“The engine ingested the bird.”
Thus began my journey from Austin, TX to London, England earlier this afternoon. The plane that was to carry me from Austin to Houston struck a bird on approach into Austin, causing a significant departure delay as mechanics inspected the left engine in search of damage – or, in this case, ingested bird. Their findings prompted the announcement from the gate agent, “I wish I had better news; the engine ingested the bird. We will be delayed as repairs are completed.”
I always feel bad for inexperienced travelers when these things happen – some panic, some cry, some get angry. I spoke to one lady who absolutely had to be in Kuwait tomorrow. She was upset that United Airlines had ruined her plans, as she only had a one-hour connection in Houston which she would definitely miss.
Rule-of-Thumb #1: Allow more time than you think you will need when making connections, especially when traveling internationally. Things happen; allow time for that. Worst case scenario? You have two-plus hours to explore a world-class airport like IAH. And maybe even enjoy a nice glass of wine!
I talked to a young lady, about my daughter’s age. She asked me if I’ve flown before – this was her first trip, heading to Little Rock via Houston Intercontinental. She was waaaay back in line. I gave her the toll free number to United and suggested she call as she waited in line. She did call; United couldn’t help her over the phone. I assured her she’d get to Little Rock
Rule-of-Thumb #2: Use the airline mobile phone app and have their customer service number stored on your phone, just in case. While I don’t know why United couldn’t assist this young lady, I’ve circumvented many a delay line by calling customer service.
As I looked out the window to see what the mechanics were up to, I heard a man nearby yelling at an airline representative over the phone, as if he or she had special ordered the bird, directed it to this plane, and personally sucked the bird into the engine. As I listened I shook my head. I’ve never understood why some passengers treat airline employees so poorly.
Rule-of-Thumb #3: Airlines don’t cause bird strikes. Airlines don’t create bad weather. Things go wrong sometimes. Their employees are there to help. The employees didn’t create the issue. Trust me, they don’t like these situations any more than we passengers do. I understand being frustrated, even angry, but take a chill pill. Please don’t treat them rudely, and be sure to thank them for their assistance once you’re finished.
As I type this I’m on my United flight to London. I’m looking forward to visiting this world-class city and Berlin next week. Tonight, as we head across the pond, I’m thankful for the privilege of traveling and for the people that make it happen. And, of course, I’m looking forward to exploring two of the world’s finest cities. I am blessed indeed.