18:30 Pilot: Sorry folks, we’ve had a little problem at the gate, I’m just going down to sort it out, this could delay our departure by a couple of minutes.
19:00 Pilot: Sorry folks to keep you waiting. All fixed now. We should be on our way in ten minutes.
(Good old Untied, they never miss a chance)
20:00 Pilot: Apologies again folks. I’ll just update you to keep you in the loop. A passenger was denied boarding because he was drunk. Our airline has zero tolerance for alcohol so we had to deny him. Unfortunately he took a swing at me. The doc has OKed me but regulations state I have to complete some paperwork. It shouldn’t take more than an hour. (Oh no, what kind of pilot have we GOT here? What kind of airline IS this?)
21:15 Pilot: Hello again folks. Sorry, it took a bit longer than expected. Unfortunately we have lost our place in the line so we’ll have to hold here for another half hour until we’re cleared for takeoff.
(Could I have a glass of water? Sorry, water's off)
21:40 OK folks. We’re on our way. Get you there as quickly as possible.
(Where is this pilot GOING? He's heading NORTH, we should be heading SOUTH).
300 people were kept waiting for three hours. The airline blames the drunk. But I wonder if the airline regulations weren’t at the heart of this Kafkaesque episode.
Managing problems like this requires some commonsense. First, and most obviously, an airline captain should not be exposed to potential physical injury prior to or during a flight. Second, backup airline personnel should be on hand to cope with such events and to do the paperwork so the flight can depart on time. Third, some better prediction of how long the process would take with appropriate announcements and actions like deplaning passengers to the lounge could be expected. Fourth, would you have confidence in flying with a pilot who has just been assaulted? And lastly, this simplistic “zero tolerance” attitude seems to be encapsulated in the “You’re either with us, or you’re against us.” For their dedicated efforts to mismanage this event, Untied Airlines gets the award for “The Worst Flight I Have Ever Taken.”