By Shawn Kilner, Owner of Imagine Cruise & Travel
In case you didn’t know, even travel experts look for advice!
I’ve been a travel agent for decades, serving clients with a very wide range of travel ideas, needs and wants, in all parts of the globe. There’s just about no specific request or detail I haven’t ever been faced with in the past. You’d think that with all of this experience under my belt that I’d just come up with my own travel itinerary. But, guess what? I still use an expert to attend to all of my travel needs too!
Why do I have my own travel agent, you might ask?
No matter who you are, a travel agent always finds ways to save you time and money. Possibly even more important than that, they do extensive research and address all the fine planning details to make each trip tailor-made for your mood. Do I want high adventure, easy pace, gorgeous nature, old-world charm, tropical beachfront heaven, or bustling cityscapes? And, believe me when I say that they can get you out of major hassles.
I’m heading off to a destination I’ve never actually been to – another reason I’m glad I hired a travel agent. Want to guess where I’m going? Most Canadians have been there lots of times. For some reason or another I’ve had other traveling priorities, until now.
Life is so hectic! Between our work and home life, we spend so much time looking after others that we’re often the last ones in line looking out for ourselves. That’s true for me sometimes, anyway. It’s definitely time for a change of scenery and relaxation! There comes a time when using an expert for what we need and want is totally worth avoiding the time we’d spend stressing out over all the unknowns and unplanned kinks in the road. For me, having a travel agent is a real life-saver!
Here I am, a business woman and travel agent writing to you from the Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge. I’ve had a few hours to wait for my next connection and I’m glad to be spending it away from the crowds in the airport corridors just outside. Travelling business class has its advantages and the relative calmness in here is definitely one of them.
So, about my trip… my journey started yesterday. As part of travelling in style and leading the life I want to live, I took off in a float plane from Vancouver Island and had a wonderful night’s stay at the Fairmont Vancouver Airport In-Terminal Hotel. My beautiful room had an amazing view of the airport and the snow-capped coastal mountains. I just never get tired of that view. It was crowned with a cocktail as I listened to an amazing guitarist in the lounge, while watching the sunset turn the sky a golden-orange hue.
Five a.m. came early. If you know me at all, you’ll know that’s around the time this here night owl normally turns in to get some shut-eye – but, I had a plane to catch! So, off I went to check-in.
Keeping things light, I decided to limit my luggage to carry-on. Even though I have lots of time for my transfers, my mood swayed me to check it in. There went my bag – careening down to get placed on my plane to Cuba! If you can believe it, this will be my very first visit to Havana and I’ll also explore the southern coast. I can’t wait!
All went well and I headed off to the Maple Leaf Lounge for brekky, enjoying a wonderful latte and mint watermelon water… a very refreshing way to start the day!
I left the Lounge to catch the 9 am flight on the big Boeing 777 aircraft. Its pod seating and lay-flat bed had me feeling like a princess. Both breakfast or lunch menus were enticing. And, no matter how minor this sounds, getting a chance to relax and watch movies was a real treat for me!
And then, the start of not-fun part came upon me. We sat and waited, and waited, and then waited some more. After an hour of sitting on the runway I called Air Canada and, theme of the day, waited another 20 minutes just to get through. By the time I spoke to an agent, the only thing I was told was that the flight was not cancelled so I could not re-book or anything! So frustrating!
Over the intercom, the captain told us that our flight delay was caused by a mechanical issue that could possibly be fixed. So we waited (yep!) some more! By 11:45 am they figured they had to fly a new part from Toronto to Vancouver to get this big bird in the air! Guess that’s not something easily found at your local hardware store…
Okay, I admit I was annoyed, but I did my best to keep my cool. I called Air Canada again and re-booked my connection, which was now scheduled to leave the next day at 7 pm. Oh, yes, for all of you math-fiends out there, that’s a 25 hour delay.
After waiting with the other 400 passengers, we were then privy to another little tidbit posted on the flight board, which let us know that our postponed flight was actually cancelled! The flight was originally supposed to depart at 9am and our new proposed time was 10:30 pm. Yes, that’s right. Just another 13.5 hours to wait. Did Air Canada find a way to make things better for us? Well, if you call a $10 or $15 coupon some kind of appropriate compensation, then I guess they thought they did.
Never mind the fact that people had insufficient compensation to find adequate airport terminal food, we also had to spend about two hours getting our flights re-booked or changed. Then, we had to shuffle down to arrivals to collect our luggage, clear customs, security, and check-in again! Not fun.
My luggage was checked through to Cuba so it had been flown to Toronto (somehow it made it there on some other flight… lucky-luggage)! All the while, all these many hours later – there I was still sitting in Vancouver! We can all agree (I imagine) that this was not the ideal start to decompressing on my holiday!
Much of the annoyance could have been minimized if the Air Canada baggage and service staff had been better informed, and if they could have passed along basic information in a timely fashion to all these fine travellers. This is exactly the kind of experience that can give an airline a bad name. Though, I have to say, there were a few bright spots on staff who did their best to tell us what they knew. Communication, communication, communication, folks! That’s what’s needed!
Given all this drama, and the rescheduling option being offered, I knew I’d be kissing my two nights in Havana goodbye before the start of my catamaran sailing trip. Then I decided to call Marion, my travel agent. I hoped against hope for some alternative but had low expectations, given that Air Canada said the new plan was our only option.
Wow, I could tell by the compassion in her voice that Marion really felt for me. After a short talk I could hear the keyboard keys a-working!!!
Within minutes, Marion booked and held the very last seat from Vancouver to Toronto at 5 pm, giving me four hours to connect, which I was grateful for as I had to find my luggage! No doubt it was missing me! Lickety-split, the last six hours of stress totally disappeared. What a miracle worker!!!
Having someone go to bat for me meant that I could now enjoy my Cuban city tour in a 1958 Chevy, taking in the sights, sounds, drinks, and fun! So, here I am, getting ‘acclimatized’ to Cuba with a fine glass of rum while toasting Marion! Catching a gorgeous sunset in Havana is a major plus too, thanks to my exceptional travel agent! Some services are priceless, and having a travel agent is one of them!