Air Force One Delays Flights

March 28, 2010

in Delay/Cancellation Stories

Having cancelled a flight on Continental due to a military obligation in 2004, I was relieved to find that with a little pressing, Continental would grant me a full refund for use towards a future flight in 2007. That was the high point of the experience. Flying from Providence to Charleston, SC on Continental requires a stopover in Cleveland or Newark. I stupidly chose Newark.

PVD to EWR is a 45 minute flight, about 130 miles as the crow flies. EWR, on a late Friday afternoon, is inescapably delayed. On this day, it was more delayed than normal since the chock-a-block flight scheduling balance had been upset by Air Force One using NYC airspace for an event in Connecticut, where I can only imagine flights were re-routed and delayed to keep the President’s airspace clear.

So, with all of this information available regarding normal conditions at EWR and the special “extra” delays inserted for security reasons, one would think that a small commuter jet would be able to plan ahead and have enough fuel to make it from PVD – EWR. Nope, apparently the jet took off with just enough to enter EWR airspace, circle twice, get informed that the holding pattern would take an hour to get through and then decide the only option was to divert north to Albany. Albany by the way is 150 miles to the north, the same distance we had just covered!

Once on the ground in 95 degree 95% humidity heat, we were given one beer, and one beer only, while sitting there for 2 hours for the refueling to occur and ground delays at EWR to clear. As expected, we landed in EWR in time to miss most of our connections, with only as much as a recommendation to go see the customer service counter to rebook.

Well, of course Continental’s poor planning and situational awareness of the conditions at EWR could not possibly be their fault. So, as they informed me the only way to get to Charleston was on Delta the next morning with yet another layover in Atlanta, they couldn’t be bothered with paying for my hotel room, since the whole fiasco was apparently EWR’s fault and not the airline’s!

So, after getting 4 hours of sleep at the Days Inn Newark Airport (the only other highlight of the entire adventure), and getting back to EWR at 4:30 AM, I successfully made it to Atlanta on my new Continental flight.

Unbeknownest to me, and with nary a warning from Continental, when a flight gets booked by one airline through another, a flight coupon is required. This is apparently a security measure left over from the days of paper tickets where dot matrix printer fraud was easy. You guessed it, Continental had provided no flight coupon, even though they somehow printed me a boarding pass on Continental paper for a Delta flight.

Well, I figured better safe than sorry, and showed my boarding pass to the Delta gate agent, who promptly converted it into a brand new Delta boarding pass. On the boarding pass, where it lists seating assignment, in big bold letters, “FLIGHT COUPON REQUIRED.” I asked the agent what that meant, and he said no problem, to just board when called. So, 45 minutes pass and my zone is called. As I hand this boarding pass to the new gate agent, he immediately tells me I have to go to customer service to get the flight coupon issue rectified. When I ask will they hold the plane for me since I have to go to the opposite end of the Atlanta terminal to get to customer service, he informs me he is powerless, and that the airline is not responsible for me missing my flight.

After a lot of running, getting the paperwork straight and running again, I made the flight, landing in Charleston 12 hours late. Thankfully I was carryon only, since I am not confident my luggage would have survived such an ordeal. I am still amazed that I did.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

david March 29, 2010 at 5:13 pm

I believe the story happened for the majority, just have one little issue with it……..the beer part, i have never seen any airline give out a free beer to anyone under any circumstance, did they go around asking for ID? haha unless you were on the plane but from what i gather you were in the terminal…in which case they would provide water and/or soda/juice but not beer

and about the fuel situation, small planes such as the ones used for 45min flights dont have huge gas tanks so they may have had a full tank but due to the structure it can only fly x amount of hours


xxx April 11, 2013 at 10:21 pm

well david i dont believe you've ever left your parents basement


Buggie September 9, 2011 at 2:19 pm

Had that happen before to my mom. Flying back through Atlanta and held for 45 minutes in order for AF1 to fly out. Watch broke during the holding pattern.


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