Thursday, January 6, 2011

Hoping lightning doesn't strike twice in the same day

It's 11:19am (PST) on Wednesday, January 5th and I'm currently sitting in the Vancouver airport. I was supposed to be on a plane to Tokyo by now but thanks to my colossal bad luck I realized late last night that my direct flight from Toronto to Tokyo was listed as being delayed by FOUR HOURS.

This was a huge problem since it pushed the scheduled arrival time to 19:10 but the last possible Narita Express train (to Tokyo Station) that I could take to catch the last train to Towada was the 18:15. And I already had tickets purchased. (Once a train has left you're pretty much out of luck and just have to buy a new ticket--no sympathy for situations beyond a traveler's control...)

On calling to inquire whether I'd be able to receive any compensation for the new train tickets I'd have to buy after missing the last possible train out to Towada, I learned that since the delay was due to mechanical problems I had a slim chance of being able to make a claim. (If it was a weather delay I'd be out of luck.)

After that call ended, I thought, maybe I can get re-booked onto a flight to Vancouver and then Tokyo! So I called Air Canada yet again and found out that there was space on the flight to Tokyo, but no seats on the flights to Vancouver (from Toronto).

Following a couple of calls to Japan (to see if I was completely out of luck with the train tickets or if I could cancel them from Toronto and get some money back), inspiration hit: could I go on standby to Vancouver?

So I called Air Canada for the third time in less than two hours and confirmed that it was indeed a possibility.

The tricky part was that even if I got the flight from Vancouver, I'd have a very small margin for delays. The Vancouver flight was scheduled for 13:55 and would arrive at 17:25--giving me a mere 50min to get through customs and to the train. (On a good day I can get off the plane and be out of customs in 30min but with my luck recently...)

Anyway, I figured better to take the chance of being able to catch the train rather than waiting for the delayed flight which would give me no chance at all. (My dad also had an experience where a mechanical delay ultimately ended up getting the flight canceled so he had to go back home and try again the NEXT DAY!!)

So I re-packed my bags so I wouldn't have any checked luggage--only carry-on--and then my poor dad had to take me to the airport around 5am!

I managed to get onto the 7am flight to Vancouver on standby. Once I got on that flight they were supposed to try to check me into the 10am flight to Tokyo but since it was a special/added flight (AC2003) I guess they made a mistake and put me on the regular AC003 (13:55) flight instead.

Unfortunately I didn't know that so when the flight arrived in Vancouver at 9:38 I nearly killed myself running to the absolute farthest international gate (for future reference going from a domestic flight to international gate D63 in less than 20min is VERY painful--particularly carrying bags). I made it just before 10am (9:56 or so?) and only found out at the gate that I was actually checked in for the later flight.

Not that I'm complaining because before this morning I hadn't even known about the 10:00 flight and had been planning to take the 13:55 flight originally anyway, but I really wish they had told me that when I got onto the 7am flight to Vancouver so I wouldn't have had to kill myself running through the airport....

But anyway, I'm extremely grateful to Ms. LG who was at the AC ticket sales desk in Toronto this morning. I know it was a lot of hassle to re-route me and I suspect that since it wasn't an emergency (family illness, connecting flight, wedding, etc.) other staff might have just said: "Tough luck, wait it out." But she was really helpful and I'm definitely going to email AC to tell them how thankful I was/am for her help. (I'm pretty quick to complain about poor service, so I figure it's only fair to praise good service as well.)

Now I'm just waiting an hoping that lightning (i.e. delays) won't strike me twice in the same day and that I'll be able to catch trains to get home "tonight" (Thursday) as originally planned.