Flight Delay Reasons That Make You Shake Your Head

Filed Under: Travel

I’m not having the “luckiest” couple of travel weeks. In the past 10 days I’ve collectively had 16 hours of flight delays (first a four hour delay before a Philadelphia to Toronto flight, then a two hour delay before an Abu Dhabi to New York flight, then a four hour delay before a Chicago to Las Vegas flight, and now finally a four hour delay before a Las Vegas to Los Angeles flight).

In the past 10 days I’ve collectively experienced more delays than in the previous two years combined.

Last night I was trying to standby for an earlier flight from Las Vegas to Los Angeles (actually a later flight, but it was less delayed than my earlier flight).

American-Delay-1 American-Delay-3

I was next in line to talk to the gate agent, when the flight attendant from the inbound flight approached the gate agent:

Flight attendant: “We can’t start boarding yet, I have a problem with my tablet.”
Gate agent: “Sorry, I don’t follow.”
Flight attendant: “Well one of the files on my tablet is corrupt. I can’t access my flight attendant manual, so we can’t board yet. I’m waiting on a paper manual.”
Gate agent: “So can we at least start boarding, and we’ll get you a paper one before the door closes? That’s the first time I’ve ever heard that.”
Flight attendant: “No, it’s FAA regulations. We have to wait until I have a paper manual.”
Gate agent: “Wow.”

I realize the rules are the rules, but at the same time when you logically break it down, that’s quite possibly the most ridiculous reason I’ve heard for a flight having delayed boarding.

Fortunately a supervisor showed up pretty quickly with the paper manual, because I can’t imagine the gate agent having to announce “ladies and gentlemen, our flight’s boarding is further being delayed because one of our flight attendants has a corrupt file on her tablet which means she can’t access her flight attendant manual, and therefore we have to wait until she gets a paper copy of the manual before we can begin boarding.”

What’s the most ridiculous reason you’ve heard for a delayed boarding?

  1. On my DFW-ANC flight on Sunday, we were delayed because someone’s luggage overheated and burned the hand of the baggage handler (?????!!!)

  2. Ooops , you said you got delayed 4 hours. That plus the flight time, you’d have come out ahead if you knew the cluster was coming and just rented one way.

  3. Neither the luckiest nor the mathy-est apparently: 3 * 4 + 2 = 14, not 16.

    With the amount of flying you do I’m flabbergasted that you don’t experience delays at least occasionally. Delays of an hour or so are almost de rigueur on the east coast during the summer months. Are you not counting late connectors where the flight you connect to eventually arrives on time?

  4. Renting a car and getting there faster sounds good but it is not reality. First, you do not know how long the delay is when it starts. You would not abandon the flight at minute one of the delay. Then you have to get your luggage, rent a car, get to the car, drive to the destination and finally return the car. All that takes time, lots of time.

    Finally, if the segment is part of a larger trip, missing the flight will invalidate the rest of the ticket.

  5. I am guessing lucky was not connecting as he did not mention missing a connection.

    i am also guessing he did not connect in LAS as it is not a AA hub.

    In that case, why not just drive it in the first place?

  6. Sounds very reasonable. The manual contains the safety checklist. No manual = unsafe in emergencies = no boarding. Pretty common sensical.

  7. that’s the stupidity of AA sucking up to Samsung by buying all their tablets and phones in order to secure their corporate contract instead of using a proper tablet like iPad

    now they’re paying the price

  8. Once got delayed by break overheat and that was after the A380 entering the runway. Ended up waiting 30 more minutes.

  9. On my last flight delay (21.5 hours) it was a true comedy of errors:

    * hydraulics on the catering truck wouldn’t work (30 min)
    * someone prematurely closed the door to the jetty (45 min delay mid-boarding)
    * someone offloaded themselves out of frustration (45 min to remove their luggage)
    * return to gate because air conditioning wasn’t functioning (1.5 hours)
    * wait for a bus to arrive to take us to the terminal (30 min)
    * wait for luggage because it had to be handled manually since it was tagged for a different airport (2 hours)
    * overnight stay at hotel near LHR (remainder of 21.5 hour delay)

    It was pretty laughable by the end. Our kids and baby did surprisingly well.

    The small things that can create bigger hassles are pretty ridiculous sometimes.

  10. Mine is the most hilarious.Once my Air India flight got delayed more than 4 hours since the pilot hadn’t gotten his indian food.I had just gotten outta the lounge and tried to get in after hearing about the delay but I was denied entry because Air India pays for ‘Single Entry Passes’ for F class passengers and a 90 minute pass for J class passengers.

  11. I was just delayed at DFW on AA on Sunday because they decided to install a new weather radar in the plane, after we all boarded. Almost 2 hours waiting on the plane for avionics to bring a new radar from the hangar and install it. Obviously a radar is key, but you didn’t know you needed one before we boarded?

  12. @ LarryInNYC — Hah, 16 hours accounts for the two hour delay I had on my connecting flight, which I didn’t include since it wasn’t relevant in the story up until that point. Sorry!

  13. I was on a Singapore Airlines flight last month from Singapore to Sydney. The night before, I got a phonemail msg notifying me in a typical Singapore euphemism that it was “re-timed”. Even the flight status screens in the airport said “re-timed”. Ironically, once we got on the plane, the pilot apologized for the “delay”! Ha! Turns out we were waiting for connectors from an inbound Heathrow flight…

  14. Flight delayed by 5 hours because we were 2 hour late to start, then a crew member timed out, and we couldn’t get another crew member in any reasonable time, so ended up delaying that flight by 2 more hours. Then waited an hour for a group of 22 people who were also late.

    This comedy of the absurd needs a good sense of humor. As the timed out member left, they said if they had closed the door 3 minutes earlier, we could have made it.

  15. Interesting topic. I worked a departure earlier this week where we took a delay due to the fact that the Captain was thrown in jail for an outstanding warrant while passing through departure immigration. Fortunately he was due to be having a check ride that day and the TRI checking him operated instead after a short delay.

    Over the years though, I’ve had delayed flights for some of the most far fetched reasons imaginable. For example, while loading a human remains an ID card got snagged and slipped into the crack between the coffin and the outer cardboard case. Took an hour to get it back out.

    Or when the caterers went on strike so we had to send someone to buy 175 fried chicken dinners from KFC before we could depart.

    Or because the lead singer of Iron Maiden borrowed the plane to take fans to Norway.

    Yeah, its a strange business this aviation thing…

  16. 2 hour delay on Delta once because the pilot couldn’t adjust his seat, and we had to wait for a different one to be installed. The pilot actually got on the intercom twice and openly criticized the customers for daring to be annoyed by this. He also assured the connecting passengers (flight was to JFK, timed to connect to evening flights to Europe) they would “be fine” on their connections. Once in flight, this got amended to “you’ll be booked on the next flight if you miss your connections”, which for a lot of people meant the same flight on the next day.

  17. It’s not that unreasonable from a liability perspective. Once AA starts letting passengers on the plane they are liable for almost anything that happens to them. If something went wrong during boarding and the FA’s didn’t follow the approved safety procedures found in the manual, that by not following them the passengers suffered greater injuries, and it could be shown that they didn’t have a proper copy of the manual on board, AA would be exposed to a huge lawsuit that could rightfully cost them millions in tort damages.

    Yes, the likelihood of something like that happening is small, but it’s still a very unnecessary risk for AA to take. Also, even if something didn’t happen, they could still be subject to FAA fines and penalties for not following regulations.

  18. I once was on an AA flight at DFW. As we neared the runway, the pilot announced they left without the next crew (who would fly the next flight after ours) so returned to the gate to pick them up. Delayed the flight about 1 hour.

  19. I was once delayed for over 2 hours between SLC and BOI due to a broken wheel on the beverage cart. They repaired it and we took off. However, once we were in-flight, we didn’t receive ANY beverages or snacks because “our flight duration was too short”. I sent an email to Delta on that, and they were nice enough to award me some Skypesos.

  20. This one’s understandable but, in terms of weird, once had a three hour delay on a YYJ – SFO flight because someone had an “accident” on the inbound and they decided to remove the row of seats, only then to get them wedged in the aircraft door.

  21. It is ridiculous!! This kind of problems passenger have to face. They must have be ready all the time with the high-tech system that passenger may escape from this kind of situation. By the way Lucky, May I know how much you are delayed when you touched down the airport after every flight.

  22. About a month ago UA Newark to Narita- they had already closed the door when they realized they had forgotton to load all the catering. Not some- all.

  23. Years ago when I worked at Aa Ops DFW, we had a strange arrival delay. Att least for bag delivery.
    As the bag crew was about to open one of the cargo doors, they heard “activity” inside. Listening for a bit, they could hear something running back and forth. The manifest didn’t show any pets checked as baggage, Yet the Load Plan out of Orlando did declare “live animal”.

    We called Dispatch and learned the inbound cargo included live wolves.
    4 hours later we had a fence around the plane and Ft Worth Zoo ready with tranquilizer guns. 2 of the 5 wolves were loose and were NOT happy.

  24. I had a flight that was initially delayed an hour by ATC due to congestion after we left the gate, then after getting clearance had to go back to the gate to refuel because we burned so much fuel while waiting, another 45 minutes. There was another flight leaving at the same time we went back to the gate, but they wouldn’t let us switch to that flight even though we were back parked at the gate. Then after that we lost our spot and waited another 30 minutes for ATC to re-clear us to go. Missed my connection which had a 2.5 hour cushion and had to sleep in the airport overnight. Of course the official reason was ATC and nothing to do with them not loading enough fuel in the first place or not allowing us to switch flights to make the connection, so no apology at all, just “tough luck.”

  25. Our flight crew on Air New Zealand decided to partake in illegal job action. They showed up a little bit late, with one flight attendant dressed up as captain hook. Since he refused to remove the hook it was declared that he couldn’t do his job safely and the flight was eventually cancelled, causing overnight stays and re-routings for everyone on the full plane.

  26. @ Steve64 — you win this thread, sir! How did they load the wolves in that they managed to get loose? That’s crazy.

  27. Manila 2 years ago, delay pushing off from the gate…..pilot comes on and says we can’t leave as there are dogs on the Tarmac. We then watched animal control drive out and chase dogs around airplanes, think Benny hill but without the music.

  28. @ Andrew: “Finally, if the segment is part of a larger trip, missing the flight will invalidate the rest of the ticket.”

    In the case of irregular operations, on a couple of occasions I’ve called the airline and had them agree to drop a segment in the middle of the itinerary. On each occasion they said there would be no refund for the unflown segment. I also hadn’t checked luggage, so retrieving the luggage was not an issue. Of course I wouldn’t try just not showing up.

  29. OMG, she was not able to read People magazine on her tablet while sitting in the jump seat for half the flight!

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