Friday, January 23, 2009

The Joys of Traveling

95. That's how many hours it took me to get from my home in Calgary to my home in Brisbane...

I'm sitting down at this "Traditional Taiwanis Snack & Drink Bar" in the Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport. I just ate a bowl of spicy beef noodle soup that was good until I found a hair in it. I still finished it off because I doubt it will cause me any physical harm and even if I complained they probably wouldn't understand me.

My journey began on 20-Jan-09 at around 1815 local time in Calgary. My family gave me a ride to the airport and we chatted just outside Tim Horton's until around 1945 when I proceeded to head through to wait at my gate for my flight to Vancouver with Air Canada. It was supposed to leave at 2030 and arrive in Vancouver at 2103. I picked this flight because originally my international flight with China Airlines was scheduled to leave at 0135 in the middle of the night and I figured 4.5 hrs was plenty of buffer. They had since then bumped up that flight to 0005 but I wasn't too concerned because that still left me 3 hrs to make the connection. How much delay could there be between Calgary and Vancouver?

Well, after I got to my gate in Calgary I saw that my flight was delayed for some unknown reason (I found out later that there were mechanical issues and switching planes for our flight was the reason for the delay). I watched as the time was pushed to 2100, then 2140, and eventually 2240. I found someone from Air Canada and voiced my concern about missing my connecting flight in Vancouver. If we left at 2240 and arrived at 2300, that would only give me 1 hr to collect my bags and then check-in for my China Airlines flight. Not much time at all. The lady dismissed my concerns and told me everything would be fine (I think she thought that my connection was all on one ticket).

On the plane, it was after 2300 when we finally took off. The pilot apologized for the delays and said that they would try to get us there in 1 hr instead of the 1.5 hrs normally (if the plane can fly that fast, why isn't the flight always done in an hr?). One of the flight attendants announced that there were 10 passengers who were needing to catch a connecting Air Canada flight to Sydney at 2345. He kindly asked everyone else to please stay seated and allow these passengers to exit the plane first. I spoke to the flight attendant and explained my situation to him.

Me: "I'm concerned that I'm going to miss my connecting flight in Vancouver. It's scheduled to leave at 0005 and I need to collect my bags and everything. Is there anything I can do to get them to wait for me? Is there a way I can notify them that I'm on my way but will be late?"
Air Canada person: "Is your connection with the Star Alliance?"
Me: "No"
Air Canada person: "Then no."
Me: "What do you mean no?"
Air Canada person: "There's nothing we can do"
Me: "You can't contact someone in Vancouver on my behalf?"
Air Canada person: "Nope"

Later I saw that they had arranged for a cart to shuttle the 10 passengers to the their connecting flight. So clearly, they must have been in contact with Vancouver to notify them of the latecoming passengers. What a jerk. "No" shouldn't even be in his vocabulary.

Long story short, I ended up sprinting to the check-in counter and was told at 2330 that it was too late to get onto the flight (I hadn't even picked up my bags yet). I was given a 1-800 number for China Airlines' customer service and told to call them to see what could be done. I go to call them and I'm told that the office is closed and that business hours are 0600 to 1800. Great.

So I ended up spending the night in the airport trying to figure out all my options. I knew a classmate of mine was flying from LAX to Taipei at 1350 on 21-Jan-09. We were supposed to catch the same flight from Taipei to Brisbane. So I thought maybe I could grab a flight from Vancouver to Los Angeles...thanks to the free internet I was able to look up flight information online and I saw that there were a couple at 0630 and 0715.

I called Air Canada, explained my situation, and asked if they could give me a deal on one of their flights to Los Angeles that morning. I was told no and that any complaints would have to be made to their post-flight complaints department. I entertained the thought of just spending all night at a phone calling 1-888-247-2262 (Air Canada's reservations line) and yelling at them for being such a lousy airline. I would have complained to someone in person if everything wasn't closed at the airport for the night.

I also looked into one-way tickets from Vancouver to Brisbane but most of them were over $2000. I finally got a hold of China Airlines at 0600 and they told me that they could put me on the next flight to Taipei and Brisbane but it wasn't leaving until Friday. Also, the Taipei to Brisbane leg of the journey was currently full so I was waitlisted with the possibility of being stuck in Taipei for another undetermined length of time.

Why am I writing this all out? Well, I've had a lot of time to spare in the last few days hahaha. But also, this whole ordeal turned out to be a bit of a blessing in disguise. I was able to get in touch with a guy i knew from church who had recently moved to Vancouver. He went out of his way, picked me up from the airport, let me stay overnight on Wednesday at his place, and drove me back to the airport the following day. It was a great time to just catchup with him - something that I probably would never have had a chance to do had my flights not been screwed up. For an opportunity to see Richie, I'm almost glad that I missed my flight (almost being the keyword).

It was also a humbling lesson to wait and trust in God. I remember in the midst of anxiety and uncertainty, God gave me peace through my frantic prayers and told me to just wait it out and not to act impulsively. I ended up getting a seat on the next set of flights and was back in Brisbane about 50 hrs later than expected. China Airlines didn't charge me any extra fees even though it was totally my fault and I had no travel insurance.

There's been a lot of changes in the past couple months and I'm really looking forward to a fresh start in 2009. I'm eager for new clinical experiences, re-connecting with old friends, making new friends, trying out my Route 66 with my Blackheart little giant, and opportunities to be salt and light. Ready, steady, GO!



Anonymous Stan said...


Eating the extra hair in the soup adds character.

8:59 PM  

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