Saturday, June 14, 2008


Judy, Katie Bug (our granddaughter), and I went to New York this past week with Terri, Steve, and Juliana (their granddaughter).

Our flight to New York began on Flight 5881 at 10:29 AM (Eastern) Sunday (6/8/08) out of Knoxville, Tennessee to Chicago and was on time and smooth as glass to O’Hare. United Airlines boarded Flight 646 for New York at 1:15 PM (Central). The pilot announced a 30 minute hold at the terminal, which went by fairly quickly. We then got the go ahead and taxied into position behind about 25 to 30 other aircraft full of eager passengers.

The pilot soon came on and announced he was shutting down the right engine to conserve fuel, because the storm that had recently passed through Chicago was now between us and New York. Newark (New Jersey) had notified Chicago that it was not accepting aircraft for one hour.

The pilot told us that he was requesting a flight plan around the storm, so we sat and waited…hoping he was successful.

He then came back and said that he could not accept a “fly around” because there was not enough fuel on board, and that he would have to go to the terminal to fill up.

At the terminal, the pilot promised it only took about 45 minutes to take on the fuel (including the time it took for the tanker to arrive).

The tanker arrived and we finally backed out of the gate. I was watching one of the ground support guys as he flagged us safely backward. He looked down at his watch and then looked up and crossed the flashlights stopping the plane and then went forward to put the plane back at the gate.

Suddenly the engines stopped again and the pilot announced that the “flight crew” was now “illegal” and would have to be replaced – shift change!

While we waited for this, they announced that we could leave the plane and go back into the terminal until the new crew arrived. There was also a warning that the plane would leave (with or without us) when the crew arrived, so we needed to stay close to the terminal gate.

We quickly made it off the plane to find something quick for lunch, a meal that was now at least 3 hours overdue! We feed the young ones and ourselves and headed promptly back to the gate and onto the plane. We were greeted by a new team of attendants, all fresh and ready to tackle a grumpy bunch of short-tempered travelers.

We sat on the plane with a promise from the pilot that he would not back out of the terminal until he had his flight plan and a take off time verified by Newark.

We did back out eventually, but after we did, we keep getting notices of 30 and 45 minutes holds while on the tarmac.

Long story short, we spent in excess of 5 hours in delays in Chicago. When we arrived at Newark, it had taken us a total of 12 hours to fly from Knoxville to New York. Google says it is 751 miles from my house to 226 W. 52nd Street in New York City (Hotel Novotel Times Square), about 12 hours and 9 minutes!

I heard this made the national news this week, so you may have heard something about irate travelers in Chicago.

One side note, there were three passengers with small dogs on the plane, which was my first encounter with pets within the aircraft cabin. I felt sorry for them stuck there under the seats, but soon their owners pulled them out and onto their laps. I once dozed off and woke suddenly when something bumped me. When I looked up I was face-to-face with a big rat…I mean a Chihuahua!

On the way back to use one of the lavatories, I noticed the other two dogs standing on “pee pads” back in the galley! As I stepped across I pointed down at one of the dogs and said, “Better hurry, or I’ll use that thing!”

[I need to thank Jeff (FHB) for helping to keep me sane through this ordeal. He and I talked or sent text messages frequently. He was dealing with his own layover problems in Atlanta about the same time I was parked at O’Hare! Thanks brother!]

Sometime around midnight, after riding the bumpy New Jersey Turnpike we made the hotel, which was within eye shot of Times Square, which seems much larger on TV!

After showers around, we fell into bed with a cellphone set to awaken us at 5:30! We hit the ground running bright and early Monday morning and did not slow down until late Wednesday night.

More on that later.


Lin said...

Gack! Hope the flight back went a lot quicker. Can't wait to see what mischief you bunch got into there.

Jeni said...

How long was this flight supposed to take to begin with? Just seems really crazy to me that after a delay, refueling, etc., things got hung up again due to a shift change. What if you'd taken off immediately after the first delay and the time element for the shift change need had kicked in while you were aloft? Would they have sent up another plane, met yours like a tanker plane refueling another and the new crew -how would they have gone from one plane to take over the other one. Way weird, way confusing. But, better you than me and you did make it eventually to your destination -just a lot later than expected.

david mcmahon said...

That's some episode, Mushy.

Thank goodness you got there in the end.

Maybe you shoulda flown the plane yourself.

Shrinky said...

Oh, the misery of delays. We had a similar tale of woe trying to leave Mombassa last year - sure does take it out of you. Look forward to an update on your (hopefully) happier adventures in NY.

Michele said...

Oh man, been there and done that! Nothing is more miserable than sitting on a plane or in an airport waiting to get where you are going! Hope the time in NY was worth the wait!

Becky said...

There's nothing worse than being at someone else's mercy when you're traveling anywhere. My longest delay so far was 12 hours in the DFW airport for a bad part then de-icing. Good times. I've traveled with my dogs before and have to admit that it makes me second guess that if there were any problems (I've been fortunate so far).

Hope you had a great time while you were there and an easier time getting back.

~Fathairybastard~ said...

I couldn't believe all that mess when you told me about it. Great post, and it was fun talkin' to you then. Your ordeal made my 6 hour layover seem like nothin'. Lookin' forward to seein' what you guys got into. I was thinkin' the other day you should have goytten tickets to see Letterman or somethin'.

Mushy said...

Thanks everyone for the great comments!

There will be a couple more post on this subject, and I will have photos posted on Flickr soon.

Jeni - We should have arrived at Newark by about 4PM, and if the plane had gotten into the air the crew would have been on OT...however, if they are still on the ground they must be taken off.

FHB - Not enough time in 3 days to do everything you would want to do. There were lines everywhere and our days were packed as it was.

There was 4 days devoted to the was for travel!

If I ever go back...I'll go to Brooklyn and take a full week!

Scott from Oregon said...

ALways carry a few spare copies of War And Peace when you fly.

And remember, the pilot has been sitting there longer than you have...

Brandi said...

I found you through Chris' blog (Inane Thoughts And Insane Ramblings) ... whew! What a day. I'm glad you came through your delays just fine and seem to have still enjoyed your trip to the Big Apple! My family and I visited last summer and had an absolute blast.

I love that you mentioned the new Attendants looked bright eyed and ready, that makes any airline proud. I hope you write United a little letter (I am assuming it's them since that's one of their hubs) ... and let them know how your trip went. They always like knowing and every flight attendant enjoys hearing that they at least made someone smile.

Have a nice day!

*Goddess* said...

I've never flown, but I think it's freaky the way the pilot gets on and tells everybody what's going on. Kinda like you're all back seat drivers.

If I flew, I'm afraid I'd hear something like....
"We're shutting down the right engine to conserve fuel, and oh shit, we just lost the left engine. Now might be a good time to scribble down your Last Will & Testament."

BRUNO said...

Ugh!!! You've got more guts than I have left to tackle New York City! Hell, I try to stay as far away from the St. Louis, MO. SUBURBS as I can! And even THEN, I have to be forced into going!

You go ahead, and explore the world out there for me---I'll stay in my "hole" here....!

CrazyCath said...

What a nightmare! And I would be concerned that the pilot was getting fed up or over-tired.

Maybe you should have offered to fly the thing yourself!

Great post. Over from David's and congrats on POTD.

catscratch diva said...

Flying isn't the lovely way to get around anymore. It's nothing but hassle.

We got stuck in Logan (4 hour delay) and then again in Dulles (ghetto airport for another 2 hours) getting us back into Knoxville at 2:33am instead of late evening...

Jose said...

Oh man, I did have it easy both going to and coming from Mexico. I would have hated to wait an additional 5 hours on top of the three hours we were there before the flight. I can imagine how frustrating that could be and hope I don't have to experience it. I don't travel by plane much anyway.

pat houseworth said...

Despite being in the Air Force and Flying several times a year...I still hate flying, and airports.

The wife and daughter are flying from Dayton to Milwaukee tomorrow, and this old man is staying on solid ground(for this trip anyway).

Suldog said...

The worst. I hate being confined on an aircraft. Since I smoke, I plan on being able to smoke again at such-and-such a time after boarding a plane. I steel myself for abstinence, but only for as long as the flight and retrieval of luggage will take. Add an extra five hours plus and I'd be climbing the walls.

Did they compensate you for the delay? Pay for the meal or something? They should have.

Mushy said...

No such luck Sul...therefore, this post...for what good it will do.

david mcmahon said...

Hope all of you are enjoying the trip....