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Lies the airlines tell me

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Published: March 15, 2012 at 11:50 AM

My experience flying yesterday gave me an extra appreciation for something Disney does, or, more accurately, doesn't do.

How? My flight out of Denver left the gate on time, then spent the next 20 minutes on the tarmac. The pilot came on the intercom to tell us we were being held while "waiting for some paperwork." A half hour later, we were on our way back to the gate. A fluid line was reporting a problem, we were then told, and after two attempts to fix it, our flight was assigned to a different plane.

Of course, by that time, our pilots had exceeded their daily shift limit, so we had to wait for a new crew to arrive.

Frustrating, sure, but what bothered me most was the string of bogus departure times United issued. We were scheduled to depart at 1:02 pm. When the troubles started, our published departure time slid from 2:00 to 2:15 to 2:30 to 2:40 to 2:45 to 2:50 to 3:00 to 3:30 to 4:00 to 4:18 to 4:30 to 5:00 to 6:00, when we eventually did get on the new plane and off the ground.

Having worked for several years in the theme park attractions, I know that machines break down from time to time and that delays happen. But I appreciate Disney's policy of training cast members not to provide a definite reopening time when that occurs. Because, let's face it, you never know exactly when something's going to be fixed.

Sure, you can tell people how long previous fixes of the same time have taken. (And I've found many Disney cast members over the years who'll do that.) But every downtime is different. There's no guarantee that this power-up from a cascade stop on Big Thunder Mountain will take 15 minutes just because 90 percent of them do. This could be one of those annoying 10 percent.

So I appreciate when a business is honest and tells me "we don't know." I understand that it's good business to communicate with your customers - but only if you're communicating honestly. United just embarrassed itself with that string of bogus take-off times. I wish the airline industry would quit feeding us this garbage. Tell us what the problem is, and what you're doing about it. But don't insult us by making up a dozen departure times that you can't keep.

In the interest of getting some entertainment out of a frustrating day, I invited our Facebook fans to submit their airline delay horror stories, and promised to give a new Theme Park Insider T-shirt to the best one. You can check out the one that have been submitted already, or add your own. Vote for your favorite story by "liking" it.

I'm giving away two more of our T-shirts this week, as well - just publicly share our posts on Facebook or retweet our posts on Twitter to enter to win one of those.

Readers' Opinions

From Tim Odom on March 15, 2012 at 12:44 PM
A few months ago, I was coming back from seeing my girlfriend (now my fiance). My flight from Pittsburgh to Providence, RI had a stop in Philadelphia, for reasons I have yet to understand, but that is neither here nor there.

So, I get to the airport in Pittsburgh on time, and, come to find out, there was some sort of weather delay. Mind you, it was not raining at all in Pittsburgh, but hey, it MUST have been raining in Philadelphia. Ok, I can deal with that.

Well, regardless, the delay increased. I saw my scheduled departure time start to slip, from 3:35pm til sometime around 8pm. Mind you, my connecting flight in Philadelphia was scheduled to leave at 6pm. So, of course, I start to get concerned, seeing as I had work the next day and had no vacation time left. I make a point to ask about what would happen if I missed my flight, and was told by the Southwest officials that they were holding the flight in Philadelphia due to several passengers for that flight being on this one.

Ok, so finally, around 8, we take-off. Please note, my girlfriend lived 2 hours away from the airport, and getting there 2 hours early, meant that at this point, this was a very long day. We get to Philadelphia, with the pilot telling us, again, that we would not miss the connecting flight.

I get into the terminal and ask a Southwest employee what gate my flight is at, and am told to go to Gate 16. I go there and another Southwest employee says, and I quote, "Oh, that flight left hours ago." I go back to the first Southwest employee, and she AGAIN sends me back to Gate 16.

At this point, I lose it. Really, it's like 9:30pm, I have been on the road since like 11am, and am still no where close to home. When I finally got the answer as to what the heck was going on, a supervisor came over and apologized to me (please keep in mind, I was not nice to the the Southwest employee that kept sending me to Gate 16, and under any other circumstances should not have flown that night.) He tells me that my flight will leave at 10pm, which it does. In the end run, it would have taken me less time to drive than fly.

I ended up getting over $200 in vouchers for all of this, when all I would have asked for is a little honesty. I understand weather can be crap, but lying about it again and again and again was a little much.

Just typing all that out again gets me ticked at Southwest. Again.

From Mike Gallagher on March 15, 2012 at 1:09 PM
Tim said: "...it MUST have been raining in Philadelphia. "

But..but...It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia...:)

From Tim Odom on March 15, 2012 at 1:39 PM
Touche, sir. Touche.
From Mark Kausch on March 15, 2012 at 3:47 PM
Yeah. And "It Never Rains in Southern California", either.
From Carrie Hood on March 15, 2012 at 6:47 PM
"It must be raining in Philadelphia..."

Lemme guess, USAirways? (Sarcasm Sorry, couldn't help it)
I swear to the higher powers, a CLOUD goes over PHL and they go on ground control. If something actually FALLS from the sky, forget it man, your not getting anyplace on time!

Oddly enough the Airlines (where at least several years ago) required to re-file paperwork each time a delay happened, that's why the scheduled time changes like that. If the fix takes longer, one poor gate attendant (or their poor coordinator) will have to keep re-filing the papers to the control tower and everyone else until the flight gets moving.

Plus Airline workers are just as mistreated as theme park workers. They honestly take so much abuse I personally think they out-rank the theme parks, cause just like Disney they go out and break the plane on purpose just to mess with your plans.

From Aaron M. on March 15, 2012 at 8:15 PM
I hate flying so much. I'm flying out of San Diego tomorrow and I'm not looking forward to it at all.
From Tim Odom on March 16, 2012 at 6:44 AM
@ Carrie - Not USAirways, it was Southwest. I usually have good luck with Southwest, but this time was so far out there it was rediculous.
From Doug Jenkins on March 16, 2012 at 10:12 AM
Not to mention they first told the delay was because of paperwork! We all need to drive if we can.
From Anon Mouse on March 16, 2012 at 10:48 AM
I'm not sure comparing the customer service problems of airlines with that of Disney is helping much especially since Disney has well documented service lapses. Certainly, when a ride breaks down at Disney, it is a great inconvenience to guests. Sometimes they never return, thus a Fastpass is useless. You get no vouchers for that. (Of course, some will report that they do.)

Airlines must operate in stricter regulation of the Federal Government. I noticed that the more the government gets involved, the worse the customer service becomes. Gov't regulation becomes the ceiling rather than the floor where courtesy is usually extended. So the airlines try very hard to be incompliance with the law to avoid lawsuits. As a result, they are within the law, but forget to put on a happy face.

As for why airlines put on bogus flight times, there are laws on the books that say when a flight is late. There must be a scheduled time. It cannot remain open ended. The fact that a crew change happened cannot be anticipated if the mechanic said the plane could be repaired, but later reneged. Thus, you are saying they are lying when it isn't quite as easy as that.

From Mark Hollamon on March 17, 2012 at 6:00 AM
@Annon: I have, in fact, received a new complimentary fastpass when a ride is out of service for any length of time. It doesn't happen every time and you must def ask for it in a courteous but firm fashion.

Disney employees are people too and realize what commitment you have made to vacation at the resort.

From Anthony Murphy on March 17, 2012 at 7:42 AM
Very true and a very good observation about rides breaking down.

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