The weather was bad, but American Airlines wasn’t exactly at the top of its game either

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.

Looking out on a wet Downtown Kansas City, Mo.

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.


The misadventures of flying in T-storm alley

11:39 a.m., IAH. I should have been boarded by now, but a thunderstorm that moved over DFW has slowed my plane to DFW by an hour and thus my plane to MCI has also been pushed back an hour.

Those are notes I would write myself were I writing notes to myself. Given the kind of weather pattern that has been prevalent lately in the Great Plains, some delays are to be expected when flying north from Houston to Dallas-Fort Worth to Kansas City. The extreme of the type of weather I speak of is like last evening’s killer tornado in Joplin, Mo. Some 89 people died in that storm.

In fact, it looks as if a storm passed over Kansas City earlier today. Hopefully, that will be the last one but I doubt it.

Of course, a storm especially one precipitating a ground stop such as the one temporarily today at DFW can create all kinds of havoc for fliers. (Am I a prophet or just for-profit?)

5:16 p.m., DFW. Our flight from Houston spent 35 minutes on the runway at IAH waiting to take off. The trip to DFW took about 30 minutes, but we spent 1 1/2 hours on the runway waiting for a gate. I had received a number of flight notifications about my next plane to Kansas City and it looked as if I might make it. I go to the gate and what do I see? A flight to New York. I finally determine my flight is supposed to depart from that gate. Who knows.

A deadhead (off-duty) American pilot told me they had quite a T-storm at DFW and it messed things up, to say the least.

The misadventure continues.

Let it rain, let it rain, let it rain

Brilliant splashes of yellow and red paint up the radar I have been watching from the KHOU-TV Houston Web site. It looks as if dumb luck doesn’t stop it, we may get a nice shower for a little while over here in the southeastern most corner of Texas.

People you know and some you don’t say as you pass each other by, “looks like it might rain.” To which you answer “I sure hope so.”

I am not a farmer. I’m not planning a picnic or going to a kid’s ballgame. I am not worried about it raining and I am not worried about it not raining. But I wish it would rain.

Some folks have bad moods when skies are continually overcast and rainy they have to end up inside. I get bummed out when it goes months without normal rainfalls, which in my area amounts to an average near 60 inches per year. I have to go to the window to see if it is raining in the middle of the night just because it is a thing of beauty I feel I should not miss. I feel cheated when  I awake in the morning and see that it rained cats and dogs overnight and I missed it.

This has been a pretty bad drought we have gone through lately. The fire danger has been worse than I’ve seen it in quite awhile. It is not the worst drought I can remember. But it is bad enough and I wish it would rain.

The radar is showing a pretty good swath of rain falling from south of Tyler to Houston to down along the Texas Coastal Bend into portions of Mexico to the north of Nuevo Laredo. I’m glad I am not driving in Houston right now. The streets and freeways can get a bit dicey in the rain. To the east we wait and watch the radar as the rains continue and, hopefully, continue to continue east. Maybe it will keep on coming and the rain expected tonight and tomorrow will also come.

Technology tells us some rain is on its way. It’s good news to hear in a drought. It is good news for those of us who like those rains which get fed the Gulf tropical moisture. Let it rain. The bells and whistles and radars and TV weather gods all tell us the rain is coming.

I sure hope so, because I wish it would rain.