Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Clear for take-off? Sure, we can avoid that tornado over there...

So I just saw this article about a woman that is suing Continental (and it's associated airline partners) over a flight she took with them that experienced "severe turbulence".

I usually don't side with these cases that seem a bit frivolous to some. But in this case? I have to agree that she's doing the right thing.

I've been on many flights that have experienced what I would consider to be moderate turbulence. LOTS of them, really.

But I've only been on maybe 2 that I'd say were severe. One of those was from St. Louis to Kansas City. Back in 2006, or so, I'd flown out there for the day to assist with some training in our branch locations for managers that were apparently retarded and couldn't figure out how to follow instructions at all, and flying back that night, my plane had to go through several thunderstorms between St. Louis and KC.

I thought that flying through the thunderstorms was pretty rough, but as we approached for landing, and descended below the cloud line, we were assaulted - that's just the best way to put it - by the winds at that level.

A usual 10 - 15 minute descent seemed to take FOREVER. It probably lasted at least 30 minutes instead, as the pilots maneuvered through the drafts, which were pushing the plane up, and then back down, and then suddenly tipping us left or right. It was terrifying.

I was luckily seated in the 2nd row. (It was a Southwest flight.) Us passengers up front had the good fortune to be near a level-headed flight attendant that kept us in good spirits, and encouraged us not to worry. She was leaning out from her jump seat next to the door, looking down the aisle at the back of the plane, where people were crying and holding hands across the aisle. She was also keeping a wary eye on her drink cart that had been haphazardly locked up before she hurried to her seat as we hit the heavy chop. It was banging around in a threatening way, and she was afraid she'd have to get up to keep it from rolling away.

She managed to keep us more focussed on the fact that she was unable to complete service in the cabin due to the turbulence issue, and she seemed to feel pretty badly that she was unable to collect cups and cans and stuff from people before she'd had to seat herself. She eventually sent a trashbag down the aisle, apologizing for having to collect the trash that way, but she appreciated our help with performing the service! Being focussed on something so trivial as keeping the plane clean was a nice distraction, if a small one.

Anyway, it didn't totally traumatize me. It didn't keep me from ever wanting to fly again. But I did decide that if I ever needed to travel to St. Louis for the day again, I'd just drive there. And I am VERY strict about the airports I will and will not fly in and out of during certain times of the year. I've been lucky since then with my flights out of KC for trips to California or to Chicago during the spring/summer months, and weather has consistently been on my side.

But I wouldn't hesistate to cancel/rearrange travel times in order to accommodate storminess that popped up unexpectedly on a travel day, if I had to.

My sanity is on the line, quite literally. I don't fuck around when it comes to my sanity!

So I don't blame this woman for filing the law suit. I think that airlines should be much more careful with the lives they have in their hands when it comes to flying in stormy weather. It seems like it'd be an easy decision, IMO. I still think that flight to KC that I took from St. Louis should have been delayed or canceled due to the weather that existed between the two cities, and I don't understand why it wasn't.

I hope this lady gets everything she asks for in the suit.


faithstwin said...

I haven't traveled half as much as you have in our lifetime but I have been in some pretty crazy turbulent situations as well (you and I were together during one of them, I think, coming back from our visit to Connecticut that time) and though it didn't scar me I could completely understand why this lady has filed a lawsuit. Reading that story tells me plenty about why she feels they are now responsible for her issues. But I think you have the right idea: just pay close attention to the weather and if it seems questionable at all, ask for a different flight.

Faith said...


And always make sure to have plenty of Xanax on hand. :D

Anonymous said...

I have travelled in pretty bad turbulence and it is scary but it's a risk you take every time you get on a flight. No one forced her to get on that plane. I think it's lame, but while she's at it, she might as well add the FAA on that lawsuit because they would have made the call on the emergency landing.

Anywho, hope all is well...

Faith said...

I just think that it must come down to the airline primarily when talking about the decision to take off in the first place. She was going such a short distance, I can only imagine the weather being bad over the airport she was at meant that it wouldn't be all that great at another airport an hour east of them, or whatever. (I still don't understand such a short flight, but I guess that can happen!) If there was tornadic activity in the general vicinity, I'd think that would be enough for all planes to be grounded for a little while, at the least!