Saturday, March 14, 2009

A faulty overhead locker

Very late Thursday night I returned from Manchester, New Hampshire on a United flight. We boarded on time. The plane was jampacked. All seemed well (except we were on the back row next to the toilets). As passengers pushed handluggage into overhead compartments we noticed that one wouldn't shut. It looked awkward, hanging down slightly from one side. Different staff tried pushing it back into place.

Our time for departure passed. Half an hour later we were told that this misaligned locker was the cause of the delay and someone had been called to fix it. Later we were informed there was noone in the airport detailed to do this job - contractors had been called and on their way, but their vehicle broke down! They were getting another vehicle.

Half an hour later, a worker appeared. With a screwdriver he removed the offending panel and walked off to applause. As we continued to wait our attendant said paper work needed to be filled in.

Half an hour later we were told that the locker door had to be brought back and taped in place according to regulations. Tape was now needed. However, it now seemed much more complicated to fix it back and, with huffing and puffing, eventually the locker cover was lopsidedly taped in place. Another long delay followed as paper work was completed.

Two and a half hours late we took off. Sitting around us were people who now knew they had to stay overnight in Chicago because of missed connecting flights. I was amazed at the patience of so many people whose plans were entirely messed up by this faulty locker. I was also surprised that if regulations insisted it was taped up, they had lost so much time unscrewing it in the first place.

Of course it's therapy to blog about it, but I was challenged again about how small faults can do much damage. Tens of lives can be disrupted, some seriously, when small issues are left unattended - like saying something unwise and unkind, or thinking that some slight won't matter. Let's not underestimate what damage small things unattended can lead to.

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