Trapped In Purgatory

June 29, 2009

in Delay/Cancellation Stories

When we decided to take our young son on his first flight, we made sure we got a non-stop flight United from Dulles to Portland Oregon. I was terrified that my son was going to be disruptive (still nursing, and just a little more than a year old), but I quickly found that that was the least of my worries. Luckily it wasn’t a very full flight, and we had the center 4 seats to ourselves. Now the weather in Dulles was clear, and we pushed off the gate. However, we were quickly parked on the ramp, and told we were on hold due to weather. The flight attendants told us that we needed to remain seated, and they couldn’t do any type of service, because we could be cleared at virtually any second to take off. So we sat. For more than 3 hours.

Initially everyone was pretty calm, but after hours, no service, nothing, nerves were shot. People needed to get up to go to the bathroom. So they let folks use the rest room, and handed out some water. After a couple of hours, the masses started demanding to be put back to the gate so we could at least eat. There was no end in sight for the delay. We just couldn’t get a straight answer. Finally, we were told that they were going to take us back to the gate, so we could eat and such, but needed to leave our stuff on the plane as they would make a call to quickly board once cleared. So we get back to the gate, get off, and now spend another 4 plus hours in the gate waiting to leave. At this point we are begging for the flight to be cancelled so we could get our bags and go home. But United refused to cancel the flight.

Finally the announcement is made, and we are hurriedly rushed back on to the plane. We start up, back out and taxi — right back to the parking ramp. Now people are furious. What the heck is going on? We now again sit stuck in the plane for hours. Without warning, we start up, everyone cheers, but wait, we’re going back to the gate. What is going on? Everyone is told to disembark, and everyone makes sure to take all of their belongings with them. By this time my poor son has been pretty wonderful, but has also thrown up on my wife, and we are all a mess.

We get off the plane and go to the counter, only to find that the flight crew will exceed their hours if we took off, and they are trying to get another crew to fly the plane. Well, I have to tell you, there was plenty of screaming and yelling and I have to say it was close to a riot. I happened to be standing a couple of counters down watching what was going on, and there was a person from United at the counter. She tells me the flight was just that moment cancelled and I begged her to let me re-ticket with her, so my family could go home. She was the only saving grace, as she did reschedule us on a flight the following day. The mob at the other counter was getting so out of hand, that the counter staff told them they needed to all go back to ticketing to get their flights changed. They just wanted to get out of the situation.

We had arrived at the airport around 4:30pm for the flight, and got to our car to drive back home around 8am. Fifteen and a half hours at the airport, and we never left the ground.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Anonymous June 30, 2009 at 2:19 pm

Oh my gosh!!! I dont know what i would have done if i was in your situation.. I hope they gave you more then just a ticket on another flight!!


Sam September 19, 2009 at 11:44 am

Really crazy. But what makes it worse is the attitude of airline staff


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