Another crappy day in PHL


Aug 20, 2002
I'd like to commend the PSA crew I encountered on a USX flight last night.

We were told at the gate that the weather was bad in Philly all day and, apparently, only one runway was operating at the time we were to leave. But the Captain said we had a slot and could board and hopefully make it up there with not much delay.

We're all seated in the plane but the door is still open. There's a lot of commotion and back and forth between the Captain and ground crew when he finally comes on and says "Folks, I know how much nobody likes to check their luggage with USAirways, but we have a situation. There are no bags in the cargo hold. This means we need to do one of two things - move as many overhead and underseat bags to the cargo hold, or involuntarily remove 3 passengers."

He was good about it, and most people had no problem sending their bags to the back. They would have yellow tags and could be picked up at the gate in PHL rather than having to go to the baggage claim. This exercise took about 15 minutes when he said that there were enough (they estimated 600 lbs worth of bags). The door closes and off we go.

We're at the end of the runway holding for a while - he said it could be some time now because of a revised traffic program into PHL. So the F/A did something outside of the playbook - she offered to come around with drinks and... ALCOHOL WOULD BE COMPLIMENTARY for those who chose. Personal electronics were also permitted.

After about 30 minutes, he comes on the PA with good news that we'll be moving in a few more minutes. The he comes on with the bad news - we'd be another hour. Back to the gate we go. Off come all of the bags. Into the terminal we all go to wait it out.

All throughout this, the Captain was keeping us informed and when at the gate, he was making sure that the passengers' bags were taken care of. He was even down on the ramp working with the ground staff to do what he could to move things along (note - he was not physically transporting bags from plane, to cart, to cargo hold). Up in the jetway he was receiving the bags from the ground crew and lining them up in the jetway for us to all retrieve as we headed back to the gate.

Another 30 minutes passes in the gate area and he has the green light to go again, so we repeat the boarding exercise except this time we all have our bags tagged and know to leave them on the jetway. Again, the Captain is on the jetway helping just move the bags to the door so the ground crew could efficiently get them loaded.

We didn't have a delay this time - departing 3 hours after our scheduled time at this point. The flight time was to be 90 minutes, but over South Jersey we were moved to the penalty box and circled for a good 30 minutes. We were above a cloud deck with a clear sky above, so I saw a lot of other planes doing the same racetrack pattern. What a night it must have been down below.

We landed around 930pm local time and all was well.

I should note that when we got off the plane after going to the gate in that hour delay, I immediately got online and within 2 minutes I had a $160 fully refundable ticket booked on a nonstop WN flight leaving 2 hours later (and currently showing 30 minutes delayed). I did this because on this same trip in the past, dispatch has screwed me by canceling this (and sometimes the next and only USX nonstop) due to weather, ATC, whatever. Yet WN keeps on chugging like the energizer bunny. But I didn't have to use it and I can call WN and get a refund.

Thanks to the crew for making the pax as comfortable as you could under the circumstances.
One question and a comment.

First...Sounds like it the start of "balast" season...was sandbag balast not available or not acceptable on PSA?

Second...I have found at my station that the Express Crew's will do almost anything to help out in situations like this. Especially sitting in the penalty box for 2 hours so the gate is clear for the next arrival. Thanks for the teamwork it really help's
I did hear the Captain and ground crew talking about the need for more ballast at one point, so I guess that was not forgotten. They just didn't seem to have enough.
Believe it or not, there is a system wide shortage of ballast. I often see messages reminding outstations to return excess ballast to PHL. Also, it was probably quicker to put carryon bags in the cargo bin than wait for an unspecified time for someone to round up ballast. Just my thoughts.