Delayed And Unable To Contact Dad

July 30, 2010

in Delay/Cancellation Stories

A long long time ago in a country far away… I was a graduate student in the UK, flying home for summer break, 1983. It was only my second international flight. My parents booked me a seat on a charter flight from Gatwick to Kennedy. I arrived on time at Gatwick, and got myself checked in properly. There had been reports of delays due to weather in New York the day before, but none of the flights showed any delays. I go through the emigration queue to the waiting area at Gatwick, where I see they’ve updated the flight. Five hour late departure.

I’m a student. I had something like 82p in my pocket. I try calling my parents to warn them, but no one is home to take a collect call. As time passes, the flight is delayed even further, to a 9 hour late departure. I never reach my parents. The only compensation provided was essentially a mercy voucher from Gatwick for 3 pounds.

Back home, my father calls the charter and he’s told the flight is on time. So, he goes from northern New Jersey to Kennedy Airport, only to be told at the airport that the plane hasn’t taken off from London. He goes home to sleep since the estimated arrival time is now 1AM, and it is 4PM.

Finally, the flight lands. It is about 1AM. The bags start appearing at about 2:30AM, maybe one bag every two minutes. There’s no way for me to contact my father to tell him I’m off the plane (no cell phones in 1983!) so he just has to wait, and wait… I finally get my bag and get through customs and immigration at 5AM… It took four hours to get the luggage off the plane.

My parents agreed I could toss the return ticket and fly PeoplExpress to return to grad school three weeks later. That was hassle free.

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