Erin's Journals

Monday, September 18, 2023

Just a thought… People plan; airlines laugh. [Erin and Rob]

I’m a big fan of stoicism (thanks in part to Lisa Brandt, my Gracefully & Frankly partner) and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. I try to pass it on where I can, as in the case of a woman who has written a few times this past week asking me how I keep a smile on my face. I told her that basically the wisdom I put in place, as often as I can remember, is this: “Okay, that happened. Now what are you going to do about it?”

It often works, but if you’re someone who enjoys travel, as we do, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to adopt that air of serenity.

Airlines are letting us down regularly and often in big ways. I’ll give you the most recent example we’ve seen: our friend was here last week from Toronto. He has a health issue that is extremely complicated, but is centered around digestion. It’s for that reason that he has to recline on long flights or he’s in extreme discomfort.

After Matthew left us on Thursday, as is often part of the fun of travelling from an island, he had a stopover in Vancouver. It was there that he learned Air Canada had flat-out cancelled his flight and another to Toronto that day. And the news got worse: if he was to fly in a reclining seat, he’d have to wait TWO DAYS to leave. Well, that wasn’t happening.

So, 12 hours after he was scheduled to catch his connector to YYZ, Matthew was seated in the last row of a red-eye (overnight) flight home. I can’t imagine the pain he endured.

But it got even worse: when he arrived in Toronto, he found he’d been separated from an expensive piece of equipment that was supposed to accompany him. Unfortunately, Matthew didn’t have AirTags (he’s an Apple user like us) but after long hours of stress, he was reunited with his possessions.

These stories are more and more common; last year in November, I had a flight to Toronto, with a brief planned stopover in Edmonton. That was the day WestJet had a system-wide computer failure, and I ended up spending seven hours at YEG. When I finally arrived in Toronto in the wee hours of the next morning, I  discovered (because we have AirTags) that my luggage was still in Edmonton.

I’d planned to fly in early to host a day-long event (to guard against just such a travel delay), but my luggage took nearly 36 hours to catch up with me, so I had to do a little shopping in order to make myself presentable on stage.

Fortunately, months later, WestJet reimbursed me for the inconvenience and for the few hundred dollars I’d had to spend, but this year as I head back, we’ve decided we’re not going to chance that airline again.

Instead, I’ve booked a solo seat on a direct flight (a rarity) from Victoria to Toronto on…wait for it…Porter Airlines. No, it’s not the usual Dash-8 one would hop on to get to Ottawa from Toronto’s island airport; it’s almost full-size with four regular-width seats per row and a price tag that is far, far lower than Air Canada or WestJet offer for seats up front.

With no connections to make in the often uncertain weather conditions that November in Canada can present, we feel quite confident that I’ll get to my job without making it on CBC News, as I did last year, after posting online about being delayed due to computer failure, and then arriving at YYZ without my luggage.

So much of life is out of our control; all we can do is try to learn from our mistakes. Matthew got home and I’m sure by now his body clock has adjusted and he has purchased those tiny GPS discs. But like ours, his trust in the companies that at least used to give the illusion of caring for our well-being has eroded.

Mine certainly has, so we’ll try another option. And I promise to let you know how it all goes – either here or at our Gracefully and Frankly podcast. If you haven’t listened yet, our latest is really frank: I talk about breast implants I had in my 30s, one of which literally went sideways and, even gone, continues to cause me icepack-level nerve pain all these years later.

But you don’t need sleepless nights, and that’s why I do a gentle podcast called Drift with Erin Davis sleep stories. New tomorrow: Chapter Three of Winnie the Pooh in which he and Piglet think they’re after a woozle (or twoozle)! It’s free (as is G&F) thanks to and if you use the code Drift or GF, you’ll get 10% off anything you choose. Talk to you again soon!

Rob WhiteheadMonday, September 18, 2023