Airplane Dents, Gate Changes, and “Merger Related” Delays – Oh My!

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If you travel enough, it’s bound to happen. Eventually you will have delays, cancellations, gate changes, and mechanical problems – oh my! Throw a toddler in the mix and well, things get interesting! I’m no airplane guru, but I know that airplanes are complicated. I know that complicated things break. It stinks, but it is just a part of it. For me, it is often how delays are handled when things break that matters the most. Our delayed flight today with United was handled very well in some respects, and was a bit of a mess in other respects. We were scheduled to fly from Houston to Las Vegas on a 9AM flight this morning. We actually boarded a bit early, and then a few minutes after our scheduled departure, the flight attendant made an announcement that due to a dent in the airplane, the ground crew was going to need two hours to make a decision about whether or not the plane could fly. They gave us the option to deplane and had some complimentary candy and soft drinks available to those who did deplane. Giving us the option to get off the plane was the right thing to do, and was much appreciated. They told us to come back at 11AM for information one way or another.

We gathered our toddler and our belongings and high tailed it off the plane. As luck (or lack of luck) would have it, my husband’s parents were flying out of Houston that morning as well, and they had an American Airlines cancellation, also due to mechanical problems. So, they were still in the airport to help us keep Little C entertained. In fact, they ended up with an almost seven hour delay due to their cancellation – yikes. We ate some breakfast with them, and as we were going back to the family room at the United Club, the lounge agents told us that they just started boarding the flight even though it was only 10AM, not 11AM. We hurried back to the gate as they were boarding folks.

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Then, a few minutes later, apparently the pilot told the flight attendants to have everyone deplane again as the plane was not going to fly today. I have no clue what caused that miscommunication, but it was quite unfortunate to tell everyone to go back to the gate an hour before we were originally told, have half the plane board again, and then tell everyone to get off…..again. We were then instructed to go to a different (very far away) gate for a new aircraft. I thought, great, good decision, at least we won’t have further delays. Ha ha ha. Silly me.

As we follow the herd of passengers to the new gate, we hear rumors that the new airplane may have some problems. I’m not sure if that rumor was true or not, but after they finish boarding the plane, for the third time, we learn there will be at least another half-hour delay as they cater the plane. I’m all for food, but perhaps we could have waited to board until we were closer to being able to take-off? I’m just speaking from the perspective of a parent with a toddler, but we have now been at the airport delayed for mechanical reasons for as long as we were supposed to be in the air, so I’m running out of tricks up my sleeve to keep her entertained. An additional foreseeable catering delay on the ground was not welcome information. The funniest part of the catering delay was that the only food on the flight was breakfast sandwiches and snack boxes for a flight ended up flying very much at lunch time. They did give us all a free drink though, so that helped.

Thankfully, after about another 30 to 40 minutes delayed at the gate, we taxied to the runway and took-off about three hours after our originally scheduled time. Here’s where things got kind of funny. We learned from the pilot that the dent in the plane was actually identified last night, but for some reason it was not addressed until today. That is when the dent was deemed too significant to fly the plane. His quote was something like “Sorry for the delay folks, I guess we still have some issues to work out with the merger”.  He didn’t say this sarcastically or in a joking manner – he said it as if it were fact.  I’m reading between the lines here, but it sounds like some sort of miscommunication happened, and we were all delayed three hours because of some logistics that could have been handled much differently without impacting a 757 full of passengers for several hours. Even the flight attendants were all calling the delay “absolutely crazy”. My advice, if a plane has a big dent in it, don’t wait until it is time to use the plane again to decide if it is a significant dent or not.

I do give both the ground crew and the flight crew huge props. They were all very nice and did their best to keep smiles on our faces. I also give my kiddo huge props. She was very tired by the time the flight took off and passed right out for the first half of the flight.  She didn’t cry once throughout the interesting day of travel.  You never know when delays will happen – all you know is that if you travel enough, you will eventually have to deal with them. It’s kind of like playing the odds in Vegas – the house (aka delays) will always get you in the end. Just stay calm and carry M&Ms to ward off toddler meltdowns. Yes, I bribe my child during travel. At the end of it all, our first fairly significant delay with a toddler really wasn’t too terrible, but it was just a smidge annoying knowing that it could have potentially been avoided if the problem had been handled better by United last night. Here’s hoping our luck changes at the craps table in Vegas!

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Comments

  1. Heard similar excuses on our 1.5 hour delayed SEA-IAH red eye least week. Overheard the former CO crew mumbling about the UA folks now responsible for signing paperwork dragging their feet.

  2. No worries, my toddler always gets bribed with M&Ms when we travel too! We get compliments on how well-behaved he is…if only people knew.

  3. I grew up having Vegas as a regular family vacation and I loved it. She’s not smoking, gambling, or sinning. She is swimming, seeing dolphins, tigers, and fish, riding gondolas, and seeing the desert. Additionally, she is spending time with her parents, grandparents, and great aunt. So, long story short – there is still stuff for kids in Vegas – plus we either bring her or we don’t get to go. We’re a Vegas family.

    As far as M&Ms – she is a very well behaved two year old, but that doesn’t mean that rewards (aka bribes) are unacceptable – especially on the road. We don’t really use anything like that at home. Every family has to choose their own parenting style!

    @Jimmy, will let you know!!

  4. Just got off a plane with my toddler this evening and a whole bag of M&Ms were consumed. We went with a jumbo bag of Reese’s Pieces on the trip out. I discipline/reward very differently at home, but on a plane, the goal is to keep her quiet at all costs because other passengers’ comfort is at stake. Whatever it takes.

  5. Oh boy, these delays suck. The last time my 3-yr-old and I flew to the grand parents we were delayed in IAH for about 5 hours. Luckily we were able to spend the time in the lounge, and she loves to watch planes, so that helped, but that delay for a 2 hour flight definitely puts a strain on the entertainment limits.

    I hope our flight in a couple weeks goes better than both of these!

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