Bonjour. I was going to continue with my recent trip around the world and finish telling you about the second to last stop, Shanghai. But instead, I will do that next week and update you on my current travels. Unfortunately, I have some sad news to report. Natalie’s 60-year-old father passed away on Sunday and I’m presently in Toronto with her and her amazing family. If you could keep them in your prayers, it would be greatly appreciated. This all happened unexpectedly and getting to Canada last-minute was interesting so I thought I would share some of my tips and experiences.
SEARCHING FOR LAST-MINUTE AIRFARE
First of all, if you have been following on or , you’ve probably seen that I’ve been to Florida and Canada numerous times in the past few weeks. I’ve been inFlorida hanging out with my dad and I was there when Natalie called to say that her father, who had been hospitalized due to a lung condition called pulmonary fibrosis, had taken a turn for the worst. I had been scheduled to fly to Aruba that night, to check out the brand new . But I had to cancel that ticket and scour the Internet (using Hundredbacklinks.com’s , of course) to find a last-minute ticket to Toronto (YYZ). I didn’t even bother wasting my time looking for bereavement fares; they are either non-existent or a waste of money. Instead, I priced out flights from the three major airports in South Florida closest to me (Check out ) and was able to find a ticket from West Palm Beach (PBI) via Charlotte (CLT) on for just $178. Everything else was at least double and nonstop flights were triple the price.
The flight from PBI to CLT is 590 miles and the flight from CLT to YYZ is 588 miles – talk about a perfect midway point! The first leg of the journey was on an 86-seat Embraer 175. Although US Airways slapped their logos and colors on both the outside and inside of this regional jet, it was really being operated by Republic Airlines. Yes, it was a similar scenario with the recent Buffalo plane crash a few weeks ago. That plane really wasn’t Continental Airlines – it was Colgan Air. I’m not sure about you but after that crash, flying these smaller regional jets is a little more uncertain than it was before. It also didn’t help that I’d just read this the night before, which was about aviation safety in America. Did you know that the last three fatal crashes in the United States from 2002 to now all involved commuter airlines?
FLIGHT TO CHARLOTTE
I kept reassuring myself that it’s still much safer to fly than it is to drive so I was able to ease my fears. The flight to Charlotte was uneventful (the best flights are) and my advice for you when flying on these planes is to board as early as possible since overhead space is limited; many of the passengers had to check their carry-on bags. Since I was in seat 1D (one of the ), I overheard one woman ask the flight attendant where seat 25D was. 25D, he asked. This plane only had 22 rows. The flight attendant looked at her ticket and surprisingly, she was on the right flight, so he told her to take any open seat. Another interesting conversation I overheard was the baggage handler telling the flight attendant that in the 15 years he’d been working there, he’d never encountered a flight with friendlier passengers than this one. He said most of them smiled and asked him how his day was going. I thought that was cool and will make a point to say hello to all those guys in the future.
After I booked my flight, I was waiting and waiting for the confirmation email. After about 20 minutes I decided to call to make sure everything went through including my h seat assignments. The agent, who sounded like she was in the Philippines call center, said everything was confirmed and I was all set. I actually forgot all about the confirmation email until Monday morning when it arrived in my inbox at 8:47am — 46 hours after purchasing it! Is that crazy or what? The best thing to do whenever you make a reservation is to call the 800 number (Check out ), just to make sure everything is confirmed so you won’t have any problems at the airport. TIP: To bypass the annoying automated phone systems and talk to a live person, log on to to find out which prompts to dial.
I hadn’t been to the CLT airport in a couple of years and I’d forgotten how pleasant it is, especially in the main hall where they have a slew of restaurants, shops and a live piano playernext to a cool bar with large model aircrafts circling above. The best thing to do is grab some food and snag one of their many white rocking chairs, sit back and relax. I had just over an hour to kill so I busted out my laptop and downloaded my email by popping in my Sprint wireless card (I rent mine from to avoid the two-year contract) and logged on to the Internet while sucking on a chunky strawberry smoothie from .
CHARLOTTE TO TORONTO
The flight to Toronto was a quick one-hour and 20 minutes on a packed 737-300, which was indeed operated by US Airways. Before boarding, the gate agents conducted a passport ID check to speed up the process. When I handed mine to the agent, he chuckled and said that so far, I was the only American on the flight. Of course I was — what fool would be going to five-degree weather unless they lived there? The only folks going to Toronto this time of year are business travelers and they wouldn’t be leaving on a Saturday night.
US AIRWAYS FREE NON-ALCOHOLIC DRINKS
Again, the flight was uneventful except that I was one of the last passengers to purchase a bottle of water ($2) on board. We landed just before midnight on February 28th and the following day, US Airways was reversing their and would be giving non-alcoholic drinks for free. When I asked one of the flight attendants how he felt about the switch, he said, “Actually, it makes my job more difficult since everyone wants something for free. Before, we could cruise the aisles and finish the drink service in minutes.”
US Airways stopped charging because no other airline followed their lead and they didn’t want a negative image. What’s interesting is that the flight attendant said that US Airways didn’t begin charging just to make money; they did it to save money. Since they knew most passengers wouldn’t pay for drinks, they didn’t need to spend the money on refrigeration or loading the planes with heavy liquids, which means the aircraft consumes more fuel.
Next week: Shanghai.
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