Flying in during THE storm, our experience with KLM

By now, a lot of the local media has been covering the misadventures of all of those “poor” travelers who were returning from a week (or more) in the sun only to fall victim of The Storm of 2008 (trademarked). I still don’t understand why some companies still consider it normal to keep their passengers prisoners of their metal tubes for 12 hours as the water runs out and the toilets start to overflow. What do you think will happen when next year’s clients start their research by googling “Air Cubana”?On Saturday, we were on our way back from Rome via Amsterdam on a KLM MD11. We’ve known since Wednesday that we would be coming in during a storm but the captain was hoping to get us in just before the worst of it. Unfortunately, the position of the jet-stream forced us on a flight path that was much further north than usual (seeing Greenland was immensely cool) and KLM lost their bet.We were initially diverted to Detroit but, as we flew over Ontario, the captain was told that the weather over Toronto was “barely” acceptable. Since many of his passengers didn’t have a visa to enter the US, he decided to give Pearsons a try. That guy was one great pilot, although the visibility over YYZ was atrocious, this was the smoothest landing I’ve seen in years. Not everyone was so lucky, while we were taxiing to our gate, we could barely see the landing lights of another plane as it came in but then aborted its landing.From that point on, we would spend many hours simply waiting. Waiting to be allowed to disembark (1 hour), waiting for our bags (2 hours), waiting in line at the check-in the next day (4.5 hours), waiting for our departure authorization after boarding (1.5 hours) and waiting for the stupid people movers (1.5 hours) at Trudeau Airport because we were now a “domestic” flight. Total travel time from our Rome appartment to our house in Pierrefonds, 50 hours. Nevertheless, we were always kept informed, the water, booze and juices didn’t run out, the toilets didn’t overflow and, even through they were under no legal obligation to do so, KLM got all of their passengers to spend Saturday night in a nice hotel in downtown Toronto. They even paid for a breakfast buffet on Sunday which did wonders for our mood. Furthermore, we could really tell that they were doing all that they could to get us at our final destination. No bullshit, if they didn’t know about something they told us so. Importantly, if they told us a time estimate they also told us where the info came from and whether we should believe it or not. Sometimes the captain would get so frustrated with ground control that his communications were almost funny but we appreciated being treated like adults for a change. All in all, the crew performed admirably under very difficult conditions.The moral of the story is that sometimes you get what you pay for. Cheap flights are cheap because they can’t afford to plan for anything else than optimal conditions.

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