The air travel industry is not popular with consumers. Or rather, it is popular, because people want and need to travel. However, from buying tickets at outlandish prices to long lines at security, followed by the security x-ray and partial pat down, (after which they rifle through your bag because of the bottle of water you forgot was there, followed by a second screening of your now water bottle-less bag) one can get a little cranky. Even at the gate, the crowded, weary travelers endure being begged over the loudspeaker to check their carry-on bags. (Instead of the begging, why not just let people check bags for free at the counter?)
But while I could go on all day about the annoyances of air travel, I would like to praise my flight crew yesterday. It’s so easy to complain, but also important to give thanks when appropriate.
At 4 p.m. Central, I boarded a flight from Boston Logan to Chicago on United. Before I stepped on the plane, everything I wrote above happened, and honestly, besides the pat down, it didn’t faze me at all. As the United employees are begging for bags to be checked over the loudspeaker a little nudge in my stomach tells me to buy a book quickly in case the flight is delayed. (I forgot mine at home).
We depart a couple of minutes late, and then the plane is off. However the 2.5 hour flight soon becomes a 3.5 hour flight as weather delays in Chicago are apparent. The flight approaches from the South, then the West, and finally touches down.
When we land the very friendly pilot lets us know that we cannot approach the gate because United has removed all of its employees from the gates and baggage area for fear of being struck by lightning.
That’s when I start to get anxious. I’ve heard stories about people being stuck on the runway for hours and hours without being able to go to the bathroom, and no food or water.
But what could have been a terrible experience was averted because of the pilot and the flight crew. First of all, the pilot communicated with the passengers throughout the delay. He gave us updates when he had them, and also told us when he didn’t have them. The flight crew put on an action comedy movie and handed out headsets. They gave us water and pretzels. There was no issue with using the bathroom or getting out of our seats. Their main goal seemed to be making us comfortable. At hour 3 on the ground, I did ask the flight attendant if they had ever considered bringing out CTA buses to get us. She smiled, but her eyes flashed, you are starting to lose it. I still think it’s a good idea.
At 3.5 hours, the pilot gave us the good news, we would be pulling up the gate (the last one in the C terminal) and everyone clapped.
As I walked through O’Hare last night completely exhausted, I saw about a thousand people there waiting for their flights to depart or waiting in the cancelled ticket line. I was thankful for our flight crew and even more so that I was home.
Well, home after an hour ride on the backed up Kennedy Expressway.
But at least not on a plane.