Friday, May 24, 2013

Connecting through Toronto - 3 Special Steps

Flight #55 – Air Canada 702
Toronto (YYZ) – New York (LGA)
Thursday, May 23, 2013
Depart: 8:15AM / Arrive: 9:46AM
Duration: 1hr 31min 
Aircraft: Embraer 90 
Seat: 21D and 21F (Economy) 
Earned: 357 miles 
Lifetime Miles: 105,262 miles

If you follow my father's obnoxious Facebook status updates, you'd have seen we came back home yesterday morning. Since my mother came along to my father's work trip (at our own cost), he booked the most affordable ticket of the various options flying from Vancouver to New York.
  • Option 1: Business class on the non-stop Cathay Pacific flight departing 11PM landing 7AM at JFK
  • Option 2: Economy class on the 1 stop Air Canada flight departing 11:15PM arriving 9:46AM at LGA

There was Option 3: Economy class on the non-stop Air Canada to Newark, but it departed at 4:10PM so he would have missed an entire afternoon of meetings, so it wasn't an option.

That put us all on the connecting flight that would land in Toronto Pearson Airport (YYZ) at a brisk 6:48AM Toronto time (aka 3:48AM Vancouver time). As you might imagine, the short overnight flight (4.5 hours isn't much time to sleep) and early arrival time made for a painful redeye flight. No REM for this lap child infant.

Then when we landed, we had a relatively tight connection. Landing at 6:48AM didn't give us too much time before the next flight started boarding at 7:40AM. Normally, 50 minutes would have been enough time, but you actually go through U.S. Immigration while you're in the Toronto Airport. So we needed some extra time to walk across the Terminal and then go through that process as well as another security checkpoint. At least we no longer had to claim our bags in Toronto and re-check them like they used to make everyone do.

Thankfully, Toronto's been trying to make it even more connection friendly by implementing a little procedure to the connection process. So as my favorite Secret Agent Bear Oso would say, you just need to follow 3 Special Steps.

"Three special steps, that’s all you need. Three special steps, and you’ll succeed. Your special assignment is starting now, and three special steps will show you how..."

Step 1...

Use one of the dozen kiosks they have and just scan the boarding pass for the next flight. It confirms your identity, flight information as well as the number of checked bags you have in the system. We got to this checkpoint at around 7:09AM.

Step 2...

Walk about 5 feet (aka 1.52 meters) down the hallway and look up at the screens on the left to see your name appear before you can proceed. The right screen in Phase 2 shows the baggage unloading status from the incoming flights you were on so I imagine that has something to do with this as well. This seems a bit unnecessary but I'm sure hopeful there's a rational reason for this Canadian bureaucracy. Our name didn't show up until 7:17AM. And we still had to go through Immigration and Security before our flight started boarding at 7:40AM.

Step 3...

Walk another 5 feet (1.52 meters) and scan your boarding pass again in front of the agents dressed in yellow. Assuming your name showed up in Step 2, you should be cleared to go through and then wait in line for U.S. Immigration.

Going through this process (before you even get to wait in line for Immigration) really makes you wonder what it accomplishes. One rumor is that they're prioritizing those passengers with shorter connections. This new process allows those with long layovers to be placed in line after those with tighter schedules even if they show up later.

Another rumor is that they're really trying to make sure your bags make it onto the next flight (which as we found out a few weeks ago, isn't always guaranteed). But as you can see from the photo below, I was not amused with the waiting for my name to show up on a screen at 7AM in the morning (which was really 4AM my time).

I don't know about how the adult passengers would feel about it, but I would have felt better about the whole thing if they had blasted Special Agent Oso music during the process.

"Three special steps, so now you know. Three special steps and you’re ready to go! The checklist has all the steps you need. Just follow them all and you will succeed with three special steps!"

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