An Insider's Look At A Four Hour United Express Delay

If there was something that could delay United Airlines flight 1488 from Washington to Philadelphia, then it happened, writes our tipster dev. Although originally meant to be a short one hour flight, the delays stretched to over three hours. Dev writes that most of the delays were caused by the pre-flight crew: “Those of us in the front of the aircraft could hear the Trans States Airlines crew griping over the fact that the ground crew, another contract outfit (this group from Air Wisconsin Airlines Corporation), did not do their pre-flight prep work on the plane properly.”

“The Trans States Airlines / Air Wisconsin Incident” []


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  1. Geekybiker says:

    Four hour delay? Pffft. I have had much much much worse.

    • chaesar says:

      OMG! really?!?!?! I didnt know things COULD get worse?!?!

    • jvanbrecht says:

      While you may have had much worse, in that 4 hours, the customer could have rented a car, and driven from Washington Dulles to Philly, in less time (I have made the trip in just over 3 hours.. granted that may or may not have been violating some laws :) )

      • sleze69 says:

        I heard somewhere that buses run from Washington to Philadelphia in less time, but I can’t remember where…

  2. humphrmi says:

    So how do delays over the new legal limit get reported? Or is that law in effect yet?

    You hear airlines talking about how bad this legislation is for their industry, and how self-policing works, then you hear about this story and it’s pretty clear that airlines simply won’t do anything about it until they are forced to.

    • NeverLetMeDown says:

      He claims that this all happened on 8/20/10, on United flight 7488 (not 1488 as in the summary above). This is more than a bit weird, since according to the FAA data, flight 7488 on 8/20/10, IAD-PHL, arrived 17 minutes early. Maybe he just has the date wrong, since this flight is late a lot (about 1/3 of the time), and when it is late, it’s late by an average of an hour and a half.

      • Anathema777 says:

        I’ve found that flight stats thing to be pretty unreliable. For example, it showed my flight to Italy taking off and landing on time when, in actuality, that flight had been entirely cancelled (this was during the volcanic eruption when most of the airspace around Italy was shut down).

        Also, in the story itself, the author mentions that, when they finally arrived at their destination, the flight board said their flight had been cancelled.

        • NeverLetMeDown says:

          Interesting, since the data comes directly from the FAA for most of it. As for the flight being listed as cancelled, no he doesn’t say that. He says that he was confused because a sign said flight 7998 was cancelled – different flight.

  3. cromartie says:

    Why people fly United and American is beyond me.

    • corrie06 says:

      I think many people only fly seldom and don’t pay much attention to brand. They’re probably more attentive to ticket price and departure/arrival times.

    • NeverLetMeDown says:

      They both treat me quite well, honestly, and if you’re trying to fly from New York to Dallas, for example, AA is the obvious choice, just like if you’re trying to fly from SFO to Denver, United is the obvious choice. JetBlue’s pretty decent, but Southwest, with the lack of assigned seats, lack of key airports, and lack of status tiers (meaning no priority security lines, no priority boarding) just isn’t viable.

    • coffeeculture says:

      AA treats me well… they have good transcon schedules and JFK/LHR and JFK/NRT flights for fairly cheap.

      I don’t feel like paying double on JAL or asian airlines for a premium experience….yet

    • speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

      American is the only way I can use my British Airways frequent flyer miles to fly most places within the continental United States (unless I want to connect at Heathrow).

  4. dulcinea47 says:

    Yeah… I’m not sure why this guy seems so shocked. Mad, yes. But he’s all shocked like he actually expected the new law to somehow make the airlines start acting in a logical and responsible way. Sorry, no law can enforce common sense.

  5. TechnicallySpeaking says:

    The drive from Dulles to the Philly airport is only 3 hours 40 minutes IN TRAFFIC. Yikes!

  6. danmac says:

    The flight was originally scheduled to depart Washington at 12:44 and arrive in Philadelphia at 13:52.

    At 18:11 we were still on the runway, awaiting takeoff. We went wheels up soon after.

    The article says a 4-hour delay, but it’s more like 5.5 hours…just sayin’.

    • hoi-polloi says:

      You’re correct, the entire delays amounted to around 5.5 hours. The passengers were stuck on the tarmac for approximately 4 hours. Passengers reportedly completed boarding by 2:15, and the plane finally took off shortly after 6:11.

  7. FreshPorcupineSalad says:

    Yellow text on a black background? Really?

  8. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    Read the article. Sounded like a pretty harrowing experience. And brought on by the incompetence of United’s choice to outsource their ground crew to another company who clearly picks the runts of the litter and pays them crap.

    • Urgleglurk says:

      I worked for Air Wisconsin for many years (until 2000). There was a time when they paid decently for a regional airline, treated their employees well and gave them what they needed to do their jobs. As a result, they had a good, well-respected operation.

      Oh, how times have changed.

  9. JohnnyP says:

    I don’t fly so its an honest question. What preflight stuff takes 3 hours to fix what somebody else did wrong? I doubt there was a meal on the flight…

    • Rachacha says:

      In theory, nothing should take that long unless there was a part that was damaged and was waiting to be repaired/replaced (perhaps they were waiting for a replacement cargo net or latch of some type. I know in some small planes, weight distribution is extremely important. Several years ago I was on a very small prop plane and after all passengers were on the plane, he asked several people to move to the back of the plane and made some people switch the sides that they were sitting on to more evenly distribute the weight. If the bag count was incorrect, or they put the heavy bags in the front of the plane, it may have messed up the weight distribution.

  10. NeverLetMeDown says:

    He claims that this all happened on 8/20/10, on United flight 7488 (not 1488 as in the summary above). This is more than a bit weird, since according to the FAA data, flight 7488 on 8/20/10, IAD-PHL, arrived 17 minutes early. Maybe he just has the date wrong, since this flight is late a lot (about 1/3 of the time), and when it is late, it’s late by an average of an hour and a half.

  11. full.tang.halo says:

    At what point is it easier to be “escorted” or “removed” from a flight for being disruptive vs being held hostage by an incompetent airline?

    I find it hard to believe the airline would try to prosecute a pregnant woman, it’d be public relations suicide. Never mind the fact you’d have to find 12 people that had had their souls surgically removed to get a conviction.

  12. hoi-polloi says:

    Unless you’re in the final stages of preparation, why begin boarding? I’d much rather wait in the terminal, where there are plenty of restrooms, ample food and beverages (albeit at a cost), room to move around, etc. I know my goals as a traveler are different from the apparent goals of the airline, but cramming people in a small metal tube and limiting access to all of the above seems like the worst possible strategy. Yet airlines keep doing it.

  13. EverCynicalTHX says:

    I’m thinking about the movie Blade Runner…advertising everywhere in the future..

  14. LastError says:

    When contractors where I work don’t want to do something, the first thing they do is complain that the people ahead of them didn’t do their jobs properly.

    It’s the biggest cop out ever and it’s a lie at least half the time.

    Dunno if that happened here but it might have.

    On the other hand, I have flown on a United Express flight operated by Air Wisconsin and the flight crew was relatively aloof, the flight was late departing, arrived late and caused me to miss my connecting flight and spend an extra night in another city hoping to get on standby the next morning. So late and Air Wisconsin are kinda synonymous to me.

  15. ElizabethD says:

    Amtrak FTW.

    • NeverLetMeDown says:

      1. You’d have a difficult time taking Amtrak to Buenos Aires.

      2. Amtrak is slow. Flying into Dulles from Latin America, you’d need to get to Union Station in DC (1.5 hrs), and then 1.5 hours on Amtrak to Philadelphia 30th St station.

      In New York, I’ll take Amtrak to Philly, and to DC if time isn’t that important. For anywhere else (i.e. Boston), you’re usually better off flying.

  16. haoshufu says:

    4 hours is nothing. I have had 1 hour flight turned into 8 hours ordeal and a 5 hours flight turned into 32 hours. That 5 hours delayed into 32 hours was a combination of weather, maintenance, overbooking, mechanical problem, unexpected emergency landing and arrival gate delay due to medical problem, all happened in one leg of flight.