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More adventures in air travel

I don’t know what Meg Ryan felt – she was on the same flight with us, but on the lower deck, – but we were quite miffed with how America greeted us.

The plane departed on-time, and everything was going on swimmingly until after all preparations for landing were made. That was when the captain told us that thunderstorms in Newark area would require us to be in a holding pattern for some time.

Fifteen minutes later he cheerfully said, “It looks like the bad weather passed, and we will be landing in just a few minutes”.

Two minutes later, he made the standard call of “Cabin crew, please be seated for landing”.

Five more minutes later, he came on the speaker again with “I have bad news. The weather is back, preventing us from landing. Nothing we can do, Mother Nature at its worst, we’re back to the holding pattern.”

His next announcement, twenty minutes after that, was that we did not have enough fuel to wait out the storm, and would have to change course and land in JFK.


It took us more than 40 minutes to get to the ground at JFK. And almost as soon as we landed, the thunderstorm gods decided that it was time to unload on that particular spot of land.

We actually felt rather fortunate at not being in the air. The plane shook and swayed, the wind howled over the engine noise, the rain battered the windows. That lasted for a good hour and a half.

All of that time, we were parked off-terminal. The plan was to re-fuel and, Newark weather permitting, make a short hop over. But no re-fueling could happen where lightning illuminated the skies every few seconds. We sat close to the cockpit and could hear through the open door that the pilots were concerned about the approaching end of their “flying window”, after which they would have to get off the plane regardless of the conditions. That would probably spell the end of any chance of getting to Newark that night.

At least, the girls slept through most of it on their flat Upper Class beds. Spending all this extra time in economy must have been much tougher.

Finally, the storm let up. Re-fueling commenced, lasting half an hour or so. As soon as it was done, we got clearance to take off for our hop to Newark, but another half hour passed before we managed to get in the air again.

And then, the actual trip from JFK to Newark by Boeing 747 took a good hour all by itself. I’m pretty sure I can drive the distance in about the same time.

We finally landed in Newark five hours after our scheduled arrival time. There were many flights coming in simultaneously after a severe weather disruption, which, of course, made border controls and baggage reclaim all that harder to navigate.

We got to bed at around 1am on Thursday, or 6am London time.

I’ve been paying for that all day long today.

Posted in Chronicles


  1. Nathan

    If it’s any consolation:

    – Under normal circumstances, you certainly could have driven from JFK to Newark in less than an hour.

    – “normal circumstances” are the exception to the rule. The trip will probably take 1.5 to 2 hours unless you’re driving between 3am and 5am.

    – Assuming you would have been able to find a taxi that would fit you, the family and all of your luggage, you would have been charged somewhere between $100 and $200 for the trip. (They get to tack on the cost of the “return trip” to NY.)

    Putting all that aside…WELCOME HOME!

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