It is 9:30 p.m. and I am standing with my family at Gate A24 in Atlanta Hartsfield International Airport. My wife, myself, and our two children (an eight-year-old and a soon to be two-year-old) are excited for our trip to Orlando and begin our Disney vacation in celebration of our son’s 2nd birthday. All is well – the gate agent calls for families with small children and car seats to board the plane.
This is where the nightmare begins!
The four of us board the plane. I get my daughter situated and help my wife get our son in his car seat. We turn movies on and settle in for what we anticipate to be a short hour flight. After a short time, I realize that no more passengers are boarding the plane. There are three families on the aircraft, along with passengers that required special assistance. My family is in the front row and I begin conversing with the pilots and the crew. We learn that there is a potential maintenance issue and the tower has requested that no one else board the plane (this should have been our first warning).
After sitting for an hour, we are finally asked to de-board. 15 minutes later, it is announced that there is an engine problem and they are going to have to swap out the aircraft (now don’t get me wrong, I am glad we found this out on the ground and not in the air.) So, off we go to gate A16!
Now, I am going to speed up the story from here, because I could write a novel on the whole event!
We make it down to gate A16 and our second wait begins. After nearly an hour, the new plane is ready. On the plane we go! Everyone settled, and we finally pull away from the gate. We are taxiing to the runway, and we STOP! Why are we stopping? After a few minutes, the captain comes on the intercom to state that we must return to the gate for a maintenance issue. This second plane is broken too!.
We sit on this plane for about 30 minutes when they finally announce “Ladies and Gentlemen, we must de-board this plane as it is not capable of flying!” Now, by this time both our children are asleep. Having to wake them up is like disturbing sleeping giants. Yet, off the plane we go – again – now heading to gate A21 to board our third flight of the evening.
Finally, at the bewitching hour of 3:30 a.m. we take off for Orlando. Touchdown happens at 5:15 a.m.!
Eight hours later…we are finally in Orlando!
What We Learned
We learned three main things in this process:
- It is critical to maintain a good sense of humor – or you might go postal!
- Try to keep the kids calm and press through all the frustration.
- Don’t be afraid to share your story with the company!
What We Will Do
So after finally getting to bed at 7:45 a.m. and managing to sleep a few hours. I woke up deciding that I must hold the airline accountable for their actions.
First, let me say that the crew on Flt. 1418 was AMAZING (as you can see in the picture)! They maintained a positive spirit and attitude after nearly timing out on their shifts that evening and then having to be back to work in nine hours.
Second, I am sharing our story not just for us, but for 300 other passengers who may not know how to get their story out!
Third, we will continue to fly this airline – if they do the right thing! If not, we will be looking for another airline!
What You Can Do
You can do what we are doing! Although this airline is known for a positive customer experience in the industry, they still f*** up! We are going to give them a chance to make it right and redeem themselves!
Stay tuned and we will provide and update as things progress!