My ORD-LGA flight was badly
delayed. But an earlier flight, just as badly delayed, was still
boarding a couple of gates down, and I was able to grab the last
On either side, my
seat mates worked their BlackBerrys until the cabin door closed,
and then a bit longer. Our captain informed us we were No. 36 for
takeoff, and wheels-up would be in about an hour. Upon hearing this
news, my seat mates discreetly pulled out their BlackBerrys
A short while later,
the pilot said we were being redirected to another runway but would
keep our place in line. The line, he added, now had 70 planes in
We seemed to be
making steady, if slow, forward progress. But then I noticed we had
pulled into a holding lot near the head of the runway. Bad weather
close to New York had stopped traffic into LaGuardia, the captain
announced. We'd be updated in an hour.
neighbor, a lawyer named Anthony, grunted as he worked the
BlackBerry. My window-side neighbor, Janine, an accountant, sighed
and looked down at hers.
After 30 minutes, the
flight attendants came through, taking drink and snack orders.
Janine and I asked for trail mix along with our sodas. A different
flight attendant came back with two trail mixes but offered them to
a couple across the aisle. "Sounds good," the man said, paying for
"Excuse me, I think
we had ordered those," Janine called over. The flight attendant
went to the rear of the plane for more but came back
"Those were the last
two, I'm afraid."
"Well, let me buy a
round of drinks," Janine offered, looking to me and
"Sorry, we can't
serve alcohol while we're on the ground."
positively defeated, but she perked up when the captain's voice
came over the PA.
please take your seats. We've been cleared for takeoff." He paused.
"And we'll be first in line."
The engines came to
life, and the captain crept the plane forward about 10 feet. He
then made a complete 360-degree turn and quieted the engines once
"Folks, they've just
closed the airport to us again," he said. "I'm told the next update
will be in an hour. By the way, in case you're wondering, all of
the crew is legal for quite some time; that won't be an
Out came the
BlackBerrys again. Anthony called his limo service to let them know
about the delay. We all pulled out our laptops. Janine ordered
And about an hour
later, the captain came on again.
"They just told us
the hold has been extended for another hour. I'm going back to the
gate to allow anyone who wants to get off the plane to do
"No!" cried Anthony.
"No!" cried Janine. There might have been passengers who wanted to
get off, but they weren't in row 18, seats D, E or F.
We three, experienced
travelers all, knew that it was only going to get worse for us.
After dropping off the passengers who wanted to bail, the rest of
us would start all over again at the end of the line.
Indeed it got worse.
As we pulled up to the gate, the captain announced that the flight
was being canceled.
Anthony, Janine and I
all reached for our BlackBerrys, this time calling our travel
agents. I got a seat on another airline. Anthony found something to
White Plains. Janine booked the last flight to LaGuardia that night
on the same airline.
In the end, I made it
home around 1:30 a.m. My original two-hour flight ended up taking
This gave me quite a
bit of time to mull over the fact that I was a victim of newly
minted passenger rights.
The captain had kept
us onboard the original flight for about three hours, well under
the period that produces prisoners-on-the-tarmac stories. From a
public relations viewpoint, he played it safe. But he didn't do me,
Anthony or Janine any favors.
Could it be there's
room for further evolution of passenger rights?
I have a modest
proposal: Keep some rolling stairs handy in the holding lots and,
after three hours, have a bus come by to pick up any passengers who
want off. As for the rest of us -- hold our place in
One more thing.
Perhaps a liquor license for the holding lot would be a nice touch.