13 April, 2009

Dear Alaska Airlines

Dear Alaska Airlines,

There are many reasons that are okay to relate to passengers, regarding why you might be delaying boarding of the aircraft. These include, but are not limited to, the following:

There is a moose on runway 25R, and we are trying our best to remove the moose peacefully

On the incoming flight, someone really made a mess of the restroom and we are hosing it down

There are no more of those baggies of mixed unidentifiable snack cracker/crouton/pretzels, and we are awaiting a truck to reload the aircraft before boarding [Addendum: they are called “Gourmet Party Mix” and consist of Pretzel Twists, Barbecue Corn Sticks (??), and Cheddar Cheese Squares (helpful to know the shape in advance, don’t you think?) Net Weight: 0.5 ounces. Nutritional Value: ZERO. Purpose: Water retention, so passengers don’t use restroom]

There was just a crash and the runway is aflame with blazing jet fuel, engine parts, and lots of burning plastic luggage and fleshy debris

The pilot has been hospitalized for vertigo, and we are waiting for another pilot to arrive

The airport is closing because China has just declared war on the United States

We have established new FAA policies that prohibit children under the age of 15 from flying, and we need to take a few minutes to send away those families who had planned on traveling with small children

The front landing gear snapped while the plane was resting at the gate, and we cannot takeoff

We are determining whether or not we will be earning or losing money by allowing this plane to travel. Our accountants are running the numbers now, and we will be back with you shortly

Alaska Air was just purchased by Northwest, and we need to delay boarding while we paint the aircraft gray and apply the new logo

TSA has determined that they accidentally allowed someone to go through security with a 4.2 ounce container of Magic Bubbles™ and all flights are being held until the airport is secured
All of these reasons, while wild or unlikely, would be things that I would tolerate, and understand should be related to me via the “receptionist” at the gate.

Here is a reason that is NOT okay to announce over the intercom to passengers, regarding the delayed boarding of the aircraft:

We will be delaying boarding, because we think something might be loose on the aircraft.

And it is also NOT okay, for Vanna to come back on the horn 15 minutes later and say:

We are going to wait another 15 minutes or so, because the technicians are still trying to figure out the problem. If you have any questions, please feel free to come and ask

Okay. I have a question: “What the fuck is loose on the aircraft?”

Can’t say, huh? Okay, then how about this: “Why are you using the words ‘still trying to figure out the problem’ when referring to the large metal object that will be transporting us 5 miles above the ground, at a speed of over 500 miles per hour?”

Oh, you can’t answer that one either? I have another question for you then instead: “Why the hell are you telling us that something might be loose on the aircraft? What possible use could that information have to the passengers?”

If there is something potentially wrong with the aircraft, send your school nurse up to the microphone and have her LIE and tell us that they’re restocking the pillows and blankets (of which there are never enough, and it would be completely believable). Then sort out the problem with this loose wing, or engine. If you cannot sort it out, then put the nurse on the air-phone, and have her tell us “the flight is being CANCELLED because of mechanical problems”. There is no reason to give us cryptic updates about things that may or may not be about to cause our plane to fall out of the sky.

If the problem was with the handle on the inside of the baggage compartment, you could have said to us “We’re having some minor issues with the baggage compartment door”. If you do not specify, then I am going to act on the assumption that you are talking about one of three systems: engines, wings or tail. Because if it were a broken seatbelt, we would not be having this conversation, right?

Seriously? Why did they tell us this? Maybe they wanted to see if there was anyone who could have a look and see what might be loose? “Are there any aeronautical engineers in the terminal, please? If so, please come to Gate 11. And bring your gyroscope and a wrench.”

So now, I am here, at 30,000 feet, and I am waiting for the engine to fall off. Or for the rudder to deflect hard right, and cause the tail to snap off the plane. Or for the right slats to go into their full down position, causing the plane to bank hard to the left and go into uncontrolled descent, breaking up over the deserts of Nevada.

I’ve never really been afraid of flying. But thank you, Alaska Airlines, for keeping me informed of the nitty-gritty of your ground-crew ongoings. I’ll sleep better tonight… except for the nightmares.

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