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VOL. 131 | NO. 100 | Thursday, May 19, 2016


Lance Wiedower

Late Flights Cause Airport Drama


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The turbulence is real as we slowly descend into Providence, Rhode Island.

I wasn’t planning to descend into Providence, but it’s funny how air travel can throw a wrench into well-hatched plans.

A lot of news about air travel lately has been related to long Transportation Security Administration lines. But my story is about mechanical problems.

Flying to Baltimore from Memphis International Airport via a quick 45-minute layover in Chicago, this trip should’ve been simple enough. As the plane taxied away from Concourse A to the runway, the plane suddenly lurched to a stop. My hope was that the pilot was slamming his brakes to let a passing plane go by on the tarmac.

A minute later the pilot came on the speaker to apologize, explaining a pin of some sort hadn’t been removed from the front wheel.

We were towed back to the gate and after a quick fix and what seemed like forever to take care of paperwork, we finally were on our way. Leaving 45 minutes late with that quick 45 minutes between flights might be a problem.

Ten of us on this flight needed to make the change to continue on to Baltimore; surely they’d hold the plane for us. But after sprinting across Chicago Midway, we arrived at the gate just as the door was shut. Fortunately, some of us were booked onto another flight – and what seemed like a 5-mile sprint back across two concourses before the doors closed on this soon-to-depart flight.

So as I type this, I’m descending into Providence, to then make our way into Baltimore about three hours later than planned.

What could I have done to prevent this? Absolutely nothing. That’s the risk in air travel. The plane had a mechanical failure – or was it a crew failure for not removing a “pin” of some sort?

Less than five days earlier, I had a similar experience. A 45-minute layover in Dallas became a too-tight window when we were 20 minutes late leaving San Antonio, followed by not having a gate ready for us.

My friend, who was sitting 10 rows in front of me, made it to the flight just as the gate closed. I missed it, and was rebooked for a later flight.

Ultimately, Southwest gave us a $100 voucher for use on a future flight. I made it to Baltimore a few hours later than planned. My flight was quickly rebooked. No harm no foul.

Having a smartphone is the first step if this happens to you. Get on your phone and start analyzing your options. I used the Southwest app to see that there were several flights with tickets available departing Chicago for Baltimore that day.

I would’ve called Southwest if they weren’t so quick to make the repair in Memphis.

And in the future, I might consider booking a flight with a longer layover. A 45-minute window doesn’t leave much room for error.

Contact Lance Wiedower at tripsbylance.com.

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