Flight from Montreal to Halifax Airport: intended arrival time 14:00. Flight from Halifax Airport to Charlottetown: departure 14:30.
The plane door let out an exasperated sigh as it popped opened, releasing the pressure and tension of the last half hour of our delayed flight. Every minute had crawled over my skin as I watched the small plane inch pixel by pixel towards Halifax on the screen in front of me. The window to catch our outbound flight to Prince Edward Island was rapidly closing, but there isn’t much you can do about that at 30,000 feet. The next flight wasn’t for two days. If my sister and I weren’t on that plane, our family vacation was going to get much more complicated.
With the gentle ‘ding’ of the seat belt sign turning off, I slipped out into the aisle and grabbed my suitcase. The inner workings of Halifax airport were a mystery to me, but there was nowhere to go but out. My sleep-deprived eyes took their time adjusting as I stepped off the plane into the brightly lit hallway. The familiar flow of passengers rushed around me. There is no feeling quite like being confused in an airport. People surrounding you walk with purpose while you stand like a rock stranded mid-river.
“Any passengers connecting to Charlottetown?”
A woman’s voice rose above the babble of the passengers around me. My hand shot into the air. A woman sporting the blue skirt suit of Air Canada greeted me with a warm smile. Her blonde hair was pulled back into a low ponytail. I waved to my sister behind me and rushed over to the woman. After asking our names, she guided us out of the gate. She reminded me of a mother hen, and like a baby chick, I followed her blindly.
“Yes, we have a car all ready for you so we can get you to your gate and on your way.”
It took a few moments for my brain to process that sentence. Airports have cars? My sister and I exchanged confused glances, but at this point I would have followed this woman anywhere. As we emerged from the gate, we came upon a small vehicle. Walking to the driver’s seat, our guide instructed us to hop on and get settled. We stepped up onto the back of the car and tucked out suitcases beneath our feet as she put the key in the ignition.
I’m not sure who broke first, but soon my sister and I were in a fit of giggles. It is hard to be serious on one of these clown cars. People stared as we cruised by them. Our driver maintained a steady stream of conversation as we navigated through the airport. She asked us where we were going, where we were from, and told us that PEI was very nice this time of year.
She also inquired about our middle names – my siblings and I all have the same middle name, something I didn’t realize was odd until middle school. Her genuine interest in our answers was only interrupted by the occasional nasal beep of the car horn warning unsuspecting pedestrians of our approach. Each was quickly followed by a chipper “Sorry! I didn’t mean to scare you there! So sorry, dear!” as we sped along.
Eventually we came to the end of the terminal, and we could drive no further. Stepping off of the car, the woman scanned our boarding passes and instructed us to go through the door on the left and down the stairs. We nodded and thanked her profusely, grabbing our bags and rushing through the door. In all of my years of transatlantic travel, I could think of no instance where a plane waited for two passengers.
At the bottom of the stairs, a lone woman sat a desk. When she saw us speed-walking down the hall, she got up and opened one of the doors. Motioning to my small carry-on suitcase, she mentioned the cabin didn’t have much room, so my bag would have to be checked. Oh boy, I thought, now I’m going to make this flight really late.
Just outside the sliding glass door sat smallest plane I had ever seen. It stood proud, nose sticking up in the air before us. Blue and rusted, the wings sported two very large propellers. A man with a pilot’s uniform stood smiling at the open door. Four steps led up to the tiny body of the plane.
The flight attendant motioned to two guys in neon vests that were lounging just outside the airport door. One casually leaned against a luggage vehicle of some kind while the other reclined on the back of a truck with his baseball hat shading his face. The upright one took my bag and placed it in the plane’s cargo hold.
We turned and headed up into the plane. Our entrance was greeted by sixteen blank stares. Suddenly it was clear why they were so lenient for two stragglers. We made up one tenth of the plane’s population. There were eighteen seats, one on either side of the aisle. We could see straight through to the front of the plane where the pilot sat adjusting dials and tinkering with buttons.
The co-pilot gave us a quick safety speech, the plane revved up, and we were on our way. Before he sat down, the co-pilot turned back and warned us that there was some ‘weather’ coming out of Prince Edward Island, and that they may have to make some unexpected turns to adjust our course. I don’t know about you, but I was never more interested in the exact definition of the word ‘weather’ than at that moment.
Peering through my window, I surveyed the horizon looking for anything amiss. The plane lined up on the runway, propellers spinning furiously. I glanced over at my sister, and she gave me a look of equal parts exhaustion, confusion, and trepidation. We fell into another fit of giggles (from nerves or exhaustion, I am not entirely sure). The French-speaking grandma sitting behind us looked on with mild confusion.
As the plane accelerated, the engine sounded more like a tired, mechanical bee than the confident roar I was hoping for. But we took off, and the ‘weather’ we had heard of made no appearance. In fact, the copilot mainly filled out paperwork during the course of the journey. Half an hour later, curiosity overcame my usual landing jitters as I watched the plane touch down from the pilot’s perspective.
When we finally entered the single room of the Charlottetown Airport arrival terminal, our family was there waiting for us. The layover in Halifax seemed unreal. Riding backwards on that tiny airport go-kart felt like some sort of Canadian airport-themed dream sequence. Or maybe that was just my three hours of sleep talking. There are a lot of stereotypes about Canadian friendliness, and my first morning in the country did little to disprove them. It was only as we passed through the rain-spattered doors to the parking lot that I realized I forgot to ask the blonde flight attendant’s name.