Leak In The Drinking Water Tank

January 20, 2010

in Airplane Stories

Several years ago, on a trip from Hartford to San Francisco, we had to change planes at ORD.  We were on United. The first leg of the trip was uneventful (in the words of John Cleese: “it was relatively crash-free”).  We had a short connection, but we made it to our gate in time.  We boarded the plane for the leg from ORD to SFO and all seemed well.  We pulled away from the gate, and then stopped.  We sat for a while on the tarmac, before the captain came on the PA to tell us that there was a small technical problem that needed to be fixed before we could depart.  Maintenance personnel were on their way, and he estimated we would be on our way in 30 minutes.

 Well, you all know how those 30 minutes delays can grow.  Maintenance people showed up.  We could see them milling around the plane.  After an hour, the captain came on the PA again and told us that the problem was that there was a leak in the… (wait for it)… drinking water tank.  The tank was emptying itself onto the tarmac.  Well, as the Captain explained, FAA regulations did not allow a plane to go on a flight as long as ours (4ish hours) without sufficient drinking water on board.  So they had to fix the leak in the tank and refill it before we could take off.

It was the middle of the summer, and about 95 degrees in Chicago.  This wasn’t a big deal, until about 1.5 hours into this whole ordeal; the pilot told us that he had to shut down the engines to save fuel.  Of course, since we were on the tarmac and not at the gate, we could not hook up to ground power, so off went the AC.  The Captain assured us that this would be a short-lived problem, as we would be on our way soon.  Yeah, right.

So not to belabor this, the wait turned into 4 and a half hours.  By the end of it, it was about 100 degrees inside the plane, and everyone inside had become that smelly person no one wants to sit next to.

So here’s the kicker.  After 4-1/2 hours the Captain comes on and says that he has ordered catering to bring extra bottled water and soft drinks on board so that we could go ahead and leave without the water tank being fixed.  So why didn’t he think of this 4 hours previous?  For that matter, I don’t know why they didn’t serve us anything to drink during those hours either.   But anyway, it took a half hour for catering to do their thing and we were on our way.   We had sat for a total of 5 hours on the tarmac, in stifling heat with nothing to drink.  Had we just departed on schedule, we would have been in SF in only 4 hours.  So we went without anything to drink for an extra hour for,… well, our own convenience I suppose.  The irony of the whole thing, was that the Captain told the FA’s to serve free alcohol as a compensation for our troubles, so nobody drank the extra water anyway.

Just because this was not bad enough, when we got to SFO, our luggage was not there.  It was still in Chicago because, as the baggage agent explained, ‘the connection had been too short to transfer the bags’.  Ahhh United, how do I hate thee?  Let me count the ways.


{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

jpd February 1, 2010 at 7:32 am

Ahh The old push back from the gate trick and then fix the problem so thy cant be charged with a late peparture


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