Glenn’s bag appears as it was in one of the luggage compartments which was frozen and had to be de-thawed. All good, clear sailing through Customs a second time and so 61 hours including 5 hours sleep after arrival at George airport.
We got home at 6:45.And our tally goes to 15 beds and 28 takeoffs and landings in the past month. It is great to be home even with deMaisoneuve down to one lane and snow drifts about 7 feet high due to the storm of the year.
After thought -in reality, this is an interesting and tiring saga but really only a minor inconvenience when one thinks of the terrible things that happen to many many people every day, including the 300 who spent overnight on Highway 13 on Tuesday.We count our blessings wherever we get them.
Over and out!
What can I say? Great timing?
Thank goodness for Nexus.
From Hollinger, Lisa, on Mar 17, 2017 at 02:09AM
That was insane.. as an aside, I avoid Pearson and will NEVER return from abroad through there. There were no hiccups and it took 3 hours to,get through. Ridiculous.
From Tourangeau, Diane, on Mar 17, 2017 at 11:28AM
So glad you are home and safe. A trip with unforgettable memories.
From Stavroula and John, on Mar 17, 2017 at 12:48PM
Welcome home you two. We braved the storm in Montreal and it was a no joke storm. Thank you for sharing your travels. The trip with all the hiking, exercise and tests of patience, prepared you for the ending!! I promise the snow will melt and jet lag will dissipate. Trip of a lifetime, you are blessed
From Lefebvre, JM, on Mar 18, 2017 at 11:03AM
Glad to have you back home! Truly an unforgettable adventure!
From jen rourke, on Mar 18, 2017 at 05:34PM
Great post, dad! Quite an end to your amazing trip!! Xoxox
From Rourke, Alex, on Mar 19, 2017 at 04:16PM