Here I sit looking out on Downtown Kansas City, Mo., on a rainy Tuesday afternoon. The weather folks say a big severe weather breakout is expected later this evening with the possibility of more tornadoes of the type that have plagued the Midwest in the past week or so such as the deadly Joplin, Mo., storm. I have to say, I don’t much like the prospect of that happening. I have been through several tornadoes, one F3 while camping near Sam Rayburn Reservoir in East Texas and it isn’t any fun whatsoever. I have also been through three hurricanes, two Category 2-3, within the last five years. I would rather take my chances with a hurricane, at least a Cat 2-3, than an F2 (I think they call it an EF scale now) or above. Tornadoes are still way more unpredictable than a hurricane. However, storm detection overall has improved.
That being said, weather patterns haven’t changed a whole heck of a lot over the years while storm detection has vastly improved. As I noted yesterday I had a miserable experience flying from Texas to Kansas City due mostly to one thunderstorm that passed over DFW airport around noon that day. Some planes were hit with some major hail and had to be inspected, which is the reason for the messed up airline schedules from that time forward, according to some of the airline people. Of course when a major hub like DFW is hit, it being an American Airlines center, it is going to cause some falling dominoes.
Whether that storm warranted as many flights being cancelled and others being delayed yesterday remains a big question in my mind. Even if that is the case I am not sure why more passengers could not have been disembarked from their planes at DFW rather than sitting in the airliners for hours on end. Is there not enough room to park the aircraft? I don’t know. Surely they have plenty of those little trucks which carry ladders up to the planes, especially for the smaller airliners. Could they not have used those to get some of the passengers off? I don”t know that either. I’m sure some of the decisions are made with federal regulations in mind, and safety and just practicality perhaps.
Even so, even if American was justified in all the cancellations, delays and stranding passengers on planes yesterday at DFW, I cannot think of anything in my mind that justifies why American could not provide accurate information about the schedule changes.
I had signed up for American’s “flight notification” by text message before leaving Houston for Dallas and my connecting flight to Kansas City (Hereafter called MCI for its official aviation name.) Once planes started backing up on the DFW Tarmac, my phone buzzed every few minutes or so with the little reggae tone I had chosen for a text notification on my cell. I got sick of that little reggae beat fast. Even though the message kept showing the hour for my MCI flight becoming longer and longer in the future, the gate always stayed the same.
Once I got off the plane and after the long parade of American Super 80 aircraft whittled down some waiting for a gate, I saw my gate and it was jam packed with folks. But they weren’t waiting for a plane to MCI. No, they were waiting for a plane to LaGuardia in New York. I asked an off-duty American captain waiting in line if he knew a number I could call and talk to someone who might know where my plane was supposed to depart. The cap gave me a number, but I forgot it. I finally asked an airline employee at the gate if this was still the place to catch the MCI flight. He said, “Yeah, stick around.”
It seemed like the LaGuardia flight would never back out from the gate. I asked another American employee if the MCI flight was still scheduled for this gate, he said: “I think so.” I said, well, it looked as if I had time to catch a bite to eat and the employee agreed. So I set off to find something to help curb my voracious appetite made 10 times worse by a stressful afternoon.
As I walked along passing a few other gates, I noticed a bunch of folks ready to board another plane. The sign said: “Flight 2032.” It was my flight for KC. I still didn’t believe it because I had been told otherwise. I asked an off-duty flight attendant who ended up flying on the plane to KC if there was anyone to call that might be able to straighten all the mess out, she said: “I doubt it.” But lo and behold, this was indeed my flight.
Once we boarded, the captain apologized for all the delays all afternoon but noted that we would have a bit more of a delay as another thunderstorm required we fly around to the Texas Panhandle and take a right over the Ozarks before heading north for MCI. Remarkably, we still made the flight in a little more than 1.5 hours. Even more remarkably, during a single pass of the drink cart I ordered a vodka tonic to calm my frayed nerves and the flight attendant said, grinning, as I stuck out my debit card: “I don’t want that.” I was kind of stunned for a moment that someone from the airline would miss a chance to bill someone for $6. But then I realized the guy was performing an act of mercy. I hope this doesn’t get him in trouble. But I doubt anyone from American will read this anyway and if they do, bill me.
I hope we escape any heavy weather tonight. I got a big day ahead of me in the a.m. I also hope I have a much better trip back home, one filled less with storms and a little better performance on the part of American Airlines.