How many planes….

3 November 2014

… does it take to get me from Toronto to Ottawa? Well, I would have thought just the one. But yesterday, it would seem that two were required.

Arriving (what I considered to be) early for a short domestic flight within Ontario, bag check-in ran smoothly but it soon transpired that was going to be the only thing to do so.

With recent events in Canada – particularly in the location I was flying to – I was expecting ‘increased security’. Having flown out of Heathrow Terminal 5 with the EXACT same attire (my travelling outfit), I was safe in the knowledge that my belt did not set off the sensors and so, having extracted half the contents of my cabin baggage, I continued through the scanner. Beep beep…. Oh heck.

‘Do you have anything in your pockets, Madam?’… No. ‘Do you have a belt on, Madam?’… Yes. [Imagine, if you will, me then having to remove my belt, which was fine for Heathrow sensors but not for Toronto (Pearson) apparently.]

I still set the sensors off, with no belt, nothing in my pockets but still with my boots on. So, guess who got the ‘magic wand’ treatment? You got it. Moi. ‘Arms out please.’ And boots pass the test. So, what could possibly be setting off the sensor? The hood on my jumper/sweater/call-it-what-will. Are you ****ing me?! There is no zip and it doesn’t even have metal eyeletsDeep breathing exercises underway…. but I am grateful for security in some ways when the man behind me in the line has a Stanley knife removed from his hand luggage! Holy ****!

A lovely lady asks me (as I am re-dressing myself and re-packing my luggage again): ‘Do you have time to take a short questionnaire about your experience of security here at the airport?’. Oh, dear lady, I would love to answer those questions but sadly, my plane is already boarding because your damn security has taken so damn long!

And so I hot-foot it down to boarding gate (D31) and true enough, the plane is ready for boarding. 28C here I come…. sitting next to a lovely young lady returning to Carleton University for her accountancy ‘mid-semester’ exams and across the aisle from a lucky teacher who had been selected as one of 85 teachers from across Canada attending the Teachers Institute on Canadian Parliamentary Democracy…. And she informed me that we were also joined by the Honourable Julian Fantino….. who knew?! (not the Cabin Crew apparently!)

So, 10:10am comes around – scheduled take-off time – and we reverse away from the gate and sit on the tarmac without moving for ten minutes. Hm…. call me Einstein, but I am guessing something ‘ain’t quite right’. Message from the Flight Deck: ‘We are having problems with the steering of the nose wheel and the maintenance team are coming out to try to fix it’. Unfortunately, during the wait on the tarmac, I was not able to use my laptop to do final preparations on my lecture – which incidentally, begins at 2pm in Ottawa! – as this is not allowed by Air Transport regulations (or some such thing). Cabin Crew very politely inform me of this…. and when the maintenance team have no success half an hour later, we hear: ‘They are not able to fix the problem here, so we are being towed back into the gate’. Erm…. I need to be in Ottawa…. how is this going to happen please?

Well, the answer is that this is going to happen by completely changing planes which will be – so we are told – quicker than fixing the current issue on the plane we are sitting on. Full of energy (hmmm), we all get off the plane and decamp to gate D37 before boarding for a second time – having our boarding passes re-scanned and showing our photo ID all over again!

I watch my suitcase being reloaded onto the second plane – good to have a purple one with a red luggage strap with my name on it! – and re-seat myself, swiftly switching on my laptop (whilst still at the gate, so within the Air Transport regulations) and get all my preparation done before we depart. The Cabin Crew – the lovely Lynda and Chris (pictured) – are as keen as the rest of us to get on our way to Ottawa and take care of our every need, in a jovial manner to keep us upbeat!

Preparing for take-off, Lynda checks all our seat belt and entertainingly regales another Air Transport regulation which I was previously unaware of (go on, tell me you all knew!) that laptops cannot be placed in the seat pockets but must be stowed in the overhead lockers on take-off! Thank heaven I have a sense of humour and so did she, kindly placing my laptop in my case for me as well….

Short hop later and some lovely pretzels and coffee, we landed in Ottawa at 12:41 (as opposed to 11:16). Not bad really…. and just before descent, Chris even thought to ask if I only had carry-on luggage as they could have moved me closer to the front of the plane so I could disembark more rapidly to get to my conference speaking engagement! The lady next to me (teacher rather than Carleton University student) commented that I was ‘receiving the VIP treatment‘. It sure felt like it. Who needs to be an Honourable gentleman in business class eh? Not me!

I wrote my ‘normal service will resume’ blog, sat like a pixie, on the floor of the arrivals area in Ottawa, waiting for my suitcase. Part Two of my travels yesterday will follow – which will include the actual reason for my visit to Ottawa!

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