We’ve all been there. Your first flight is late, and that connection time seems shorter and shorter. And you hope against hope that maybe the second flight is also delayed, or that the airline will be merciful and hold the plane. But will they?
Sometimes, it works. Sometimes the connection is at a nearby gate, sometimes you race through the terminal to make the plane with seconds to spare, and sometimes the second flight is so delayed you have time for a full meal and shopping in the airport before you board.
Of course, sometimes it’s not such a happy outcome. It’s bad enough when your original flight is long gone, but the absolutely most maddening result is arriving to see the plane sitting there, but the door shut. And the flight marked “closed.”
Unfortunately, in my experience too, “closed” means “closed.” And begging usually doesn’t help. Nor, according to my clients, does crying and/or screaming.
Yesterday in Denver, while waiting for a gate-checked carryon from a late United Express commuter flight, I noticed a lot of people trying that crying and screaming option. Many, but not all flights had been delayed, and it appeared somewhat random as to who had gotten lucky and who was stuck.
One man had missed the 10-minute cutoff by two minutes, but it might has well have been 10 hours.
Later, a client told me that her delayed flight had pulled into a Denver gate with exactly 11 minutes to spare. They raced off the place to a nearby gate but were told they had missed the cutoff by three minutes. They had to wait four hours for the next available flight to San Francisco. And both she and her husband are elite level frequent fliers.
I have heard stories like this from clients and friends with various airlines, not just United. Every once in a while, however, I do hear of airlines holding a plane for some amount of time. Especially when it’s the last flight of the day.
This holding the last flight out isn’t a given, however, as many veterans of “distressed passenger rates” at often dumpy airport hotels can attest.
International connections and first and business class passengers also seem to have priority for holding flights, but again, this is also not a given.
On a recent Air Canada flight from Vancouver to San Francisco, the captain announced we were waiting for some delayed international passengers, all, as it turned out, in coach. The plane departed 25 minutes late, and was able to make up about half of that.
I am sure, well, I hope anyway, that there is some method to the madness. On the flip side, holding a flight for a connection may in turn mean passengers on the second flight are late for THEIR connections.
So what’s the solution? My personal suggestion would be some short period, perhaps 10 minutes, where an airline would hold a flight. Or at least be willing to open the closed door. As opposed to passengers who have just arrived at the airport late, it’s not as if connecting passengers haven’t checked in – the airline KNOWS where they are.
I do realize this could open up a whole new can of worms. Because then people who were 11 minutes late would complain, and such a system would only work for online connections. It’s unreasonable to expect say, American Airlines to hold a flight for Delta passengers. And probably unrealistic for code-share partners to have enough information.
In addition, anticipating unhappy comments from airline employees, yes, I know, a potential 10 minute delay could result in an airline losing their takeoff slot. But planes are delayed all the time for non-safety reasons such as baggage and catering.
What do you think, Tripso readers? Do you like the system as is? Do you think more planes should be held? Or less? Would love to see your ideas in the comments.