Wednesday, April 6, 2011

I Fly Calgary to Toronto: Wallet Makeover Media Tour

These flights were taken back towards the beginning of March with the outbound flight the first of many over 6 days for the Air Miles Wallet Makeover media tour. The first stop of the media tour was Southern Ontario and since my schedule had to keep me in Calgary until late on 9th I was stuck on Air Canada's red eye to Toronto to make an 8:40am live appearance on Canada AM. It has been ages since I flew out of concourse B (always seems to be A, C transborder, D) and I didn't realize that the security area for B is being renovated, so it was off the concourse A to clear security and then make my way over to B via the glass walled walkway connecting the two.

The flight on an AC A321 was scheduled to leave at 12:10am but following what seems to be the norm for this flight we didn't take off until 1:00am. I figured I could get 3 or so hours of sleep on the flight so I that I could pretend to be rested for the early TV spot but turbulence along most of the route made sure I didn't get more then a half hour or so of sleep in one shot. Arrival into rainy Toronto was uneventful with the plane getting to gate at about 6:30am Toronto time. As I only had carry on luggage it took me less then 10 minutes to get to my ride that was waiting to take me over the CTV studios. In fact, if I can recall correctly we got to the studios a little after 7am.

The Canada AM interview went smoothly, then I was off for to CTV Kitchener for a noon newshour live appearance on CTV Southerwestern Ontario, once that was complete, it was off to CTS Studios in Burlington for a taped spot on their Real Life program which aired March 25. Once all the media spots were done I was able to check in into the Residence Inn Toronto Downtown/Entertainment District. I received a room on the 17th with a view of the CN Tower (well supposed to be a view but the rain and fog only let me see the bottom third or so). There was no rest yet as after I checked in it was time to go over to the Loyalty One/Air Miles offices for a tour and to meet some of their brass. Off to dinner with them and then back to the hotel for 9pm or so and I crashed hard after nearly being up since 5am Calgary time the day before!

Friday saw an early morning as I was picked up at 6:30 for the drive to CHCH Studios in Hamilton for a live spot on their morning news show. The spot was delayed slightly due to the Japan Earthquake hitting that morning but went off without any hitches. With that done and no other live appearances needed I was dropped off at YYZ by 10:30am and the WestJet flight they booked for me was not until 5:00pm as they wanted to leave room just in case other media outlets requested spots. However with only a phone interview for a newspaper around lunchtime I went straight to the WestJet counters to see if I could get on the 3:15pm flight so I could get back home sooner (and not wait so long in YYZ). 10 minutes later and $50+tax I was confirmed on the 3:15pm flight. That still gave me quite a bit of time to kill in Terminal 3, so after finding some Toronto branded gifts for my kids, I went through security and was off the KLM Crown Lounge to relax and not be stuck out in the mess that YYZ was, you see this was the Friday March 11th, the start of Ontario's spring break so there were throngs of people everywhere going away for the week. Now, I am not an elite Flying Blue member but one of the perks of having a Diners Club credit card is lounge access to over 350 lounges worldwide and the KLM lounge in YYZ is one of them. Just before entering the lounge I check the departure screens for my flight and much to my disliking it is now delayed by nearly an hour! So much for getting home that much sooner. Oh well, a quick swipe of my card at the KLM lounge and then I spent the next 3 hours or so, relaxing, checking email, enjoying Heineken on tap and eating the various food offerings.

It was a bit of a trek from the KLM lounge to the other side of Terminal 3 but it was nice to stretch the legs after sitting in the lounge and before boarding the flight home. The gate area was packed like the rest of the airport so I could only assume the flight would be packed. I was not wrong, since I was in row 4 and decided to board late there was no more room in the overhead bins so I had to gate check one of my two carry-on bags. The WestJet plane had the newer seats with the somewhat larger TV screens and I must admit I had yet to fly on one of these, I always had the fortune of flying with the older interiors. Now, I'm not sure if it was just me or if this is actual fact, but these new seats seem skinnier then the old ones. I am not a big guy and neither was the guy next to me but we sure were rubbing shoulders and elbows a lot. Plus, the seats are definitely not as cushy as the old ones or so my lower back told me upon arrival.  I don't fly WestJet very often so again this may only be me but has anyone else noticed that a good 1/3 of the satellite channels never seem to be available? I noticed on this flight, my flights to California, and quick ones to Edmonton last year always had numerous channels stating "satellite unavailable"  or something like that. I wanted to watch YYC's early news at 5pm on the flight but could not since the channels were out.

Anyways, the flight arrived into YYC just after 6pm and after a short wait for my gate checked bag I was off to home to see my family and get some rest before jetting out on Sunday for the remainder of the tour.

To be continued

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