Stupid iPhone "Pilot" Commercial Leads To Possibly Apocryphal Flight Delay Story

Some commercials are stupid. The iPhone commercial that shows a pilot telling the tale of the time he saved the day by checking the weather with his iPhone is one of them.

Salon tells us that the pilot is a real first officer with a major U.S. carrier. His name is Bryce Watson. His heavily edited story is probably partially true. The trouble is that the commercial is so painfully silly that its already produced an almost certainly fictitious internet tall tale that we’re certain will be forwarded to our inbox for years to come:

On one of the frequent-flier blogs, an airline pilot writes that only moments after informing his passengers of a weather-related ground hold affecting their flight to Memphis, Tenn., he and his captain received a call from one of the flight attendants. Seems an iPhone-wielding customer in the back had a challenge. “Some guy with an iPhone says the weather is good,” the flight attendant says, “and wants to know what the real reason is for the delay. Is something wrong with the plane?”

I like that, “real reason.” The implication, as always, is that the carrier is lying or otherwise withholding some critical information. There must be some dangerous malfunction they’re not telling us about. After all, “the weather is good,” so obviously there’s no reason we can’t depart immediately.

Reportedly, the captain responded with a public address announcement that was sharp enough to elicit audible laughter from the cabin.

“If the passenger with the iPhone would be kind enough,” he began, “to use it to check the weather at our alternate airport, then calculate our revised fuel burn due to being rerouted, then call our dispatcher to arrange our amended release, then make a call to the nearest traffic control center to arrange a new slot time (among all the other aircraft carrying passengers with iPhones), we’ll then be more than happy to depart. Please ring your call button to advise the flight attendant and your fellow passengers when you deem it ready and responsible for this multimillion-dollar aircraft and its 84 passengers to safely leave.”

The reason for this story’s existence is simple. Weather delays are really traffic delays. Bad weather in one area means delays in another. It’s not just a matter of checking with your phone. Most people know this.

The article in Salon goes on to interview dispatchers and debunk the entire silly commercial:

“Usually, traffic delays to Newark aren’t due to weather itself,” says another dispatcher, with 12 years’ experience at both regional and major airlines. “It’s about volume. Looking at a radar map on an iPhone will not help your chances at getting an early release. That commercial is total B.S.”

Not buying it when the pilot tells you weather is holding up your flight? iPhone to the rescue! [Salon]


Edit Your Comment

  1. Egakino says:

    Well that confirms my suspicions that this was BS. Didn’t matter all that much though, who the hell buys a product based on anecdotal evidence not coming from a very close friend. Personally I avoid any product like the plague that talks down to me like this.

  2. nffcnnr says:

    When i first saw this ad, i thought it might stir up some trouble. So are they suggesting that the airports and the FAA should replace all of the aging technology in the control towers with iPhones? Wouldn’t that put an end to weather delays? Steve Jobs, you’ve saved teh world (again).

  3. TPK says:

    At what point are you supposed to turn off your electrical devices? Was the iPhone user breaking the rules by connecting to the internet from the plane?

  4. 92BuickLeSabre says:

    Given that you also can’t actually access the webpage for My First Time on an iPhone, I’m not all that surprised.

  5. nweaver says:

    Although I’ve been at the gate when during real weather delays on the east coast, the pilot was looking up people’s flight info on his Treo and showing the radar maps to people…

  6. Buran says:

    Pilots don’t use public internet sources for weather reports. There are systems designed specifically for aircraft that perform that function. Garmin makes some of them.

  7. K-Bo says:

    @TPK: in the commercial he specifically says “we were sitting at the gate with the engine off” It seemed kinda awkward to add that in to me, I figured it was their way of saying we don’t encourage breaking rules.

  8. Skiffer says:

    The commercial is along the lines of:
    “We were going to have a 2 hr delay”
    (small jitter indicative of a cut/edit)
    “So I checked the weather and a half hour later, we were in the air…”

    I always felt like they cut out “[So an hr and a half into the delay,] I checked the weather and a half hour later we were in the air”

    i.e., we waited the full 2 hrs

  9. Pylon83 says:

    That’s wholly untrue. Most of the “official” weather is now available though the web. Many pilots still call Flight Service for a full, verbal weather briefing, but nearly every weather product the Flight Service briefer has available can be easily (and legally, from an FAA standpoint) online. Further, Garmin does not make any ground-based products for checking weather, and their in-flight, XM based products are rather limited compared to what you get online. The airlines also don’t use ANY Garmin products, unless the pilot has a personal handheld unit. But again, the internet based sources provide a much better way to get the whole picture.

  10. Shappie says:

    @Pylon83: But don’t most planes nowadays have their own radar? Or at least have some sort of connection to weather data without calling? It should be something they always can see…or so I thought.

  11. chrisdag says:

    The “story” at Salon is actually recurring column called “Ask the Pilot” – a nice feature at Salon and usually a great read. I think he updates it weekly but I’m not 100% sure.

  12. BK88 says:

    @Buran: Then you need to check out same info pilots receive), (gives current weather on each airport page). Those look public to me.

  13. Paul D says:

    I’m shocked. SHOCKED, I tell you, that a commercial for an Apple product is dishonest or misleading in any way.


  14. noquarter says:

    @K-Bo: But the engine being off doesn’t mean cell phones can be on. The official rule is that they need to be off when the plane’s door is closed.

    So I figure the real story is that he was doing this iPhone browsing long before the plane had even boarded, and that all he did was notify flight control of information they would have seen themselves when they eventually got around to looking at his flight plan.

  15. noquarter says:

    Also, is this one really any more offensively dumb than the iPhone ad with the guy who alleges to have carried multiple phones around before he got his iPhone.

    He claims to have needed a separate phone for handling his email. Like he couldn’t have also used that one for making phone calls. He probably also carried a calculator, travel alarm, and calendar at all times before he got his iPhone.

  16. smitty1123 says:

    Honestly, who believes anecdotal commercials anyway?

    “I lost 85 lbs using X!” then at the bottom of the screen: results not typical, weigh loss acheived with a combination of diet, exercise and liposuction.

  17. MercuryPDX says:

    The implication, as always, is that the carrier is lying or otherwise withholding some critical information

    And we all know they NEVER do that…

  18. Trai_Dep says:

    Well, better than Small steps, big journeys, people!

  19. Bay State Darren says:

    iPhone or not, I think it’s kinda scary that the pilot would, hypothetically, ignore the air traffic control system’s weather monitoring and advising system and say, “Yo, some website totally said it was cool to fly, so let’s go for it!”

  20. webwbr says:

    Come on people… don’t dick around with the flight crew!

  21. anatak says:

    Apple marketing is total B.S.?!? What??!!!

  22. DrGirlfriend says:

    When I first saw that ad, my first thought was that if the pilot of a plane I was on decided to take some guy on an iPhone’s weather advice over his traffic control center’s, I’d be tearing past anyone in my way to get off that plane.

    You know which Applie ad I also dislike? The dude who used his iPhone to find out the name of his girlfriend’s boss’s fiancee. Sure, very sneaky and all, but he makes it sound like he pulled off this huge caper. You surfed the web on a phone — good job, buddy.

  23. louisb3 says:

    As a serious Apple fanboy, I am occasionally very disappointed by the quality of their advertising. It’s usually very good, but they often fail the jackass test – ie, showing the commercial to somebody and asking if its characters are jackasses.

  24. elf6c says:

    Apple using misleading commercials. Next you will tell me Steve Jobs stole shareholder money with back-dated options and got his hand-picked board to pretend he didn’t do it. And that would be just plain silly.

  25. Trai_Dep says:

    @elf6c: Or what would even sillier would be a commentator citing a back-dating “scandal” the same day that newspapers’ business sections across the nation announced was dismissed because – wait for it – there was no scandal.

    Current events. Current!

  26. @noquarter: Holy crap. This is the kind of stuff I miss not having TV. If you’re carrying around multiple phones then you have issues the iPhone can’t solve.

    @DrGirlfriend: Apparently Apple ad executives have decided their commercials should be five kinds of stupid.

    The fictitious story may end up happening thanks to the Apple ad. That would be kind of awesome if it did but no one will believe it now.

  27. Dancing Milkcarton says:

    “Reportedly, the captain responded with a public address announcement…”

    If anyone believes this story (especially the pilots ‘speech’) you’re a moron. There’s a Nigerian prince I need to introduce you to.

  28. ninjatales says:

    When I first saw that commercial, I laughed out so hard my stomach hurt because it was trying to convey the message that the iPhone can clear up runways and the skies.

    I must’ve be really low on Apple kool-aid.

  29. Tux the Penguin says:

    Has anyone really noticed that most of these commercials don’t highlight anything different that the iPhone does compared to any current Smartphones like the Blackberry or Windows Mobile?

    As in this commerical, any smartphone with internet access can check the weather. Others, such as the one where the guy would say “I had an MP3, camera and phone before, not I only need my iPhone.” Hate to break it to you, but that combination has been available for quite some time.

    The only commercial that highlights the difference is the visual voice mail. Oh wow. I wonder how often that will come into play, even for me. I rarely have more than one voicemail in my inbox anyway.

  30. Nicococure says:

    All of the iPhone commercials so far have been questionable. The “iphone saved me from carrying 4 different communication tools” commercial makes it seem as though it’s a life necessity to have all of those things on you. The pilot discussing the flight delay prevented by the iPhone strikes me as though we “might not” be hearing the entire story.

  31. avantartist says:

    you mean to tell me apple didn’t invent the all in one cell phone? next you’re going to tell me apple didn’t invent the first mp3 player.

    i’m saving for the icar

  32. Bay State Darren says:

    @avantartist: next you’re going to tell me apple didn’t invent the first mp3 player. No, but they practically invented the market for it. [Yes I’m a fanboy, no I don’t like that overhyped bloatware phone.]

  33. drjayphd says:

    @Nicococure: Not to mention that guy had two phones: one for texting. Dub. Tee. Eff?

  34. chrispiss says:

    The pilot handled that awesomely. (is that a word?) Stupid people getting put in their place is what makes life just that much better.

  35. Why do I feel this will be on Snopes soon under “New Urban Legends”?

  36. ExtraCelestial says:


    i have to admit my cousin brought his 2 year gf home for thanksgiving and no one could remember where the a is supposed to be in her name so we looked her up on facebook using my phone.

    i always bring up the stupidity of this commercial though especially since it was their wedding website and the BOYFRIEND knew the address yet couldnt remember the new wifes name whos all over it?

  37. Comeaja says:

    Almost as great as Apples commercial of The PC singing an alternate verse to a christmas song (Forgot which one) insulting the Mac, followed by the mac standing there stunned for a moment, with no retort.