How My Decision to Fly “Day Of” Backfired
I realized something was wrong on Sunday night. My phone went haywire with messages and alerts warning me of impending bad weather in Calgary and Seattle. My hometown of Calgary was going to get hit with a winter storm, and Seattle – where I planned to connect through to meet Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Inspiration – was also going to get slammed with an unusual cold front that would bring freezing rain and wet snow.
On this website, and over the years, I’ve always told people one thing: always fly in the day before your cruise. But, like most advice, it isn’t always followed by the person giving it. And that was the case here.
I had elected to fly to Los Angeles on the day of the cruise in order to spend a much-needed weekend at home. Flying from Calgary to Los Angeles barely takes three hours, putting an early-morning flight to catch the ship in the realm of possibility. Added to that, I was overstocked with Alaska Airlines frequent flier points. For $70 and 35,000 miles, I could book myself into LAX on Alaska via Seattle, and out in First Class on Delta Air Lines. So, back in December, I pulled the trigger on flights.
I felt pretty good about that decision. It saved me money, and seemed to use my time efficiently. Besides, it never snows in Seattle. Right?
Monday morning, 0330. My cab pulls up out front, and I wade through five feet of snow to climb in. My flight to Seattle is, inexplicably, listed as “On-Time”, despite the fact the inbound aircraft – due at 11:56pm the night before – still hadn’t actually made it to Calgary yet. Alaska 440, which would take me to Los Angeles from Seattle, showed an on-time departure of 8:55am.
As the cab slipped and slid its way through the deserted streets – and the snow that just kept falling – I started to get a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach. My first flight, Alaska 2115, is operated by a Bombardier Q400 Turboprop. It’s a nice enough aircraft, but it’s the first on the cancellation line when bad weather hit. But as the cab made the journey to YYC, my Alaska Airlines App told me the inbound had landed. Alaska 2115 would depart on-time at 6:15 am.
Much to my surprise, boarding began at Gate E90 at YYC right on time at 5:40 am. I was on the plane five minutes later, settled in to window seat 3E.
Our departure time came and went, and the problems began. First, the baggage door froze open. Not so surprising in -25C weather, but being a Canadian-built aircraft, you’d figure Bombardier would have thought of that. Warmers were brought in, and the door was thawed for 45 minutes.
With the cargo door shut successfully, the main cabin door was closed. Almost. Ice buildup meant that the door wouldn’t make a firm seal, and a little light in the cockpit stayed lit. The First Officer came out to try to pry the thing shut. Then it wouldn’t open. Then it wouldn’t shut again. Finally, the door was opened, blowers applied, and the door shut.
Fast-forward through two de-icing procedures, and we lifted off at 7:48 am – nearly two hours behind schedule.
Missing my connecting flight was assured, but I figured there was a chance – a slim one – that it would be as delayed as my incoming flight. As long as I could make it to the ship by 4:00 pm, things would probably be fine.
Then we landed in Seattle – and it became clear I’d be going nowhere.
Seattle was having a worse day than Calgary, with thick, heavy wet snow bringing SeaTac to its knees. My connecting flight to LA wasn’t just delayed; it was cancelled outright. And it was joining an increasing number of cancelled flights that seemed to grow by the minute.
My trip to the Carnival Inspiration wasn’t going to happen.