After this year’s New York ePrix, I experienced my first awful flight in a long time. I was caught in the wave of poor weather and staffing-related delays and cancellations — and from what I’ve gathered, my miserable trip wasn’t even as bad as some of the others that folks have been experiencing. Nonetheless, let’s talk about it. Let’s talk about my marathon of a trip from Newark to San Antonio via United Airlines.
Cancelation No. 1: Weather, But...
I received my first flight cancelation over 24 hours ahead of our projected takeoff. In anticipation of an afternoon of thunderstorms, my 2 p.m. flight to Washington D.C. was canceled. Annoying, but it could have been worse — I was able to easily rebook my flight to D.C., though I would then have a six hour layover in D.C. But as far as I was concerned, it didn’t really matter. As long as I eventually got home!
Cancelation No. 2: Weather, Again
Well, 10 minutes later, I received another text message. Now, my flight from D.C. to San Antonio was canceled. Ah, well — I discovered that there was a direct flight from Newark to San Antonio that would depart just after 6 p.m., and I booked that before heading out to dinner. A cursory check of the weather forecast showed that I should avoid any storms if I were to depart at that time.
Cancelation No. 3: No Staff
And then, during dinner, I received yet another cancellation. This time, United cited a lack of staff available to service the plane. By that point, it was quite late and I’d had a few drinks, so I was just a little annoyed that I’d have to rebook yet again. I consoled myself with rationalization: Having to leave for the airport at 3 a.m. would be counteracted by the fact that I would have a direct flight that would get me home before 11 a.m.
Delay No. 1: Maintenance
With a bag to check, I arrived at Newark just over two hours before departure to guarantee that I’d have enough time to deposit my luggage and get through an early-morning security rush. Just as I arrived at my gate, I received another text message notification: Our plane, though it was already at the gate, needed some form of undisclosed maintenance. We were delayed by two hours.
Delay No. 2: Maintenance, Again
I boarded my flight for the first time just as I was supposed to have been arriving home in San Antonio. Without any overhead baggage, I opted to board near the rear end of the pack — and as I did so, a gate agent pushed past me and in a hurried whisper told the flight attendants that we were likely going to have to deplane. I loitered for a moment. I did not hear anything further. I found my seat. Just as I sat down and shoved my backpack under the seat, the flight attendants came on the overhead to tell us to disembark because there was further maintenance that needed to be completed. We gathered our things, and returned to the terminal. We were assured that this delay would last a mere 25 minutes.
Delay No. 3: Maintenance, One More Time
After 45 minutes, we received an update. This maintenance would actually take a lot longer than anticipated — closer to another hour. At this point, I was provided with a $20 meal voucher, which did not cover the cost of my lunch, which was a plate of six dumplings and water that totaled $22. That food also took so long to come to my table that I had to run back to my gate to re-board.
Delay No. 4: Lightning
My rush was pointless, because just as I sat down, I was rewarded with an “indefinite” lightning delay, since all those thunderstorms had finally rolled in.
Delay No. 5: Medical Emergency
Mere moments before our flight attendants were set to close the door, there was some sort of medical emergency. I am unclear exactly what happened, but it prevented us from taking advantage of our narrow departure window. The human in need was eventually deemed healthy enough to continue on with the flight.
Delay No. 6: Weather
Our pilots were hopeful. We closed the doors. We were moving. And then... we stopped on the tarmac. Our window of clear weather was over once again. Now, the real storms were rolling in, which meant we had to sit tight and wait until the lightning passed.
Delay No. 7: Refueling
Our storms seemed to have passed, but the rest of the country was not so lucky. Our flight path was deemed a no-go. We’d have to reroute to make it back to Texas by flying all the way down the east coast, then cutting across from South Carolina. And with that extended flight path came the need for more fuel. Fuel that we did not have. Which means we had to taxi right back to a gate to top up. Which takes forever, since there was also a glut of paperwork that needed to be done before we could depart again.
Delay No. 8: Weather
As you can imagine, the refueling process meant we had to wait out one final storm cell, but no matter how brief it was, it felt like it lasted for an eternity because we had been sitting on this damned plane for hours.
At this point, the man to my left began trimming his nails. On my right, a woman was having heady, whisper-y phone sex with her boyfriend. I couldn’t decide what I wanted more: death or takeoff.
After a nine-hour delay, my flight finally got off the ground. My early-morning wake-up call meant I immediately fell asleep and remained that way until our plane hit the ground.
All things considered, it could have been worse. I didn’t have to negotiate any miserable connections. I didn’t have to change gates or planes, and my luggage ended up at its final destination. I didn’t have to sleep at the airport, and I got home eventually. But this hot mess of a trip left me seeking early-morning flights out of smaller airports to hopefully prevent Newark-like delays.