We never really got clear information information from United about what was involved in flying their airline for two of our three flights to get to Lisbon from Des Moines and flying Air Canada the last leg, between Toronto and Lisbon.
They were fine with selling us the pricey plane tickets that included the Air Canada flight but seemed to know little about the particulars. (We even had to call Air Canada to book seats for the Toronto-Lisbon-Toronto flights. United wouldn’t do it.) So when we couldn’t get a clear answer about whether our bags could be checked straight through to Lisbon (or if we would have to pick them up in Toronto and transfer them to Air Canada,) we opted to carry on our luggage. (And had to surrender our Swiss Army knife in the process.)
We were glad to have our bags when our planned two-hour layover in Toronto outbound evaporated as we were sat on the runway at Chicago’s O’Hare. At one point it looked like we would have to wait two hours to fly to Toronto (we didn’t find out until later that a storm had shut down the airport) but fortunately our delay ended up being one hour. We ran through the airport, went through some sort of expedited Canadian customs and easily made our 10 p.m. connecting flight. (Phew! If we had missed that flight we would have had to stay overnight in Toronto and wait until 4:30 pm for a flight to Newark and then get an 8 pm flight to Lisbon.)
It was Canadian travelers whom we met in Toronto outbound who told us that on our return trip we would be able to go through U.S. Customs in Toronto, before catching out next flight to Houston. This was a relief since we had a two-hour layover in Toronto but only an hour layover in Houston (which means we would probably miss our flight to Des Moines if we had to go through customs there). I couldn’t get anyone to confirm this from the airlines but it is in fact what happened. Phew!
meanwhile the air canada planes there and back were old and cramped with NO movie screens. The only option was to use our laptops (or rent one) and get movies via an airline app. Huh?