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Wed, Aug 29, 2007

The Place To Be During A Delayed Flight Is... Upstate New York?

Common Sense, Human Compassion A Winning Combination

Much has been written lately about the downside of air travel. Flight delays and hassles, and incidents of being stuck for hours in a metal tube appear to be at an all-time high. The word 'stranded' seems to have become synonymous with the word 'airline'.

So, it was nice to find out that a few airline workers have been quietly doing their part to change that. The New York Times reported Tuesday of several cases where being stranded while traveling by air was almost... pleasant.

On August 17, passengers aboard three delayed flights had pizza and soda waiting for them as they began their wait. Delta Air Lines Flight 424 from Phoenix to Kennedy International Airport was one such flight. About an hour and a half into the flight, the captain informed the passengers they had been diverted to Syracuse due to thunderstorms in the northeast.

Then the pilot said something that probably floored his now-disgruntled passengers.

"I'm not going to keep you on the plane. I'm going to pull up to a gate where you can get off, as long as you wait there in case we have to leave," he said. "I know you've only had cheese and crackers. So I called the Sbarro in the terminal and asked them to keep sending pizzas out until the whole plane gets fed."

Yeah, our jaws dropped, too.

"I was astounded," passenger Robynne Reiber said. "I couldn't believe how well I was being treated." Tables were already set up when they arrived at the gate.

"The pilot said it might take a while to get everybody fed because this is probably more pizzas than they're used to turning out at a time, so please be patient," Reiber said.

Not only that, but flight attendants helped serve the bounty while the pilot kept everyone informed on their progress. No sitting around in the dark for these folks!

The pilots on that flight were Gary Hale and Ty Rhameand; the flight attendants were David Evans, Nancy Grimshaw and Melisa Walker, reported the Times.

Then, in Albany -- the same day -- it happened again. Passengers aboard a Continental Express flight bound for Newark founded themselves with a weather-related delay at Albany International Airport. That group found themselves of the receiving end of plan conceived for just such an occurrence.

ALB's chief executive, John O'Donnell and public affairs director Doug Myers, recently spent five hours stranded on a parked plane. "We decided we can't let this kind of thing happen in Albany," said Myers.

So, the pair devised a simple plan: send out food for flights delayed a long time and keep food vendors open in the airport if increasing delays were occurring in the region. Pizza was on the way to the Newark-bound Continental Express flight when the pilot returned to the gate to refuel.

Here's hoping that kind of common sense is contagious (although the best-case scenario would still involve the airlines not overbooking and overscheduling their flights, the kinds of practices which lead to non-weather-related delays in the first place -- Ed.)

FMI: www.albanyairport.com, www.delta.com, www.continental.com

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