Friday, May 3, 2013

Seattle and Nexus

Drove to Dorval this morning, found our Park and Fly lot, abandoned the car and rode the bus to the terminal.  There a new experience awaited us.  It was the first time we travelled using our shiny, new Nexus cards at the Global terminals.  These allow you to bypass the usual security line-ups by going to the much shorter Nexus line, scanning your passport and having your fingerprints scanned and checked against their database.  This is all accomplished at blue terminals automatically. 

We had allowed the usual amount of time for all this, so had an extra hour to kill with our Kindles at the gate.  This turned out to be a good thing since we had managed to proceed to the wrong gate.  Reg eventually reacted to the deserted nature of the area and Paul tracked down someone who knew what was going on.  They pointed out that the gate we were sitting at was in reality our seat number and the Toronto flight was most probably leaving from Gate 5.  Embarrassed, we retraced our steps from island gate 17 to terminal gate 5 which turned out to be the right one.  Since we had pre-printed our boarding passes at home and had only carry-on luggage, we had breezed through the Nexus lines without having met anyone from Air Canada and without the agent's usually helpful scribbling of the gate number on the boarding pass!

Eventually, the rude gate agents loaded us piecemeal onto the plane in the old-fashioned Rear-Seats-First mode, designed originally to cut down on waiting in the aisles on board  by the rear-most seated passengers while the front-most seated sorted themselves out.  Now that checked luggage often has to be paid for, people have taken to each carrying 2-3 huge bags on board as "carry-on".   The useless gate agents do nothing to enforce policy  guidelines which clearly state that passengers are allowed ONE carry-on and ONE personal item like a purse, computer bag or camera.  The result of this ill-conceived plan is that the selfish people in the rear of the plane with too much luggage, get on first, stow one bag in a bin up front and the other in the bin over their seat in the back and a third under the seat in front of them.  When the passengers seated in the front finally board, there is no longer room for their bags.

We had planned to save a little time on de-planing and since we were only going for a short visit, had brought carry-on bags (one each) and personal items (one each).  We were in Row 17 and by the time it was called and we boarded, all the overhead bins on the plane were full.  The air hostess took our bags and checked them for us in the cargo (fortunately on the same plane, because our Meds were in them).

We were relieved to discover in Toronto that changes have been made since our last flight, and even though we had to Nexus through Immigration/Passport-Control, we didn't have to reclaim our luggage which was checked through to Seattle.  It was the first time we had tried Nexus so we muffed the finger-print scan, but the guard simply sent us directly to the nearby Nexus office where the confusion was quickly cleared up.  We then drifted over to the Nexus portion of the security screening where again the much shorter line eased the process delightfully for Mr. Patient.

This time, we asked at Security which gate to wait at and were directed to Gate 83.  Yes we got all the way to Gate 83 before checking the Arrival/Departure monitors and finding out that our flight  actually left from Gate 51.  Happily we had lots of time, courtesy of the streamlined Nexus system.  Plus, no bags to schlepp! 

Out came the Kindles and we settled in to await our Toronto-Seattle flight after a late lunch.   We dimly perceived a "disturbance in the Force" and noted that planes departing before ours were being repeatedly delayed at the gate.  The reason given was the ridiculously named "sequester" of the U.S. government's budget problem.  It appeared to be causing a slowdown at US customs.  Fellow passengers related wait-times of up to 2 hour to clear customs and security!  Yea Nexus!

We were relatively lucky and left only one hour late.  The Air Canada plane was an Embraer, curiously enough.  Why the airline of Canada didn't buy the Canadian Bombardier equivalent is a mystery.  The usual coterie of imbeciles brought on their monster "carry-on" bags and over-filled the miniscule Brazilian overhead bins, but we didn't care; our bags had been checked through. We ate the in-flight snacks, bought a sandwich and read for 5 hours until Seattle came up.

Following the mandatory lengthy wait for our two tiny bags (opened, since we had not locked them as they were intended to be carried on-board , we took the shuttle bus to the car rental building, procured a Ford Focus and GPSed our way through labyrinthine street closures and detours (still manned by bored, lonely, traffic police at 1AM) to Phil's place and crashed for the night.  With the Sequester and time changes, it had been a 17-hour trip.

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