On August 20th, 3 colleagues and I left Newark Airport destination Rio de Janeiro via Charlotte, NC for a 3-day business trip. After a 2 hour layover in Charlotte, US Airways Flight 800 left to Rio de Janeiro around 10:30 PM. About one hour into the flight, the captain announces that we have a “red light” indicating that one of the engines is overheating and that we have to return to Charlotte. He adds that, “We shouldn’t worry when we land if we see fire trucks escorting us to the gate, this is a common security procedure.” OK, back to the gate.
It’s now 12:30 AM and the airport is closed. The pilot mentioned that we would have another aircraft waiting for us… really, at 12:30? After about 30 minutes, they announce that they will try to repair the aircraft and that we will need to be patient. We ask for a hotel room, they say no. After another hour, it is now maybe 2 AM, they tell us that the aircraft has been “fixed” and that they are going to test it on the runway for 30 minutes (which gives me a lot of confidence about the ability to FLY 10 hours to Rio). Remember it is the night, no business lounge, no food, nothing is open.
The saga continues. They announce that the aircraft is repaired, but now the crew is overtime and needs to be replaced. We see our captain and flight attendants leave. And we wait, and we wait… Every 30 minutes they make an announcement saying that we are still waiting for the full crew to be here. Finally, we board at 6 AM. Prior to that they give us a $10 voucher for food, in anticipation for the 10 hour flight, “because the food on board has gone bad.”
So we take off (second time) at 7 AM. At 7:45 the captain (the new one) announces that he is sorry to tell us that the red light has come back on and that we have to go back to… CHARLOTTE! I’m so tired at this stage that I fall asleep and when I wake up 2 hours later we are still circling around. With a red light and an overheating engine?? The captain then speaks again to tell us that we are “too heavy and that we need to circle for another 2 hours before we can land.” Well… how come we could land directly the first time? Answer: first time the light was solid red, thus emergency landing. This time it is only flashing, so it’s not an emergency and we can’t land loaded with fuel. Interesting, right?
We circled above North Carolina for 5 hours (nice for the environment) and finally landed at noon. I got rebooked via Dallas to Rio in economy, while I had a business class ticket. We decided not to go to Rio and to return to Newark. Our flight to Newark got delayed for 2 hours. US Airways was completely irresponsible, even in the way they managed the compensations! Really, really bad.