After an amazing 2 weeks with friends, it was time to say goodbye and head back to Beijing. You could say, this is when the chaos started.
We had planned everything to a tee. Even the flight back. We booked a morning flight from Victoria to Vancouver (the 10 minute flight). Booked a long enough layover to attack the departure lounge and duty free before heading back to Beijing. Our Vancouver to Beijing flight was at around 2pm.
We arrived at Victoria Airport. Checked in (paid the extra for our luggage for both legs of our journey). Headed in to the tiny departures lounge; home to a bar/restaurant/ cafe combo and a souvenir store.
We took a seat in the cafe/ bar/ restaurant; ordered food and an alcoholic beverage (because are you even travelling as a Brit if you don't have a boozey breakfast beverage at the airport!?) Food and beverages were good. Though we thought we would only be there for a short time, we soon altered our thoughts when we saw the flight's status changing to delayed.
People were asked to go see the counters if they had urgent and connecting flights. Every time we would venture to the counter we were told "ALL flights are delayed even from Vancouver to International destinations". Numerous times we asked if we could change to a flight leaving earlier to ensure we catch our connecting flight. Each time- no.
Time passed- we spoke to other passengers arriving; as we held onto our seats at the cafe- ordering Red Bulls and Vitamin Waters.
Finally, our flight was called. We board. We tell cabin crew that we will be arriving as our flight is taking off so can we disembark first. We were told- "We'll ensure all individuals who have an urgent connecting flight will embark first". We thank them.
We land. We have 10 minutes to make our flight. An older gentleman decides to get up out of his seat "as he has an urgent flight; leaving in 2 hours". I have never felt so infuriated. He refused to allow us to disembark before him. 5 minutes remaining. Find out our flight is leaving from the total opposite end of Vancouver airport! We absolutely leg it as fast as we can (a PE teacher and a disabled, asthmatic English teacher. Haha- guess which one wasn't dying every 10 seconds).
We reach the gate 5 minutes after take off. Nobody is at the gate. Not a soul. We look for anybody who works at the airport or Air China. There was nobody in the area to help. We wander away from the gate (still bearing our flight number) to find an information desk. We were greeted by a lovely man who told us to go to a different gate to find a member of gate staff. There was nobody at any gate. He tried ringing Air China (in airport, at gate, offices, check in desks etc) with nobody answering.
He contacted an Air Canada representative as we booked our ticket with Air Canada even though it was a code share with Air China. They were so helpful. A member of staff walked us through the processes we needed to go through. After a lot of questioning about how we were late for our flight, asking for names and flight times and boarding cards... He managed to get us on the next available flight (2am; yep, do the math- 12hour wait). He mentioned that, we should receive an upgrade due to the inconvenience at Victoria causing us to miss our flight. HOWEVER, we would be stuck at check in desks until check in 11pm. We had to collect our luggage, re-enter Canada, and wait in the check in desk area. So boring. We could not book anywhere to keep our luggage to leave and explore Vancouver. We. Were. Stuck.
We were early for recheck in, waiting at the check in desk- we had so many issues with Air China; asking why we had new tickets issued by Air Canada, trying to get us to pay for extra luggage even though we had paid, the staff were rude and unhelpful, asking us why we had not contacted them. I have never had such horrendous service- worse than Flybe (on my outward leg). I have vowed to never fly Air China again. First and last time. Obviously, by the time we got through security everywhere in Duty Free was closing. Such a disappointing experience. We did however, manage to buy a Subway sandwich before boarding the flight- luckily as the food served onboard was disgusting... can't call it food; scraps not fit for human consumption is more accurate.
It was very bitter sweet- part of us was hoping that we wouldn't be able to get a flight for week and have to spend a week in Vancouver. The other half of us just wanted off this train wreck and to get home. Exhaustion was a whole new level after this flight!
I don't think I'll ever complain about a delay again- or I'll just laugh it off and say "well, it's not as bad as that one time in Canada!"
Copyright Lauren Toner 2020