So, there I was, sitting at the Wichita Regional Airport (ICT), getting ready to fly back to Boston after spending a lovely time with my folks.
I had a seat right next to the counter, so I had an immediate view of all that transpired.
The plane that we were to fly landed, and docked, and the passengers got off of it, as always happened. I was playing Civilization 5, having managed to not only get a seat right next to the counter, but one that also had a power outlet next to it! (It was what I would account a lucky flying day.)
The Captain of the aircraft sauntered up to the counter. He was of average height, but lean and handsome in a Richard Gere sort of way: sharp, clean features and eyes that danced with humor. He asked something of the women working the counter, and they handed him a microphone. It was the old school of announcement microphones, the kind that the dude in shawshank redemption used to play opera to the prison, tall, heavy, with buttons on the base and a wire mesh directional mike. He gently teased the agents about their ancient microphone, then picked it up and began to speak. At first, I didn’t listen, because, y’know, “blah blah blah”.
When I heard the words “I’m sorry”, I started to pay attention. There would be a delay, he told us, very apologetically. The plane was struck by lightening coming out of atlanta, and federal regulations and common sense dictated that they get the plane thoroughly checked out before flying us back. The passengers gave a collective groan…it was xmas! They had places to be and family to see! I shrugged, almost happy that I had another half hour to play my game.
The captain proceeded to walk around the waiting area, apologizing to people in person, asking them about their family plans. He made it very clear that he wanted any ire to be directed at him, and not at the agents at the counter. It was the finest example of leadership I’ve seen in some time. And for the most part, people understood. A man across from me started to complain, and then stopped suddenly, blinked as the light from the shiny 40 watt bulb that had just gone off above his head hit his eyes, and said, “I guess I’d rather they check it out then have the plane fall out of the sky while I’m on it.” Way to go, dude. I’m glad you managed that one.
About 20 minutes passed, and the captain returned to the desk to check in. His face, which had been sanguine though apologetic up until now, fell. He picked up the microphone again.
“Folks, I’m very sorry, but they’ve decided that the plane cannot be flown with passengers. This flight is canceled.” The groan was louder this time, almost a shout. He went on to explain that it was determined that it could not be flown without a full workdown, and that they would send another plane from Atlanta, as there were no spares in Wichita, and that we would all get a free round trip ticket, since this was xmas, and that he was very, very sorry, but our safety was paramount.
They set out all the snacks from the airplane and the agents at the counter got to work rebooking everyone.
I moseyed up to the counter early.
“Ma’am, if you need anyone to fly another day, if that makes your life easier, I could do that.”
“That won’t be necessary, but thank…it’ll be just as easy to have you fly today.”
I returned to my seat and resumed my gaming.
I called my parents and my girlfriend, letting them know the situation. My parents drove out to the airport to wait in the cell lot, in case there was a chance that we might get to go eat lunch or something.
Time passed. I wasn’t called to the counter to get my follow on boarding pass. More time passed. People argued, people wailed, people cajoled. One of the agents, “all of whom clearly were as upset about the situation as the passengers”, commiserated with a particularly upset customer: “I wasn’t even supposed to BE here today…”
…and I wrote this like half a year ago, so suffice to say, I got free tickets I need to use. neat. :-)