First let me start off by saying that what I am about to share is by no means the worst travel experience, but I believe it highlights an issue with how Airlines communicate to passengers.
Fog at Chicago O’hare International
Earlier this morning I flew from Chicago to Dallas via American airlines (trip report soon) on a legacy US Airways A321. It was still dark as I was driving to the airport, but I began to notice thick cloud cover blocking out the magnificent moon as I approached the terminal. After clearing security, I quickly walked to the gate and continued to notice a dense fog rolling through the airport. At first it did not seem like anything to worry about, but quickly visibility became so poor that it was impossible to see more than a few hundred feet. I assumed this was going to cause problems, so I did what I always do in these situations, which is to listen to Chicago Tower Air Traffic Control via the LiveATC app.
Upon launching the app it quickly became apparent that several planes attempting to land were performing missed approaches due to the fog. Shortly thereafter the backlog of airplanes taxiing to takeoff became so bad that planes were shutting down their engines while on the taxiway to preserve fuel. It was about this time that I arrived in my seat on the plane.
Aircraft Doors Close
I distinctly remember this moment because just a few moments before the aircraft’s doors were closed, a call over the LiveATC stated that an aircraft had not taken off for approximately 30 minutes. I am not an expert, but I imagine the airline and pilots both had some idea that it was not going to be a quick taxi to the runway for takeoff. I just do not understand why at this point the crew does not make a simple announcement letting passengers know that they need to close the doors and push in order to get sequenced for takeoff, but we should expect a brief 30+ minute delay before we are able to takeoff.
30 Minutes Later
Luckily we were able to taxi on a separate taxiway which would get us in the air (via runway 22L) quicker than other aircrafts. Even so, after 30 minutes we were still inching along the taxiway. It was about this time the Pilot made a generic announcement apologizing for the delay and that we should be in the air “shortly.” Overall, we did end up taking off just 45 minutes after leaving the gate, which was fantastic, but the issue I have is the lack of information the airlines are willing to share to passengers.
Yep, that is right! Thanks to good old American Airlines padding the stats to manipulate On-Time Statistics we managed to arrive “On-Time” at DFW airport. If you want to get technical we arrived 5 minutes PRIOR to our scheduled arrival time. Which simply makes me wonder what the harm in telling passengers about the situation, letting us know that we will experience a long taxi and may have to sit on the ground for several minutes, BUT will work to expedite the routing mid-flight to get us there on time.
Yes, I realize this is was NOT a disaster or terribly inconvenient, but it highlights an issue that I have long had with American Airlines. I have been on too many flights where on the LiveATC app I hear about a delay or maintenance that needs to be completed, but we do not hear from the crew. After about 30 minutes of sitting on the ground, passengers began complaining and I think many (myself included) would have been much more relaxed had the situation simply been explained to us from the beginning so we know what to expect.
(Note the above image is NOT from today)