Question: what do you think is the fastest way to get from Ottawa to Montreal?
(a) A two-hour drive
(b) A thirty-minute plane ride
(d) Sailing the Ottawa River
(e) Walking with Mark
Answer: if you fly with Air Canada, any of the above options would be faster than (b).
I’ve just proven this theory.
At 3 p.m., Feng, Mark, I and a couple of backpacks showed up at Ottawa Macdonald–Cartier International Airport. As usual, despite the fact that we had checked in online as instructed and had printed all the boarding passes, the airport kiosk machine didn’t recognize our passports. There is always an issue somewhere. This time, it was my long last name, Bossard-Giannesini—the machine wasn’t recognizing the hyphen.
So we had to line up to check in and drop off the bags.
Forty minutes later, at the counter, we were told our flight was delayed so we couldn’t check in yet. So we waited. And waited. Eventually, we got the boarding passes and luggage tags.
Step one accomplished.
Then we went through security and sat at gate 27, at the far end of the airport.
“Plane! I go plane!”
Yeah, I wish Mark. But the flight was being delayed, originally at 4:30 p.m. it was pushed back to 5:00 p.m., then 5:30 p.m., then 6:00 p.m….
And of course, we were worried about missing the connection, the Montreal-Paris at 6:45 p.m.
We finally boarded at 6:00 p.m. “Can we take the stroller on board?” I begged. “We need to catch the connection and disembark fast once we get to Montreal!”
The flight attendant shrugged. “You missed it already.”
Indeed, we did. We only took off at 6:15 p.m. from Ottawa.
We landed in Montreal under pouring rain and we had to walk from the plane to inside the airport as no gate was arranged. We rushed to the door, but of course the Paris-bound flight had departed and there was no one around to help.
I was starting to get really annoyed. Apparently, all the Ottawa-Montreal flight passengers had connections and we most likely all missed them. So why not assign an agent at the gate to help out? That would have been logical and courteous.
It took us a while to locate a help desk where an employee was already dealing with other passengers. Thirty minutes later, I explained our story. At first, she wanted to rebook us for Paris… two days later.
“I’m not spending two days in an airport hotel waiting for a flight we missed by no fault of our own!” I said, as politely as I could.
Then we were put on standby for the 9 p.m. flight.
Luckily, we made it but we ended up with the only seats which armrest couldn’t be lifted, which made making Mark sleep pretty difficult (he has his own seat, usually we lay him down between us). And indeed, he only slept for about two hours. The flight was pretty shitty overall. Despite the fact Mark is now a bona fide passenger (kids over two pay for their ticket), no food or drink was offered to him. We got “macaroni and cheese” (pretty awful, even by airplane meal standard) with one piece of bread, and the “breakfast” that was announced an hour and a half before landing, thus waking everybody up, was a simple piece of pound cake. The one good side was the newer entertainment system, which doesn’t lag as much as the older one installed on the Air Canada fleet.
Border control was minimum at Roissy Charles de Gaulle. We retrieved the luggage but didn’t rush to the TGV station, as we knew we had already missed the train hours earlier. Non-refundable tickets, of course, so we had to buy new ones. Et merde.
The wait at Charles de Gaulle’s TGV station for the next train to Nantes was long, mostly because we were hungry, sweaty and tired. And guess what—there are no bathrooms available. This is a shame for an international airport! At one point, I wanted to change Mark and I walked around looking for the toilettes. There was one option but we had to pay €0.70 and I didn’t have the exact change. “Then you can’t go, I guess” I was told. “I’m just trying to change a kid’s diaper!” I shouted. “We just arrived from abroad and I don’t have change, just €10!” “C’est pas mon problème.”
Parisian hospitality at its best.
Eventually, we all passed out in the TGV and made it to Nantes, “only” three hours later than planned. The train felt old and dirty, these newer redesign models don’t age well, I find.
I’m really annoyed with Air Canada. All the flights we had the past few years had issues—to Mexico the flight was canceled and we were rebooked for the following day; in Toronto on the way back from Costa I missed the connection because my luggage weren’t showing up; on the way back from Buenos Aires we missed the Toronto connection again because it was overbooked… and every single time, it’s never Air Canada’s fault and we are never compensated. It’s a shame a national airline behaves like a cheap low-coast airline. As travelers, we leave enough time between connecting flights, at least two or three hours, but we still have to operate under the assumption they will be more or less on time!
But hey, we made it to France!
You can find all the picture in the France 2015 set.