0815 Left for airport on-time. Usually it’s an hour trip, so I should get there just in time to check in.
0915 Arrived at airport and parked. Traffic wasn’t bad and didn’t hold me up.
0935 Wow. Checked-in and through security. Plane doesn’t board for 30 more mins, so I’m good to grab a drink.
1005 No boarding
1030 Still no boarding, can see there is a plan at the end of the jetway, but no news.
1100 Now that it’s obvious we aren’t leaving on time, an announcement is made that “we will not be departing on time”.
1140 Informed of a mechanical issue, no ETA
1230 Still working on it
1335 Looks like it’s fixed, we’re going to board now.
1350 Boarded and in seat. Watching time closely as I can still make my connection.
1405 Pilot comes on radio and informs us the plane has been grounded due to the paperwork being done incorrectly.
1000 Decision made to hold boarding as an issue is noted that needs maintenance attention.
1015 Issue identified and information is sent to the airplane manufacturer for fix recommendation (or approval of proposed fix)
1100 No response back from plane manufacturer
1200 Still no response back from plane manufacturer.
1220 Plane manufacturer contacts the maintenance dept. They are okay with proposed fix, please proceed.
1245 Maintenance arrives at plane and begins work.
1255 Maintenance leaves plan with work completed.
1330 Maintenance provides signoff to start boarding the plane
1400 FAA notifies maintenance and pilots that they approve of the fix, but are dissatisfied with the wording on the document to signoff on the fix and request that maintenance redo the fix and resubmit the paperwork.
1405 Plane grounded.
So the repair process begins over again. At this point everyone has boarded the plane and there’s nowhere to go. Fortunately the crew were kind enough to immediately begin serving water to everyone and attached a very large external air conditioning unit (8 foot by 12 foot) that pumped cold air through the plane ventilation system. Good moves on both parts as this probably was enough to keep us from ending up on the five o’clock news.
Another hour passed before the plane was repaired again and the appropriate documentation provided to the FAA. At this point they are satisfied and just over 5 hours after we were originally supposed to depart, we did.
As one would expect, a 5 hour delay caused issues for many of the travelers on this flight (myself included) and stirred up a lot of conversation between passengers on the merits of traveling by plane.
While listening to and participating in the conversation a few things occurred to me:
- Once information started to be provided to everyone, it eased their anxiety about the situation. Continuing to communicate on a regular basis even when there wasn’t any new news to report, also helped.
- Quick response to negative events (providing water and cooling to everyone) helped relieve much of the anxiety.
Without those two things happening, not only would the experience been much worse, I imagine many people would have reacted poorly and possibly caused other issues.
So why did I tell you all this?
Most of the press you’ll read highlights the terrible conditions of flying and being stuck while traveling. While we can’t always control the things that happen to us, we can control how we react to them. In doing so we can change how the others experience the same situation.
This isn’t entirely different that situations we as security professionals find ourselves in on occasion. Events will occur that are out of our control. They will have a negative impact on end users and/or our customers. We need to follow the airline example here and provide timely information and be responsive to the needs of the users.