After 30 years of travelling, I have finally experienced flying a plane worried that I'd never make my destination. I wasn't flying some central european airline out of the last dying days of the Soviet Union, no, this was Northwest Airlines. For years, working for US government projects, I've had to take NW when flying to the US for work, and have earned a boatload of miles on my WorldPerks account. Which means I am loathe not to use the airline so I can earn more miles, hopefully to one day gain enough to fly free around the world. But while I pad my account, I have to suffer. And this last US trip found me truly concerned about the state of the plane.
On the day I left Manila, we had to return to the gate as the plane had electrical problems. We waited inside the plane for two hours and many a passenger worried we wouldn't make our connections in Tokyo to our US destinations. I also had a first hand experience, when going to use the bathroom while waiting for the takeoff, there were no lights in the bathroom. Pitch dark, try peeing in that condition; the stewardesses said we couldn't use the flashlights since they were only for emergency conditions - how severe could it get if more than a few passengers made a mess in the unlit bathrooms?
We did get off the ground that day, and made it safely to Narita.
On my flight back yesterday, there was another delay in Tokyo, not to mention lines of people waiting to board. Then, we had another delay after everyone was on board, waiting, drumming our fingers, packed like sardines. We had swung onto the tarmac already, when the captain announced that we had to return to the gate due to more electrical problems. Eeegads! We could see that we weren't going to get in till after midnight, so we did our best to get comfortable.
Arrival in Manila, at least very little turbulence. Then as we were unloading, total darkness. This was not a simple dimming of the lights, this was one minute I could see people, the next nothing. This happened twice, and the second time, the stewardesses finally came out with flashlights to help us find our way down the rows. Could they have been less responsive?
As I headed into the crowded customs area (with at least 3 other flights arriving the same time we did, so take a bad day at Naia and triple, no quadruple it, sigh), I could only think of why NW is still using a plane that is severely in need of repair for a very packed route. There are 400 passengers going each way from Manila to Tokyo, do we not deserve a decent flight with little concern over whether the plane will plunge into total darkness?
The topper this morning came when a fracas among strained tempers broke out into a fight in front of customs. Someone insulted another and it was truly a sad sight to see these people brawling. Welcome home.