Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Flying on the Ground

We continue from the previous post with more "Great Moments in Customer Service."

Several years ago, I made it a personal policy that a trip must be more than 1000 miles before I will consider flying. It's not that I am afraid of flying; it's just that I have found a 1000 mile trip in a tiny car with no air conditioning, screaming kids, bald tires and tornado warnings is just as pleasant as a 1000 mile flight. Usually we even drive the 1200 miles to visit my family, but I found some cheap airfare for the holidays, and we decided to fly instead.

The travel experience went pretty well even though we could only fly within 120 miles of our destination and had to drive the rest of the way. The final leg of the journey home involved a short flight from Dallas-Fort Worth to our small paradise here in the Great Republic. As we sat on the plane and neared our departure time, the captain came on the intercom and said, "Well folks, we're all set to go. We're just waiting to get fueled up. I keep calling for the fuel truck, but no one is answering the phone."

Although ensuring planes get the necessary fuel would be considered the primary part of the job of the fuel truck operator, I decided I would shrug off this inconvenience. Everyone has a bad day now and then. Plus, we're already on the plane for the last leg of the journey, not much else could go wrong.

The fuel truck eventually showed up, and we departed maybe twenty minutes late. After a short flight, we touched down an hour later at our home airport.

"Isn't it nice we live so close to the airport now?" St. Pauli Girl asked. "We'll probably be home in ten minutes."

The plane taxied from the runway then stopped just short of the gate area. The captain's voice came over the intercom, "Well folks, there's another plane currently at our gate. He should be on his way shortly. We'll have to wait here a few more minutes."

Let's review our time dictionary:

If you say:                               I hear:
Just a second                          1 to 5 seconds
In a moment                           5 to 30 seconds
In a minute                             30 to 90 seconds
In a couple of minutes            1.5 to 2.5 minutes
In a few minutes                    2.5 to 3.5 minutes
In five minutes                       4.5 to 5.5 minutes
15 minutes                            Oh no
A long time                           I'll never hear from you again

Even if you don't totally agree with my chart, I think we can all agree that "a few minutes" is a lot less than "30 minutes" which is how long we waited for that plane to move. And this is a small airport. There are only eight gates of which only five are actually used. How hard could it be to go to another gate?

Finally, the plane started moving to the gate area. You could hear the entire cabin sigh in relief. The plane maneuvered toward an empty gate 8. Then suddenly, the plane did a complete 180 degree turn back to where we came from then stopped again. The captain's voice came on again, "Well folks, we're not quite there yet, we just had to move out of the way for another plane that just landed."

I watched in awe as the other plane pulled up to an empty gate. I could see passengers standing up, ready to disembark. About five minutes later, our plane started moving again. This time I could see a crew set up to guide our plane to a gate. We finally managed to get off the plane 45 minutes after having landed.

I went to retrieve the car while St. Pauli Girl waited in baggage claim for our lone bag. I pulled up to the baggage claim area only to find a long line of cars ahead of me. They were all idle and no one seemed to be exiting the terminal. Another twenty minutes passed with no sign of action. I tried to call St. Pauli Girl but she didn't answer. I noticed a few people with baggage come out of the terminal. I pulled out of the line of cars and decided to double park by the door. When I got there I saw St. Pauli Girl with no luggage. She reported our luggage hadn't come off the plane yet.

Turned out that our wonderful airline had only two people working that night. They had to load up the plane that we had been waiting to clear the gate and handle our plane after we parked. At the same time. I'm pretty sure those flights had been on the schedule for a few months. I'm pretty sure a smart cookie supervisor could have scheduled enough people or called in someone on fear of losing his/her job or death.

We eventually got our bag and made it home two hours after having landed. (Did I mention we live five minutes from the airport?) But to top it all off, we paid $25 for the expert handling of our luggage! I'm pretty sure I could have offered anyone in the terminal $20 to go retrieve our bag from the plane, and we'd have gotten it within five minutes.

So I've decided to update my policy: 1500 miles or less, we drive.


  1. Man, after reading this, I'll never complain about Air Canada again.

    1. Well yeah, but at least Air Canada is probably very polite to you. Thanks for the comment!

  2. I think perhaps your new policy should be to stay at home (off ladders) from now on and let the others come visit you.

    You all should've been let off the plane as soon as it landed just short of the gate area..you could've walked to your final destination much quicker!

    I reckon a couple of beers or bourbons would've been most welcome when you did finally reach that destination! :)

    1. Actually it's a good thing I had a couple beers before I got on the plane or I would have really been mad. thanks for the comment!

  3. Oooooh, Dexter. I feel your pain.

    "I have found a 1000 mile trip in a tiny car with no air conditioning, screaming kids, bald tires and tornado warnings is just as pleasant as a 1000 mile flight." So true!!!

    1. I think I might just give up traveling completely. Thanks for the comment!