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Bankrupt? American?

For people who supposedly love our valley, we spend a lot of time and money getting the hell out of here. Which is why the news reports yesterTues that American Airlines had declared bankruptcy gave me a sense of déjà vu. I remember that I once flew that airline and kept a journal:

Flight 725, Lala Land to Honolulu was scheduled for departure at 1PM. At 2:35, having been on the DC 10 two hours we were still at the gate.

The outside air is 86 degrees. After a couple of hours the recycled air is no longer cool, nor refreshing. In fact it barely passes as air. Those of us with THE HABIT are having serious nicotine withdrawal. People are getting angry, the flight attendants are disheveled and the captain’s last message, “We’ll be ready for push-away in about eight minutes” came over the speakers a hundred minutes prior.

2:35: Sitting on the plane for two hours. First delay was due to “cleaning” plane. Then eight minutes to replace the backup emergency radio. Then repairs to the lavatories at the rear of the plane. Passengers can’t leave the plane because the stew has told us we don’t know when we’re going to depart. Complimentary ice water is trundled down the aisles. Passengers are furious. One utters, “You cheap bastards can’t even come up with a Coke?”

2:42: Told we can leave plane for 20 minutes. Smokers rush to tobacco lounge. Much grumbling and x-rated language.

3:05: From the terminal window we watch a procession of workers attempt to put the radio in the nose of the plane. We can see the tags on the instrument - it must be new. More come, some leave, the radio sits on a utility vehicle. Man next to me says, “This is like Laurel and Hardy.” “No,” responds another, they couldn’t choreograph a slapstick fire drill this well.”

3:15: “There is an experiment in progress,” says the gate attendant. “If it doesn’t work we have another plane coming in.”

3:30: Announcement for those on plane to leave and take belongings. Those off plane go get belongings. This leads to two-way traffic of 290 passengers on the people-eater.

3:40: The harried voice of the gate attendant implores passengers to clear Gate 44 for others. “You are causing massive congestion in the concourse,” says the disembodied P.A. voice.

3:45: Advised we should begin boarding the second DC 10 when it has been cleaned. This should be about 4 to 4:10, we are told.

4:05: Pre-boarding begins. Completed in ten minutes.

4:45: Still at gate. Captain announces we are moving from gate 44 to gate 47 to test the radio. “What the f__k? Did they install a bad radio?” asks my seatmate.

4:48 Leave gate 44. This is as far as we’ve gotten in five hours.

4:59: Arrive at Gate 47.

5:01: Now four hours late, flight attendant announces we should keep our seats. American Airlines agents are coming aboard. They hand out complaint cards.

5:02: Captain announces, “It’s not over yet. We have to re-check this high frequency radio.”

5:11: I ask for attendant who can explain why second plane has same radio problem as first. I am referred to the agent in the hall. But I am on the plane . . .

5:13: . . . but not for long. We are ordered to take our things and leave the plane. We will be out on the next American flight or we can take a Delta flight. 290 person exodus to Delta.

5:18: Chain smoke a couple of cigs.

5:20 to 5:28: Hike to Delta gates.

5:41: Pick up Delta ticket - flight 157.

6:04: Aboard Delta LC-1011. They are playing Hawaiian elevator music. (Barf!)

6:21: Depart gate.

6:36: Airborne.

Credit must be given insofar as the luggage arrived with me - from Wenatchee through Seattle, San Jose and three planes at LAX. Unlike once from Seattle to Atlanta when it got lost.

On a non-stop flight ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! !


read more Bob Spiwak in the archive