As I parked the car in the parking lot, Steve called. 19:00 something. Shoot, he should be flying now, not calling me! I don't normally track his flights, but when he is coming home I have a general idea of when he is in the air. When I think he is in the air and he calls, my heart does skip a beat.
Steve: Hi. I may not be coming home tonight. I need to take off in the next 50 minutes or else I am going to time out.
Me: What are the chances that you won't make it out in the next 50 minutes?
Steve: Not sure. I wouldn't have thought we would be delayed this long.
Steve: Yeah. Micro-bursts.
Me: I hope you make it home.
Do you know what a microburst is? I do. Pilots know a lot about weather. Duh! And through the years I, too, have learned a little about weather. The summer we moved into our first house was the first time I was introduced to a microburst. We were sitting at the island in the kitchen with the sliding glass door open. In the far distance you would hear the wind coming, and I mean really hear it. My in-laws were over and we actually stopped our conversation since the wind was so loud. You could hear it approaching like an oncoming train. All of the sudden the wind reached our house, and boy was it strong. So strong, as a matter of fact, that I watched a young tree planted in our backyard actually bend over so much that the top actually touched the ground! I looked over at Steve with my eyes wide. "Microburst," he said, and then went to explain what it was.
When Steve is delayed like this I will sometimes take to twitter and see if any of his passengers on his plane have something to say about the delay. After the kids and I ate dinner and cleaned up, they settled in for a movie and I settled in to searching twitter.
If you search "delay" and "flight" there sure are some interesting tweets that come up. Believe me, I totally understand that a delayed flight is an inconvenience. It sucks. It sucks even more if you have to miss a connection or miss an event due to a delayed flight. But, what I get bothered by are all the people who don't understand the whole aviation picture but are super loud about how pissed they are.
I checks tweets that may be from his pax. Reading delayed tweets is crazy. Some people just don't get it, yet they think they know it all 😒— Joanna (@comebackdaddy) July 9, 2016
This one person in particular, who wasn't on Steve's flight I should add, was tweeting the airline directly about his delay and asking what compensation he was going to get for missing the opportunity to put his daughter to bed that night. This was one tweet in a series of many. He was clearly upset.
Believe me, I understand how upsetting it can be to expect to put your child to bed, yet not being able to. I live this...a lot. I am sure your daughter was upset because you may have promised that you would be home to tuck her in. She probably missed you. I am sure your wife was upset because she was waiting for a break after you being gone for the last couple days. I can speak from experience on this one....believe me. But, asking an airline for compensation for a delay seems like a bit much, in my opinion.
Let's back up all the way and talk about the reason for your delay. Steve was delayed Friday due to microbursts. After giving you my very technical definition of the term, do you really want to be taking off in that? Would one rather risk their life by flying through a microburst just to be "on time" or would you rather play it safe and delay the flight until it is safe? This goes for all weather delays. Let's remember that Mother Nature is the one that controls the weather. Do you want to call her and ask her for compensation for the delay?
The same goes for mechanical delays. Would you rather depart "on time" with a plane that needs maintenance, or would you rather take the delay and arrive late, but safe? Going back to the "whole aviation picture" thing...most people probably don't know that there are some mechanical problems that you can fly with. And there are some mechanical problems that you can't fly with until they are fixed. If you are delayed for a mechanical problem, it is probably kind-of important they fix it. Remember, these aircraft are machines. And guess what? Machines break.
Now, let's address the timetable and the trickle down effect of a delay. If a plane is flying, it is making money. If a plane is making money, your ticket prices remain low. Therefore, planes fly a lot to keep your ticket price low. A delay in the morning can have a domino effect throughout the rest of the day and can impact many flights. If there is one kink in the system then it may delay things down the line that day. It happens. You want a low ticket price, right? Then planes need to fly a lot.
Oh, and with that complicated web of down-the-line delays, you can run into crews running out of time. This is what Steve was running up against on Friday. If a pilot gets up at 5am, do you really want him flying until 10pm? Probably not. And that is exactly why there are rules in place for how long crew members can be on duty. Incidents and accidents can happen when people are tired. You want your crew to be totally fit to fly. Again, you would rather arrive late, but safe, right?
You know what else totally gets me when it comes to vocalizing dismay about delays: know-it-alls. (This isn't the first time I have blogged about these characters: A little bit of knowledge is a terrible thing and Do you know who you are talking to). I hate it when people think they know everything about airlines, but they really don't. Now I understand how frequent fliers can think that, and there are some very knowledgeable frequent fliers that do actually know a lot. But then there are plenty of fliers who think they know what they are talking about, but they are wrong. Totally wrong. Just the other day I had someone commenting to me about a delay, and how the (mainline) pilots were horrible in communication. I insert mainline pilots because this person believes these pilots are notoriously bad communicators. Um, it was actually a regional airline that flew this person, based on the equipment and route. Yet this person was convinced it was mainline. Sometimes it just isn't worth arguing with people.
There are a lot of people who will comment on their solution to a delay. Yet, their solution is not an option. No, it isn't always possible to just "get another plane from the hangar" to replace one that has a mechanical. And no, it isn't always possible to just "get another pilot" or "get another flight attendant" to replace a crew member. These people don't endlessly come from some rabbit hole where they can just keep appearing.
Of course my perspective as a pilot wife is unique, so I see things differently from passengers. Believe me when I say the crew is probably MORE anxious to get home than you are, and may be doing everything in their power to get home. Do you think my husband wants to sit for another three hours in a crew room due to a delay? Hell no he doesn't. Do you think he wants to get home at 1am, instead of his scheduled 19:50? Nope. Don't think the airlines or crew members are out to get you.
Shit happens. Delays happen. And when it does...go with the flow. This is my best advice when it comes to delayed travel. This is a phrase my son's Kindergarten teacher taught his class, and it can be applied in a number of circumstances in life. It makes perfect sense when it comes to flight delays. Whatever the reason for the delay, it is happening, and that can't be changed. So, just go with the flow. Arguing about it with a gate agent isn't going to help. I don't even know how much venting on social media will help. Now, having a dialogue with an airline representative to help handle consequences that impact you personally, like a missed connection, will help. Know that the airline isn't out to get you, but rather is trying their best to get you to your destination as quickly and safely as possible.