Finally, after almost two years confined to the neighbourhood, I was heading back to Dublin, my home town, and looking forward to two weeks visiting with my 97 year old mother and wandering around the streets of the city.
I love travel, and I always think of it as an adventure. But when you travel with Air Canada, there is an added factor of uncertainty and the potential for something really strange to happen. And this time was no exception to that rule.
I am happy to report that Air Canada’s record for sending my luggage to a different destination than my own is now at just 50%, a drop from previous excursions. It used to run about 60%: out of every ten journeys, my luggage and I would be separated six times.
One time, I went to Dublin and my luggage went to Frankfurt. As soon as they became aware of the problem, Air Canada jumped into action and returned my bag to Toronto, not Ottawa. It finally arrived in Dublin a few days after me.
One other time, they booked me on a connecting flight from Heathrow to Dublin, and it turned out when I reached London, that no such flight to Dublin existed. Air Canada had booked me on to an Air Canada flight that did not exist. That was quite a feat.
Another memorable occasion was when they delayed a 9pm flight until 1am, then cancelled it altogether because one washroom was out of order. They arranged for us to stay in a hotel, but when we arrived, the hotel had no record of us at all. Not having any room for us, they found an alternative hotel, to which we walked, dragging our luggage at 2.30 in the morning. We ended up getting to bed at 3am, and had to be back at the airport for an 8am flight. Great start to a vacation.
This journey was much less adventurous. We were an hour late leaving Toronto because they didn’t have enough baggage handlers to handle baggage. That was understandable, given the current staff shortages everywhere. But they did provide the usual “apology” for the delay, thanking us all for our patience and understanding.
This always causes me to smile, as patience and understanding are in short supply when you travel with Air Canada. This time, however, things went rather smoothly from that point on.
My main worry this time had nothing to do with Air Canada in fact. It was a matter of passports or, to be specific, the fact that I didn’t have one. My Canadian passport had expired and I applied to have it renewed. Being assured that the process took about 20 days, I sent my application in by courier, and it was received on July 6. By the time I was ready to leave for Dublin on September 1, there was still no sign of a new passport, but I decided to use my Irish one, hoping the Canadian one would arrive before I returned from Ireland.
Otherwise, according to the government, I would not be allowed back into the country, all because of COVID regulations.
I was certain all would be well, and Maggie, my soulmate, could forward the new passport to me in Dublin before I had to return. No problem. I had emailed the passport people about my application and, the day after arriving in Dublin, they responded to tell me, and I quote: “Your application has not been examined yet nor has a file been created in your name”. What happened to the 20-day promise? This was almost two months after they got my application!
Then Air Canada got involved again. Canada eased restrictions on non-essential travel on September 6. A week later, on a Saturday and just a few days before my return, they sent me an email explaining that new requirements meant I had to have a COVID test within 72 hours of departure. Last minute chaos, as I had to find a place for a test, get a certificate that I tested negative, get an ARRCan certificate, and all in a couple of days. Great fun, and a strange way to spend the last few days in Dublin.Oh yes, still no Canadian passport.
On the day I left Dublin, I got to the airport and the Air Canada people went through my paperwork, which was fine with me. Then they asked to see proof that I was a Canadian citizen (not having a passport), and I showed them my Certificate of Citizenship from 1989.
In Air Canada fashion, they were confused: it didn’t have an expiry date! But the form they had to fill in on their computer demanded an expiry date. I explained that citizenship doesn’t have an expiry date, and they eventually, though it seemed to me, reluctantly, accepted the fact.
But all’s well that ends well, as that Shakespeare chappie said. I made it back to Canada, through Immigration, all the way to Ottawa and then home to NG. It was another chapter in my ongoing saga of travel with Air Canada. This time was rather less dramatic than others, although there was always the possibility that either my luggage, or my person, would end up either in a different city, or possibly not allowed back into Canada.
My feelings towards the airline were summed up by a woman sitting behind me on the plane in Toronto as we waited for the baggage confusion to be sorted out. She said to her companion, loud enough for everyone to hear: “Air Canada’s motto should be: ‘We’re not happy until you’re not happy’”. Precisely.
On a final note: my new Canadian passport arrived at home about an hour before I did.