Was it right for a United pilot to delay a three-hour domestic flight for more than 45 minutes because he did not get the crew meal he was expecting?
Flyertalker CaliC shares the following story:
So last week on 7/20/11, in the middle of my travels to start my vacation, I’m in seat 1A on UA 472 from DEN to TPA. Everyone is on board, we’re about ready to go.
The catering people hand the FA a tray that apparently is the pilot’s requested meal. Except the only thing on it is a green salad topped by grilled chicken. She shows it to the pilot who indicates to her that everything else is missing. The FA walks onto the jetway to talk to the catering dude.
Catering dude: “What’s wrong with it?”
FA: “Well there’s no bread, no dessert…”
(some talk I couldn’t hear)
Then they come back onto the plane where Catering dude says “well what did he order?”
FA leans into cockpit and says to pilot, “What do you want?”
Catering dude gets attitude and says, “NO, what was he SUPPOSED to get?”
The gauntlett has now been thrown down. Pilot stands up and exits the plane and stands on the jetway. There is some discussion of the printout for catering. Apparently the grilled chicken salad printed at the bottom of one page, and no one noticed the rest of the meal was on the next page.
I start getting text updates on my phone in 15 minute increments that we are delayed for “aircraft servicing”.
Copilot announces a slight delay for “a catering issue”.
Pilot continues to stand on jetway with arms crossed. Occasionally he speaks to someone on the phone.
About 30 minutes in, the FA makes eye contact with me and she says quietly, “we should be on our way soon.”
I respond, “I’ll go back to the concourse and buy his dinner, what does he want?”
FA gets even closer to me and says, “The copilot already offered, it’s a pissing match now.”
The guy across the aisle leans in and says, “I’ll chip in to buy, seriously.”
Some people in suits come and talk to various people standing around, while the pilot ignores everyone.
Finally, a vehicle pulls up and two suits come up the stairs to the jetway, followed by a woman in a chef’s hat and coat, carrying a full tray. Pilot sees them coming and gets back on the plane. Chef stops just inside plane with the tray, hands it to FA, who takes it to the pilot in the cockpit who apparently okay’s it.
45 minutes have elapsed since we were ready to close the doors.
Assuming the story unfolded as it was shared, I certainly hold in contempt the rude caterer, who likely could have diffused the issue by apologizing to the Captain rather than acting snippy. But ultimately, I am very dissapointed in the Captain.
No doubt, his contract guarantees him a meal and with a long day of flying ahead, a meal is essential. Furthermore, if he was doing a quick turn at TPA, there might not have been time to load a meal for him. But how inconsiderate was it to hold up an aircraft full of people for 45 minutes because he did not get bread and a dessert with his salad? Whether it was a pride issue or simply a genuine matter of principle, it reflects poorly on the Captain and unfortunately poorly on United when he throws a temper tantrum and would not even let his First Officer buy him lunch in the concourse.
And we’re talking about airline food! The Denver to Tampa flights offers fresh salads and sandwiches as well as snack boxes for sale in the back. Surely the Captain could have found something to augment his chicken salad…
What would have happened had he discovered the catering snafu in the air?
Maybe next time I don’t get my first meal choice I’ll ask for compensation…