Monday, 18 March 2019

Back To Real Life

Life starts getting back to normal this morning as I'll be on my way to Moncton, New Brunswick to begin the first leg of the flights taking me west. It's pretty surreal to think that I've visited five provinces on this trip - albeit two were just in airports - but that's the path that this little excursion has taken me on as I happily followed the University of Manitoba Bisons women's hockey team until mid-March for the second-straight season. Life, on the other hand, moves on, so it's back to airports and departure schedules as I settle back into real life once more.

One of the fun things this blog allows me to do is explore other topics at time. Today is one such article as Hockey Blog in Canada is proud to bring you The Airport Report after having travelled through five of them on this trip! We'll go over some of the basics, but we'll look at this from a traveller's perspective in terms of what amenities and comforts the airports have when it comes to making a traveller as comfortable as possible. You may think that the bigger airports have it easy since they have all sorts of room to add restaurants and shops, but those aren't the only things that make travelling easier when it comes to layovers and staying relaxed during the arduous processes that going into shuffling people around the airport and onto a plane.

I want to say upfront that this review is in no way official, verified, or peer-reviewed in any way, making it a bit of a tongue-in-cheek review. That being said, none of the airports are going to receive a failing or poor grade based on my experiences.

JAMES RICHARDSON AIRPORT in WINNIPEG: This name is too long. I know that James Richardson was an important figure in Winnipeg, but we need to shorten this name. JimmyRich? J-Rich? Something shorter would be better. Once getting past the name, the airport is nice in that it's not a multi-terminal airport so getting from one end to the other is quite easy. This might be the only airport in Canada to not have both a Subway restaurant or a Booster Juice, so if you need a sandwich or a fruity beverage you'll have to acquire one at the other half-dozen restaurants. The seating in the departure area could be more comfortable, but I wasn't there for a layover so I survived.

PEARSON AIRPORT in TORONTO:This review will encompass the best and worst about Pearson as I spent an ungodly 12 hours in this facility. I want to credit the staff who work at the three establishments open all night for helping to keep me sane as Subway, Tim Hortons, and 7-11 were my storefronts of saving grace. In case you were wondering, I preferred 7-11's coffee in Terminal 1 over the other two establishments' blends, so kudos to them.

This airport has three terminals, none of which much sense considering the always-happening constructions and redesign that seems to be happening at each of them. Pearson Airport might be a government project with all the continued renovations happening at this point as I've never been to the airport without some section of the building having work done on it. While the construction itself wasn't much of a hassle, the effects of that construction were.

I thought I found a comfortable place to sleep in the arrival area of Terminal 1, but it seems that Air Canada has arrivals that run throughout the night as it was anything but silent in there with passengers and bag carousels continually making as much noise as they could all night. I decided to relocate to a quiet hall in the departure area which became a full-on acoustic concert hall for the array of noises the overnight construction crew was making. I swear it was louder in there than it was in the arrival section of the terminal. Luckily for me, I did find an incredibly comfortable chair to lounge in, so not all was lost. I decided this place would be my refuge as I wasn't going to abandon what I believe may be the most comfortable chairs in Pearson.

One of the great highlights during my attempts to nod off and gain some precious sleep was the 3am alarm that went off as Pearson Airport ran some sort of test with its alarms. I had my headphones on so I didn't catch the full message, but you should likely be aware that noise-cancelling headphones don't entirely blot out ear-piercing alarms. Needless to say, I didn't sleep much during the full 30 minutes in which they let the alarms run. Why 30 minutes? I assume they knew I was trying to get some sleep. The security guards were likely giggling to themselves as they watched me on the cameras.

The food was fine as Subway had a decent breakfast and the 7-11 coffee got me through to morning where I finally managed to get some sleep as the sounds of excited travellers replaced the ongoing symphony of banging and thuds from the construction crew. One could mistake Pearson as a large mall if one was so inclined as there are retail operations virtually everywhere in the terminals, so it's not like there wasn't a place to get whatever it was one was seeking. While I would have liked some place to lie down, the chair I found afforded me three hours of sleep in what is likely the busiest and noisiest airport in Canada.

When I was finally going through security checks and getting ready to leave for my next destination, the lines moved quickly and efficiently. Even with the whole Boeing 737 Max groundings, Air Canada was shuffling people between gates as they looked to get passengers on planes as quickly as possible without much delay.

Is Pearson big? Yes, perhaps too big. Is it noisy? Absolutely. Is it awful? Not by any measure as I survived the night and came out a little groggy and tired on the other side, but I made it without any deaths, without hunger, without thirst, and without a lot of sleep. Three out of four ain't bad, right?
OVERALL SCORE: ★★★⋆/5 (the little star is half of a star)

STANFIELD AIRPORT in HALIFAX: My time in this airport was brief as I had about two hours to discover everything about Halifax that I could from the brochures at the information desk. The airport was laid out well on its land, and there were clear directions to virtually every gate that one would need to find. There were a number of storefronts that one could browse, and the usual collection of restaurants were present. Heck, I even stopped at a Booster Juice as a pick-me-up for lunch!

The seating in the departure area was nice - more comfortable than Winnipeg, but entirely less comfortable than the armchair I secured in Toronto. It certainly helped to brighten the day by having a sunny day combined with all the windows in the departure area. I was pleasantly surprised by Stanfield Airport, and, if it works for future flights, I'd stop there again!

CHARLOTTETOWN AIRPORT: This airport felt like a small-town or secondary airport as it was literally a small terminal, a small baggage carousel, a couple of shops, and a car rental place or two. It wasn't flashy or extravagant, but it got the job done in a utilitarian way. If one had to spend an extended period of time here, there's little to do besides people-watch, but the airport got the job done when it came to getting people into and out of Charlottetown.

GREATER ROMEO LEBLANC AIRPORT in MONCTON: There is no Lesser Romeo Leblanc Airport, so why is there a Greater Airport? For those that don't know, Romeo Leblanc was a Canadian journalist, politician, and statesman who served as Governor General of Canada before his passing in 2009, so I can appreciate the honouring of his legacy. Moncton's airport isn't extravagant either - it has a Tim Hortons and a bar upstairs next to the observation deck - but it actually has an art gallery in the airport that features local artists. And not just a hallway like they have in Toronto - an actual art gallery! Once through security, the departure area is rather small, but they have excellent places to work with outlets. The seating isn't overly great, but the stools for the electronics areas are far more comfy.

Some may disagree with those scores above for each of the airports I visited on this trip, and that's likely do to each person's individual experiences at those airports. Again, none were a horrible experience by any means, and, despite my lack of sleep in Pearson Airport, all are modern with acceptable amenities to keep one's vacation or visit moving at an acceptable speed.

I do think it's cool that I got to visit four provinces on this trip, experience crossing the Abegweit Passage of Northumberland Strait via the Conferedate Bridge, see the Atlantic Ocean from the plane and the shores of Charlottetown, and catch some great hockey action when I was working. At the end of the day, it's nice to be back home, but I had a blast on this trip!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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