Saturday, April 23, 2005

A day late and...

You may have noticed that my Friday posting went up on Saturday morning. Here’s my story (and I’m stickin’ to it):

My little twin turboprop commuter flight from Houston to Victoria was delayed last night. The 30-seat plane was reported as “in maintenance.” 7:00 p.m. boarding time came and went. 7:35 departure time came and went.

At 8:00 all 28 of us crammed ourselves into the shuttle bus and made it to the plane. Just then, for the first time all day, rain began pelting down. Undeterred, we braved the deluge and boarded the plane. Many of the 28 passengers used cell phones to call folks in Victoria and let them know how late we expected to be. It seemed to take forever for the baggage to be loaded aboard, but finally the door was shut and we taxied.

During taxi we all noticed intermittent fog pouring out of the air conditioner vents. When the fog stopped, warm air took its place.

We took off. After a rather short climb we leveled off just in time to enter a pretty violent thunderstorm. “Turbulence” doesn’t begin to describe the ride. But for the seat belts we’d have all been bouncing off the floor, ceiling and windows.

A little of that goes a long way, but after what seemed like 30 minutes (really about 5) the flight deck crew announced that we were returning to Houston because of cabin pressurization problems.

Well, that was no surprise. During the violent ride we’d all noticed our ears alternating between positive and negative pressure. It took a total of 40 minutes to circle back and land in Houston, where we had just left. The flight to Victoria would only have taken 35 minutes.

We deplaned, boarded the same bus, and returned to the same departure gate we had left from. (OK you purists, I should have written "from which we had left," but that sounds stilted). The airline personnel announced to us that there would be a 45 minute attempt to repair the problem. If a repair was unlikely or impossible, they would “air swap” us.

What the hell does THAT mean?

I guess it’s obvious, but in airline talk that means they’d put us in a different plane.

Our response was to look at each other, then walk to the person who announced that plan and say, “DUH! Air swap us NOW, please. Why wait?”

Although they had no answer for, “Why wait,” they wanted to attempt the repair first.

Guess what? The repair attempt failed. So we were air swapped. At 11:00 p.m., four hours after our scheduled boarding time, we boarded the “new” airplane.

Here’s the surprising part. After all that hassle, delay and inconvenience, the passengers were in a giddy mood. They laughed and told jokes with perfect strangers. One person told the flight attendant, “Hey, we ought to all get free cocktails for this!” She checked with her boss and said, “OK. Free cocktails for everyone.”

That put everyone in an even BETTER mood.

Best of all, once we were airborne we found that the violent weather had blown past and we had a very smooth 35 minute flight to Victoria.

I made it home after midnight. Hey, it coulda been worse!

So that’s why the Friday post came up on Saturday. Oh, and tune in tomorrow for some cell-phone pictures of Trevor.


Candace said...

Whew! I would think everyone NEEDED that drink by then!

Monica said...

I can understand the giddiness. Although probably commonplace in the airline industry, bumpy air rides give new meaning to viewing mortality.
So relief was running abundant in spite of the four-hour delay.
Glad you're all okay and home safe and sound!