Let's continue this journey to an exotic overseas French island. It is not in the Caribbean nor in the Indian Ocean, but in the North Atlantic: we are going to Saint-Pierre and Miquelon islands! Located between Canadian Nova-Scotia and Newfoundland, these two tiny islands are part of France, and count as low as 5000 inhabitants on Saint-Pierre and 500 on Miquelon.
The easy option to reach this destination from Europe would be waiting for the summer, during which ASL Airlines operates a 737 once a week from Paris-CDG. But we won't do that. We'll go there right in the middle of winter, when wind blows and snow falls heavily. The first objective is then to reach Montreal, Halifax or St. John's which are the only airports with flights to Saint-Pierre between October and May (1, 4 and 3 flights a week, respectively). All these are operated with a single ATR42-500 by Air Saint-Pierre, the local airline which also flies daily between Saint-Pierre and Miquelon with a small Cessna F406, an 10 minutes flight that we'll try to catch as well.
All Montreal - Saint-Pierre flights were already fully booked a few months in advance, so we are going to stop in Toronto and Halifax while going there, while using the "direct" Montreal route for the return. The routing is supposed to look like this:
I left you in front of this sign just after the Paris - Toronto flight. It is 18.05 (or a little after midnight in Paris time), we have our luggage in hands and are about to re-check it in. Our flight is supposed to leave in less than half an hour.
Oh, I just forgot to tell you that a few minutes earlier, I managed to get some updated about today's flight. Departure is no longer scheduled at 18.30 but at 22.58. Sharp. For an arrival around 2AM tommorrow morning. Awwtch.
There is actually some sort of "severe winter storm", passing over Halifax in the night between Sunday and Monday. That is, now.
So we now have pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeenty of time. Re-checkin area is includes two WestJet desks, ahead of which our boarding passes are checked and the delay confirmed. We get the new gate number and are invited to drop our bags on a belt.
Since European passenger rights regulation foresees that the airline must provide food and drinks during long delays, even if caused by the weather, and as I have a Paris-Halifax ticket with AF flight numbers, I thought getting this assistance would be easy. But ground staff consider that only Canadian rules apply, and on social networks, none of the airline is much helpful.
It means that we have a little more than 4 hours to wait. Note that the second WestJet flight for Halifax this evening is also delayed, at 23.15 instead of 21.50.
Two hours later, after a meal that I hope to get refunded by one of the two airlines, a quick look at the FIDS confirms that the delay has not worsened. Our plane is at the gate since 18.00 and only waits the weather to improve at our destination. We should already have been in Halifax, but as the pilot saying goes, it’s better to regret being down here, than to regret being up there.
22.10, 4.10 in Paris, almost 24 hours since we woke up "this morning". Things are starting to move at the gate.
According to the screen, Anthony is going to take care of us this evening.
22.30, boarding is called, by zone.
Let's discover this Boeing 737-700, C-FJWS, born in 2001 and fitted with winglets since 2004.
It is equipped with WestJet Connect IFE that replaced individual screens. I did not use it much considering the late hour, but a few movies and a large choice of recent TV shows is available for free. Wifi is also available for a fee.
The seat looks good, and features a large headrest. Being just in front of the emergency exit, the seats in the row don't recline.
Here is the pitch, very comfortable (maybe as a counterpart for the lack of recline?). I notice a power socket, enabled even on the ground.
The row is empty for now. A passenger will finally take the aisle seat. That's a second flight with a free seat next to me!
22.45, everybody seems to be on board, and it would be unlikely that we had to wait for connection passengers! Doors are closed at 22.57. The captain announces that the flight will last 1 hour and 51 minutes and that our delay is due to the strong winds and heavy rainfalls in Halifax.
The crew doesn't seem to be tired by the late hour, safety demonstrations are an actual show. "And nooooow, once again, in French!".
We are pushed back at 23.15.
Taxiing is quite long. At 23.30, we reach …not the runway but the de-icing pad.
The last picture shows how my window ended after the de-icing, so you'll have to trust me as I tell you that we took off at 23.45. Or 0.45 Halifax time. Or 5.45 Paris time.
To keep you busy, here is the safety card. This 737 is equipped with live rafts fitted in the ceiling, instead of slides that can also be used as rafts.
The cabin lights remain dimmed, including during the service which is done very quietly, since most people is sleeping. Sweet or salty snacks are free, and sandwiches can be purchased. It is the first time that I see "Biscoff" biscuits.
Let's turn the light on just for the photo. "Europe's favorite cookie with coffee" is a surprising headline since the brand is not sold under this name in Europe. Anyway, it is simple but better than nothing.
As the flight continues, most passengers are resting. At 2.10, all the lights are sudently turned on. The crew announced: "we are going to secure the cabin a little early because it's gonna be a little bit rough until we land in Halifax". Actually, we are well shaken since a few minutes, and it is not improving. One of the stewards carefully put upright the seatback of some passengers without waking them.
After these checks, the cabin is again in the dark. Blurry eyes ambiance:
Outside as well we are in the dark. The only lights are the ones on the plane.
2.20 "flight crew, time to prepare for arrival". The landing light is turned on.
The snow begins to be visible, and seems horizontal. The engine swallows it without batting an eye.
02.30 local time, the runway and terminal lighting sudently appears, and we gently land.
Quite a lot of red on this screen showing the arrivals (blue lines being for tomorrow).
Who's complaining of the blurry picture? May I remind you that it is quite late (or early)? Let's compensate with a screenshot:
It is almost 3 in the morning as we reach the luggage belt.
No bad surprise, all the luggage is on the belt. Last task for today, get the shuttle to one of the airport hotels. It arrives quickly. I leave you here, I need to sleep a bit before the flight to Saint-Pierre, that is leaving at 14.00. See you very soon! ✈️
Quite a convincing offer for a domestic flight, with good IFE, attentive cabin crew, a choice of free and paid catering and a comfortable cabin. But I suppose that this 2 hours flight is quite short compared to other ones in Canada.
The airline is not responsible for the bad weather and Canadian rules are quite clear in such case. WestJet could however do better in complying with European requirements when they apply (for connection passengers).
I was however contacted by a very polite WestJet customer service agent less that 24 hours after filling a refund request, that offered by to send the meal refund by cheque or postal order. A perfect reaction!