Monday, August 24, 2009

Trudeau Airport's New U.S. Terminal Disaster

It was with a measure of trepidation that my wife and I ventured out to Trudeau Airport for a flight to Washington DC last Thursday. I had read the news that a new terminal for flights destined to the USA was to be inaugurated on Wednesday, the day before our scheduled departure and fearing that it might suffer from teething problems, we left extra early.

I was not to be disappointed.

Arriving at 7:30AM for a 9:20AM flight, we assumed that we'd be in the clear. Alas, it was not to be.

I punched in our reservation code into the ATM-like machine that prints out boarding passes and was met with a long series of questions.

"Where are you staying?" asked the machine.

"Maroi" - "Marriet" "Marriot Htel" - "Marriot Hotel." Yes, finally!

Typing on these keyboards is never an easy task. Next time, I'll skip this supposed time-saving maneuver and let the agent ask the questions!

With boarding passes in hand, we joined the surprisingly long line to process our bags.
This new automated terminal doesn't look so automated. Half an hour later, the Air Canada agent who scans our boarding passes, tells us politely that the baggage system is down. Arghh!

Notwithstanding, we are told to pick up our bags and proceed to the next queue, the one where our luggage is to be passed through a scanner and then sent on a mini-elevator ride to the basement for loading onto the airplane.
We proceed posthaste, but the agent's warning proves quite true, the line is not moving. Ah, technology!

After ten minutes of shuffling our feet, an airport employee points to a sign that says "OVERSIZE LUGGAGE." He winks and I the cotton to the message rather quickly. We drift out of the queue and make our way to the oversized baggage room as unobtrusively as possible. There's absolutely no lineup and the scanner is humming. The bored and uninterested employee that is manning the front end of the machine takes no notice that our bags are not particularly oversized.
Hooray for higher intelligence!
She scans our boarding passes and then puts the bags through the machine. Another agent removes them on the other side and sends them onward, downstairs. Before we egress, another agent scans our boarding passes...that's the fourth time!

Pleased with our good fortune, we join the next queue and happily, it is of reasonable length. After about ten minutes we accede to the security station where we are both to be personally scanned. What fun!
But before entering the hall, our tickets, of course, are scanned again, it's getting annoying!

"Take off your shoes , please!" shouts an agent as we approach.

This the first time I have ever been in a Canadian airport where everyone, as a matter of course, is required to remove their shoes.

It seems that this new terminal is run by American rules.

Come to think of it, the majority of the security and baggage agents are speaking Spanish amongst themselves. Perhaps this is the 'Twilight Zone' and we have already been magically transported to America! Strange thoughts occupy an idle and bored mind.

We get scanned, quickly pick up on footwear and attempt to make good our getaway, only to be thwarted by another agent who informs us that my wife has been randomly selected for a further security check. RATS!

She is steered over to the side and given as thorough a frisk as can be done in public. The agent searches every inch of her belongings, opening and closing every zipper including her wallet.. Bah!!!

"You won't find many terrorists that way, my friend! Middle-aged couples travelling together are on the lowest rung of the profile" I think to myself, careful to keep the thought private, lest I run afoul of authorities for mentioning the dreaded "T" word.

We make our way onto the US Customs hall, foolishly believing that all this foolishness is behind us, but as we pass through the portal, we are thrown for quite another shock.

The hall is filled to over-capacity. "Shit!"

I do a rough head count and realize that there are about 300-400 people ahead of us with only ten agents to process all of us. Worse still, the line is not moving, the agents are twiddling their thumbs.

"What's going on?" I ask someone ahead of us in the line.
"Dunno. System is down or something. Nobody is telling us anything."

I look at my watch and the sickening realization that we aren't going to make our flight comes over me. Frustration and anger can best describe my state of mind.

'We're are stuck in the lineup, like cows on a death march in a slaughterhouse," I ruminate. "There is no way out of the queue, no "Oversize Baggage" escape route here!"

We wait, we wait and we wait. Nobody tells us anything. People with Blackberries are saying that some flights are being delayed for half an hour.

There are no overhead electronic signs, no airline or airport agents to question, only Montreal city cops who look mildly amused at our predicament.

The line, starts to move, the agents begin processing passengers. "Hooray!"
Unfortunately, it takes another hour for us to get through. It's now 10.25 and our plane was scheduled to depart at 9:20. AHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!

We shuffle off to the gate to embrace our fate, dishearteningly, but upon arrival are astonished to see that our airplane has not left, it is still parked, awaiting latecomers!
It occurs to me that the airport authority has no doubt frozen the US departures in an attempt to alleviate the ongoing fiasco and perhaps salvage their reputation.
In my entire career of flying, I've never seen a airplane wait for over an hour for latecomers.

Our tickets are scanned for the sixth or seventh time and we show our passports to the gate agent, who mercifully represents the very last barrier to freedom.
We gleefully skip down the ramp towards the airplane door.

"STOP!!!!" shouts another security agent hovering in the gangway.

"You've been selected for a random security search!"

"WTF!!!!!!!!!!!!! WTFFFF!!!! .....Are you insane!!!!"

Once again a physical frisk and once again the agent opens everything we have, every zipper, every bag.
Time ticks onward.

Three hours to board a plane for an hour and a half trip. Aargh!...

Thank you, Trudeau Airport for allowing Homeland Security to dictate security procedures in our airport.
Our new terminal is now as indistinguishable as any of the nightmare facilities in the USA. Bah!!!
I have a question. Why the hell did we need a new terminal?

The old one worked just fine, as any regular flier to the USA can attest.
The truth is that air traffic between Canada and the USA is going down, not up.

Don't tell us that you're planning for a future full of millions of new passengers. We've heard that before... it's called M-I-R-A-B-E-L. Spare us, please!!!!

The Trudeau Airport authority is out of control and on a spending spree that makes little sense.

Excessive landing fees for airlines and additional fees, tacked onto passenger tickets, are needed to pay for all this foolishness. Delux airport installations and ridiculous and over the top security controls are as stupid as they are unnecessarily expensive.

The new US terminal represents a giant step backward. Enjoy!

1 comment:

  1. I am here to comment about the writer of the “Trudeau Airport’s New U.S. Terminal Disaster” It seems like you went through quite an ordeal at the airport. I’ve had my share of inconveniences and absurd procedures too. The amount of security and safety checks that you had to go through does seem excessive. It probably has to do with everything that Canada has had to endure.
    I am sorry that the Canadian embassy in Lebanon was destroyed in 1983. Oh wait, that was the American embassy.
    I am sorry that the Canadian military barracks in Lebanon were destroyed in 1983, killing hundreds. Oh wait, that was the American military barracks.
    I am sorry that the Canadian embassy in Kuwait was attacked in 1983. Oh wait, that was the American embassy.
    I am sorry that the Canadian embassy annex in Lebanon was attacked in 1984. Oh wait, that was the American embassy annex.
    I am sorry that 2 Canadians were targeted for being Canadian and killed on a hijacked Kuwait Airways flight in 1984. Oh wait, those were Americans that were targeted and killed for being Americans.
    I am sorry that a Canadian was target for being Canadian and killed on a hijacked TWA flight from Athens to Rome in 1985. Oh wait, that was an American that was targeted and killed for being American.
    I am sorry for the Pan Am flight in 1988 that exploded in the air over Lockerbie, Scotland that was bound for Canada. Oh wait, that flight was bound for America.
    I am sorry for the Canadian trade center being bombed in 1993, killing or injuring over 1000 Canadians. Oh wait, that was the American World Trade Center that was bombed.
    I am sorry for the 1995 bombing of the Canadian military building in Saudi Arabia. Oh wait, that was the American military building.
    I am sorry for the 1996 bombing of a multi story housing area where Canadian soldiers lived in Saudi Arabia. Oh wait, those were American soldiers.
    I am sorry for the 1998 bombing of the Canadian embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, killing or injuring over 4700 people. Oh wait, those were American embassies.
    I am sorry for the attack upon the Canadian naval vessel Cole in 2000. Oh wait, that was the USS Cole.
    I am sorry for what happened on Canadian soil on 9-11-01. Oh wait, that happened in America.
    I am sorry for the attack against the Canadian consulate in Pakistan in 2002. Oh wait, that was the American consulate.
    I am sorry that the Canadian consulate was attacked in 2004 in Saudi Arabia. Oh wait, that was the American consulate.
    I am sorry that three Canadian owned hotel chains, that were generous enough to open hotels in Jordan and create jobs there even though they didn’t have to, were attacked in Jordan in 2005. Oh wait, those were American owned.
    I’m sorry that a group in Syria plotted to attack the Canadian embassy in Syria in 2006. Luckily they were caught before they could carry out the attack. Oh wait, that was planned for the American embassy.
    I am sorry that the Canadian embassy in Greece was fired upon by an anti tank missile in 2007. Oh wait, that was the American embassy.
    I am sorry that a car bomb and a rocket strike were conducted outside of the Canadian embassy in Yemen in 2008. Oh wait, that was the American embassy.
    I just don’t understand why those Americans make it so inconvenient to travel and I just don’t understand why they continue to force you to travel to America, especially the capital. I don’t understand why you were chosen for a random exam by a Canadian employee as a middle aged man. I’m not sure what racism is, but if we just randomly select one particular race for random searches every day, forever, is that racism? I’m sorry that every major Canadian city makes millions of Canadian dollars for having the flights to the US cleared in Canada. That is terrible.
    Is there a class that has to be taken to become a real douche bag, or were you born with this trait?