You know you have been stuck on a plane too long when you longingly gaze out the window and wish to trade places with one of the tarmac workers. There was a point while trapped on my last flight where I would have gladly schlepped luggage on and off aircrafts in exchange to get out of my temporary hell hole.
“I’ve never experienced anything like this before,” our pilot said with a puzzled tone over the loud-speaker. “If you guys could just hang tight for another few minutes.” Loud groans and sighs echoed through the plane as we all were losing our patience, some more quickly than others. This was hands down my worst flight experience to date.
I was in Toronto for an amazing conference, the Travel Blog Exchange (see you in Dublin in October TBEX!) and the week was full of sightseeing, networking, informative talks and new friendships. I was heading to the airport feeling excited and motivated and in a few hours that mood completely shifted to frustrated and annoyed. I should have known our flight was doomed from the start when every one of the Air Canada self check-in machines I touched retaliated against me. This forced myself and a long line of people to claim their luggage tags and boarding passes from customer service which was 2 workers for about every 100 passengers. The waiting game began here. Finally at my gate after breezing through security and customs we board our flight on time and head off for the runway. As soon as I thought we were home free about 100 yards from the runway we stop.
“We are getting word from LaGuardia that due to weather all arriving flights are going to be delayed so we will take off an hour from now at 6:15.”
Luckily, I had an open seat next to me and I can fall asleep just about anywhere so I curled up like a little hedgehog and decided to nap through our delay with the hope of waking up, taking off and landing at LGA by dinnertime. Wishful thinking…
I awoke and with sleepy eyes peered out the window. We hadn’t moved. I looked at my watch, we should have taken off by now so I knew something was going on. At this point we had been waiting on the runway for over an hour and a half.
“Well ladies and gentlemen,” the pilot started, “We just got word that our flight has been cancelled. We are going to head back when they open a gate for us. There are several other flights to LaGuardia, all that are delayed so once we get back they’ll put you all on another flight.” He turned the plane around and slowly taxied back to a gate. We sat and waited for another half hour until they got the team at the gate together to rebook all of our flights and move our luggage. It seemed like everything was in place but the door wasn’t opening for us to get off the plane. Now it’s getting close to 8pm, putting us in plane limbo for close to 3 hours. A woman in business class started to raise her voice to the flight attendants questioning what we were waiting for. The flight attendants apologized for the inconvenience but were pretty quiet on giving us details as to what was going on. Once they came around with customs forms I knew we were taking the long way back onto a new flight.
The only update we received before getting off the plane about a half hour later was that US customs and Canadian customs were keeping us on our flight until they could sort out if we technically left the country or not. Left the country?!? We haven’t even left Pearson Airport let alone Canada! I’m not sure if it was out of embarrassment, confusion or both but we never really got a full explanation about the situation aside from a flight attendant over the PA system mumbling as the familiar ping sounded through the plane and the door opened.
“If you exit the aircraft the service reps will lead you all in the direction of your next flight,” which to me meant “For fear of a riot I’m hesitating to inform you that you’ll have to go through customs again”.
The befuddled passengers of flight 720 were escorted to a line of customer representatives in front of F gate customs where confusion continued. First we were instructed to scan our old tickets, then we were told to all wait in a single line, no wait split up based on if you checked bags or not, actually scratch that just form a single file line again. Finally someone took charge and instructed us to be placed on an 835pm flight that was also currently delayed and I think some people ended up getting bumped to a 1015am flight the following day. I was one of the first people in line so I quickly grabbed my new boarding pass, filled out ANOTHER declaration card and head to customs.
“Where were you?” The stern-faced customs officer asked.
“On a plane.”
“Yeah,” rolling his eyes, “I know you were on a plane, but what country are you coming from?”
“No seriously, I was just on a plane. You should be prepared for a lot of odd answers to your questions. You see the next wave of people were on Air Canada’s flight 720 which was a cancelled flight after sitting on the runway for over 2 1/2 hours. Apparently Canadian customs and US customs couldn’t decide if we left the country or not, so that brings us back to you.”
“That’s messed up,” he shakes his head and stamps my documents letting me through to security.
Security thankfully was quiet so I practically ran through the metal detector, afraid the flight that was already supposed to have left would be taking off any minute. I ran to the gate and made it onto the new flight only to have to wait for the rest of the AC720 passengers that had been rebooked as well. We finally took off around 930pm, and when we landed in New York I was ecstatic to see my luggage unbelievably made it there too. I got to my friend’s apartment just before midnight, recounted my ridiculous flight horror story and fell into to bed hoping to dream away the insane events of the day.