In July 1999 I was aboard United Airlines flight 761, bound from San Francisco to Chicago. Our 747-400 (N116UA) was filled to the gills. About a half-hour from Chicago, the Captain informed us that due to T-storms at ORD, the field had temporarily been shut down. Our alternate was Milwaukee, and that's where we--and about 100 other airliners--headed.
We approached MKE and you could see folks in their yards pointing up at us as we neared the field. Clearly, a 747-400 is a rare bird at MKE.
Once we touched down, I could see that this temporary 'Gas and Go' would not be so temporary. We landed at around 7pm and it seemed like every free patch of concrete was occupied by a jet. So we were directed over across the field, sort of near the Air Guard area for those of you who know MKE. There were planes everywhere...UA 777s, 757s, 747s; AA MD-80s, 757s, F100s..etc.
What we basically needed to do was get our 747-400 across the field to a fuel depot where all the other planes needed to go for THEIR 'Gas and Go.' It was like a game of chess, because our plane couldn't move an inch until the plane in front of us moved, and so on and so on.
To make a long story short, we finally made our way over to the fueling station in tandem with a Lufthansa A340. No word of a lie, this whole process took until after MIDNIGHT when we and the Lufthansa A340 taxied out to the active runway and took off one after the other for our 15 minute flight down the lake to Chicago. Of course, once we arrived at ORD the place was a ghost town and I had to "sleep" in the terminal.
All the while we were up at MKE, the station manager there kept 'assuring' us that things would be OK...first that our connecting flights would probably be OK because they would also be late; and then (when it became obvious we were going to be stuck at MKE for HOURS) this person climbed the air stairs on another occasion and announced that we would be taken care of once we got to ORD (as in hotels, etc.) Of course, that was a crock.
My original onward 757 flight from ORD to Manchester, NH turned into a 'next morning' 757 from ORD to LaGuardia, followed by a layover there of a few hours before catching a DL Express flight up to MHT