This post is written by Katie, about her travel to Montreal for the 15th Annual North American Bird Strike Conference.
After receiving a message last night about my flight being delayed 40 minutes to 8:50am, JT and I awoke at 6am with the goal of leaving the house by 6:45am. We reached the airport quickly, I checked my suitcase, and then quickly got through security with TSAPre.
All of the security checkpoints were surprisingly well staffed and empty (especially considering how crowded Austin security usually is in the mornings). However, it all made more sense when I saw a nice memorial set up inside security for 9-11. It seems like the TSA presence was really beefed up in the airport today.
My flight – AA66 – ended up being about an hour delayed. We finally pushed back from the gate at 9:10am. I was lucky enough to have an open seat next to me in my Main Cabin Extra row. After initially putting little value in getting elite status, it will certainly be difficult to go back (if I ever have to). Getting Main Cabin Extra, free checked bags, and early boarding are easy to get accustomed to!
The pilot on AA66 was very informative, but otherwise the flight was uneventful. I reviewed a paper, blogged, and read a book about Travel Writing (learning that our blog is actually a journal/diary, which is fine as long as we realize that).
Once at JFK I struggled to find any decent yet quick food. I sadly settled for Dunkin Doughnuts. When I got to the gate for my flight to Montreal, it was shortly before boarding was to begin. But it was complete mayhem at the gate. They never called for Platinum passengers between pre-boarding and regular cabin. And then when I was boarding they informed me that I needed to go through passport check somewhere (no information given as to where). I finally found someone to check my passport, and then I boarded the little 1-2 configuration plane.
I had reserved seat 1A, which was all by itself. The plane was a comedy of errors before take-off – from a guy who did not pick up his luggage in customs to a guy who left his passport and visa in customs to the pilot fixing a mechanical issue himself (and actually telling us). The flight itself was short and simple, and I had no issues with my lonely seat (I would actually recommend it unless you need lots of leg room).
Once in Montreal, the immigration line was extremely long! It took just over an hour to clear customs in the Canadian/US citizen line – the foreigners line looked a lot slower. The Canadian/US line had kiosks like Global Entry and then a final officer to look at your documents.
Once through immigration, I claimed my checked bag, withdrew money from the ATM, and left the secure area. I easily found the 747 bus stand and bought a weekend pass for CAD13 (a single ticket was CAD10) and then waited 5 minutes until 6pm when I could use it (since the weekend pass started at 6pm on Friday).
The buses were running every 8 minutes, yet were pretty full – mine was standing room only. The bus ride was about 30 minutes. The 747 bus stop near HI-Montreal was closed, so I had to ride the bus to the next stop and walk back.
Once at HI-Montreal I easily checked in and got bunk A in room 115 – a women’s 10 bed dorm. I was surprised how many women were in my dorm when I arrived as I had expected people to be out and about.
I made my bed and settled in before heading out for a walk. I walked over to the conference venue and then wandered to lively St Katherine street. I found a kebab place, and accidentally ordered a huge kebab dish. It was good, but way too much food.
After dinner I headed back to HI-Montreal and called it a night. Although the dorm beds do not have individual lights or plugs, the dimming light switch was a nice touch. When I went to bed at 11:15pm, all 10 beds were claimed but only 5 of us were in the room sleeping. The others came in overnight, but I did not hear them with my ear plugs in.