It crossed my mind when I landed, to rent a car and drive the rest of the way. Delayed already coming out of Boston I had a feeling that even though I was going to make my connection, there would be a problem.
Sure enough, though we boarded on time and pushed back from the jetway, we sat on the runway at Dulles waiting our turn for takeoff. Waiting and waiting, If an airplane could stop short, I’d have to say that ours did. Apparently an on-board computer told the pilots to abort the takeoff and that’s what they did. More waiting. A technician can be seen entering the cockpit. Needs new software apparently. Everyone off the plane, we expect this to take two hours.
Our original departure time was 6:20 PM, we did not re-board until well after 11 PM. While they were working to reboot the original plane, a new plane was found for us. New plane, new gate, new wait times, new crew. New crew? What happened to the original crew? Okay, the pilots are only certified for certain kinds of planes, that’s understandable, but the flight attendants?
The flight departing the gate next to us is also delayed, but headed back to Boston. How long is this going to be? Should I just turn around and go home – attend the meeting via teleconference instead? No answers. Apparently the airline is scrambling for volunteers to take the flight and those volunteers must fill out paperwork.
To add to the annoyance, my laptop says it’s got a wireless connection, but no websites are coming up and I can’t get into my work email.
Frustrated, I concentrate on people-watching. We are headed to Orlando, so there are a few families taking advantage of the off-season rates. There’s a woman reading what appears to be a Kindle. I work up the nerve to ask her about it and it turns out to be a similar gadget made by Sony - reads any PDF file. A cool, but sadly, short interaction.
Stores and kiosks in the airport begin to close. My eyes are burning. I did not sleep well the night before and had been looking forward to room service and early bedtime. The ham sandwich I bought to eat on the plane is disgusting and the refrigeration of the day has made the bread dry and hard. Now it’s too late to eat anything at all. I cannot believe what I am seeing. It is 10 PM and there is still no news.
At some point, several of the passengers apparently headed to Puerto Rico are led off to another flight.
A large woman strolls by repeatedly. Her oversized T-shirt reads “WIN SUM LOOSE SUM.” The wordsmith in me goes nuts. Is it deliberately misspelled? What does it mean? Why would anybody wear that when it immediately raises questions about the ignorance of the wearer? When the hell are we going to get on the plane so I don’t have to look at this shirt anymore?
Finally, they have found the final crew member and we should begin boarding shortly. To add insult to injury, the woman making this announcement reminds us over the PA that she and the other gate staff are in the same boat – they all want to go home too. I’m sure this is meant to deflect passenger complaints, but all it does is upset people further. “Oh no sweetie,” I think, “you’re union and probably collecting overtime by now.” There is no comparison to the loss of my time or the plight of the 6-year old girl sitting across from me who is about to lose her shit because it is hours past her bedtime.
In all my years of traveling for the publishing company or for personal reasons, the only other time something like this has happened to me was on that first disastrous trip to Russia. At least here I can speak the language. I found myself grateful that I had made the impulse purchase of a small, rolling overnight bag. It seems like such a common thing, but I’d never had one before. The rolling bags we do own are for a week-long trip or more and would have had to be checked. If, on top of all of this, they had lost or delayed my luggage in the switching of the planes, I would really have been SOL. After those Russia trips I am the master of laundry in the sink, but not at 2 AM, which is when I finally got to the hotel, and not for an 8 AM meeting. Plus, those Russian hotels had electric towel warmers which served as great drying racks. I would not be so lucky in Orlando.
My flight home was non-stop but was also delayed by an hour while we were sitting on the plane. I guess if the passengers have boarded, it’s not technically considered delayed which strikes me as cheating.
Jet Blue is able to offer flights at a reduced rate because they turn their planes around so quickly. On all three of my flights in a two-day span this did not work out for them. We were delayed by at least an hour each time. At what point should they examine their operations model to see if it’s really as efficient as they claim?
When I got home, I did get an email offering me reimbursement vouchers for the four hour delay, but not so much as an acknowledgement of the others.
Ah, the romance of travel.