My quick hop up to Philadelphia today turned into a grueling three-hour journey thanks to bad weather. But it could have been much worse. At least there were pretzels. Stale pretzels.
We pulled out of the A Concourse at Washington Dulles right on schedule and quickly taxied out. With an announced flight time of 23 minutes (flying at only 13,000 feet) it looked like we would get into Philaldephia 25-30 minutes ahead of schedule.
But the weather had other plans.
Just moments after the captain instructed the flight attendant to be seated for takeoff, the aircraft pulled off the active runway, came to a stop, and the engine shut off. I knew what was coming next.
“Folks, this is your captain speaking. We were JUST about to takeoff when ATC decided to hold us back. A storm is passing through Philadelpiha right now and all incoming traffic has been stopped. We hope to be in the air in another 10-15 minutes.”
I looked over at my seatmate and said, “I’ve heard that one before. Don’t count on it.”
Sure enough–15 minutes later the captain came back with an update–the flight would now be delayed at least another 45 minutes.
45 minutes passed and the captain announced an additional 45 minute delay, thanking us for remaining patient and promising an update just as soon as he got one.
Two minutes later, he was back–
“Folks, I’ve got some great news…” The passegners onboard let out a collective cheer, a premature cheer.
“…We’ve got pretzels for delays like this! A whole box of them. I’ve asked the FA to distrubute them, so eat away to your heart’s content.”
I just laughed, as did most of the plane. The FA walked to the back of the aircraft and brought down a brown box with a pink seal from one of the overhead bins, opened it, and began handing out pretzels. They must have been sitting in the overhead bin for quite some time, because they were stale.
Not 10 minutes later the captain came on again and grumbingly stated that he would have to take us back to the gate for fear of running afoul of the DOT’s three-hour tarmac delay rule. He recommended some restaurants in the A Concourse, including a “great Italian place”. Called Sabarro…
We pull up to the gate, wait for all the green-checked carry-on bags to be unloaded (this was a small ERJ-145) and go back into the terminal. The gate agent advises us that we will be reboarding in FIVE minutes. What a waste…
It took 30 minutes to round everyone up and we were finally off, arriving into Philadelphia around 4pm.
My flight experience illusrates the two-edged sword of the DOT consumer tarmac delay. But at least there was pretzels.