United Airlines flight 957, scheduled to leave the ground at 4:29 this afternoon, is on time, though it has not yet left the ground.
That may seem like a strange declaration to you, given that I’m writing this article at 4:54 in the afternoon. Actually, flight 957 has been rescheduled to leave the ground at just before 8:00 PM tonight.
I’m supposed to be on that flight, but I’m not really sure if it’s ever going to take off. The FAA is stringing us along, you see.
If you look at the departure announcement terminals in the airport, you see that the flight is on time. You get the same information if you look for flight information online. If you look at the gate itself, there’s no announcement of any delay.
The man at the United Airlines counter tells me that there is a delay until at least 7:50 PM, but that United Airlines isn’t authorized to give that information to travelers or their families or their businesses. He says that’s because the flight departure time could be changed again, and the FAA doesn’t want travelers to go get dinner somewhere else in the airport, or go to the bathroom, or take a walk to stretch their legs. Travelers who are on the delayed flight are, instead, supposed to sit at the gate for hour after hour after hour, just waiting for an announcement.
Essentially, the FAA is admitting that it doesn’t have a reliable system for rescheduling flights, but it’s not willing to reform that system. Instead, they’ll go on stating that flights are on time when they aren’t, and won’t make accurate, updated information available to travellers because travellers can’t be trusted to take care of themselves.
It’s another step down for air travel, which has become less respectful of travelers with every passing year since 2001. It’s another good argument for keeping business local, and reducing business travel by air to the absolute minimum necessary.