Outside the Border Patrol

Following a wonderful Air Canada Jazz flight, we had a less than stellar experience with our "US" leg. First, US Customs and Border patrol has a wing in the Toronto airport. Canadians wearing U.S. government uniforms checking U.S. passports. I really like Canadians and all, and the Royal Mounted Police is quite capable, but isn't this a function we should keep "in house"?

But really, that's just an aside in this rant; for, you see, the real problem isn't that Border Patrol is well over the border, it's that having to go through the process before you reach the U.S. doesn't save travelers any time at all. To wit:

We arrived at 12:45 on the dot and walked to U.S. Customs. Once inside, we had to pick up our bags. Or, rather, we had to wait 30 minutes for the privilege of picking up our bags in the tiny restricted-access carousel. I don't envy baggage services. They had to segregate all the U.S. bound transfers from the regular transfers and get those to a totally separate belt. Still, it was now 1:30 including the walk. We hit Customs at 1:40, and our bags were on the "recheck" belt at 1:45. 4 bags went in; only 1 made it on our 2:28 p.m. flight. They went in on the same belt, one after the other. More infuritatingly confusing is that I was the only one of the three of us traveling to check 2 bags and only 1 of my 2 bags made it. No rhyme or reason. Any system that requires you to recheck bags needs to staff sufficiently to make sure all bags checked almost 1 hour ahead make it on the plane. No exceptions.

Now, usually, you get "home" to the airport, hit the customs line, and then head to baggage. That lag allows baggage services to get your bags to the belt in time for you to step off the escalator and see your bag gingerly roll down of the conveyor to rest in its spot on the metal lazy river. Of course, having gone through customs in Canada, we just "breezed" into the terminal to instead spend the 40 minutes waiting for our bags. Actually, make that 1:15, as every US Airways express flight (20+) dumped on to the belt. Finally, I saw my bag, waited 15 minutes and hit baggage services automated kiosk. Actually, this was the second trip. On my first trip, the kiosk said it had no idea where the bags were.

They are getting delivered today. Sadly, even if you don't count the bags, the trip took 9 hours. Drive time: 12, including stops. And there is no fee for bags, no security, drinks are just $1, and the scenery can be breathtaking. I am just saying.


elanit said...

Not to be picky or anything, but it's US Customs and Border PROTECTION, not Patrol. :)

David said...

I'm a big fan of driving to Canada - Sarah and I did it a couple of times, and it really is beautiful scenery. That said, I'm not sure I'd want to take the risk of driving there in the winter when you get the occasional ultra-mega-mega-blizzard in NY...

Anonymous said...

Yeah, going through customs in Canada may be annoying, but it also lets you fly directly to places that don't have customs, like National. So what you lost in time spent in YYZ, you made up for in not having to fly through CLT, PHL, etc. (or ending up at IAD or, God forbid, BWI).