Commercial Air Travel: A True Story

This is a true account of one day in commercial air travel. Posted on Facebook in 2014.


You wake up absurdly early to catch the first flight to the west coast.

You leave the house at 5:30 to make your 7:30 flight so that you can be on the west coast for a day of important meetings.

You board the plane at 7:00.

7:30 comes and goes and you're still sitting there.

At 8:00 the pilot announces that the delay is due to a broken seat. Regulations require that the seat be trussed up like a calf at the rodeo. It is apparently inadequate to just say over the intercom, "Hey, don't sit in that broken seat." The proprieties must be observed.

At 8:50 we back away from the gate. It has taken absurdly long to wrap the seat. We progress a distance of 100 yards and stop.

We wait in subdued anticipation.

At 9:00 the pilot announces that there are loud alarms going off in the cockpit related to shifting power from the ground supply to the engines and we have to go see what's wrong.

We sit around in a stifling airplane without further explanation for 45 minutes.

The natives start becoming restless.

At 9:50 our captors allow us to get off the plane to stretch our legs.

At 11:00 we are summoned back on the plane to taxi to the runway so we can sit there for 45 minutes. The plane was apparently insufficiently stifling back at the gate.

We sit in silence with no knowledge of our fate for 50 minutes.

At 11:50 the pilot announces that right before we were to take off one of the navigation computers died. We are returning to the gate.

t 12:15 we stagger off the plane. Again. We fortify ourselves with what food and Starbucks can be had.

Some passengers conclude that the solution to our problems is to yell at the gate attendants. On the apparent expectation that these gate ladies in their dresses and heels will respond to the shouting by bolting down the jetway, Wonder woman-like, to save the navigation computers. People do have strange expectations.

Instead, the gate attendants respond to the shouting by calling security. The sudden and unexpected arrival of the burly police officer brings on the sudden realization for the shouters that the gate ladies won't be the ones fixing the navigation computer after all. It's funny how that works.

At 1:45 we get back on the plane. We taxi to the runway.

We stop and wait in bitter silence for 30 minutes.

The pilot comes on the intercom to say that due to weather we're having to reroute and it will take a minute to redo our route before we take off.

We wait another 45 minutes without explanation. One begins to suspect that the recently "repaired" navigational computers do not yet have their calculation mojo back.

But lo, the pilot comes on the intercom to say that we have lost DC voltage in part of the electrical system and he thinks "this plane must have a gremlin". This is not a remark designed to conjure up confidence in the hearts of the passenger population.

We go back to the gate.

We receive meal vouchers of sufficient value to buy an airport peanut and a crust of bread.

At 3:30 we board a completely different airplane. We are now 8 hours late leaving Dallas.

We taxi to the runway where we wait some more. There's weather delaying things again.

We wait around on the runway for an hour. We are now 9 hours late leaving.

The passengers start taking on a haunted, desperate look. Dark circles under the eyes are everywhere on display. I myself am starting to wonder if I'm stuck in some kind of perverse American Way magazine version of the movie "Groundhog Day".

The fourth or fifth time boarding the plane you realize that you're just going through the motions, no longer having any real expectation of ever arriving at your destination. You are without hope.

That's when they decide to take off right into the teeth of a Texas thunderstorm.

Air travel is so glamorous.

Written by

Keith Lowery

Follower of Christ. Husband. Father. Grandfather. Maker. Consumer of Data. Reader of Books. Writer of Code.


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