Pilot’s Prevaricated Prognostication

November 12, 2007

in Airplane Stories

August 17, 2007: American Airlines 525, Boeing 757 nonstop from Miami to Chicago O’Hare, sunny skies all the way, no delays taking off from Miami. No hassle, you’d think? Alas, no. Two hours into the flight, the pilot announces there is bad weather in Chicago and we must land in Indianapolis. In fact, he says that the weather is so bad in Chicago that other pilots are refusing to land there.

After only twenty minutes on the ground in Indianapolis, during which time we take on some fuel, we proceed to Chicago, landing 30 minutes later in calm winds and sunny skies. We miss our connecting flight and have to spend the night in a cheap airport hotel. The American agent in Chicago tells us that it has been perfect weather there all day.

What really happened? The American agent explained it to me. Dade County, Florida, it seems, charges a fuel surtax that is a few pennies per gallon higher than most other US airports. To save money, American orders its pilots to take on just enough fuel to reach the destination. Rather than there being bad weather in O’Hare, ATC had simply switched runways to accommodate a change in wind direction. This is an event that happens routinely several times a day. Alas, our flight, with the minimum fuel to reach Chicago, did not have enough fuel to circle around and get into the new landing queue. One hundred and fifty passengers were inconvenienced because of American’s miserly policy. Worse of all, however, was the pilot’s brazen lie about the weather. Unprofessional. The lesson: don’t fly American out of Miami.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Scott April 2, 2009 at 6:47 am

I call BS on this one. A diversion costs several thousand dollars for any airline. The pilot does not control the minimum fuel on the aircraft, the dispatcher does. They are both bound by LAW to comply with fuel requirements and neither is going to risk going to jail to save the airline a few pennies/gal on jetfuel.

Weather issues at ORD are sometimes more complex than just a thunderstorm here and there. ORD is/was so close to being over saturated by flights in/out that just a moderate NW wind can reduce the arrival rate of acft per hour that can be accomidated by ATC- (the US Govt employees charged with the smooth orderly flow of air traffic.)

I will agree that it was probably a wind shift that caused ATC to shift into their plan weird runway configuration delaying flights arriving into ORD causing a few to divert when planned hold fuel was exhausted (WIND IS WEATHER).

While you may have been delayed, the flight plan worked as designed. The flight departed, an unplanned event occured (windshift) and the flight was unable to hold untill ATC was able to accomidate it so it landed SAFELY at an alternate airport! Refueled and redeparted and landed SAFELY in ORD and you lived to

whine another day.

Next time, take the bus!

on a side note-

a. fuel is normally cheaper in MIA.

b. ATC is just like any other Govt agency. They don't care if your flight lands or not. Long as they get through their 8hr shift (4 hrs actually working as a controller). Just think what we have to look forward too with the Universal Health Care. It will be run by Govt employees like at the DMV/Social Sec office/IRS/Post Office. Never in any hurry, can do a poor job and still get their pay checks. U better pray that you don't ever get sick!

But Hey, You voted fot it!


Rob April 3, 2009 at 10:15 am

I call BS as well. Maybe $59 isn't the best way to fly an aluminum tube at 39,000 feet.

Besides that, not every air disturbance is visible. Just like swimming in the ocean, where there are different temperatures and currents from only 1-20 feet. The atmosphere is much more unpredictable.

Go look up some attempts at landing in cross-winds.

You are alive to bitch, but you are alive. Chances are, your pilot made the right decisions on your voyage from hell.


Susan May 5, 2009 at 6:37 am



Seb Wood November 23, 2009 at 10:20 am

thoughtful and considered susan


Richard McCoy May 13, 2013 at 11:26 am

BS. Any aircraft, commercial or otherwise when filing a IFR (instrument flight rules) flight plan must have enough fuel to reach its destination plus a 45 minute reserve. That is in the Federal Aviation Regulations and has the rule of law.


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