I considerable myself lucky with all the experiences I've had in my travels. I've never been stranded at an airport, and if my flights have been delayed or canceled it was easy enough to get on the next one.
I've never been stuck out on the tarmac for 4 hours waiting to take off, and recently while millions of people were stranded due to a volcano, it was easy enough for me to extend my stay in beautiful Nice, the South of France.
In fact the worst experience I ever had was an extra 4 hours stuck in a plane at the gate in Newark, NJ before an already long 10 hour direct flight to Hawaii. The plane broke and they wouldn't let us off, but they gave us extra food and open bar (those little bottles are so cute).
Today I'm writing this from my iPad at 33,000 ft just passing over Epernay, France. I'm not on my originally booked flight. This flight topped the delays from my Hawaii trip, but I'm safe and that's what counts. I think my experience is a bit entertaining, so here I am blogging about it. I'm not an aviation engineer so I'll just explain this in the vague terms as the captain explained it to the passengers.
Last night the device that starts the engines of a Boeing 777 malfunctioned and the engines didn't start. So we had to wait a few minutes for a new starter to come over. But according to the captain they then started the left engine before the right. For some reason the right engine should be started first and the on-board computers decided to complain. Sitting on the plane for an extra 30 min while an engineer had to come onboard and talk to the computer. Being a computer engineer myself I totally understand how those conversations go some times.
Other technical difficulties abound now. The in flight entertainment in the rear right of the plane didn't have audio. The flight crew knew how to fix this, because it happens sometimes when the plane itself is first turned on. The fix requires a reboot of the entertainment system, but they have to show the flight safety video first and then they will reboot as soon as we are airborne.
Anyway, we push back and head out to the runway and stop. No flight safety video. A few minutes later the plane is moving backwards! A total of 30 minutes later we're back at the gate. The captain announces that a backup computer is also complaining about sensors in a backup gear box. He insists that we could fly without it, but he's not about too. He promises to keep us up to date.
In the mean time they reboot the entertainment system to make us happy and other restless people start walking around. Meanwhile the plane is getting hot, which I don't mind since I sometimes think I must have been born with tropical blood, but everyone else is complaining.
"Hello this is the captain. I promised to keep you up to date as soon as I had some information. Unfortunately I have none at this time, sorry." That was another 45 min later.
The crew is trying to keep everyone comfortable; they even opened the doors to cool the plane down. There are frequent offers of water and orange juice. They reboot the entertainment system second time and finally get the volume in my area of the plane to work.
I'm one of the few people on board that views this as a forced opportunity to relax and catch up on reading. It's totally out of my control and I shouldn't get in anyone's way. We are on the ground and safe. Others are complaining that it's 8pm now and they want food. The flight crew doesn't know how long the delay will be so they don't want to turn the ovens on.
"This is the captain. The engineer thinks we have to turn the plane completely off to clear the error. The plane will go dark for a few seconds, the entertainment system will reboot and those of you in first and club world class will not be able to move your seats for those 3 seconds."
Everyone back in economy laughs at the idea that first class will be inconvenienced because of their seats. Me, I wonder if we're going to lose the sound again with a reboot of the whole plane.
Now it's about 9:45pm, just more than 3 hours after we were supposed to take off. I know I've missed my connecting flight in Heathrow and even the next flight after that. I look on my cell phone for other flights to Nice on Sunday and write them down on my hand for quick reference.
The flight crew feels it's long enough and they turn the ovens... Great, more heat.
"Hello this is the captain. Unfortunately they can't fix the problem. We're going to have you disembark shortly." Everyone groans and starts to gather their things. I put my iPad away, shoes back on and, "the captain again here. I just found out that the flight crew already turned on the ovens, so we'll keep you all on board until you've finished your meals."
Some people are looking at this as an opportunity to get free upgrades to Club World or First Class. Me, I'm thinking this might be my worst flight delay ever, and maybe I'll just go home and get a refund.
It's 10:25pm now, 4 hours sitting here and now officially my worst delay. "This is the captain again, I have some good news. I was just told that they found a replacement part for the gear box. The engineers might be able to install it and get us in flight tonight. Except that we need to be off this stand by 11:15pm. I realize you are just about to be served your dinner and I have to ask for you to eat quickly so the cabin crew can clean up and get ready for takeoff."
Ah yes, can't take off with every tray table down.
So that's a strange mixed blessing: keeping us on board to eat and a part is found. Well it worked. I think the captain must have been tired because he didn't give any more updates. The engines went on and off a few times and at 11:25pm, 5 hours late, we pushed back from the gate.
We're in the air by midnight and the captain makes one final announcement, "I thank everyone for their cooperation during this delay. Our flight time is 6 hour 11 minutes, but we might be able to make some of our lost time up and get you to London sooner." As I drift off to sleep I remember thinking that our captain is a comedian and that the volume on channel 1 doesn't work anymore.