You usually board your flight, the door closes, and off you go to the runway and into the air. I had read about people being stranded on aircraft for hours on end on the tarmac when the airport closes and it finally happened to me on American Airlines.

The experience was extremely interesting indeed, though somewhat tedious as you can imagine. What did the crew do and what was communication like? Read on and find out.

AA2125 – Washington Reagan to Boston (DCA-BOS)
31 May 2018
Embraer 190 – N957UW
Seat: Main Cabin Extra 5F
Departure: 18:30 Arrival: 20:11
Actual: 20:15 Arrival: 21:50

Clouds were rolling in to Washington DC and I thought nothing of it while waiting in the lounge. The flight was on time and we boarded the aircraft normally. As I was in Main Cabin Extra in the bulkhead row, I got pictures of the leg room as usual.

Boarding finished and we had the safety demonstration and headed for the runway. I was really tired as this was flight three of five in a row and I had been up since 5am. I closed my eyes and dozed.

Engines Off, Airport Closes

The engines soon turned off and I opened my eyes. What? Immediately the pilot came on the intercom and said, “You may have noticed our engines have stopped” and continued to say that storms were rolling in to the DC area and the airport had closed.

We were not the only ones in a parking spot on the taxiway. He went on to say that when we left the gate it was expected we would be the last flight out however that had changed during our taxi.

What To Do?

We sat in silence and waited. Fortuitously, I had brought a full bottle of water with me which is something I never do, so I sipped and chilled in the semi darkness. The rains came and it really bucketed down. That sent me off to the bathroom.

After some time an update was provided to say there was no update but we would be kept informed. More time passed and everyone on board was quite quiet, reading, resting or texting. It was clear there was a storm happening so no-one was annoyed.

Cabin Service On The Ground

Flight attendants came through with the on board service. First, one came through offering the biscuit from a massive clear plastic bag of them, so I took one.

Later on another crew member passed through with a big bottle of water and gave out cups of it to anyone who wanted it. All well and good, I thought.

Time To Go

Three announcements in a short period of time from the flight deck. One saying that the airport was open and flights were going to go, but we couldn’t as we were going north and that’s the way the storm had gone. They were checking what was going to happen to us.

The next announcement came, saying that we were going to head back to the gate as the airspace going south was clear, but as we were going north, that’s the way the storm went and we were out of luck. Our new arrival gate was provided.

Literally two minutes later, he came on again saying that dispatch in Dallas had approved our departure and we were going right now! Go right now we did, engines on, to the runway and we high tailed it out of there.

We landed in Boston a little over an hour later and life was good. I’d completely missed my connecting flight to London Heathrow but I knew that would be taken care of so I was not bothered.

Overall Thoughts

Exemplary communication from the pilots of this American Airlines flight. They kept us informed at every turn which was really great. He explained things so everyone would understand and we all got a good feeling from it all.

Cruising along to Boston we had another announcement to apologise for the fact that things seemed a bit “keystone cops back there with the changing information” but he explained that’s how things worked. A really good guy and everyone was in good spirits throughout. Kudos to the entire crew really, it was a great experience that so easily could have been much worse.

Have you ever been stuck on the tarmac for hours after boarding? What was it like? Thanks for reading and if you have any comments or questions, please leave them below.

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Featured image by Gwen K via Wikimedia Commons.