Airplanes “On Maintenance” Blamed for Delays

January 9, 2015

in Delay/Cancellation Stories

My wife and I recently flew SCE to PHL to SJU (and back) for a vacation in Puerto Rico. We made it there and back, but US Airways didn’t make it easy.

Heading out. When I booked the flights, we had a 60 minute layover in Philadelphia, which is typically plenty of time to take the bus from the commuter F terminal to a main terminal (in our case Terminal A). By the day of our trip, our commuter flight’s departure time had changed (later of course) and the departure time for our flight from PHL to SJU had changed (earlier of course). OK, now we have a 48 minute layover. Still sufficient if everything goes well.

Get to the airport (SCE) for a 5:50AM departure. Great news, it’s December but it’s above freezing and the weather is clear. No matter, we de-ice the plane anyway (our layover time is ticking away). The pilots really floor the regional jet, a bus to Terminal A is waiting when we get to the exit, and we step off the bus and into Terminal A at 7:05AM. Our flight to San Juan (Gate A23) is at 7:35AM. Half an hour, no problem.

As we step past Gate A1 an announcement comes on indicating our flight “has completed general boarding and if you are not on board immediately you will lose your seat.” Mad dash to the end of Terminal A (A-23) to keep our seats. I thought the tickets said 20 minutes before the flight, but apparently US Airways feels one should be there 30 minutes before departure. So, functionally, we only had an 18 minute layover? Oh well, at least we made it.

On the way back, the terminal is jammed because an earlier flight from SJU to PHL is delayed for mechanical reasons. If you have not been to SJU, it is OK, but small. Too many people. Our flight is leaving on time so eventually they change our departure gate and we get out of the crowd. Once on board, we wait 30 minutes for a push back crew. OK, this time we have a 1 hour 47 minute layover in Philly. Get to Philly 30 minutes late, but our 8:30PM flight home is delayed to 9:53PM. We wait for the late plane to arrive, which it does around 9:15PM.

Now the fun begins. The gate agent announces our flight is delayed further because the plane is “on maintenance.” In the Philadelphia airport, this is US Airways speak for “we aren’t sure what we’re going to do but we don’t want to cancel your flight just yet.” Despite the plane being delayed for maintenance, it is sitting dark at the gate and there is no one doing any maintenance. The crew is long gone.

At about 10:10pm the gate agent announces a gate change from F-38 to F-3 and a new departure time of 10:40pm. So, we’ll take a different plane home, but it is coming in from Detroit and has not yet arrived. Sitting at F-3, the plane arrives, the crew leaves, and then the agent announces the flight is further delayed because the plane (that just arrived from Detroit) is “on maintenance.” Looking out the window we see the same thing… a dark plane, no one around, no one doing any maintenance. It’s getting close to 11PM now. Anyone who asked gate personnel about the flight was told only that it was “on maintenance.”

As the remaining flights leave and we are among the only passengers left in the terminal, my wife approaches a manager with the charm offensive. She gets out of him that a crew coming in on a flight that’s arriving soon will come over to our gate and crew our flight. This in fact happens. The plane arrives at the adjacent gate around 11:10pm. The crew grabs some food, etc. and comes to our gate around 11:20 to applause. They’re appreciative, but say to hold on as we’re not sure we’re going yet. But after another 10 minutes doing preflight checks (no maintenance was ever done on the plane), we board and arrive home at 12:30AM.

We found out the crew’s assignment was “extended” as they were not originally to fly this route that night. I don’t know if they had a choice or not, but I do appreciate that they flew and did so with a positive attitude.

Nonetheless, if you fly US Airways, watch your layover times and get to your connections 30 minutes early. And if you’re ever delayed in Philadelphia because your plane is “on maintenance,” be prepared to not really know what is going on. My wife asked the manager if “US Air keeps employees in the dark about things so they do not have to lie to passengers?” His reply was, “I ask myself that question every day.”

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Robert January 9, 2015 at 1:02 pm

Lesson learned long ago: Avoid Philly like the plague.


Robert January 9, 2015 at 1:04 pm

Lesson learned long ago:I think it needed to be repeated.


RST January 12, 2015 at 3:13 pm

Extended lessson: Avoid US Airways like the plague


Craig March 2, 2015 at 2:29 am

Odd in a way, as even if a plane is delayed and "on maintenance" at a minimum the gate agent should have made an announcement as to an advise time when more will be known about the maintenance issue. Typically airlines like to hold back with all the delay facts so as to not lose passengers to competing airlines. In any event I agree, stay away from the Philadelphia Airport.


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