Cheap comes at a price
Trying to change our seats at the Air Canada kiosk at Billy Bishop Airport in Toronto wouldn’t work.
When we talked to Guiseppe, an Air Canada agent, he said that a lot of these cheap ticket resellers only lock in the cheap seats in the back of the plane.
He suggested an MIT developed search “Tracker.ITA” (not 100% sure on spelling) that apparently is the back end for Google Flights that does a better job, and can even get you deals for business class! We’ll try that next time. He also recommended the FlyerTalk blog so he seemed to know his stuff.
Ask and ye shall receive [upgraded seats]
Giuseppe told us that 1 hour before boarding, the seats for people who haven’t checked in open up. If you want to change your seat, that’s the time to do it.
It worked for us! Even though only 1 of our 3 flights today had Suzie and I sitting together, we managed to sit together for every flight but going and asking 1 hour before takeoff.
In Shanghai, everyone goes through customs
Unlike many airports in North America, Shanghai doesn’t let arriving passengers skip customs if they’re taking a connecting flight.
We had 1.5 hours to practice patience in the customs line (go to number 2 on the left end of the hall) for temporary visas but made it through without any issues.
That being said, our 5 hour layover felt like 40 minutes when you add in customs, check in to print new boarding passes, and security.
Starbucks and Visa: Global
As much as it’s weird to find comfort in the uniform experience of a multinational food conglomerate, it was nice to see near identical signage for drinks but with Chinese text above the English, at Starbucks.
Visa also seemed to be the only supported foreign credit card as none of the UnionPay terminals in Shanghai airport accepted MasterCard.
Grab: try again, and again
Seems like a reasonably built app with good design and interaction but it was a bit frustrating to have to submit a ride 3 times before a driver took it. Maybe there’s a Grab driver supply shortage here.
The rumours of drivers always calling was also true. Thankfully I had disabled calls from connecting when I’m roaming so they all went to voicemail.
Inside the app there seems to be integrated translation on the Driver side so he type the local language and I would read English. It worked pretty well but still took over 25 minutes to finally coordinate where he was outside the airport terminal and find him.
Paying with cash worked well as Grab recently moved to only allow payment through their system, no longer supporting Visa or MasterCard. Quoted price when we booked and what we paid was a reasonable 439 Baht (~$18 CAD).
We’d recommended only converting at the airport 500-600 Baht ($25-30CAD) so you can get to the city and then just withdrawing from ATMs the amount you’ll need for your stay. Exchange rates will likely be better through the ATM then the small airport kiosks.
Those are a few of our stories from our very long travel day. We’ve now settled in to our Airbnb in Bangkok and hope to get some sleep before exploring the city tomorrow.