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 seat.

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 again.

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 it.

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.

My aisle-side 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 them.

"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 empty-handed.

"Those were the last two, I'm afraid."

"Well, let me buy a round of drinks," Janine offered, looking to me and Anthony.

"Sorry, we can't serve alcohol while we're on the ground."

Janine looked positively defeated, but she perked up when the captain's voice came over the PA.

"Flight attendants, 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 more.

"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 issue."

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 Pringles.

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 so."

"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 nine.

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 line.

One more thing. Perhaps a liquor license for the holding lot would be a nice touch. For Janine.


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