Psych! We were quietly settling in for our flight (Continental 008) from Tokyo to Newark when the ultra-smooth voice of the captain comes over the IC. Something about an issue with the right engine that came up in the pre-flight check and needs further investigation. The captains cucumber-cool voice continues with something like, “We’ve got the ground crew looking into it right now folks. After they have a look-see, we should be good to go in a few minutes.”
The minutes tick by – that’s fine, I’d rather have them check things out thoroughly rather than have a blow out of one of our two engines on a Boeing 777 go out over the Pacific. After about 20 minutes, the captain’s back on, this time a little more tentative. To his credit, he’s totally up front with the situation and explains that it’s some sort of “blower” part and that fortunately there’s a spare one nearby but it’ll take between (and there’s a looong pause) 5 – 10 hours to replace.
Collective groan by the Americans on board followed by a second one by the Japanese as soon as the translation hits them. The Continental ground crew is still “confident” that they can patch things up in time to get the scheduled 4:20 PM flight on its way before the 10 PM curfew but I have my doubts and make a beeline for the gate agent.
After much collective handwringing in the line with others I make it to the front. Amazing what people will do to get out of a country on time – one woman looking to fly to Hong Kong to catch the midnight flight to Los Angeles and then overnight it to Newark. She comments that she really wants to make it ahead of her group so she can spend time with her sister. I remark that she’s going to be so wigged out after her extended travels she will not even realize she’s with her sister.
I innocently ask to remove the four of us off of the flight and put us on the same flight the next day. The kind lady took our order and then set off on a complicated series of moves to get us seats and then pull our bags off the flight so we could recheck them for tomorrow. In the meantime, the manager on staff scolded her for making such a promise and then slams the gate closed for any future endorsements to the next day’s flight. We were the only ones to make it on.
We later had to re-enter the country (our passports had already been stamped) which involved immigration looking for the fiddly bits of paper they tear out of your passport so they could re-attach the fiddly bits of paper. We then claimed our bags and put them into overnight storage after retreiving a fresh set of clothes and caught the train back to my inlaws. By 10 PM we were bathed, fed, and asleep.
I awoke this morning to see that CO 008 for Saturday was cancelled after all and can only think of the poor souls that stuck it out at the airport for six hours only to be told their flight was cancelled after all. By 10 PM it’s too late to catch a train back to the city for a reasonable amount of sleep especially considering their flight will take off first thing the next morning. I’m also told the hotels around the airport were all booked out because it’s the beginning of Summer vacation for the schoolkids and lots of families were staying near the airport last night, having flown/drove/trained in from the provinces in order to catch early morning flights on Sunday. I thank my lucky stars it wasn’t us stuck at the airport.
UPDATE: I just called Continental to check on our seats and asked what happened to those going on yesterday’s flight. Turns out the took the plane in for maintenance and it will not be ready to fly until 6 PM this evening, two hours AFTER we fly out. I feel like I should be rubbing some genie bottle in thanks.