United – The anatomy of a delay

I was booked to fly from Fort Lauderdale to Seattle, via Newark last week. The inbound flight had been via Dulles, and was delayed three and a half hours, getting me in at 1am on the previous day. I had a lie in and was not too concerned when I checked online and saw a little bit of delay to Newark.

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I arrived at the airport fairly early and had a quick TSA experience and then was in the United Club before the previous flight to EWR had left. About 30 minutes after they left to board, they were all back as the plane ‘had a leak’. About an hour later – just as were supposed to board – they returned to their flight. My flight then took a delay due to ATC problems at Newark. The initial delay was 90 minutes. Almost immediately this was cut to 20 minutes.

So I consumed more of United’s ‘Cheese’:

My flight boarded and all was well until it was found that the pilots had seen the 90 minute delay and not left their hotel. Once the shorter delay was noticed, they got a crew bus to the airport. We were all boarded for about 20 minutes before they turned up and started their processes for leaving.

We pulled away from the gate and were number 1 for departure when ATC introduced a ground stop for Newark. So we sat at the end of the runway for an hour before we were allowed to leave.

About an hour from Newark, and with more delays being incurred, the pilots decided to divert as they were running out of fuel. We went to Harrisburg, PA where we spent about 30 minutes whilst we were refuelled. As we left we were told that we were a priority for landing as we had been diverted.

The plane had WiFi so we could track progress, although United’s system treated the Harrisbury to Newark segment as a new flight and wanted to be paid again, despite me having paid on the flight from Fort Lauderdale. Flight tracking was free on the system:

Luckily my connection was also delayed, although it was long walk from the end of one terminal to the end of the other, to make the connection.

It was all a little stressful, and could have been avoided. United’s delay notifications tell passengers to go to the gate at their original boarding time as delays can be reduced. It is a shame that our pilots did not get the same message.