D. C. to Phoenix In Only 24 Hours

November 6, 2009

in Delay/Cancellation Stories

On a flight from Washington D. C. to Phoenix, I experienced a series of fairly normal events that piled up in a comical fashion that resulted in a 24-hour plane flight. It started innocently enough with the plane pulling away from the gate 20 minutes late. We were about fifteenth in line for take-off, so we spent another half-hour or so slowly taxiing our way to the runway. We were about two planes back, when the captain announced that we would be returning to the gate. When we got there, Federal Marshals escorted a father and mother off the plane with their four-day-old infant. Yes, four days old. They had been seated in a two seat row, and the father got irate when he found out that there were only two oxygen masks and he threatened a flight attendant. Since we were still on the ground, the pilot was required to return to the gate and have them arrested. It took half-an-hour to get clearance to leave and we taxied out to wait in line again, and we finally take off about three hours later than we were supposed to.

I had a change of plane in Chicago, but when we got into Chicago airspace we had to circle for about an hour to get a landing spot. Once on the ground, it took another half-an-hour to get a gate. By this time, I’m five hours or so late for my flight to Phoenix, which has long since departed. Everyone on the plane heading to Cedar Rapids and Oshkosh and Billings made their flights, but those of us going to St. Louis, Phoenix, L. A., San Francisco and the like missed our planes, and most of us got a free stay in a hotel.

The next morning, all of the West-bound flights were booked, so I ended up on standby. I got bumped twice and finally got a seat on an 11:00AM flight to Phoenix. The plane pulled away from the gate about 30 minutes late due to a mechanical issue and we taxied about half-way around the airport and got in line for take-off about 20 planes back. We had worked our way up to the front of the line, when the airport closed the runway due to a line of thunderstorms that were in our flight path. We taxied around the airport (and O’Hare is big) to another runway and got in line again. It took another hour to get to the front of the line when the pilot pulled the aircraft out of line and taxied back to the gate. The new take-off heading lengthened our flight path and, with all the taxiing, we didn’t have enough fuel to make it. So, we taxi around the airport again to fuel the plane, then taxied back and got in line for another 40-minute wait. I finally got to Phoenix just about 24 hours after I boarded the plane in D. C. At least my wife and I got free air travel for a vacation out of it.

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