Note: I’m leaving this post up again today in hopes
of getting some more travel stories from the Monday crowd.
Almost three hours after boarding the airplane
and we’ve only traveled a couple hundred yards from the gate.
Though I’m not the most traveled person in the world, I just knew someday it would happen. Like the news reports you hear on television, of airline passengers sitting on the tarmac for hours and hours because of mechanical or other issues keeping the plane from taking off. My adventure began at 3:45 AM (EST) with the alarm of my cell phone waking me up.
My girlfriend Julia had spent the night with me at my sister’s house, and since her flight was only scheduled to leave an hour before mine, we decide to travel to the airport together. After hooking back up in Chicago, we would be on the same flights to Denver and then connecting on to Jackson. I tried to get on her fight at the gate, but since my baggage was already checked on my original flight, I got denied. I should have listened to my mother.
United Flight 527 was due to leave Logan Airport, in Boston, at 7:01 and we began boarding at 6:30. Everything was going as planned…that is until the pilot got the intercom to announce that he was having trouble with one of the computers and needed to reboot it. No biggie I thought to myself. After about ten minutes I heard his voice again, stating that the original problem had been fixed, but now there was a problem with another computer, and it too now need to reboot. Another 15-20 minutes passed before he reassured us that everything would be fine and in reality, we didn’t need either computer to actually fly the plane.
After a few tests and some filling out of FAA paperwork, we were finally cleared to leave the gate and taxied for only a couple minutes before the pilot got on the intercom again, this time informing us that due to our late departure, we were being held for take-off because of air traffic in Chicago. I smelled something fishy, but knew I was already going to miss my connection in Denver and my lovely travel companion as well, so there was little I could do at the present time.
The pilot must have felt like crap when he had to come on the intercom again, this time being straight with us and telling us that the computers were still showing some error lights and we were going to have to return to the gate for further maintenance. Of course we were not going to be able to exit the aircraft at that time, but if the crew didn’t think they could fix the problem, there was another plane waiting in the wings for us to board. By now we had been in our seats for about two hours and only traveled a few hundred yards from the gate. Those stories of people trapped on planes for over eight hours with inoperable toilets and no water began to creep into the back of my head and I started to get a little impatient.
A few international passengers were allowed to leave, with their connections already rebooked, before the pilot received word that the problem had been fixed. He told us that he was going to run the pre-flight tests no less than three times before take-off, in order to reassure himself (as well as us) that the plane was safe to fly. As we pulled away from the gate a third time, I wasn’t feeling very confident and to myself, gave us a 50% chance of actually getting off the ground this time, never mind making it all the way back to Jackson today.
I could instantly tell by the sound of the pilot’s voice when he came on the intercom, for what must have been the twentieth time, that things weren’t looking good. He said that he was still getting some error lights during his checks, and was now stepping up, and refusing to fly the plane. A small applause came from the cabin because of the minor step in at least some sort of direction. By now we had been on the aircraft for over three hours and I was kind of a wreck. The majority of the time, I feel like I adopt a mountain town attitude and am relatively patient in these kinds of situations, but I’m always extremely anxious to get back the Jackson when I’m traveling, especially with the winter ski season fast approaching.
Of course it was an utter nightmare trying to rebook my flight with a line of close to a hundred people waiting to speak with customer service on one of the busiest travel weekends of the year. I called Untied direct on my cell phone as I waited, trying to attack the situation from both angles before all my opportunities had gone out the window. I’m writing this as I fly from Boston to Denver on a flight that left at 4:30 pm (a half hour late) and I’m now scheduled to arrive in Jackson at 11 pm (MST) after a 2 hour layover in Denver. A mere 21 hours after my alarm woke me up. Flying the friendly skies….oh so much fun!
Got a crappy airline travel experience?
Feel free to share it in the comments section.