I am a bit rattled

I know that plane crashes are exceedingly rare.  There are something like 100,000 commercial flights each day of which about 8,600 use the 737 Max planes.  We have had two  crashes separated by about 131 day so that means there have been about 1 million flights (8600 x 131) on the 737 Max planes.  Now if you give me a 1 in a million chance of just about anything else, I wouldn’t think twice about it.  To give some context, the probability of being hit by a car is about 1 in 4,292 (which oh, by the way, I have already done, but that story is for another day).  But for some reason flying on an airplane is different.

charlotte flight.pngAs I have already mentioned, I am flying to Charlotte on Sunday.  The flight was scheduled to be on a 737-800, which I think is one of the planes that is covered by the 737 Max grouping.  As of yesterday morning, I was trying to convince myself that I shouldn’t worry about this, but I must admit, I had a deep sense of unease.  Luckily (?) the president and FAA decided to ground those planes. Now, I have moved on to the more prosaic worry: Will my flight be cancelled?  I checked on Flightaware.com and it appears that yesterday’s flight was on time, so that gives me some comfort.  But I will not be really comfortable until American updates my flight details to show a different plane.  My flight home is scheduled to be on an Airbus 321, which should be fine, provided that there is no knock on effect.

We are flying Southwest to Costa Rica and they are the largest user of the 737 Max planes.  Per the New York Times, they have 34 max-8 out of a total of 750 planes. Our flights to Costa Rica are not scheduled to be on one of them, but our flights home are (I think. hmmmmm, now I am worried).  I guess since those flights are three flights and nearly 2 weeks away, I shouldn’t worry. Also, if I have to be stuck somewhere because of cancelled flights, I would much prefer Costa Rica to Charlotte.



Holiday travels

I was all geared up for the usual drama of air travel on the day before Thanksgiving. I had checked the weather forecast–no snow (except it was snowing, just a bit). I checked the news for anything related to traffic snarls or huge waits at security–I saw nothing out of the ordinary.  So, of course, I assumed it was going to be horrible and the news just had not started to report on it.

My flight was scheduled to leave at 4:30pm. I like to arrive about an hour to an hour and fifteen minutes before the flight.  But given the expected travpocolypse (this is going to be the busiest Thanksgiving travel season EVER!)…I figured that security would take an extra 30 minutes. I calculated that I should arrive 1:30-1:45 hours before takeoff. (That’s my math whiz at work.) It takes anywhere from 35-60 minutes to get to the airport, so I figured that I would give it 60–just in case. That means rather than leaving at around 2:45pm, I would need to leave about 1:45pm.

My Lyft arrived at 2:00pm and I was on my way. There was no traffic, we sailed right to the airport in 30 minutes. There was a small delay in the airport, but all the traffic was going to arrivals and my driver did a neat little swing into the taxi lane and scooted right up to departures. I thanked her for the great driving, wished her a happy Thanksgiving, and hopped out. She dropped me right outside the door that leads to the TSA-Pre check security. I was stunned: There were only 4 people in line. I joined the “line” and  barely got my ID out before the TSA agent waved me forward. BOOM! Through security in under 5 minutes.

I had 2 hours before my flight….oh well, better safe than sorry. I found a spot to sit, pulled out my laptop, and did a bit of work. We boarded right on time. I put my bag into the overhead and settled into my seat to watch Narcos on Netflix.

Once everyone had boarded the doors did not close, always a bad thing. Then, about 5 minutes after everyone was seated, one more person got on. OK. I figured, they were waiting for her.

The doors still did not close….

Then the dreaded pilot announcement. We have a maintenance issue. If you don’t recall the drama from my last flight (also on American), here it is.  Luckily (luckily?) the maintenance issue only delayed us about 1:15 hours–on a 2-hour flight–and we took off at about 5:45.

The flight was uneventful and I managed to get through three episodes of season 3 of Narcos. I would highly recommend the series if you haven’t watched it. The only unusual thing that happened on the flight was that my seatmate (it was a small plane, just 4 across) just sat in his seat the entire time.  He did not read anything, he looked out the window for a bit, but other than that he just sat and stared straight ahead. He didn’t seem to be a nervous flyer, he just seemed like he shut down for the flight–I wonder which brand of cyborg he is.

I am flying home on Saturday morning, so stay tuned to see how that flight plays out.


Just a Bit of a Delay

I was traveling for work last week. Chicago to Charlotte on Tuesday night, then back home on Friday. The outward bound flight was nice and smooth; Chicago O’Hare was surprisingly crowded, but security moved quickly and the flight was on time.

The flight home was another story. I was flying American Airlines from Charlotte to Chicago O’Hare, departing at 2:34pm and scheduled to arrive at 3:44pm. I was at the airport in plenty of time, breezed through security and got to my gate about 1:45pm.  Like clockwork, we boarded the plane at 2pm and I settled in for the flight. After a little while, I noticed that they had not closed the doors, but I did not pay any real attention to it. Then the pilot came on to announce that there was a mechanical issue and that they were just finishing up the paperwork on it, we would be leaving soon. OK, short delay, no big deal. Five minutes later, he was back on the intercom to announce that—well, the maintenance issue had not actually been fixed and it meant that the deicers would not work. Not a good thing. They would find another plane. Everybody off.

I collected my bags and headed back into the terminal. After about an hour wait they announced that they had a new plane and we would be leaving at about 4:15.  We all duly boarded our new plane and settled in. The doors closed and we pushed back, and were airborne by about 4:45; OK, 2 hours late, I would still get home by 6:30, no big deal.

The flight was uneventful, for the first 1.5 hours. Right about the time the pilot usually announces that we are going to be landing soon, he came on to say instead that we had another mechanical issue—once again the deicers were broken and we could not land at O’Hare.  Our choice was to go to Milwaukee or turn around and go back to Charlotte.  I am not sure why flying another 50 miles north would make not have deicers OK (yeah, that just seemed stupid to me, especially because I was hungry and waiting to ear dinner with the hubby.) but that is what they said. We were going to land in Milwaukee (which is actually called General Mitchell Airport) and once we were there, they would let us know what would be happening.

I was talking to the woman who was sitting behind me when we boarded the first plane.  She was very excited about her trip to Chicago. She was visiting her son who had moved here and she had splurged and bought two tickets to Hamilton. When the first flight was delayed she was pretty calm. She figured as long as we were airborne by 5:30 she would be fine. Now that we were already two hours late—and going to Milwaukee—she was getting  nervous. We talked about the fastest way to Chicago, either Uber or Amtrak, depending on the traffic and timing of the trains. She asked the cabin staff if there was a free seat closer to the front of the aircraft so she could get off the plane quickly once we landed. They quite kindly moved her up to a free first class seat.

It was after 5:30pm when we landed in Milwaukee, and they announced that a maintenance worker would come on and look at the plane. After a little while, a number of people asked to get off to would find their own way to Chicago, including the Hamilton lady.  They left the plane; a short while later the cabin crew announced everyone had to exit so that they could re-board those that remained once the plane was ready. Once again I left a broken plane and waiting in the terminal.

By the time we exited, it was after 6pm. I reviewed my options. My beautiful, wonderful wife offered to come and pick me up, but that would take her more than an hour to get to me. Uber would cost upwards of $125. Catch a 7:35pm which would get me to Glenview at 8:45, then Uber home. Or I could wait to see what American was going to do.  As we waited, I struck up a conversation with a few people (this is the man who says he is socially awkward and doesn’t like people) who were standing around. I found two others who were going to nearby towns and after hemming and hawing for a bit, we decided to split an Uber.

Our driver came within about 5 minutes and we were on our way. I spent the next 90 or so minutes talking to two very interesting people, both of whom were visiting Chicago.  One was a Northwestern alum who had come back for a football game. (Humorously, her husband was taking a 5pm flight from Charlotte and arrived well before her.)  The other was visiting friends for a week. The conversation made the time go really quickly. The drive took just over an hour and half to get to our first stop then on to me. I walked in the front door a little past 8pm.

Just about 4 hours late on a trip that should taken 4 hours…I got a two-fer!

I wonder if the Hamilton lady made it.

Oh the joys of traveling for work.