When my flight from DFW to Miami was delayed a second time due to mechanical problems, I decided to see if some oft-cited advice worked. I'm happy to report: it did!
My flight was supposed to leave DFW for Miami at 2:10 p.m. Mechanical problems and the associated paperwork kept us at the gate for more than an hour beyond our scheduled departure time, but we were allowed to push back at about 3:30. We taxied to a holding area where, as a well-seasoned private pilot, I'm concluding our pilot was running through his check list.
At about 4:00 o'clock, he came on the P/A system and announced that, in his judgment, the plane wasn't safe to fly and that we'd be returning to the gate. (Kudos to him for making a difficult decision, BTW.)
While a number of my fellow passengers used the time to tell friends and relatives about the delay, I chose to act on advice I'd heard several times over the years: Don't wait to get back into the terminal, then stand in line with 150+ of your fellow passengers to rebook. Instead, I called the airline's reservations desk, explained the problem, and was confirmed on the next regularly scheduled flight out before we got back to the gate!
It was 4:30 when I finally got off the plane but I had a confirmed seat on the 6:30 flight, so I used the time to have a bite to eat at the Admiral's Club, check my e-mail, and post to my blog.
My original flight may have ultimately left a bit earlier than 6:30, but there was no way of knowing that as we were taxiing back to the gate. And being one who likes to have things settled, I felt more comfortable opting for a seat on a different flight than rolling the dice and sticking with an airplane that admittedly was experiencing "issues."
If you're similarly inclined and find yourself in a similar situation, use the time -- and that ubiquitous cell phone -- to your advantage and call your airline's reservations desk (or Frequent Flier desk if you're a member). You can bring your friends and family up to date later, after you've secured a seat.
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