Only two flights that I can recall failing to leave more or less on time.
1) Early August 2008, RJ
. It's one thing if a short domestic flight is running an hour or two behind schedule, it's quite another when a long haul journey begins almost a day later than it was supposed to! I guess due to the nature of long haul ops - aircraft and crew scheduling, slot availability, etc., it is not at all uncommon for long haul delays to trump the average short haul delays that most pax grumble about.
This is the journey home from an epic summer of working and traveling throughout the Middle East. A few days in Jordan made for a fantastic last stop in the region, the Dead Sea and Petra capping off a trip that had also taken me to Dubai, Bahrain, Muscat, Istanbul, Alexandria, and Cairo. By now I had become familiar with the standard protocol at airports in the region, complete with a checkpoint on the airport access road for car bombs, a security screening of carry on AND
checked baggage upon entering the terminal before check-in, an actual passport/visa checkpoint typically only seen elsewhere upon arrival or when using U.S. Preclearance, a standard carry on and personal security screening, and random spot checks at the gate. In comparison, American airports and TSA
are a walk in the park. As such, I made sure to arrive at the airport plenty early for my flight.
As I pull up to the tiny, decrepit AMM terminal, I notice a crowd of angry travelers stuck outside of the security checkpoint granting access to the check-in desks. As at other Middle Eastern airports, one must show their plane tickets to security staff and scan all checked and carry on baggage in order to enter the terminal and check in for their flight. I manage to get through this crowd, only to be told that I cannot enter through to check in. No further explanation. Suddenly it dawns on me that this angry mob consists of folks on MY
flight, and we have two options - cram into a narrow hallway full of vendor kiosks and people constantly pushing through with their bags, or sit outside the terminal in the blistering desert heat.
The security personnel continue to diligently keep us out while letting folks on other flights leaving around the same time, like RJ
, through. There are no RJ
staff to be seen, they are all out of sight on the other side of the checkpoint. Eventually an RJ
staff member appears, telling us that there is "some delay" and that we will be taken to the transit hotel. Once there, we are given rooms and told to wait for "announcements" on our flight. This would be fine, except for the fact that this hotel is probably equivalent (in terms of amenities and cleanliness) to that flea/roach/prostitute/STD infested motel you've seen from the freeway but wouldn't dare set foot into. Obviously I won't be spending any time here, so I quickly head for downtown Amman, taking a gamble on my assumption that we won't be leaving until late tonight. By leaving this atrocious dump to make the most of my extra time in Jordan, I will not be kept in the loop with any flight updates.
After a great evening in Abdoun (a very nice area in Amman), I head back to the transit hotel/airport. Still no word on the flight, so I decide to kill time by walking between the hotel and the airport terminal. Now that it's dark, the weather is surprisingly bearable! Of course, the guys at the military check point along the way - quick to show off their machine guns - can't seem to understand why anyone would be walking around. Though we can barely communicate, they smile and let me proceed.
Around 10 PM
, already about 12 hours after the flight was due to depart, they start rounding everyone up at the transit hotel. The buses drop us off at the terminal, but security still won't let us through. After another hour, yes, now it's okay to go ahead. The entire process is painfully slow, complete with a thorough hand search of every single carry on item as we enter the secure gate area. Yes, I'm sure this is simply the Jordanians adhering to American security protocol, but the process was far less arduous when leaving for the U.S. from Europe and Asia...
By 2:30, we finally manage to depart - about 16 hours behind schedule! Fortunately I had booked my connecting flight (on a separate itinerary) for a few days later, as I had wanted to spend some time in New York. This delay simply cut into my time there, and I managed to get back home to Chicago as intended.
2) Late June 2012, B6 LAS
. Has anyone ever told you to suck it up and take those first flights out in the morning, because you have a far greater chance of getting there on time? If I were you, I would heed their advice!
Not being a morning person, and this being my flight home from a wild Vegas trip, I have booked myself on the last flight of the day back to LGB
. It is a beautiful day in Las Vegas (and also in Long Beach, for that matter), and this an easy routine 45 minute hop for virtually all pax and airlines/crew involved. Since the weekend crush of travelers has already left yesterday (Sunday) or earlier in the day, the airport is pretty quiet by late Monday afternoon, and I expect today to be a breeze.
I arrive at the B6
counter plenty early, where am I am told, "As you are aware, your flight has a 3 hour delay...due to weather at JFK
". I'm sorry, but I wasn't aware, and I don't care for your matter-of-fact tone either. Southwest Airlines, arguably a superior option on this sector given their high frequency service to Vegas from 4 of the major LA
area airports, sends me complimentary text message updates for delayed and/or canceled flights. I suppose it was my responsibility to call your airline or otherwise check the flight status myself online, as they certainly weren't planning to contact me about this delay? Oh well, I will see off my cousin and her friends, hit the slot machines, get caught up on phone calls, and make use of the airport's free wifi to kill the time. No big deal, I grew up in the Midwest and I'm sure the East Coast gets its fair share of major summertime storms as we always did. The only thing is that I have a major interview the next day, so I would like to get home by a decent hour in order to be well rested and prepared for it.
A few hours quickly fly by, and I head to the gate around 9 PM
for my 6:30 flight. "Did you get your voucher yet?" says a lady as I sit down at the gate. "No, what are you talking about?" I reply. "Oh, better go now, I just spent mine on this coffee. We are delayed til midnight, but the vendors are all shutting down soon". I inquire at the counter about the voucher and more importantly this delay - if I started driving now, I would get home faster than I would waiting for the flight. I am given a vague explanation about "weather at JFK
" once again, and told to spend my $10 voucher quickly. $10 won't get me much from overpriced airport concessionaires, but at least it's something.
Midnight comes and goes, we are shuffled to a new gate, and finally on board by 1 AM
. We pull back, and sit quietly on the apron for about an hour. No announcement, until the plane heads back for the terminal. "Sorry folks, we had a mechanical issue that wasn't resolved, and now the crew has timed out. They have had a long day because of bad weather at JFK
Now it is about 2 AM
, the pilots and flight attendants quickly rush off the plane, leaving an exasperated gate agent to deboard a plane full of angry pax. With my interview now less than 8 hours away, I immediately book a rental car and hit the road. Two girls on the flight agree to share the cost of the rental car with me, in exchange for a ride back to L.A. We end up arriving at my apartment in Hollywood a little after 8 AM
, approximately 12 hours after I would have gotten there if my flight was on time, but sooner than if I had been rebooked on any flight the next day. After the ordeal, I was able to get a refund for the canceled sector and generous flight vouchers, making possible my incredible trip to Puerto Rico last week!