Arctic Adventure 29 – Getting Out !

Leaving Cambridge Bay last Saturday to have some time out down South should have been routine but, like so many things in the Arctic, this was not to be. Here’s the story of another adventure … for which I will use the related airport codes for fun – and another story in the future !

The flight was due to leave Cambridge Bay (YCB) at 2:00 p.m. to go to Yellowknife (YZF) and there connect with another flight going to Edmonton (YEG). The flight coming into YCB – to turn around and go out again – was delayed in YZF due to a mechanical problem with the aircraft. A problem quite common since the airline has a small, aging fleet of specialty 737s called Combis as they are configured to carry cargo and passengers in the main cabin of the aircraft (see my previous posting when I flew into YCB in early February.)

In YCB you always call the airport to find out if the plane is on time – or even coming ! – before driving out – even though the airport is only 4km from town ! I was advised not to check in until later as the new ETD was 3:30 pm – so at least I didn’t have to sit waiting at the airport.

Upon check-in at 2:45 we were advised that the flight would now only be landing at 3:40 and turned around as quickly as possible. We were also given a letter from the YCB station manager apologizing for the delay and offering a $ 100.00 travel credit – not that significant in relation to the average price of $ 1,700.00 for a one-way ticket !

Knowing that the turn-around time in YCB is usually at least 30 minutes I figured a departure of around 4:10 which would not get us to YZF in time to connect to the flight to YEG at 5:10 pm, so I asked the obvious question. Together with four other passengers connecting to that flight we were told that it would be held for us.

The plane only arrived after 4:00 and at about 4:30 we were called back to the check-in counter and advised by the clerk that because we would be so late in leaving YCB now the flight from YZF would not be held for us ! She advised that there were no other options to get to YEG that night so we had two choices – and what did we want to do :

a. Stay in Cambridge Bay and fly out on Sunday on the same routing or

b. Fly to YZF now and overnight there at our OWN expense

You can imagine our incredulity at hearing these options and thought that she must have been mistaken in what information she had been given to pass on to us. We were subsequently advised to board the flight to YZF and that things would be dealt with there. So we finally took off at 4:50 and we landed at YZF at around 6:15 no knowing what to expect there as we had not be given any updates en route.

In YZF there was further disbelief for all us connecting passengers. As we were walking from disembarkation of the YCB flight to the terminal, the plane for YEG was just taxiing out to the runway to take off ! Inside the terminal we were again advised that there were no other options to get to YEG except on the same flight on Sunday – 24 hours later. (There were other flights with other airlines on Saturday evening and Sunday morning but they were either already full or our airline did not have an inter-line agreement with them to be able to switch us over !) We were given vouchers for the overnight stay at the Explorer Hotel and for meals, but no other compensation offered !

I suppose that this could have been called a mis-adventure but it did turn into another adventure – as I will write in my next posting.

A Royal Canadian Airforce C-17 which was sitting on the ground at the Yellowknife airport when we arrived. This plane has actually been ferrying troops and supplies from the big military base in YZF to a field base in YCB where a military exercise is in progress. I had seen it flying over Cambridge Bay but not had a chance to see it close-up.

Officially called the Boeing C-17 Globemaster III the aircraft was developed to replace the famous cargo workhorse the Hercules. The C-17 weighs 128 metric tons empty, can carry a payload of 77 metric tons and the base price is $ 220 million !! To me it looked like a jumbo jet.

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