Trip report introduction: Let’s see if Canada will let me in…

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01. Introduction: Let’s see if Canada will let me in…
02. WestJet 737-700 main cabin SAN-YYC
03. Dear Canada: why are your border agents so mean?
04. Courtyard Calgary Airport
05. Calgary Marriott In-Airport Hotel
06. WestJet 737-700 main cabin YYC-SAN

Part of my quest to fly every airline that serves San Diego International airport will involve flying to Canada on three Canadian airlines: Air Canada, Air Canada Rouge, and WestJet. I’ve already flown SAN-YYZ (and back) once on Air Canada, but that was way back in 2001 and I wasn’t even writing full trip reports back then so that experience has essentially been forgotten. Anyway, my goal is to fly all three of these airlines out of SAN within the next year or two so that I can write proper trip reports for each one.

But this isn’t going to be so easy. As a matter of fact, I’ve been secretly dreading these Canadian trips and have been putting them off for a while now and making excuses as to why I would rather go other places instead. It’s not like I hate Canada or anything. As a matter of fact, I find the people to be extremely friendly and the landscapes downright stunning. So what’s the problem?

Well, it’s not my problem per se. It’s the fact that I’m pretty sure Canada has a problem with me. Or it least it seems that way. It all started way back in 2001, on that trip to YYZ that I mentioned above. That was my first ever time flying into Canada, and the grilling I received from the border agent upon arrival was like noting I’ve ever experienced in my life.

Border Agent: What’s the purpose of your trip?
Me: Never been to Canada before, found a good deal, so I decided to go for it.
Border Agent: Where are you staying?
Me: Airport Marriott
Border Agent: *Blank stare* – Why would you fly all the way from San Diego only to stay here at the airport?
Me: Well, I like to photograph airplanes as a hobby, and I’ve heard that hotel is pretty good for taking pics…

Apparently that was the wrong answer, because I was then hammered for 10 minutes about every minute detail of my life: where I grew up, how much money I have in the bank, what my parents do for a living, what I do for a living, what my interest is in Canada, etc…

They eventually let me in, but holy moly. I walked away feeling completely violated and almost angry that they even considered me to be a threat. I kept my cool the entire time, was never rude in my responses, but man…it was like they were digging real deep in order to catch me on a technicality or something so they could drop-kick me back to the US. I didn’t feel welcome at all.

Six months later, on my next trip to Canada (YVR this time), the exact same thing happened. I was questioned for 10 minutes as to why I would travel all the way to Canada with only a backpack, wondering how I could afford to travel, etc. It was clear to me after this experience that perhaps entering Canada by air was not worth the hassle. Of course I had nothing to hide, but the manner in which I was interrogated both times was extremely off-putting. I had never (and have never since) been questioned like that entering any other country in the world. What is Canada’s problem with me?

15 years have passed since I’ve last stepped foot in that country, so I was starting to think that perhaps now would be a good time to try again. I found a pretty good deal on WestJet’s nonstop San Diego to Calgary service that I couldn’t refuse, so I reluctantly purchased it and hoped for the best. I should note that the only good deal I could find was in the main cabin, and not in their “Plus” seating section (premium economy). Plus appeared to be nothing more than the same as economy with a blocked middle seat, a few extra inches of leg room, and a free sandwich. Sounds decent, but not for double the price. Economy class it would be.

Here’s the itinerary:

09/16/16 WS 1565 737-700 economy class San Diego to Calgary
09/18/16 WS 1564 737-700 economy class Calgary to San Diego

It should be obvious from the things I write on this blog that I love to travel, and I always look forward to my trips with excitement and great enthusiasm. But I had a slight feeling of dread and anxiety going into this one which was based squarely on the fact that I hate having to defend myself and prove my innocence when I’m doing nothing wrong. Hey Canada: I’m not a criminal! Ok, maybe I’ve had a speeding ticket or two over the years, but I promise to be on my best behavior whenever I’m in your country.

I was almost tempted to learn the Canadian national anthem before I went just so I could use it to get me out of a bind if things turned sour. Luckily it didn’t come down to that…