The MegaDo is a sea of aviation experiences, or so am I told. And to come into the MegaDo will be marked by experiences like the British Airways Denial of Service and a fuel-stop on a non-stop flight was only symbolic. I was reading a few days back on the Wall Street Journal that Transatlantic flights on smaller planes were now having to make a fuel stop before they managed to get to their destination
After I arrived in Brussels on Jet Airways 228, I was to further go to JFK on an American Airlines flight AA171 (BRU-JFK) which was going to fly on an American Airlines 757-200. When I did arrive at the gate agent’s counter after clearing transit security, I was handed over my new boarding pass issued on AA stock, and they did inform me that the flight was supposed to make a fuel-stop for a quick 20 minutes at Bangor, Maine (BGR) airport. Once on the plane, the captain assured us that the three tanks of the plane were full to the brim, and that he’d still need more fuel in case we needed to get into a holding pattern above JFK or for eventualities.
Great, I thought this wouldn’t happen to me but it eventually did. What it meant was moving from a 12:45 PM scheduled arrival to about 2 PM, which already gave me less time in the city. And hoping against hope, we did land in BGR rather than go straight to JFK.
Once there, the captain came on and said it will take us only 20-25 minutes to be a go again. To make us feel better he did inform us that a United/Continental and a Delta flight was also there, and both for refuelling. I did remember reading that Bangor got a lot of business from fuel-handling and mechanical stops after the Atlantic crossings.
Once there, however, we taxied by a lot of transportation planes of the USAF, and parked close by to a Brazilian AF plane. Have a look!
The 20 minutes pit-stop quickly turned into a longer one. We actually had a mesaage delivered on the plane by a guy on the ladder truck, who in a primitive communication technique had to actually bang on the front 1L door, at which point the captain authorised the door to be opened again. Yes, the view from seat 1A was very clear and I chuckled on this one. While this was happening, a NASA research airplane quickly pushed back from the hangar.
Short while later, we were informed that the dispatcher in JFK has advised another fuel load to be added to the plane, and the captain was going to comply. Another 20 minutes went by in the second refuelling. We then taxied for take-off, and stopped short of the runway. Here, the captain told us about the weather in JFK (snowing!). He was told by the Air Traffic Controller to wait on the taxi strip for 15 minutes before taking off, because that is how he’d get in time to JFK to land. I wonder if this was a bigger airport, with 100 airplane movements an hour he’d be afforded that luxury or not, but here he had all the time, and he had no option but to wait.
We eventually did arrive in JFK at 2:15 PM, a full 90 minutes later than scheduled, but I was greeted by AA on the door, which was a nice surprise.
And that is the problem with Irregular Operations (IRROPs). I’ve always felt that IRROPs should be treated with higher priority to make sure that passenger inconvenience is reduced to the extent possible. However, it turns out otherwise. IRROPs are frequently, in my experience, put at the back of the queue and this adds to the problems already created for these pax, and also the crew! What do all of you think?
And yes, do not forget to participate in the OWMD swag giveaway which is on all this week!