I'm not supposed to be writing this here. Or if I'm writing it here, I'm not supposed to be writing it now.
It's Boxing Day and I'm still in Winnipeg. And not leaving until tomorrow. I should be back in the friendly confines of the Pique offices, but Mother Nature had other ideas for the Christmas Day flights with a blizzard blustering into the Manitoba capital region.
Well, it didn't come rolling in until our afternoon flights should have been well on their way to the West Coast, but those who know better than I thought it best to cancel them, leaving us to figure out something for the next day.
My partner and I got shuffled onto separate flights — I would have to kill about five hours in Calgary and arrive just after supper while she would have to quickly change planes in Cowtown, hop over to Kelowna, pass five hours there and then arrive in the early evening. We woke up on Boxing Day to find my flight to Calgary was nixed but hers was still on. The blizzard was now in full swing, but we navigated the streets up to the airport in the hopes at least one of us could get away. We checked the departure boards and the flight to Calgary was still on time, and then, suddenly, it was delayed about 30 minutes. That's not bad, except she was now scheduled to arrive in Calgary at 2:46 p.m. — and leave at 2:45 p.m.
With my journey now slated to take me through Toronto and then into Vancouver for about 12:30 a.m., we thought it best just to see if bumping to the next day could help at all. At the time of this writing, it was supposed to, but we'll have to see about that, as well as what the snow in Squamish brings when we try to drive up.
Got all that? We barely did.
For all the clamour and confusion, though, we found that the airline staff was by our side every step of the way. At times when we tried calling, the wait was going to be between 60 and 90 minutes to talk to someone on Christmas Day. When we eventually got through the first time, the staff member was genuinely upset and frazzled that she couldn't get us on the same flight. When we tried to rebook Boxing Day morning, the agent was plugging in every combination she could think of trying to get us back, be it through Calgary or Edmonton, Victoria or even Toronto, or into Abbotsford instead of YVR. It just seemed that if we could get into one city, we couldn't get out. Or if it's one we could get out of, we couldn't get into it.
Rebooking for — hopefully — the final time at the Winnipeg airport, the representative was truly apologetic and conciliatory, but it was a little heartbreaking. It wasn't her fault or the airline's — just an act of Mother Nature. There was nothing she could have done and it's not like the airline's Christmas wish had been to wipe out a whole slate of holiday travel.
We were lucky. As a result of the delays, we were able to sneak in an additional delicious Christmas dinner with my partner's family and enjoy a little extra time with mine. And while it can be a little tough to work during the holidays, it's nothing like fielding a deluge of calls from stressed travellers who are also scrambling to extend their hotel stays or who might not have the same level of flexibility in their schedule to get home. (Many thanks to understanding editors and pet sitters.)
Another Facebook friend is a flight attendant, and lo and behold, she got stuck at an Edmonton truck stop for a couple days instead of getting home to spend the holidays with her husband.
It's better to have difficulty getting home from a family visit than it is to not be able to schedule — or worse, later be denied — a family visit.
And apart from those who work for airlines, thanks to others who toil while helping to ensure a lovely and memorable day for others, be they those working on the mountain, in the hotels and restaurants, as police officers, firefighters, nurses and doctors and other first responders. Especially prescient in Winnipeg, and likely the resort, too, are those who keep the roads clear for those who are sober enough to drive and the cab, bus and volunteer Operation Red Nose drivers for those who are not (or otherwise unable to).
So cheers to all who helped make this Christmas a wonderful one, even if it didn't go as planned for many. May there be a little gift for you all at the end of the storm.