Traveller Letters: My flight to North America was a nightmare



Travelling to Canada by air is a nightmare right now and you really don't want to have my experience. I was travelling in business class to see family after three years. Importantly, there was time sensitivity as my son and his wife were to fly out on a Friday night, to attend a family wedding in Italy while I minded their two children. My onward flights were delayed in San Francisco, and at Air Canada's advice, I was placed on another flight, via Edmonton, Alberta. But my connecting flight was cancelled and I was told I couldn't stay in the airport with no funds provided for a hotel. After I persisted, I was finally given a flight that arrived before my son had to leave. But after two days, having filled out reports and with Air Canada's phone system not working, there was no sign of my luggage. Then my son's own flights were cancelled, again with no help from Air Canada, though they finally arrived in Milan. But, you guessed it, with no luggage. All Canadians I've met attest the terrible state of affairs with Air Canada and the airports there.

Peta Colebatch, Hawthorn, Vic


I would like to offer my utmost gratitude to your reader, Ben Adamson (Traveller Letters, April 30) who made me aware that a tour of North Korea I'd taken years ago meant I, too, was ineligible for an ESTA to visit the US. With my flight departing late June, and the earliest visa interview in September, it seemed impossible to rectify. However, I discovered that if your ESTA application is denied due to prior travel to eight "undesirable" countries, including North Korea, and you are planning to travel soon, you can request an expedited visa appointment. Fortunately, I managed to secure a visa appointment for early June, just in time.

Anna Pavlakis, Kirribilli, NSW


I lodged my renewal for my passport on May 23 along with the passport renewals for my two children for a trip booked in September. I received my passport back within two weeks and was emailed on June 17 advising my children's passports were on their way even though I was told by Australia Post that they would take between six to eight weeks, meaning only a four-week turnaround. I think in a lot of cases people's passports are arriving sooner rather than later and maybe people need to be a bit more accepting that everyone has been affected by the pandemic, including government departments. Surprisingly, just like the local cafe, trained staff cannot be produced at the click of a button and the delays are probably due in part to the security checks required for such an important document which safeguards us all. While that may inconvenience a few, it's all in our best interests.

Belinda O'Callaghan, Glen Iris, Vic

I noticed that my passport had only six months left on it so I decided to renew it in April. I had no intentions to travel and had no idea there would be so many difficulties for so many people soon after. I still have no travel plans but am pleased I renewed it before it further entered its expiry period. There are so many poor people out there who are still waiting and have travel plans. Surprise, surprise! It arrived in the mail today almost exactly two months to the day of application.

Peter Mayes, Petersham, NSW


Thank you, Ben Groundwater, for emphasising the benefits of "slow travel", and of not trying to see and do everything on one holiday, in your recent Traveller Flight of Fancy podcast. For most of us, travel is about connecting with people, nature, food, culture, and place. If we can slow down and be fully present in those connections, the experience is all the richer. Further, our climate changing world is also calling on us to reduce our travel miles. The planet cannot sustain us all jetting off here, there, and everywhere. Subsequently, let's all pledge to enjoy the personal and environmental benefits of taking slower, more meaningful holidays.


Amy Hiller, Kew Vic

EDITOR'S NOTE To listen or subscribe to the podcast Flight of Fancy on iTunes, click here. To listen on Spotify, click here. You'll find our archive of episodes here.


I'm travelling overseas for two months. Four weeks into the trip my NAB Visa and CBA Mastercards were stolen. Visa will issue me with an emergency card within five business days while CBA informs me that Mastercard has ended its emergency card replacement program. All they can do is to cancel my card and have another issued to my home address in some weeks time. Weeks? Then what? Get someone to courier it to me? And how to get by for those weeks? Can you imagine travelling these days without a credit card? Everything depends on them now. Mastercard's website still has all sorts of information about emergency card replacement but CBA in Sydney was insistent that the service is no longer.

John Darmody, Clontarf, NSW


Security screening is an important but time consuming part of any airport visit. Canberra Airport has the most efficient system. There is no need to remove laptops or tablets for separate screening. Sydney and Melbourne airports still require passengers to remove laptops and tablets. Why is Canberra so much better? Is it due to investment in superior technology? Canberra's system is fast and efficient. Why is it so different in Sydney and Melbourne?

Michael Thomas, Cheltenham, NSW

EDITOR'S NOTE: Indeed, Canberra's airport has installed new technology that is yet to be rolled out at Sydney and Melbourne's airports (with the exception of Melbourne's Terminal 4). Read more about the issue here.


We have just arrived back to Sydney on QF2 from Heathrow, refuelling at Darwin Airport. The men's toilets at the transit lounge in Darwin were disgusting and had clearly not been cleaned for a good few hours. There were no paper towels and only one soap dispenser working. However, Sydney outdid Darwin men's toilets in the baggage reclaim area devoid of a drop of soap in any of the five dispensers I tried. All of this when reminded repeatedly of your COVID-19 responsibilities before landing.

Phillip Ennis, Bective, NSW


Not so long ago an unglamorous United Airlines, as featured in your airline review was known for its little interest in pleasing passengers. But the US airline has made a serious pitch for Australian flyers recently, which was reassuring when I discovered that it would cost me about $A2000 less to go with them than Qantas in August. While I sadly won't be up in the pointy end on that flight, it was good to see the big thumbs up for their direct route in your review.

Belinda Probert, Northcote, Vic



There are more lost and delayed bags in airports than ever before and they are increasing daily. Check luggage in early and pack important items such as medication, travel documents, chargers and keys in carry on luggage. From someone who just returned home and had no bag for weeks, worldwide staff shortages mean any lost luggage will also be hard to track. Checking in early gives your bags a lot more chance of being on your flight.

Stephanie Dent, Drouin, VIC


A cotton sarong has many uses. It can be used as a scarf, a shawl or a wrap. Use it as a sheet on hostel beds, or as a pillowcase, a tea towel or to simply cover belongings. Use it as a towel at home, at the beach, the sauna, in the onsen. Can be used to carry goods, shopping or when used as a sling, to carry a baby!I have also used it as a tourniquet and a bandage!! Cotton sarongs can be washed and dried overnight. Don't travel without one.

Julie McDermott, Forestville, NSW

EDITOR'S NOTE Keep the tips coming about the simple items you love to take with you that add an extra bit of comfort and convenience.


Many thanks to Peter Burton (Traveller Letters, June 11) for highlighting two attractions in the Basque country of Spain, namely the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao and the Elkano restaurant in Getaria. I would like to add two more. The first is the Museum of Fine Arts of Bilbao, located behind the Guggenheim. It has a superb collection of art as well as excellent exhibitions (often better than those in the Guggenheim). The second attraction is the Balenciaga Museum, situated on the hill behind the Elkano restaurant in Getaria. Born in Getaria, Balenciaga became famous as a Parisian designer of women's clothing and the museum honours his legacy. There's a convenient escalator if you don't want to walk up the steep stairs!

Valerie Gerrand, West Melbourne, VIC


Anyone thinking of taking a road trip in France may be interested in a delightful bed and breakfast in the Loire Valley, created and run by a pair of Australians - a chef and a hotelier - who would love to see more Australian guests. They have renovated an old French "longère" to create five rooms with all modern facilities, à la carte breakfast is lavish and delicious, and they can serve a splendid evening meal in their guest-only dining room. They are just five minutes from the chateau of Chenonceau and not far from many others of the best-known and loved chateaux of the Loire Valley. They've called it "Sans Souci", after the Sydney suburb near where they grew up but which translates into French as "no worries". Most appropriate.

Janet Magnin, Grandfontaine, France


Our daughter moved to Brisbane some time ago and visiting her nowadays is not the joy we thought visiting Brisbane would be. There seems to be a difference in how accommodation is rated in Queensland compared to other cities. Four and a half stars is more like three stars in this state, except for the price which seems totally out of whack with the offerings.

Robert Franzos, Bundaberg West, QLD


Regarding the letter entitled 'Pointless exercise" (Traveller Letters, June 18) by Christina Westmore-Peyton. I am puzzled by why Qantas "mucked up" by Cathay cancelling a flight. Points redemptions to the US were hard to find pre-COVID and an uncertain post COVID world sees them even harder to find, especially to ports where Qantas doesn't fly or on an airline that still has a significant part of its fleet sitting in Alice Springs.

Mark Roberts, Caloundra, QLD


The Letter of the Week writer wins Hardie Grant travel books worth more than $100. For July, that includes Vantastic by Kate Ulman; Great World Wonders by Michael Turtle; and Ultimate Weekends Australia by Emma Shaw.


The Tip of the Week writer wins a set of three great Lonely Planet travel books, including Ultimate Australia Travel List, The Travel Book and Armchair Explorer.



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