Tuesday, April 26, 2011

You should really read the fine print...

before you board the aircraft.

It all started because I wanted to save a few dollars.  That always seems like a good thing at the time, but it's funny how often that can back fire on you.

We were going to be flying from Halifax to Toronto for Easter weekend.  Before I booked the flights I did my due diligence of price comparison from the 3 airlines that fly from here to there.  I made myself an Excel chart (cause I do everything in Excel) that allowed me to see times and prices for all 3 side by side.  And one carrier had the right times and the best prices.  Seemed like a no brainer. Of course it was for the newest airline to start flying from here to there, one that I had heard advertised on the radio at least once an hour for the last month.   I checked them out, they seemed legit and not likely to go under in the next 90 days.  So I booked the tickets and promptly forgot about it till it was time to go.

We left on Thursday.  We got to the airport, got checked in, got on our flight.  It was connecting through Montreal and everything was going along all tickety-boo.  One of this new airline's selling points is that they offer free beer and wine as well as free lunch and snacks on all their flights, something all the other airlines gave up years ago.  They also claim to have roomier, more comfortable seats.  We quickly found out that all these things were true.

Things were smooth sailing till we took off from Montreal and the pilot announced that due to a good tail wind we would be landing at Billy Bishop airport about 10 minutes early.  Odd.... Even though we live in Halifax, I thought it would have made the news if they had renamed Pearson International Airport.  Maybe they just renamed one of the terminals.  I chose to ignore it and continue to enjoy my free micro-brewery beer.  When we started our decent into Toronto and the name Billy Bishop Airport kept coming up, Hilary started to shoot me the "look".  You know the "look"?  The one that only one spouse can shoot to another?  Yeah, the "look" that says, boy howdy are you in a heap of trouble!  She leaned across the aisle and casually asked me "Where EXACTLY are we going?"  Somehow, my generic response of "Toronto" wasn't good enough.  That much she already knew, since the CN tower was outside our window.  I sheepishly got up and asked the stewardess which airport we were landing at.  Her answer was "Billy Bishop", but when she saw the confused look on my face, she added, "on Toronto Island of course".

Ooops

We had a car reserved at Pearson, which is on the other side of the city.  We were landing at 4:30 on the day before a holiday long weekend, in downtown Toronto.  On an island.  Luckily the airport is attached to the ferry terminal, and the island is actually only 400 feet from the mainland.  The airline also has a free shuttle that would take us from the ferry to a major downtown hotel.  Our options from there were public transit, taxi, limo or airport shuttle to get to the other airport and our car reservation, or hope to find a car rental place that still had available cars an hour before closing for a holiday weekend.   We had to do all of this while lugging 2 suitcases, 3 knapsacks, a booster seat and a tired, cranky kid who's ADHD medicine was starting to wear off.

We opted to try and rent a car, which we were able to do in Union Station.  To really help things along, the car was parked in a parkade 3 blocks away, accessible via underground walk ways.  Which of course were crowded with folks trying to get home from work.  The map they gave us was vague at best, but we eventually found the car.  We then managed to navigate our way through traffic and out of Toronto.  Good thing that we had both lived there once upon a time.

All in all it worked out.  We were a bit later getting to our destination then if we had flown to the "right" airport, but we made it.  What really bothered me was how I had made this seemingly glaring mistake.  You would think that if a city has more then one airport, that it would be rather obvious which one you were flying to when you book your tickets.  I went back on their website and the only indication of airport on the booking page is the 3 letter designation after the city name:  Toronto (YTZ).  Like I was supposed to know what that meant!  I don't know what the 3 letter code is for Pearson, other then it starts with a Y. (I just looked it up, it's YYZ).  They should really advertise these things a little bit better!

So let this be my warning to you... read the fine print (or at least the 3 letter codes!) before you board the aircraft.
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