We wake up at 4am in Montreal – probably due to a mixture of being on UK time zone and excitement at starting our trip. We get to Air Canada Cargo by 7.30, hand over our Air Way Bill and I hear ‘encore un qui est allé à Toronto’ – another one that’s gone to Toronto!! Our bikes are not the only shipment yesterday that was sent to Toronto instead of Montreal! No wonder we never saw them be loaded as we were waiting to board our plane.
Maybe if Air Canada used more conventional airport codes like MON or TOR instead of YUL and YYZ we thought, they may not make such mistakes, repeatedly apparently!!! How about Air Canada send us to Toronto, we will pick them up from there as Toronto was on our way anyway. Sounds easy. But the little challenge is that the computer system shows the bikes being received in Toronto, and nothing else. Where are they now? It seems London hasn’t done anything to rebook them to get to Montreal. And the planes from Toronto to Montreal are not capable of taking the special motorcycle pallets. Are they on the truck over?? Some of the cargo is listed as being loaded onto a truck to Montreal but no mention of the bikes. “You can go and get breakfast while we investigate this says” one employee says cheerfully. Well, not only did we have breakfast at the hotel but we have no wheels to drive anywhere. So here we are – perfect opportunity for me to start our Day 1 report!!!
Within 1 hour of arriving at Canada Air Cargo, we find out what happenned:
The front cargo mechanism on our plane failed so half the cargo didn’t make the flight and they put this cargo including our bikes on the Toronto plane which was sitting next to ours at Heathrow and leaving one hour before us. Air Canada Cargo have an automated system which automatically rebooks such cargo to its original destination. Very clever. But the system failed. They were not rebooked back to Montreal.
We ask whether Air Canada will fly us or at least give us cheap tickets to fly to Toronto rather than us spending a day in Montreal for our bikes to get to us. They have never been ask anything like that but agree to go off and try. Not only are the passenger and cargo branches two different organisations, it is good Friday – no one is around for them to talk too. We quickly check the cost of flights – prohibitive – we are not spending $700 to get to Toronto! In the meantime the air cargo guys have put their thinking caps on for us: maybe they can extend our original tickets from London to Montreal to go to Toronto?! We wait…
The service manager Michel offers to take us to a local coffee shop. While there he get confirmation we have been booked onto the noon flight to Toronto. He is profusely apologetic and thanks us for making his job easier by being calm and patient about the whole situation. After our Delhi customs experience, this is nothing for us. He drives us back to the passenger terminal for our flight. We only need to collect our ticketless boarding pass.
An hour’s flight and we are quickly in a taxi to Air Canada Cargo at Toronto airport. The service clerk is aware of our bikes and immediately refers us to the Cargo manager Jalal as they have a problem with the keys. A problem with the keys?!?! Yes, they are in Montreal and won’t get here until 3.30pm. The automatic forwarding system worked for the keys!! We never got to find out why the keys didn’t stay with the bikes! They will be on a flight arriving from Montreal at 3.30pm.
While we wait for the keys, let’s get the bikes processed by customs so that we can get on our way as soon as the keys arrive. Another little issue to be sorted out: the airway bill has the bikes arriving in Montreal so that is where they should clear customs. The manager gets back onto the phone to a few people. It appears the customs officials cannot clear goods whose airway bill states are to be cleared in another entry port. More calls are made.
More thinking caps are put on and our very helpful Toronto cargo guys come up with a solution. New paperwork is produced with Toronto as the destination. A couple of trips between the air cargo warehouse and customs buildings, reminiscent of our Delhi saga but with hardly any other people around, and we have the bikes officially stamped into the country!!!!
In perfect timing, the keys are delivered to the warehouse just as we get back there. Time to ride our bikes out of the warehouse.
We cannot thank Michel, Jalal and their teams enough for all they did for us. Unbelievable!!
It is now 4.30pm. The air is crisp and skies are deep blue. Do we check into a hotel nearby and get a good night’s sleep or do we get going? We could be Niagara Falls by 6pm. Guess what we decided to do…
What a day: Montreal in the morning and Niagara Falls by the evening! We hadn’t even planned on going there – we had seen them from the air and were content with that. But what a sight they are and what a buzz to be here after such a day of surprises. What a fantastic day in the lives of the 2slowspeeds.
Thank you to those of you who humoured us with the caption challenge. You are all winners!!