The problems began when the pilot came onto the PA system to announce that “unfortunately” there had been problem with the plane, and while it didn’t put us in any danger, we were going to have to return to Chicago. This was on flight 3513 from Chicago to Rochester, NY Saturday afternoon. Airtime for the flight was supposed to be about an hour and 15 minutes. After we turned around, we flew for about 45 minutes, so we must have been more than half way to Rochester when the decision was made to turn back.
Now I’m not a person to question the airline when they make a decision involving my safety. If they felt that we needed to turn back, instead of, say, landing in Cleveland, or Detroit, who am I to question it. I will admit that there were a few moments during that return flight that I wondered what could have happened to the plane to warrant turning back as opposed to making a quick landing. But again, who am I to question.
After we landed in Chicago things began to go downhill.
The airline didn’t know whether we were going to be returning to the same plane, or if we were going to be re-booked on another flight, or if we were going to get a replacement plane. (Really? They couldn’t decide that?) So, just as I was heading away from the gate area to go look for a bite to eat (I hadn’t had any lunch), they announced that we needed to stay in the gate area to listen for further instructions. That made me think that an announcement was imminent, so I hung around. A half hour later, still no word. And still no lunch.
Then they told us that they had gotten us a new plane and that we would be boarding “soon.” Not wanting to miss the opportunity to board “soon,” I continued to wait in the gate area rather than going to look for some lunch.
After another half hour or so, we were able to board our new plane.
We sat in the plane in the gate while the pilot and crew made the new plane ready. This seemed to take an awfully long time, and eventually our friendly pilot explained the delay. Something was amiss with the software, and they had had to do all the calculations about weight and so forth manually. (What!!??) Well, we sure didn’t want them to rush that did we?
Eventually the math was done, evidently, but doing it “manually” took so much time that the pilot now announced that the crew was up against its mandatory shift limit. They would be unable to take us to Rochester. A new crew would be arriving “shortly.” Again, I’m not one to want a pilot to work longer than he or she is allowed to work.
At one point an announcement was made that the new pilot was on his way and it would be about 5 minutes. A half hour later the pilot arrived. (Keep in mind that we were in the jet, at the gate, all this time.)
So now the new crew needs to go through the pre-flight checklist. Hey, I’m not going to expect the new pilot to take the old pilot’s checkmarks as a given. Are you?
Finally, we depart from the gate and make our way out to the runways. This is O’Hare, and you can just imagine the line of planes waiting for clearance for takeoff. We took our place in line. Eventually the new pilot comes on the PA to explain the latest delay: for some reason no one had filed a flight plan with the FAA. He was doing so right then, and we would have to wait for it to be approved before we could leave. I wonder why this wasn’t one of the things on the checklist that both pilots had completed? But hey, I sure don’t want to be in the air around O’Hare without a flight plan. Do you?
So, finally, everything was in order, and off we went to Rochester.
I sure was hungry when I got home five hours late. But I sure am glad I made it safely home. Could be worse. And look at all the things I learned about the way a big airline operates.