Monday, July 23, 2007

A Choice

Say your flight out of Portland, Maine is already late, you've been at the airport for over three hours, and you've got a overtired 8.5 month old and an airport with almost no place to let her run around. The airline informs you that the delay was due to an engine problem, and because the problem can't be fully resolved, 55 people are going to have to be bumped. Before you say that you'd rather be bumped than fly on such a risky flight, you should know that the airline is fully booked for the next three days, so if you choose to be bumped, instead of waiting for another flight, you'll be in charge of getting yourself down to Boston (2.5 hours away) for a flight out of there, and be reimbursed for the bus fare.

Kathy was awfully nervous about getting on the plane, but I was relatively calm about the whole thing. The unpleasant alternative of extending the necessary travel with Emelia as miserable as she felt was part of it. The fact that the captain was willing to risk his life in flying was a consideration as well. But the deciding factor came from the lawyer in me -- any airline that knew it had a problem and nevertheless risked the lives of its passengers would be doubly damned in the resulting lawsuits. Under such circumstances, I felt sure that the airline would triple check everything before proceeding.

Only after we boarded and before we took off did we receive a complete explanation of the problem from the captain. From how it was described, the deicing mechanism on one of the engines couldn't be turned off, which in turn limits the amount of thrust available for taking off, which meant they needed to reduce the load. It sounded reasonable to me, and the flight was without incident (except for a bit of turbulence during our descent, during which Kathy was kind enough to only dig her fingers (and not her nails) into my leg).

I'll try to describe other aspects of the trip over the next few days.