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Hey, Teed-Off Flyers! Keep 'em comin'

Line of Planes

Just a word on a Monday morning to thank all of you who have begun the incredible discourse on air travel. On Friday night, I was delayed on my flight from Kennedy to SFO because there were simply too many darn planes who wanted to take off from Kennedy. Thank Goodness for the American Airlines captain, whoever he was, because it's my guess he was simply so ill-tempered with the flight tower that we went from absolutely screwed to fourth in line in about six seconds. Dude! You rule.

The stories of injustice and indignity have been pouring in. Look at the comments offered to my prior blog entry. They're just fantastic.

I want to publish them all, and not just as comments, either, but as an ongoing and interactive international blog. This takes some technological doing, so we'll see how that goes. In the meantime, keep writing. I have no doubt that there are a million stories out there waiting to be told.

Tell me.

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Three Flights come to mind in my years of years of flying;
1st: Flying an international flight from Washington- Dulles to Frankfurt-Germany. I was flying with a few of my co-workers and we boarded a 747. When we were boarding we all noticed this heavyset lady whimpering in her seat. She had a look of fear on her face. The flight attendants all tried to comfort her but to no avail. Everyone continued to board and all settled down for the long flight. The flight attendants gave the standard emergency procedures in English and German, as the plane started to pull away from the gateway and taxi towards the runway. The heavyset lady was seated about eight seats in front of me whimpering even louder and with every bump and turn of the aircraft letting out a little yelp. Everyone around her tried to assure and comfort her, as did the flight attendants.
The plane then started down the runway to get up enough speed for take off, and the whimpering lady started to whimper even louder. The flight was two-thirds down the runway when suddenly the whimpering lady unbuckled her seat belt and screaming "I WANT OFF THIS PLANE". She then ran shrieking towards the exit door. The plane was about 100 feet was off the ground by the time she reached the door. She then was tackled by an older flight attendant who was then helped by two passengers to get her away from the door. Everyone else was in a heightened state of apprehensiveness. The Lady was screaming at the top her lungs and the flight attendant and two passengers got her to an empty seat and used those demo seat belts and some Velcro strips that some other flight attendants brought and proceeded to strap her into the seat. She was still screaming when one of the pilots came down from the cockpit and yelled at her to shut up and that she was interfering with a flight crew and had committed a crime. She kept screaming and was in a total state of panic.
After about 10 minutes of her screaming the rest of the passengers around her told her to shut up as she made everyone upset and angry at her as she would have put ours lives in peril if she had gotten that door open. The captain then went on the PA and asked if there was a doctor on board as there was a small medical problem. Many of the passengers who were witness to the crazy lady all stated that they could shut her up and held up a fist as answer to the problem. Finally, a doctor came back from first class and after a brief talk to the captain, administered I would guess a sedative and within minutes, the lady was out. The rest of the flight was uneventful and everyone around her was moved to other empty seats. When the flight landed in Frankfurt, two German Police officers came onboard and removed her before anyone else deplaned, this brought a round of applause at her departure.

2nd; On a flight from Chicago to Raleigh a few years ago, on a normal early afternoon flight, boarded on time, and everything was going OK. Moreover, as the plane pulled away from the gateway, we all felt and heard a "THUMP". I looked out the window over my fellow passenger's lap and saw that one of those little Luggage carts had run into the wheels of our plane at full speed. The driver and luggage were sprawled all over the gateway area and the Baggage cart driver was obvious hurt and unconscious. Our Plane crew went into emergency mode and immediately pulled the plane back into the gateway. The pilot announced an emergency and told everyone to leave their carry-on and to immediately exit the plane which we all complied. The evacuation was very quick and orderly without panic and handled quite professionally. In the Gateway terminal, we all went to the windows, and we saw the commotion surrounding the accident as an ambulance and other emergency vehicles that had arrived and surrounded the site.
They evacuated the injured baggage cart driver immediately and then emergency personnel worked on inspecting the wheel of the plane as other baggage cart employees worked to pick up all of the luggage strewn all over the gateway area. Later a wrecker came over and hauled off the luggage cart. Surprisingly the cart didn't look all that damaged. So we all sat around for the next hour and half waiting for the wheel carriage to be repaired or cleared, or in worst case scenario a new plane. Finally, the airline staff announced that the Airline wheel was thoroughly inspected and has been certified to be fit for service, as there was no damage to the wheels. They did say that as the tires had taken most of the abuse they had been changed. We felt a little apprehensive and we all talked to ourselves on whether we would trust the airline and re-board, but in the end everyone re-boarded and the plane took off and landed without incident. The airline staff apologized profusely all during the flight and gave free drinks for the delay. Most if not all passengers were understanding and took the incident as something that the airline had little control over.

3rd: On a flight from Chicago to LaCrosse, Wisconsin over a decade ago, I had boarded a small puddle jumper flight (25-35 passenger turbo-props) that was completely full. I settle backed for the quick 55-minute flight. About 15-20 minutes into the Flight, the cabin door opens up and the co-pilot walks down the aisle and bends over my seat and looks out my window and then yells up to the pilot "Yea, it's leaking". This got everyone's attention and we all look out the window to a see a small streak of oil coming out of the engine cowling. The Pilot then announces an engine problem and states that we will have to land in Madison, Wisconsin. We all have white knuckles because of grasping the armrests. But the Pilot announces that the landing is strictly precautionary and that the plane can easily land on one engine. The engine is then turned off and the propeller is feathered so it no longer leaks. We land without incident in Madison and we are bussed for two hours to the LaCrosse Airport. We are offered a free flight for any other puddle jumper flight, which most declined, as we are not likely to fly them just for short flight.

In the 80s when I used to have to travel a lot for my job, I had a rule of thumb about flying versus driving. It was that if I had to drive more than 5 hours to get there, I would fly.

Now, flying has become such a major hassle at the airports and such a claustrophobic experience on the airplane that if I don't have to drive more than 10 hours, I'll definitely opt to drive rather than fly. Usually, even if I have to drive more than 10 hours, I'll drive anyway with perhaps a stop at the Motel 6 since I'll still probably be more comfortable and get there sooner with much less aggravation than by flying.

The airlines can keep their 10" of legroom for my 14" knees, rude employees and incompetent customer "service" voices in Bangalore.

Hey, Bing:

I've got a nice one for you.

In April, I flew one-way to California from New Orleans to meet my wife, who'd moved out to the Golden State to find work.

I worked out the schedule so I could try United's 777 service from O'Hare - I'm a planespotter, and I'd always wanted to fly on one of these wide-bodied birds. Since I almost always fly between Louisiana and California, I'm usually on an old, cramped 737 or 757.

After paying about $100 more for the ticket and getting a ride to New Orleans from Baton Rouge, our MSY-ORD flight sat on the ramp for twenty minutes past departure time with no explanation. Since I had an hour between flights in Chicago, I wasn't too worried yet.

Long story short - thunderstorms over the midwest. Our 737 flew around the thunderbumpers, so we arrived at O'Hare five minutes before my 777 ride to San Francisco was to leave - I was fairly brimming with anticipation, but to my surprise, as we taxied in, I saw the 777 pushing back from it's gate - almost ten minutes BEFORE the scheduled departure time.

I'll spare you the details of United's horrific call center staff in Bangalore, the 600-person line for each of three 2-man "service centers" UAL has in the airport, and skip right to the very best part. Not only did United send the SFO-bound 777 flagsip service out early, it wasn't even half-full. Most of the passengers who were to have made connections to that flight were, like me, stuck at O'Hare.

I've never gotten an explanation from United about why they sent that jet out early - it arrived in San Francisco a whopping 27 minutes ahead of schedule due to favorable winds...but I happen to think it's because they were able to make better time with fewer than half the passengers on board.

During the course of the day, United managed to cancel one of the remaining three SFO-bound flights, and tried to route me through Burbank and LAX to get to San Jose the next day. Whatever they're smoking, it a'int a Macanudo.

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