Long-time readers know I rarely share personal travel stories here (nobody cares), but I wanted to pass along one from yesterday…
I did a day trip to Atlanta. Morning flight fine. Coming back we were delayed about 90 minutes (not that abnormal for that route). After about 90 minutes in the air the flight attendant tells us to get ready for our final approach into Newark. Ten minutes later the pilot comes on says something about “ vectors in the wrong direction” and that we have to stop for fuel in Washington, DC.
That seemed odd, as the flight attendant just said we were landing in Newark. And that the pilot never came on and told us we were circling somewhere over Richmond. That would’ve been nice information to have.
We land at Dulles, re-fuel for an hour, and take off again. The flight attendant gets on and says, “ You may use electronic devices, but keep in mind this is a short flight.” I found that to be a strange thing to say as I had, at that point, been sitting on a regional jet for 4 hours and 10 minutes. We land a bit later after 4 hours and 55 minutes in a CRJ.
The point of sharing all of this was a few random thoughts on the adventure:
— People all around me were cursing Delta (or Atlantic Southeast, which flew the flight), but the fuel stop certainly wasn’t their fault. The air traffic control situation on the east coast is at an unprecedented crisis (culminating in the Bush Administration opening up military airspace to ease Thanksgiving crowding — quite possibly the only decision he’s made that I’ve agreed with). On some level it’s the airlines’ fault (collectively) for scheduling flights in packed airspace, but air traffic control simply cannot handle the volume of flights they see. Some level of government intervention is coming.
— It’s funny, though, that the first thought is to blame the airline – everyone assumes that airlines are out to screw us. But I think this is because of the airline staff. They were at fault for giving us no warning that we were circling and that a fuel stop may be necessary. We’re adults. We can handle it. We don’t want to feel like we’re being held hostage, which is exactly how we felt after we had been on the ground at Dulles with no word from the cockpit. And not sharing information is part of the reason why passengers often feel they’re being lied to (even when they’re not).
— The woman in front of me had incredibly nice hair. She was playing with it for much of the flight (which would’ve grossed out my wife, because there were more than a few loose strands being dropped on the floor), but I can’t express how much it looked like the hair of a woman in a shampoo ad. I was this close to asking what kind of conditioner she uses. Then I remembered that that’s weird.
— A half-assed apology is worse than none at all, and we’ve all sat on flights where flight attendants were genuinely apologetic and when they were not (like last night). A bit of training on how to apologize (even when a fuel diversion is not their fault) would go a long way. All of us on that plane were just trying to get home to our families. A bit of recognition of that would’ve been helpful.
— I primarily blame myself for taking the flight that was served with a regional jet. I flew down on a 757 – larger planes make the flight all the time. I think it’s a good lesson: avoiding regional jets makes sense if only because if (when?) you get delayed, it’s much more pleasant on a 757 than on a CRJ-700.
— How many routes are served both by 757s and small regional jets?
— And finally – when you’re in a small plane and it’s a full flight, please don’t fully recline your seat. I know it’s your right to do that. But it makes the flight miserable for the person behind you.
Whew…that was cathartic. I’m always interested in hearing your flight delay stories – please share in the comments section.