Resilient travelling (IRROPS-proofing...)

Discussion in 'Air Canada | Aeroplan' started by mevlannen, Jul 23, 2015.  |  Print Topic

  1. mevlannen
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    mevlannen Silver Member

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    Listening to colleagues' stories of trying to get in and out of Newfoundland, I am struck by the inconsistency with which airlines deal with their stranded passengers. It's not just an Air Canada issue, of course, but Air Canada's IRROPS responses are what I am most familiar with, and I suspect that the same is true for most of us actively using this particular sub-forum.

    So, a discussion-starter.... what strategies do we collectively have, for dealing with IRROPS, for anticipating and planning around them, for (ahem) sleeping rough on an airport bench overnight? Does anyone else here use the three-bag concept (A-bag of essentials at hand, B-bag of 'nice to have' up in the overhead bin, C-bag of 'might need' checked and in the hold) as practiced by many uniformed service-members?

    I'll start off by observing that my real sanity-saver is a small bottle of shampoo and a small bar of soap, packed alongside a rolled-up large plastic bag (of the sort that's used to freeze chopped vegetables). Several times now I've been able to wash my hair in the handicapped loo at YYZ, when I'm stuck there overnight. There's something about clean hair after an all-nighter, that just leaves me ready to face Round 2 of the YYZ Snow Chaos Game.
     
  2. traveltoomuch

    traveltoomuch Silver Member

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    None of this experience is from Air Canada, but maybe it will help:

    Anticipating: when I book, I like to know how much other metal is flying on the same routes. Am I on the last flight of the day? A day or so before departure, I like to look at seat maps. Is every seat booked? On the day of departure, I might check flight status for other flights on the same route. If my flight has every seat booked and/or another flight on the route is cancelled or otherwise affected, I might start making contingency plans.

    Planning around: if I think something might break, I look for alternate routings, including on other airlines. I like to know who has seats and when those flights leave. How long can I twiddle my thumbs before I insist that I get rebooked? I will consider even bigger changes to itinerary. Can I get them to rebook me for tomorrow before I even go to the airport? What about to an alternate city? I might look at hotel options. Are airport hotels readily available? Who's offering a decent rate? What hotels are offering distressed passenger rates on apaglobal.com? If I expect that I will ultimately be paying out of my own pocket, are there any good points redemptions to be had? I might make a one-way car reservation at a likely alternate airport. I might check what lounges I might be able to access (even by paying cash!), and even in another terminal, if only to get a real shower on an extended delay.

    Packing: I don't prioritize items between my underseat bag and rollaboard, but my rollaboard is always packed as at least an overnight bag. Other than gate-delivered bags on RJs, I do not permit my rollaboard to be separated from me without a fight. If someone insists on checking the rollaboard, I am perfectly willing to open it up in the middle of a boarding lane to pull out necessary overnight things. I carry a spare distressed-passenger hotel voucher. And I carry one-day lounge passes, if I have any.

    I never pack as though I will be sleeping in an airport, largely because I can't remember doing so in over 15 years.
     
    Last edited: Jul 25, 2015
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  3. milchap
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    milchap Gold Member

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    :cool: Good thread.

    My travel now is 100% leisure now that I am fully retired. I can rebook if the option is available

    I ;try to avoid connections in the winter especially YYZ and ORD.

    If travelling AC in the winter and need to be at destination without a hassle, I use "on my way service" It has saved me missing a cruise twice.

    AC is not good at IRROPS in YYZ. Avoid it if possible.
     
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2015
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  4. YULtide

    YULtide Gold Member

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    I must be either a very infrequent flyer or just damned lucky. In the last 20 years I've been stuck overnight 3 times, including twice in YYZ. Those two times I resorted to a hotel room. No sleeping rough. AC gave me a discount coupon the second time. The third time, AC put me up overnight. Even without me buying On My Way service.

    Incidentally there's no need to resort to a loo to wash in YYZ. The MLL has decent shower facilities.

    I carry a change of clothes and toothbrush with me if I'm checking a bag, otherwise I will have everything anyway. Beyond that, I'm generally happy to deal with whatever comes up, though I do admit to moments of stress where complex international connections are involved. Planning my next TPAC trip with more slack built in than on my previous one for that reason.
     
  5. HaveMilesWillTravel
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    HaveMilesWillTravel Gold Member

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    I've been stranded once in the 20+ years of reasonably frequent air travel. March 11, 2011, in Osaka (diverted from Tokyo due to the Japan quake). I don't take any particular precautions for IRROPS, but most of the time I only have carry-on anyway.
     
  6. traveltoomuch

    traveltoomuch Silver Member

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    I imagine a lot of that is mindset about what constitutes "stranded" and an openness to alternatives that end up getting mentally filed as something else.

    Examples:

    I was at the gate for a USAir flight heading to/through PHL when delays/cancellations began pouring in. I asked if they would put me on the flight to PIT that was boarding at the next gate over and I'd connect from PIT the following day. I got an unexpected opportunity to visit a friend; it was far more "opportunity" than "stranded".

    And I remember at least one case of a flight to PVD breaking and opting to fly into Logan instead of being "stranded" at my origin. It wasn't entirely the desired outcome, but it didn't feel me leaving stranded so much as misplaced.
     
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  7. YULtide

    YULtide Gold Member

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    I'm not sure I've ever felt stranded, even in the fourth case, which I forgot in my previous post. That one was an unexpected delay in Nagoya on the way from Seoul to Vancouver about 14 years ago. The plane hadn't left Vancouver due to concerns about a typhoon. Carried on the next day. No worries.
     
  8. mevlannen
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    mevlannen Silver Member

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    Great replies -- thanks.

    Looking back at it, I've been stranded mid-journey (at connection-points) maybe ten times in the past forty years. This is clearly (for me, at least) not a frequent occurrence. Still, I hate being stranded mid-way, if only because there's not necessarily a collection of friends and family available for an ad-hoc visit.

    When I was but a wee young thing, still in graduate-school, I envied my richer church-mouse neighbours. Let's just say that money was tight, and there was nothing to spare for an unexpected hotel-room. Even twenty years ago I was still tight with the pennies, so the floor of the airport at YVR or YYZ (or, once, EWR) was my hotel-room if need be. Although if memory serves correctly I held some form of 'status' back then, and I'm pretty darned sure that I was getting into the Maple Leaf club or Empress club or somesuch, I don't recall that there were showers back then. If there were, and I did not so notice, chalk that up to my longstanding lack of observational skills.

    (Ahem) I digress. Basic toiletries in my purse (my 'A-bag', if we may borrow Service lingo) were a given; that's *why* we carry purses the size of a loot-bag. I had not yet worked-out the understanding that, in the event of an emergency, we might not be allowed to take our purses with us, so I had not yet learned to carry my irreplaceable identification in an inner blazer-pocket, or in a big pocket that I'd sewed into the side-hems of my skirts. (another Ahem) Women's clothing does not always come with pockets, hence that big purse.

    Nowadays, my go-to travelling-blouse is a white cotton 'big shirt' from Kalliyana (as frequently advertised in the pages of En Route Magazine!), and that has lovely deep pockets that'll take a passport, NEXUS card, driving-licence, health-care card and air tickets. Yes, all that in my pockets, so that come what may, I shall always possess the papers that are so frequently demanded of us whilst travelling.

    B-bag is my size- (and weight-) legal shoulder-bag, nothing fancy, just a cloth shopping-bag from the American grocery-store, Market Basket (a veritable social institution in Massachesetts). I keep a change of smalls, socks, and a spare top, along with whatever bodice-ripper Regency novel I might be reading at the time.

    C-bag, checked and in the hold, would have the rest of my clothes, and perhaps a nice bottle or two of wine to be enjoyed at journey's end. I try not to have a C-bag checked, because in the case of IRROPs, it acts like an 'achor' to prevent my nimble rebooking onto a handier alternative flight.

    IRROP-proofing, as noted by the illustrious Traveltoomuch, does include keeping an eye on alternative routings and loads. If I take the second departure of the day, and plan to be on the second-last connection at the other end of my journey chain, I'm more likely to be able to avoid winter-related equipment issues, and (on the East Coast) the inevitable evening transborder ground hold at YYZ. Coming back to Vancouver Island, the second-last connection is a grand thing to plan for, since for half the year we must concern ourselves with the daily eventide roll-in of the coastal fog-banks.

    Also (and here's where it gets complex), connections in Prairie airports such as YYC and YEG sometimes fail because of mid-afternoon thunderstorms; YYC's worse than YEG in that regard, maybe that's a real difference in climate, or perhaps it's a different layout of the ramps in relationship to prevailing winds. Anyway, allowing two hours for a connection is much less fraught with worry than allowing the legal forty-five minutes.

    By trial and error, I have worked-out some standard itineraries that'll get me around between YQU/YCD/YYJ/YQQ/BOS/YUL in whatever desired combination. Unfortunately, my felicitous routings seem to cost more than those with less-conducive connections. Maybe that's a question for another thread, perhaps. ('Algorithmic personalised pricing', anyone?)
     
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  9. londoncalling

    londoncalling Silver Member

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    I have only been stranded once in the last 20 years. Before that my memory is too foggy.
    To avoid being stranded when I sense an IRROPS coming I immediately call the concierge and get the lowdown. That has saved me more than once in the past as the immediately put me on another flight. Living in YYZ I don't have to put up with IRROPS here as I can gauge the situation from the comforts of home.

    I never check a bag but if I did my toiletries would be moved to my carry on bag. Another issue about IRROPS is the fact I have a Platinum AMEX card and they allow a certain amount of spend if the ticket has been bought using the card.

    One foggy memory comes back. I was stranded in Cali Colombia about 30 plus years ago because the in bound flight never arrived from Bogota. I did sleep on a park bench as there was a big festival happening which we had participated in but the hotels were all full at11PM when we knew we were stranded.
     
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  10. slalom

    slalom Silver Member

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    What is "on my way service"? I was on a cruise out of Puerto Rico a couple of years back and we had a direct flight booked on points to San Juan, while two other couples had a connection through ORD. I'm sure you know where I'm going with this....flights cancelled in ORD, two couples missed a couple days of the cruise and caught up with us in Aruba (without their bags - that is another story!).

    On contingency planning - EWR - when there is a hint of disruption, I have a great little bar with wifi I go hang out in and check the inbound/outbound flights and I'm 20 minutes from the airport. Sure beats the dismal Air Canada facilities.

    BOS - go sit in Santarpios pizza and have a glass of wine and some of their great food. About 10 minutes from Logan via Uber (less than $10).

    Over the last three years I've been disrupted probably 10-12 times - usually due to thunderstorms at the northeastern or midwestern airports for afternoon departures - the first couple of times I would get stressed and head to the airport to figure out a way out. After spending 6-7 hours at EWR without getting out on a couple of occasions, I now just chill and look at it as an unplanned, relaxing evening - I'll check into a decent hotel and have a great dinner.

    I was in BOS waiting for UA flight to EWR a few weeks back when they had their computer issues. As soon as I saw what was going on, I called my corporate travel desk on the walk to the Delta terminal and was on a flight to LGA just 30 minutes later than my scheduled UA departure.

    95% of my travel is 4-5 day business trips (weekly) so I never check a bag and don't have to worry about having access to shampoo, etc.. I fortunately haven't ever spent an unplanned night in an airport. The key for me is to not get stressed about the disruptions and look at it as an opportunity to do something you wouldn't have otherwise done. And whatever you will miss at the other end of your travels - too bad - can't do anything about it anyways!

    The one interesting experience I had back around 9/11 in the jittery days following that terrorist act - I remember being at the Windsor airport trying to get back to Toronto. An earlier flight had left on time, but some "scare" caused all remaining flights to be cancelled. I rounded up 6 people at the AC counter and hired a van to drive us all back to Toronto!
     
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  11. milchap
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    milchap Gold Member

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    http://www.aircanada.com/en/travelinfo/traveller/onmyway.html
     
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  12. mevlannen
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    mevlannen Silver Member

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    Oh, one more small thing that I forgot: Air Canada's good old Flight Status tool, accessible via the Information and Services menu of their site. I find it rather interesting that sometimes the Flight Status results are more (realistically?) pessimistic than any information I can obtain at an outlying station.

    Seeing that the aircraft is reported to have taken off for its arriving segment, is of course no guarantee that they won't hit weather en route or be diverted for some other good reason. (By which I mean to say that I don't think Air Canada ever has flippant reasons for diversion!)
     
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