Plus, it's always great to be in the milieu of the various airports across the province, and see big planes up close!!
That being said, there are times when the novelty wears off...
A challenge when booking flights at the end of a day in the field is finding the balance of early enough to still get home to tuck the kids in (many of our locations are less than two hours away by plane) and late enough to allow for a sense of availability to the people we serve in the regions (i.e. not appearing to be desperately rushing to the airport to get out of there!)
On a recent trip to Sudbury, my colleagues and I took different approaches to this game: Our "day" ended at 3:15, and the airport was a good half hour drive from the venue. Nevertheless, some folks booked themselves onto the 4:05 p.m. Porter, thinking they would just compress lunch and leave the site early to get to the airport on time.
Others booked a 5:30 p.m. Air Canada, knowing that if they left the venue promptly at the end of our session, they would still make it to the airport in time to clear security before boarding started. Still others booked the more conservative 6:40 p.m. Westjet, wanting to take into account possible driving delays due to the weather north of Toronto.
What ensued felt a little like the amazing race, to see who could get home first... or at all, as it turned out!
As the day unfolded, we began to recognize the need to end a bit early, in order to accommodate participants who had driven in from North of Sudbury. As flurries began falling outside, news of icy roads and accidents on the highways began to make people nervous.
In collaboration with our participants, we modified our lunch and break plans, and ended the day in time to allow people who were driving to get a healthy head start.
Hitching a ride with some colleagues who were booked on the 4:05 p.m. Porter flight, I, too, fled to the airport. I was hoping to get into an earlier flight if possible, but failing that, I was prepared to do some work in the waiting area, as I had brought my laptop with me.
But as we stepped out of my colleague's rental car at the terminal, we suspected our journey home would not be as quick as we were hoping for: It was super icy and slippery, and also extremely windy!
Weather, Weather, Weather
As a private pilot, I know how significant a role weather can play on whether and when an aircraft can land or depart.
Sure enough, not long after checking in, the delays began to be announced. First it was my Westjet, delayed from 6:40 to 7:20 p.m. Frustrating, but understandable. Next, the people I had been having an early supper with at the airport restaurant noted that their Air Canada flight, too, had been delayed, though not as much as the 4-o-clock Porter, which had not even landed yet (it was 4:45 at this point).
When we went downstairs so that my 5:30 friends could deal themselves into the security line game, we found out that both the Porter and the Air Canada had been circling overhead, waiting for the winds to calm down and for the runway to be cleared and sanded, so that they could land safely.
As my colleagues worked their way through security, I wandered over to the window to watch the proceedings. The Air Canada landed, passengers disembarked, and the aircraft was fueled up and prepared for a quick turnaround. A few grateful colleagues and other passengers scrambled aboard, and the plane soon departed.
The 4-o-clock Porter, meanwhile, had turned back to Toronto! (We knew before the announcement was made, as another colleague was set to arrive on that flight, as she had some business in Sudbury the next day.) Apparently the winds had been too high to land safely, and the aircraft was returning to CYTZ for a crew change; they'd try Sudbury again later that night, around 9 p.m. (It was now just after 6!)
Winning the Lottery
As my Porter colleagues came streaming out of the post-security waiting room to get dinner and settle in for a long evening, I reflected on how lucky I had been to be booked on the Westjet. No sooner had that thought crossed my mind, however, when a voice over the airport loudspeaker announced that the Westjet flight had been canceled.
I wanted to cry!
Wandering over to the ticket counter, I ran into some other colleagues who had also been booked into that flight; they were just arriving at the airport, and thought I was joking when I greeted them with the news that their trip here had been in vain.
Another Night in Sudbury
The group of us got into the ticket counter line; a Westjet agent printed boarding passes for the 6 a.m. flight the next morning, and sent us on our way.
Back into a cab we climbed (this new group of colleagues were gracious enough to add me to their number), and back towards the hotel we had so recently left.
Happily, the hotel was able to accommodate us, and by a little after 8 p.m., we were tucked into our rooms for another night away from home. I was pretty tired, so after logging into my work email to rearrange some morning meetings I'd no longer be able to attend in person, I crawled into bed, hoping for an early night (the alarm was set for 3:30 a.m., to make the 4 a.m. taxi back to the airport, and I wanted every second of sleep I could get!)
Alas, it seemed there was to be no rest for me: My room backed onto a church of some sort, and several large, deep bells rang loudly and distinctly every hour on the hour.
When the church bells finally stopped at 10 p.m. (I guess the parish had determined that even the most devout ought to be granted a few hours of uninterrupted silence each night to sleep), I gratefully set out to get every minute of the approximately five hours that stood between me and the 3:30 a.m. wake-up call.
Unfortunately, fate had other plans.
As luck would have it, I appeared to be in a room next door to a particularly amorous couple, who were eagerly vocalizing their late night enjoyment of one another in the adjoining room. Reticent to bang on the door and interrupt their Sudbury hotel tryst, I stuffed some earplugs into my ears, and attempted to block out the strange sounds next door. They were VERY loud, though, even with earplugs in, and I was enormously grateful when the more noisy one of the two seemed to have been depleted somewhere around midnight, and I could finally sleep...
... for an hour and a half!!!
Shortly after 2 a.m., my insatiable roommates started up again!
This time I did bang on the door between the rooms, and they seemed to have gotten the hint, because after some giggling, things quieted down, and I was able to squeeze in another 45 minutes or so of sleep.
The Light in the Darkness
Too early the next morning, I joined my colleagues in the lobby -- it appeared they had all had far less eventful nights, having found their rooms to be in a quieter part of the hotel -- and we eagerly piled into yet another taxi for yet another drive to the airport!
It was pitch black out, even by the time we arrive at the terminal. But out of the darkness there arose a bright light, and that light was our aircraft, prepared for departure.
Our fatigue not withstanding, we took comfort in the knowledge that we would soon be on our way home.
After forcing myself to stay awake for a morning of meetings which I attended virtually when I arrived home, I cashed in some lieu time in the afternoon, and slept. Without church bells or noisy "personal" sounds to interrupt me, I felt the luxury of a good chunk of sleep.
The following week, I shared my tale of woe with anyone who would listen and feel sorry for me; after all, even the delayed folks had gotten to go home the same night, albeit much later than anticipated. And the others who had stayed had not been auditorily traumatized as had I!
But I soon met my match: A gal who had come off the twice delayed Porter aircraft that same night for an even the next day had ended up in the same hotel where I had stayed -- but she'd been assigned the wrong room by the not-so -helpful reception staff, and when she opened the door to her room upon arrival late that night, someone was already sleeping in the bed!!!
* * *
In the not-so-amazing race, it's not only time that counts, but also quality of delay. Many points can be awarded for a wide variety of unique and exiting circumstances, keeping the work-travel game interesting and full of adventure, no matter when you may land or how mundane your travel destination may originally appear.