All I want for Christmas is United to fly my wife home

Yesterday, Rob Markey published an excellent blog post analyzing the root cause of passenger anger over flight delays and cancellations.

Little did I realize that I would see these same circumstances unfold today as my wife, Sally, tried to fly home on United Airlines. She experienced delay after inexplicable delay that ultimately caused her flight to take off nearly nine hours late. 

Below is a transcript of the text messages she sent me. I think they give a pretty clear picture of what was going on from a passenger's perspective.

9:27 am

- Flt currently 1.2 hours delayed. Weather bad and heavy rain and winds. Here's hoping no more delays, and a safe flight.

10:02 am

- I was wrong. Delay not due to weather (as most flts are), crew rest requirement and captain. And, he's late. Still hasn't arrived, and we were to depart 15 min ago.

- And when he does arrive, he still has to do paperwork. Ah, United.

10:15 am

- Captain finally on his way to plane. He better be sprinting.

10:31 am

- Apparently he wasn't quite as close as they indicated. Still no pilot.

10:49 am

- This is RIDICULOUS. Still.NO.Captain!!

- Saga continues. They are now allowing passengers off plane, and no captain. They are trying to find one for our flight. Will text when I actually leave.

(Me: What?! They actually boarded the plane with no Captain?!)

11:00 am

- Yes, because they were told at 9:20 he was on property and heading to gate.

- Turns out, not our captain.

- Got off plane to grab lunch. Board showing 1145 departure. Lovely.

11:45 am

- Still no pilot.

12:05 pm

- My flt# is UA xxxx. Online now showing 1pm depature

- Sure am glad I woke up @ 5am.

1:02 pm

- Guess what we still don't have. And they have no status update. Lovely day...

1:15 pm

- Oh Captain, my captain!! Progress... I may just land by 5pm!

1:41 pm

- Door closed!! On way home :)

- Door back open. Addressing a 'minor' service issue with fuel.

2:00 pm

- This is INSANE. Turns out fuel pump issue is a recurring problem. Mechanic trying to avoid aircraft change. They have brought a new food truck, switching out breakfast. CRAZINESS.

- No plane change. Finishing up approvals.

- Door closed (again)

- If you don't hear from me again, then we actually took off.

2:24 pm

- I'm back.

- Misunderstanding on the maintenance repair - they are 'crunching #s to see if we can go to CA'.

- So over this.

- !! Door being disarmed.

- Ops Mgrs now involved

- Changing aircraft.

3:02 pm

- Insane. Crew has at least been great - and captain cool. New plane landing at 3pm, we are scheduled to leave @ 4.

- Will keep you posted. Lady just ate it hard in bathroom. Another woman traveling solo w/2 kids, and dog down below. My day could be worse.

- Captain uber cool - he went to check on pup.

- That's replacement captain, not jackass no show captain.

3:38 pm

- Plane here. Crew, captain, co-pilot all on board. Captain asked lots of questions before boarding. Making most of it.

- On plane. Fingers crossed.

4:14 pm

- Passengers on. Luggage on. Door still open - no catering.

(Me: Seriously, remind someone to check TP supply.)

- Laughing with crew - told them story, she ran and checked. Came back to report, 'unless everyone gets sick, we are all good'!

- Their one positive - they recovered my iPad I left charging on first plane (doh!)

- (Continental) crew has been awesome

4:33 pm

- Crew upfront talking about their time limits. They have been at airport since 9am

- One just said, 'oh crap. That will go over well'

- Yup. We were to leave @ 4pm...and then just checked online and it said 435pm

- Still no catering

- Old plane they cycled breakfast and lunch. wonder if we will now get dinner

- I was wondering why they hadn't offered us any beverages. She only has 'dirty dishes'

(Me: Did you ever get a meal voucher?)

- Yes. $5. I didn't stand in line for it - just went and got lunch... 5 hours ago.

4:45 pm

- One of the crew members just said, 'The Mayans are laughing'

- Still no catering. They were to take it from our old plane (at gate 85) to our new plane (at gate 83). Stupid crazy

- Seems they moved old plane before doing so.

- Yet another new departure time: 510. Let's see if we blow that one too.

(Me: New crew required?)

- Not yet. Heard them say they had 1.5 hours max before they got pulled.

5:02 pm

- 5pm - captain came on board explaining we are still waiting on catering. Stated front door open, and passengers are well within their right to leave and request a refund. At this point all we are waiting on is catering. Thanked people for patience.

- Seriously restless natives.

- Lady with dog down below is going NUTs

- 8 hour delay, 6 hour flight.

- YES! Catering truck just arrived.

5:17 pm

- Lady next to me just said, 'I don't think I've ever been on a plane where they announced 2 meals they would be serving, and never served it'. Hysterical. We are taking bets on which meal we will receive.

- catering finishing. They are doing a passenger head count. Everyone better be on this plane.

- Door closed...

5:30 pm

- Agent funny. Just said, 'FA, prepare doors for departure... again'.

- not shutting down until the wheels move.

- You seriously can't make this shit up. Arm stuck on jetway. They are trying to move it back so we can get out of here.

- Moving!