Back to Tampa

June 20, 2009 1 Comments A+ a-

I've flown worse trips, but yesterday was a memorable one--and not in a good way! Memorable in that it was a long day that just seemed to drag on ad nauseum...

The Crew Desk called me at 3:45 in the morning--to be at the airport at 7:15. Not much sense in going back to sleep for another half an hour, so I got up and started my day. A one day trip-Washington-Tampa-Chicago-Washington. Easy peasy, right?

We took a full load of 156 people down to Tampa, FL (TPA) and boarded another 156 to go to Chicago (ORD). After we got everyone settled onboard, and before the door was closed, our Captain tells us that because of the severe weather in Chicago, we were on a ground stop for at least 1.5 hours. After the ground stop is lifted, he says, Air Traffic Control (ATC) will give us our wheels up* time.

A ground stop basically prevents all planes heading to a particular airport from taking off. It delays their departure so as to avoid a bunch of air traffic trying to land at an airport in adverse conditions. It applies to almost all aircraft bound for that airport. It eliminates the hours of "circling" and needlessly burning the fuel. It prevents planes diverting to other cities in need of fuel or if the weather further deteriorates. It eliminates the added risk of a traffic jam in the sky, and is definitely safer than being in an overcrowded, saturated air space. While it is no fun to wait out a ground stop, it certainly is a safer, better alternative.

The Gate Agent came onboard and made an announcement to have everyone deplane and wait it out in the Terminal. Several people wanted to stay onboard. Trust me when I tell you that you are truly more comfortable in the gate area--where food and beverages are readily available. And bigger bathrooms. And fresh air. And magazines and television. And more space to walk. Oh, and the Gate Agent can help you with connection issues. Flight Attendants don't know and don't have access to any of the information you want and the Gate Agents can.

Plus, if you stay on the plane, it means I can't get off the plane.

The FAA has defined the minimum staffing for a plane to be one Flight Attendant for every 50 seats. Not every 50 passengers--it's every 50 seats. So, if one person had stayed on our 156 seat airplane, all four of the Flight Attendants would be required to stay onboard the entire time
We were scheduled to do a three hour sit when we arrived in ORD and all of us had planned to have lunch at that time. The ground stop was now eating into our scheduled meal break.

Mama doesn't do well when she doesn't have food, oka-ay? So, off the plane you go...

We headed for the Food Court to grab a bite to eat, and brought it back to the plane. We all spread out in the airplane--for personal space, which we have so very little of when we are working--turned off all the lights onboard, and played one of the movies. The First Officer and Purser watched "Confessions of a Shopaholic."

I didn't watch the movie. After my turkey sandwich, I pulled a jacket out of my suitcase and made it into a pillow, lifted up the armrests in a row of seats and enjoyed a quick nap.

After two hours, it was 2pm and our Captain was given our wheels up time. We reboarded everyone on the plane. Most of the people were in a great mood (well, except for the lady in 1B). We got everyone settled again, and taxied out. Then, our Captain made an announcement....the ground stop was again in effect. First, it started out as a 30 minute stop--then it grew and grew to about three hours. Our two hour flight to ORD eventually turned into a five-and-a-half hour flight. (See why you wanted to get off the plane and get some food?)

While we were on the ground waiting, we did a beverage service. It's pretty unusual to see carts out in the aisle when a plane is on the ground--and given the tentative nature of a ground stop, we had to have to have the Captain's permission to do so, which he gladly gave.

We are only catered with enough to do one beverage service, and most of our ice had melted--so, it was paltry pickins for sodas. We did our very best, did it with humor and a smile, and for the most part, everyone was really pleasant and understanding.

Jumpseat Confession

One thing that really bugs most Flight Attendants is passengers who try to get something free with a heavy hint. Yesterday I heard this (or something similar) many times:

"Well since you are making me miss my connection, how 'bout a free drink?"

"Wow, today is really aggravating--what are you going to do about it? Free drink?"

"You're making me miss (fill in the most important event in the passenger's life to date). Do I get a free drink?"

No, no and NO!

Seems to me that the severe weather that moved across the O'Hare airport and surrounding vicinity was GOD's fault--not mine, and not my airlines! And, my airline has very specific rules as to when we can comp a drink and when we can't. Weather is not under the airlines' control, so my airline doesn't comp.

And, this Flight Attendant specifically doesn't when you ask me for it.

Have your credit card out, and be nice with a smile, and I just might work something out for ya...but, seriously--don't ask for free drinks.

We actually departed around 5 p.m. EDT and arrived in ORD around 7 p.m. CDT Time, our passengers having been onboard, the second time for nearly six hours. And, the Chicago airport was a complete zoo when we were walking through. If you were one of those stuck in that mess yesterday, I was feelin' your pain for ya. It was crazy!

Our workday was a thirteen hour day--we were exhausted. Our total flying time was just under eight hours--we were not legal to fly any more for that day. My one-day trip was now a two-day trip, into my day off.

We checked into our airport hotel, and I went to the bar to order a sandwich to go. Back up in my room, I scarfed the sandwich down in record time. A quick shower and I was in bed asleep.

Early this morning, the company deadheaded us back to Washington. People told us that they slept in the airport last night--there were no rooms available anywhere near the airport. The airport folks pulled out cots for people to sleep on and passed out little toiletry kits.

It was definitely a long day for us--but, it was an even longer a day for passengers--especially those that had to sleep in a cot in the airport!

*wheels up = take-off time

This post reminds me of the old joke:

What's the difference between a Flight Attendant and a jet engine?

When you arrive at the gate, the jet engine stops whining....



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June 21, 2009 at 7:56 PM delete

I was suppose to fly through that mess but I changed my trip for better weather. Sounds like a nightmare.

I agree about being begged for free drinks.