Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Always Apologizing

Just as my last trip went surprisingly well, the following one was pretty awful. There are times when I almost feel embarrassed that I work for an airline given the bad publicity that we receive. And today was a good example of that.

It was supposed to be just an easy turnaround from DFW to Philadelphia and back. I was hoping to be home by 10 PM if all went well. But right after sign in at noon I could see that things might not go smoothly. Our departure had been delayed for 45 minutes for ATC flow control delays to the east coast. PHL was reporting good weather but there was a large area of weather in the deep south that was moving up the east coast and causing issues with ATC.

I joked to the First Officer that this was turning into a possible all-nighter. Little did we know.....

I called clearance delivery at DFW to verify our delay and they replied that ATC had just added two hours to our expected departure time! So I told our gate agent and she just got mad and said that we would be boarding on time and that we'd have to take our delay off the gate somewhere. Not so fast I said....time to go over her head and ask the ramp tower if we could stay on the gate for a while and not board our full flight. They said "no problem...you can have the gate for as long as you want".

Hearing this the agent got even more angry and called her supervisor to complain. But I guess it didn't do any good since her phone call was very brief. I can understand why an agent wouldn't want to deal with a bunch of delayed passengers, but for her to want to load them all on a confined airplane just to get them out of her hair is just not the way to treat our paying passengers. She was not seeing the big picture.

Moving on....our delay was now up to four hours and we were finally boarded and almost ready to push back when one of our rampers came up to tell me he spotted a couple of nicks on two of our compressor blades on the #2 engine. He had been standing on a cargo loader and was looking into the engine inlet when he saw them. So out came maintenance 15 minutes later and they reported that the nicks were within tolerance and we were good to go. I said we'd take the plane as long as they'd sign the logbook stating such. Well that changed everything....the mechanic stormed off and didn't come back for 20 more minutes. When he returned he said that the nicks were now out of tolerance and that the plane was out of service! We weren't surprised....that kind of thing happens way too often with maintenance. They hate for us to write things up in the logbook because that generates more work for them. But if we don't write things up, they don't get fixed and that's just bad for everyone. Things just kept getting worse this day.

They found us another plane in short order but it was in another terminal so that took another 30 minutes to get everyone off the first plane and on the second one. Then right before pushback again our #1 flight attendant called to tell us that she was missing a trash container in the forward galley and that it was a required item for departure. 30 minutes later we had our trash container and finally on the taxi way headed for the runway. By now we were over five hours late. Our passengers were furious. So was this puppy we were carrying in the belly!

I had been making numerous PA's all afternoon long but they only go so far in calming people down. I told the flight attendants to "comp" the first round of drinks. Maybe that helped a little.

A now retired captain once told me that AA should really stand for "Always Apologizing". How true!!

So then we get to PHL 5 1/2 hours late and sure enough, our gate is occupied! Another apology to the passengers....10 minutes later and we're finally parked.

They loaded us up quickly and in less than one hour we were westbound for DFW. 3 1/2 hours later at 2:00 AM we were parked back at DFW.

I finally made it home by 3:00 AM. That was a long day!

For a look at some more of my photos, please aviate over to Plane & Simple.


Tom said...

all I can say is, thank God you and your crew care enough for your passengers. The delays suck but it would have been so much worse to keep people on an MD80 on the runway for 5 hours, and it's good to know you insisted on maintenance signing off on the safety issue. This scandal with Southwest is giving airline maintenance an even worse name right now.

ProPilots said...

I'm so sorry to hear about all that Len.


Len (Barfbag) said...

How ironic that not long after I posted this, AA grounded the entire MD-80 fleet for continued maintenance issues. I'm stuck in Albuquerque awaiting word from AA as to what will happen next!


mlesser said...

that sounds horrible.. maybe im getting into the wrong career, i have such a short patience span.

the puppy is awesome, there was a dog underneath me 2 weeks ago when i went to adelaide and i could hear was him barking every few seconds.


Len (Barfbag) said...


Maybe you can try to avoid an airline that flies MD-80's....they seem to be bad luck lately.


Otto said...

Wow..sorry to hear about the rough day. Hope it gets better!

mlesser said...

sorry to hear about the md-80 driver fiasco, sounds pretty bad. hope its not affecting you too bad