I have flown quite a bit but the experience of flying home on this last trip from Barbados was the worst airport experience ever and I feel the need to share it with you.
The short story is that we missed our connecting flight to Wpg in Toronto and had to stay overnight in Toronto. That’s the short story. The long story will follow. I had similar experience of needing to overnight in Calgary once when our flight was rerouted. That experience was handled with the up most efficiency. Both times the airline was Westjet.
I knew we were in for a problem when we checked in for our flight home in Bridgetown and found out that our flight was delayed for an hour. When I asked the WS (Westjet) agent in Bridgetown about our connecting flight in Toronto (which we already had only an hour and 20 min. to catch), she assured me that a WS agent would be there when we got off the plane in Toronto to direct us to where we needed to go.
I again asked the flight attendant on the plane whether or not we would be able to catch our connecting flight to Wpg as we were delayed an hour. She told me there would be a WS agent at the gate when we arrived to help us make the connecting flight.
There was no WS agent in Toronto when we left the aircraft. We had to figure out where to go on our own, but the terminal was clearly marked and we found our way to retrieve our luggage and go through customs. So far, so good. We got through customs and wondered what to do with our luggage. There were no signs and no people around to ask. We dragged our luggage to the WS check in gate and checked it again. We found out that what we were supposed to have done was to immediately deposit it back on the conveyor belt after clearing customs. There was nobody there to direct us to do this, nor were there any signs indicating this. We lost valuable time in dragging our luggage through the terminal. We found other people who were also confused so it wasn’t just us.
The WS agent at the desk where we checked our luggage assured us that we would make the plane and that the aircraft had in fact not started to board.
Next came security and the bully of a security officer. (This is not the agent.)
This self-important man (I will now refer to him as “the bully”) seemed to take pleasure in having power over travelers. There were 2 issues with our baggage. One was my heating pack which I used for my sore neck and shoulders. I had had it in my bag for the last 3 flights but he said it wasn’t allowed and dramatically threw it into the garbage. The other issue was the fact that my boyfriend had bought liquor at the duty-free shop in Bridgetown. It wasn’t allowed. Now, you need to know that this alcohol was bought AFTER we had checked our bags in Bridgetown and that we had no opportunity to pack into our checked bags. It was on the plane with us in our previous flight. It was still sealed. Why had nobody told us that it wouldn’t be allowed on the flight in Toronto?
There was an elderly lady in a wheelchair at security. She had bought a bottle of rum for her grandson. It was also confiscated. One wonders how many other people had had alcohol confiscated?
I goggled the incidence of alcohol confiscated by security in Canada and found this:
As of Jan. 31, 2014, duty-free alcohol purchased at foreign airports can now be transported in carry-on luggage, overriding a previous rule that such alcohol must be packed in a checked bag. Travelers previously faced a dilemma when trying to buy alcohol at duty-free airport shops with the checked-bag rule, because usually their bags were already checked while they stared at the cheaper bottles of booze on airport shelves.
Did the bully know this rule? It appears that he did not. There is no tracking of confiscated alcohol at airports. Shocking, but true!
(In case you encounter this man or in case airport authorities wonder who the bully was: he was about 45 years old, heavy build and tall, with scruffy thinning blond hair and a Ukrainian accent.)
Our troubles were far from over.
We missed the flight. Not surprising at these 2 delays.
Next was the onerous task of getting checked into a hotel and getting our luggage back. This was very poorly handled by WS staff. The task of getting our vouchers for the hotel and our luggage back took 1.5 hours. We had left the plane at around 10 pm and it was 12:30 when we had our luggage back and were on route to our hotel.
But our troubles were still not over.
The WS agent told us to wait at C22 for the hotel shuttle to come and pick us up. It was freezing in Toronto. We were not dressed for this kind of cold, having just left Barbados and not expecting to be spending the better part of an hour outside in Toronto.
We waited about 20 minutes for the shuttle to come and pick us up and it didn’t come. I phoned the hotel, Airport West, to find out when it would come and was told it only came upon request and would take a further 10 to 15 minutes.
It finally came and we got to our hotel at 1:30 am. Our ordeal had started at 10:00 pm; a total of 3.5 hours of delays and harassment.
I go back to my delay in Calgary when the plane was rerouted. That time, I was in my hotel within half an hour.
Why did this take 3.5 hours?
It was a combination of not having the information we needed at the airport and the lack of WS personnel to assist us and the bully, who took great pride in having authority over people.
It was a night I will not forget.
I travel a fair bit and always search Westjet first when looking for flights. I have never had an experience like this and will in future look at Air Canada flights. I will also avoid the Toronto airport if possible.
I am happy to be home and safe and sound.
But it should not have been so difficult!