Thursday, July 15, 2010
Flying to and from Montana involved 4 flights, 3 of which were blissfully uneventful. The flight from St Paul MN to Newark yesterday took 7 hours instead of 2.5 hours. The part that was most interesting, was how the people on the flight were treated during our 4.5 hour delay.
Doing a search for "airlines" "3 hours" (referring the new law that you cannot leave a plane on the tarmac for over 3 hours without a huge fine) results in 4.5M hits on Google. Looks to me like this might be a big issue. In this article, however, it seems only 5 planes were officially delayed on the tarmac for over 3 hours in May. This is what happened to my flight yesterday. I'm sure they followed the letter of the new rules but the spirt was certainly not about the customers.
Part of my sensitivity to any delay might be tied in part to my role of sherpa on this trip. You see, my sister's husband did not come but my 2 year old niece did. As a result, my job was to pack light and carry everything so my sister could focus on her daughter.
It s only in retrospect that I know the plane was delayed for the duration of "Gone with the Wind." The plane boarded a few minutes late. The head flight attendant reminded me of mall security: little power, lots of anger at the world.
This was our 4th flight together so this was my 4th time putting my sister's luggage, engineered by the Swiss with watch-like precision to maximize overhead bin capacity, into a bin. There was another suitcase and a backpack I assume was waiting to be filled with I <3 NY t-shirts for the return trip.
"That bag isn't going to fit in there. We need room for the back pack."
"May I try?"
She glared at me and said "I'll protect it. You'll see."
My sister's bag slipped into the bin. A hand into a kid glove. She shoved the backpack in and there was space on either side. Another glare.
We sat. We pushed off. We waited. There was an announcement about weather and traffic in Newark. It was confusing because...um...it was Newark and there is always traffic. So we waited.
My niece enjoys anything that involves opening and closing. Buttons, zippers, bags, and levers like the one on the tray table. She would take it down, put a few toys on it, put the toys in the barf bag, put the tray up, put the tray down, toys out of the bag. She was enjoying herself a lot more than the rest of us.
The fun police stopped by and said "Trays need to be up for take off."
"Oh? Did you find out when we're taking off?"
"It is dangerous to need to push the tray table up if we need to leave the plane quickly."
"Ok." We put the tray table up for the flight attendant's benefit. After she left, my precocious niece understood she could put it down again. No one told her. She just did it.
The flight attendants ran out of water. They turned a few people away. When a father came for water for his toddler, they found an 8 ounce bottle in first class for him.
An hour later, it was announced that Corporate was trying to figure out what to do with our plane. What exactly were the options? Cancel the flight? Reroute us? Put us on another flight? Let us out in the airport and let us know when they had a new take off time? Hold us hostage with peanut packets, water with a napkin, blue water toilets, and air you could see?
A few minutes after that, they let us out to the terminal. My niece was being quite the trooper and the break made her so happy. We found a sandwich shop and bought some lunch. It took a few minutes for my sister's tuna sandwich to be ready and we couldn't hear any flight status information over the smooth jazz.
I walked into the main hallway and heard a last call to get back on our flight. It couldn't have been 10 minutes that we were off the plane. We all ran back on board and proceeded to wait for another half hour before additional information was shared.
During that time, mechanics in reflective vest with walkie-talkies boarded the plane. Apparently something was wrong with the air conditioning.
We would be taking off in 30 minutes, the voice said, after the yellow vests deplaned. I don't remember if they were right about this estimate since the entire time I would half hear what was said and wonder to myself if expectations could get any lower. As long as I didn't spend money for a hotel room in St Paul for the privilege of getting on the next available flight Thursday morning, it was going to work out just fine.
Instead of making it home around 6:00pm, I arrived at 10:30pm. Thankfully, I didn't need to be anywhere this morning.
Job applications: 0
Networking events: 0
Posted by Diane at 1:31 PM