Travel Tribulations on the Way to Winnipeg

August 21, 2012

in Delay/Cancellation Stories

Recently while travelling from Nashville to Winnipeg, what began as a typical Monday morning standard routine flying day turned into one of the most miserable travel experiences I have experienced in over thirty years of travel. I arrived at the airport at 4:30am for a regularly scheduled flight on Delta to Minneapolis at 6:05am and then on to Winnipeg, MB where I typically arrive around 10:30am. Usually an uneventful trip and the business week is usually off to a good start. I checked my bag in at the counter and received my boarding passes with no issue.

After going through security and then directly to the gate, I learn that the flight has been rescheduled for six hours later in the day, information that would have been helpful when I was at the counter not five minutes earlier. Regardless, I was really not in a major hurry for the morning and the gate agent was efficient at re-booking me on a United Airlines flight leaving about the same time but laying over at Chicago-O’Hare. The arrival in Winnipeg was to only be about an hour later than planned so this was no big change to my schedule. The part about having to go through O’Hare should have set off my sixth sense that this was not going to be a normal day.

Arrival to Chicago was uneventful, but I immediately found out that my flight to Winnipeg was delayed. The delays just kept coming with the only reason being given that the airplane was being serviced. We finally boarded and left three hours behind schedule. Bad enough that we left late, but about halfway to our destination the pilot announced that we had a minor maintenance issue, and that in consultation with “The Company” we would be returning to Chicago instead of going on to Winnipeg and we needed to fly around in circles for a while to burn off fuel.

Finally, back in Chicago we had to wait about an hour to board a new plane. It appeared that all would go well, same flight crew and passengers and all and hopefully no new drama. After loading however, and waiting about a half hour after the plane was completely loaded, the pilot again comes on the intercom and announces that they have determined that the flight attendant would be out of hours by the time we arrived at our destination so we now needed to wait for a replacement. You would think someone in United’s management chain would have figured this out over an hour ago and arranged for a relief. Not the case however and yet again we waited another half an hour for the replacement to arrive.

Finally, we’re on the way to Winnipeg and everyone was nervous that something else would happen to delay this flight. Fortunately that did not happen and we finally reached Winnipeg at almost 8:00pm. This was a trip that was supposed to take a total of four and a half hours including layover time, not a bad travel day. Instead it took about 14 hours. In trying to understand the impact of this trip I calculated that the distance from Nashville to Winnipeg is about 1200 air miles and we were using jets capable of approximately 540 miles per hour. When all was said and done, this trip that should have averaged 300 MPH including change time actually was accomplished at the phenomenal speed of 85 MPH. Operational excellence is certainly not the watchword with United as the gate agents in Chicago were jerks during the whole process and acted like they could not understand why anyone would be upset with the situation.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

madachode August 23, 2012 at 11:04 am

The airline didn't wake you up @ 4:30 and the airline didn't prevent you from checking ahead to see if the flight was delayed.


Rufus Bigford September 4, 2012 at 4:52 pm

The airline listed the flight as on time up until just after the moment I checked in. Also, I have the Delta app that informs me when there is a change in flight status. Calling before hand would have made difference in this matter. Besides, my problem was not with the original flight being cancelled as much as the other issues encounter throughout the day. Being an experienced traveller, at least 4 flights per week, I don't expect everything to be perfect, but I do expect better when there are obvious operational excellence practices that would prevent some items simple issues, like knowing that a crews flight hours are about up.


Hack August 25, 2012 at 11:45 am

You start to wonder about these airlines, huh?


madachode August 26, 2012 at 1:56 am

Hellen Keller would have had a better time moving around by airplane.


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