Fully vaccinated, insured and tested, I flew to the United States on Air Canada. Finally seeing my daughter and son-in-law who live in Nashville, Tennessee. For the time has come to spread my wings again. Small report of this journey, because journey there was.
Preparing to fly from Canada to the United States
I booked a flight with my Aeroplan points. 20,200 points and $119.70 in taxes. There is no question of cancelling it this time like the last two times. So I prepared myself:
- Paper printout of my QR code proving my two vaccinations. Just in case I run out of network or charge on my cell phone.
- Paper proof of antigenic test required by the United States that I paid $49 at one of the Lacroix clinics. In 30 minutes including waiting for the results, it was done. The test is valid for the next three days, i.e. a little over 72 hours. I did it on a Thursday for a Saturday departure.
- My TD® Aeroplan® Visa Infinite* Card to get my free checked bag at the airport. Just show the card at the check-in counter and it’s done. This suitcase weighed exactly 23 kg. This is the weight that cannot be exceeded if you want your checked baggage to remain free of charge. You don’t go to your daughter’s house empty-handed after 18 months of being apart.
Finally, time for the airport
I left my car with a friend who can use it for a month. Then, I took an Uber to the airport. The discussion with the driver was very interesting. Indeed, he was very reluctant to be vaccinated. I sincerely hope that whatever he decides, our exchange has convinced him of one thing: no one can shove 5G chips into our arms.
Procedures and flights with Air Canada
The request to the helpdesk
Without going into detail, I needed to request wheelchair assistance when I checked in online with Air Canada. Who knows? You may need it one day, for yourself, a child, parent or grandparent.
This free service has proven to be extraordinary.
First of all, I was immediately taken care of at check-in.
- Then, I was taken to a small, quiet, comfortable waiting room. An employee then picked me up. I met Antonio.
- We passed through customs and immigration in a flash, on the fast lane.
- Antonio finally left me at the gate where I was able to proceed with priority boarding.
Going in circles abord my Air Canada flight
The flight is full, direction Newark EWR in the USA for my connection. A little turbulence but nothing out of the ordinary. Until the pilot announces that we will have to go in circles around New York. Indeed, a storm cell with strong winds, lightning and hail does not allow landing. Our aircraft, as well as all others in our situation, enter a carousel for 40 minutes.
Then, the pilot announces again that the storm is still there. It even extended over the three EWR-LGA-JFK airports. Finally, it would have damaged the tarmac at EWR. In short, we have to turn back to Montreal. We are appalled.
Air Canada Field Team
We are advised that Air Canada employees are waiting for us at YUL. They will then direct us to new flights, the next day ot the one after. There are no more flights from Montreal-Trudeau YUL to the United States at the end of the day. Pandemic times oblige.
Hotels were offered to some passengers.
So I met Antonio when I got off. He cam with me again, this time through the customs clearance process. Since we were in U.S. airspace, we had to complete the steps as if we had been there. With the exception of the COVID-19 test which is not required nor the need to complete the ArriveCAN app.
Let’s get back in line. The employees then booked the required rooms and confirmed new flights for passengers. I was offered a room at the Marriott Airport Terminal. However, since I am travelling with Aeroplan points, I had to find my own replacement flight by calling Aeroplan.
Flight search with Aeroplan
I should mention that. Mindy from Aeroplan was a great help. 15 minute wait before getting the line. From experience, I know that it is rarely that fast.
We tried to find flights for the next day. However, all Star Alliance partner UNITED’s flights to Tennessee in the USA are full! We try through different HUBS: New-York- Chicago-Washington-Memphis-Pittsburgh-Cleveland-Charlotte etc. Nothing. We’re going all the way to Houston! Imagine, my final destination is only in Nashville.
That leaves flights with three really unpleasant stopovers, which include overnight stays or departures the day after. I resign myself to this last alternative knowing that the antigen test will have to be redone, this time at the airport for $150. I would probably also have to pay for the 2nd night at the hotel. Damn. I need some wine. Quickly.
A little call to Air Canada
Before leaving for the hotel, I was given a document. It contained a number to contact at Air Canada for flight cancellation situations. Use only if there is a problem with Aeroplan.
Let’s see if Air Canada has any hidden seats somewhere.
But now Air Canada is telling me that both bodies have access to the same flight opportunities. However, by searching further, we find one that leaves early the next day via Denver, Colorado. Here you go, I’m interested. Sure, it’s a long detour, but I’d rather that than the second night at my expense at YUL and the second $150 antigen test.
You know what? I swear to you: I found Antonio, at 6:15 the next morning when I got to the check-in counter. And we went back to do the same steps.
The flight takes about 4 hours to Denver with a 5 hour layover. Then a connection to my final destination which is Nashville.
This gave me time to chat with the flight attendant as well as the one from the day before to EWR.
“Happy to have their jobs back, you say?”
First, one of them was laid off after 22 years of service. She didn’t believe it. They both told me how they loved their jobs and how they missed them.
Denver: but what a beautiful airport!
Located far from the city, it can be reached by tram and you can travel between the terminals in the same way. Definitely clean, spacious, comfortable and a touch luxurious.
And what airport activity there is! Other than the fact that everyone is wearing a mask, you couldn’t really tell that it was in time of COVID-19. Flights and travellers seem to be as numerous as before the pandemic.
Destination: Nashville, Tennessee
I finally arrive at my destination. Nashville, the music city. You can’t go wrong just by looking at the number of passengers who pick up their guitars. I finally meet my daughter after a long 18 months of separation. Happiness and relief are intertwined.
I know that some of you have been separated from your loved ones for even longer than I have. Hang in there because your turn is coming.
You know, when it comes to complaining, there are ways to do it. We are right to use the tools put at our disposal. What about when it’s time to give thanks?
I want to express my gratitude.
First of all, thanks to all the Air Canada ground staff present on the ground and in the air during this impromptu turnaround.
Then hats off to the obviously experienced employee who took my heavy suitcase herself and hoisted it onto the conveyor belt.
Thanks to those behind the counters who were besieged by many anxious passengers.
The same goes for the flight attendants who shared with me the joy of being back at work and the pilots who chatted with me.
Finally my gratitude to the service and support staff. I was finally able to find my daughter and, by the way…
Antonio, I’ll be back on August 12!