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
(c) Hitchhiking
(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 whose 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 cancelled and we were rebooked for the following day; in Toronto, on the way back from Costa Rica, I missed the connection because my luggage wasn’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-cost airline. As travellers, 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!

Waiting in Ottawa
Waiting in Ottawa
Landing in Rainy Montreal
Landing in Rainy Montreal
Above the Atlantic Ocean
Above the Atlantic Ocean
Above the Atlantic Ocean
Above the Atlantic Ocean
Above the Atlantic Ocean
Above the Atlantic Ocean
Landing in Paris
Landing in Paris
In the TGV
In the TGV
In the TGV
In the TGV

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19 Comments

  1. Cynthia July 3, 2015 at 10:49 am

    With the huge rates the SNCF is charging they could at least offer free toilets in train stations !! I hope you are not too tired !

    Reply
    1. Zhu July 3, 2015 at 3:34 pm

      I KNOW!!!

      Reply
  2. Isa July 3, 2015 at 11:51 am

    Dammit! That sucks! I always had issues with Air Canada. I’m never flying with them now. Oooh I hate them really 😀
    Have a nice french holidays!

    Reply
    1. Zhu July 3, 2015 at 3:34 pm

      Unfortunately, we don’t have too many airlines to choose from 🙁

      Reply
  3. Lexie July 3, 2015 at 2:15 pm

    Wow tu n’as vraiment pas de chance! Pour le moment nous n’avons pris qu’Air Transat et Air France, sans pb pour les deux

    Reply
    1. Zhu July 3, 2015 at 3:34 pm

      C’est pas du patriotisme, mais j’adore Air France 🙂

      Reply
      1. Martin Penwald July 3, 2015 at 9:50 pm

        Exactement, j’ai rarement eu de problème avec Air France, et Air Canada est toujours au moins aussi cher. Sachant qu’avec Air France, on peut avoir des tickets AirTGV vers Lille, en général au meme coût. Ce n’est pas possible pour aller à Nantes ? Et même si on rate le train, on n’a pas à repayer un billet complet. En fait, c’est même possible qu’il n’y ait rien à payer si le retard est dû l’avion.
        Sur le site d’air France, on peut choisir Nantes gare TGV (code QJZ) comme aéroport de destination.

        Reply
        1. Zhu July 4, 2015 at 2:22 pm

          En fait, on se sert de nos point Aeroplan, donc Air Canada forcé.

          Reply
  4. I Say Oui July 3, 2015 at 6:29 pm

    Ugh! How horrible! Also, I find it funny that you documented the TGV ride, as it seems like a memory you’d want to forget… but I suppose at that point you were happy to be on the last leg.

    Reply
    1. Zhu July 4, 2015 at 2:21 pm

      I liked the ride, actually, it was smooth and we were finally able to sleep for a bit!

      Reply
  5. Martin Penwald July 3, 2015 at 9:53 pm

    It is a very complicated question. We had to choose between 1,2,3,4 and 5, and the worst answer was b. What is b ?

    Jet lag, I assume.

    Reply
    1. Zhu July 4, 2015 at 2:22 pm

      Ahem… how about I correct it and we pretend it didn’t happen?

      Reply
      1. Martin Penwald July 5, 2015 at 3:37 pm

        Sleep !

        (Imagine it said by Bruce Spence in the movie Dark City)

        Reply
  6. Gagan July 5, 2015 at 10:04 am

    That is bad.

    And I have tickets with them 😮

    I was really looking forward to a Canadian experience however now I am wondering.

    Reply
    1. Zhu July 5, 2015 at 3:49 pm

      It’s okay, just go with the flow… you’ll be fine 🙂

      Reply
  7. MarkG July 6, 2015 at 9:19 pm

    An honest, rather disappointing, review of Air Canada’s abilities. One airline that I will be hesitant to book a flight with! I hope that this message reaches them. Very nice photo (number 2) of Mark’s hand against the plane’s window. At least your misfortunes do not affect you photographic creativity or your Franco/Canadian sense of humor. Happy Summer!

    Reply
    1. Zhu July 7, 2015 at 3:45 pm

      Thank you!

      I think all airlines are prone to delays and cancellations, what bothers me with Air Canada is that it seems to be a recurrent issue.

      Reply
  8. Cerise July 12, 2015 at 10:44 am

    We gave up on Air Canada years ago because they were just so terrible, and now fly Air Transat. Have you tried them? The food isn’t very good, but other than that, it’s decent value for money…

    Reply
    1. Zhu July 14, 2015 at 3:30 pm

      Yes, I did. I like them too, but this year we used our Aeroplan points, hence Air Canada.

      Reply

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