Saturday, February 28, 2009

Bad Connections

Last week I spent a few days in Minneapolis, flying Ottawa-Philadelphia-Minneapolis there, and scheduled for the same routing to come home.

Wednesday I left the house late, since the pilot light on the furnace had gone out (scurry around and relight it), and then traffic sucked to the airport, and I missed the cutoff. Full marks to the agent at check-in for switching me to alternate flights and choosing to waive the change fee and difference in the ticket prices. With the resulting bad connections and wait for the first flight, it was 16 hours from leaving home to arriving at my hotel.

Friday, coming home, Philadelphia was in flow-control mode due to weather, resulting in a guaranteed missed connection in PHL US Air initiated re-booking of all the connecting passengers on alternate flights and airlines. The gate agent mistakenly put me on MSP-ORD-YUL (Montreal), and by the time I got back to the agent and got rescheduled on MSP-YYZ-YOW my baggage had efficiently been put on the now-departed United flight to Chicago.

From the time I arrived at the airport, to the time I got home, was 11 hours. My baggage is in one of MSP, ORD, PHL, YUL or YYZ but not YOW. My money is on ORD.

Complaints about US Air? No, I like flying them except that their schedule to Ottawa is not frequent enough. The cabin crew are great, the planes are new, the gate agents are helpful (though a bit-fat-fingered when rescheduling me). It would be great if their lounge had free drinks and food like Air Canada does.

But sheesh, let me get out the maps. For the price of the plane ticket (I booked this business trip on short notice) and for the length of time it took to get there, it would have been cheaper and faster in a Cessna.

I am re-motivated.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


Posted from the US Air Club Lounge, Philadelphia

"I once spent a year in Philadelphia, I think it was on a Sunday." W.C. Fields

So I am stuck in the Philadelphia airport with a six-hour layover between flights.

It started when I got up this morning and the house seemed quite cold, so I checked the thermostat and it was displaying 12C. Not right. Checked the pilot light on the furnace, managed to get it re-lit, and then high-tailed it to the airport for this business trip.

Traffic was not pretty because I was a bit later than I wanted to be. And the net-net was that I got to the US Air counter 50 minutes before my flight, well after their requested 90 minutes. The agent phoned the gate, the gate said the flight was closed, and so we went to work to get me on a later flight.

No sense being abrasive (like I'm going to talk someone out of this?), so I just took my lumps and admitted fault. She put me on a later flight, and did not charge the difference in ticket prices or the at-airport change fee.

After the re-ticketing, and after clearing security (security for US destinations is as much of a theatre in Ottawa as it is in the USA), and after clearing US Customs & Immigration, I made it down to the boarding area - and they were doing the first boarding on the flight. Oh well.

And my stay in Philadelphia is six hours. It was a rotten connection between flights before, now it is a really rotten connection.

Oh well, they have a bar and a desk, so I am good. Though Air Canada lounges have free (albeit limited) food and a free bar.

Though I was musing that - for the price of this ticket and the time it will take me each way (the return flight has a better connection) - I could have rented a Cessna and got there in less time and money, weather permitting.

Except that I don't have my PPL yet.

And except that the weather on Friday is going to truly suck.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Getting the itch

I haven't flown since the diversions practice in early January. A combination of the school choosing to close, the poor weather on the weekends, early sunset on weekdays, and a huge business travel schedule (I've been on the road each week for the last 4 weeks, and will be traveling again this coming week) has precluded more lessons.

I've been filling up the time by studying for my PPL Transport Canada examination, so I have not been idle - but I have not been flying.

Tomorrow (February 23rd) is the 100th anniversary of heavier-than-air flight in Canada. My goal was to have my PPL by tomorrow, a goal for which I was on-track and likely would have achieved - except for the weather and the flight school.

Oh well - any time you over-rush things in aviation you increase the chances for a Bad Result. I still have my goal, only the timing has been deferred.

On the upside, there are rumours that one of the other schools in the Ottawa area is going to open a satellite operation at CYRP. That will make things logistically easier, but I am still going back to first principles in deciding the next steps.

In the meantime, I study and dream.