The main leg of our trip back home was meant to be a simple non-stop transatlantic flight, from Basel-Mulhouse to Montréal. Roughly eight hours. 24 hours and two hotel rooms later we’re still on the road because of a massive delay at the airline – the second one I experience with this same airline (on a different route).
To be fair, the people around us have been forthcoming and have tried to help within the limits of the competences given to them. They have also given priority to travelers with babies and children when it made sense.
There were seven babies on this airplane, and given what I have seen from the other six I feel blessed with ours who went patiently through the horrible day and even slept through the flight.
Even traveling “Club” (the airline’s attempt equivalent to business class) did not shield us from the discomfort of waiting without knowing. I’ve been on delayed flights many time, but what really struck me throughout this experience is how much of the uncomfortable waiting could be avoided if the impromptu problem solving would be replaced with proper contingency planning.
Most telling was the moment I witnessed just after landing from my first row one seat. When the flight director opened the plane’s door, he briefed the ground personnel. They were visibly surprised and overwhelmed by the task at hand. The plane was due for 16h55. Instead it landed at 1h38. It does not take Einstein to understand that connecting passengers will need a place to stay overnight. It took over two hours to organize hotel rooms for about 30 stuck passengers. Couldn’t the relevant information be gathered and relayed on departure? Couldn’t the eight hours in the air be used to prepare things?
I used a hotspot at Basel airport to inform our family not to pick us up and not to worry. Can’t wake them up at 2AM. Had I known that it would take the airline ground stuff two additional hours to figure out things, I would have done this myself at the same hotspot and presented the airline with the bill. I wonder if the airline is aware that the extra time is not only inconvenient for passenger, but also expensive overtime to be paid? Or maybe it is intentional, to dissuade passengers from using the “service” and send them away, on their own?
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