Home » OPINION » Columns » JACK WEATHERLY — A loopy flight to D.C. and royal return to Mississippi

JACK WEATHERLY — A loopy flight to D.C. and royal return to Mississippi

JACK WEATHERLY

We had a most unusual flight from Jackson to Washington, D.C. in this era of bizarre commercial air travel.

Yet it, and the return flight, raise the question: could there be a silver lining in the dark clouds?

The outbound flight’s problems were beyond the control of American Airlines.

It was the weather.

We caught the first flight out Friday, with a departure time of 5:51 a.m.

Everything was fine, till in midflight the pilot told passengers on the 50-passenger American Eagle regional jet that a thunderstorm was over the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.

Soon he told us that the airport had been shut down because of the storm. The flight attendant informed us that we were No. 8 in line to land there, once the storm blew over.

Even though the pilot had added extra fuel in Jackson, presumably because of the weather outlook, we couldn’t circle Ronald Reagan indefinitely.

He was trying to see if we could land in Baltimore.

No dice. Baltimore was also socked in.

Next on the alternate-site list was Charlottesville, Va.

We started to land at that airport but the engines revved up again, and the landing gear were retracted. Closing.

Next choice, Richmond, Va., even farther from D.C.

But no sooner had we landed than the pilot said never mind, we’ll just refuel and head to our original destination. The storm had lifted.

Adding to the confusion was the fact that a member of our greeting party was told by American that our plane had never left Jackson.

Which was confusing to another member of our hosts, a former journalist, used the Flight Aware website and saw what she said was a rather loopy flight pattern of our plane.

The woman who had been told that we had never left the ground called us and said: “Where are you?”

Oh, on the way, we said.

Let me say that our flight attendant was strictly a professional. Her cool demeanor and attention to duty were admirable.

She even repeated what the pilot had said – he was either from Germany or perhaps Sweden, and his diction was less than perfect. Then she walked the aisle and answered questions, of which everyone had at least one.

Given the infamous treatment of a man on a United Airlines flight and other incidents, one wonders if all airlines are on alert to avoid a repeat of those events.

The attendant was attentive to our frame of mind, but she was dutiful.

A man got up as we approached D.C.

“Sir, we are preparing to land. Please return to your seat,” she said firmly. I didn’t turn to see what happened, but he evidently used the lavatory anyway. Sometimes you don’t have a choice.

And flight personnel must use judgment.

We landed two and one-half hours late.

I don’t think our misadventure made the list of industry news that Flight Aware puts on its website.

A couple of fun family days, prompted by my grand-niece and god daughter’s first communion, in which we saw some of the great city.

We viewed where Lincoln died and where Washington dined.

I got chills knowing that the Father of our Country had trod the same boards we were using at Gadsby’s Tavern. There is something intimate about the 18th century establishment in historic Alexandria.

Tragedy has a different effect on me.

Lincoln, the larger-than-life president (especially so with the eight-inch stovepipe hat atop his 6 foot 4 frame) died having achieved with probably the greater half of what he set out to do. He, of course, was not around to see that the nation’s wounds were bound.

Now the rest of the story.

We arrived at Reagan for our Sunday evening return.

We made it through the TSA checkpoint and to the American check-in desk.

“Oh, I’ve been looking for you,” said the smiling woman with a charming Barbados accent.

What? We said.

“I’m going to take care of you,” she said, looking at my wife who was in a wheelchair because of a temporary disability.

Boy, did she. We told her our seats were not together. No problem. A little work on her laptop and it was done.

Next, a gentleman in American Airlines garb showed up and said he’d push her.

That had been my job, but, well, it would have been less than appreciative if I had insisted I could handle it.

He slung my wife’s carry-on bag over his shoulder and pushed away.

We were put on the plane first, after a ride on a tram on which we were the only passengers.

I whispered to my wife at one point that they were treating her like a queen.

So if she was Queen Elizabeth II, then I was her husband, Prince Philip, standing ready to serve if needed.

But I didn’t want to start any trouble. Honest.

» Contact Mississippi Business Journal staff writer Jack Weatherly at jack.weatherly@msbusiness.com or (601) 364-1016. 

About Jack Weatherly

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