Adventures in Travelling…

by vernsanders on September 29, 2009

You may have seen on the internet, or heard it on the radio or TV the story about the plane that was brought back to the terminal because of a passenger’s ill-timed bathroom break. This story has a particular interest to me, because I was there…well, sort of…

On my way to Oklahoma City yesterday–flying on United–I changed planes at LAX. At the next gate the harried, but in charge, gate agent was dealing with this mess…plane returning to the gate, everybody off the plane, etc.

But the ONLY reason I know that is because everybody had been pulled off of our flight for an equipment problem.

So you’ve got 2 planes full of people milling in the gate area, standing in lines trying to get reconnected, etc. Three gate agents working two gates. Chaos. At one point our gate was trying to tell us what was happening, but he was interrupting the other gate’s agent’s announcement…I saw the look they shared, and it wasn’t pretty.

So we were back on our plane in 30 minutes, but there were people who missed their connections as a result of it.

But here’s the good part. Our equipment problem? The PA wasn’t working correctly. Now I understand that it might be important to have the PA working in the case of emergency, but this was not a life/death airplane part that had to be replaced.

If you’ve already jumped ahead, then why did we all have to evacuate the plane? Because the plane had to be completely powered off to rebood the system. And FAA regulations apparently require that no passengers be on the plane when the power is turned off.

Again, I sort of understand this…it’s to avoid the kind of situation where you spend 12 hours on a runway in a plane with nothing working (right, Jet Blue?) But for a procedure like this? to reboot the PA?

And here’s the really interesting part. There were two United (I’m assumiing) pilots sitting in exit row seats on one side of the aircraft THEY DIDN’T GET OFF. Well, actually, one did, but that was much later, when we reboarded the plane, because in the meantime, another paying passenger showed up.

I am forever grateful to a wonderful professor of mine at Stanford–Imogene Horsley. She did a lot of research in Italy, and one day, in conversation, she said “Flying in Italy is an adventure. Whenever I travel now, I just mentally allow for it to take the whole day. That way, any part of the day that it doesn’t take is a gift.” I’ve adopted that policy, and it has allowed me, many times since, to take a rather bemused attitude toward the whole process…and the passengers that get so excised over how they have been “wronged” by the airlines because their flight is delayed for whatever reason.

Kudos to all those great gate agents out there. Sure, some of them are jerks, but I’ve found that, when it comes to travel, and gate agents, you get back what you put in. Treat them badly, and they can make your travel experience miserable. Be nice, and nice things can happen.

Thanks to the airlines who take equipment failure (and weird bathroom breaks) seriously.

But, please…evacuate the plane to reboot the PA?

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