JetBlue LAX to JFK in NY: A Saga of Delays & New Planes

A JetBlue Airbus A220
A JetBlue Airbus A220
(Courtesy of JetBlue)

My wife and I flew via JetBlue to Los Angeles to visit family last week. The trip out was uneventful, but the return was another matter.

We arrived at Los Angeles International Airport at 10 a.m., in plenty of time for our scheduled departure to John F. Kennedy International Airport at 11:30 a.m. However, wheeling our luggage out toward the gate, we saw a change take place about our flight on a wall monitor. It was delayed. The new departure time was 12:40 p.m.

This was no big deal. We got food at one of the little food shops as we walked along and, at the gate, sat, unwrapped what we had bought and ate it. From where we sat, we could look across the crowd of other hopeful passengers to the large windows that overlooked the runway.

Our jetway was in the foreground. But there was no airplane attached at the end. We asked about it. The plane was running late, we were told, but it would be coming in soon.

Indeed, about noon, it did. The first thing that came into view was its tail, its rudder swishing back and forth beyond and behind the jetway but sticking up high enough for us to see it. Slowly, it moved toward us. Soon the shiny white nose of the plane came into view.

It slid past the end of the jetway, nose toward us, then stopped, positioned so its passenger door could open into the jetway. With that, the jetway grew a bit longer, then snapped against the plane. Our plane.

Soon thereafter, bleary-eyed and disgruntled incoming passengers appeared at our gate, having apparently exited into the jetway and up and out. These passengers, single file, rolled their carry-ons along. They didn’t speak to us. We didn’t speak to them. Soon they disappeared down the hall toward the baggage claim.

Of course, now, we expected we’d soon be boarding. There’d have to be the cleaning of the plane and the loading of our luggage. But time went by. And then, horribly, an agent over the microphone said that we wouldn’t be boarding that plane at all. There was some issue about it. They would be taking away that plane and there would be a new plane.

We would-be passengers talked about this development. Good idea if there was something wrong. Don’t want to get on a plane that has an issue about it. Had the plane been late because it was losing speed? Is that why the incoming passengers seemed so glum?

More time went by. Finally, the jetway retracted a few dozen feet and this crippled plane, apparently being towed from behind, got slowly pulled backwards and away from the jetway to disappear off and beyond where we could see it. Then, the jetway retracted a whole lot further, shriveled up and attached itself to the gate.

For some reason, all this made me think about the time I witnessed a stallion and a mare mate. It was in a small hillside pasture at the Startop Ranch on East Lake Drive in Montauk many years ago. You never forget watching such a thing.

The stallion approached the mare from the rear. Then this thing under the stallion extended, tractor-beam fashion, further and further forward, until, well, I don’t want to go into it in any further details. It attaches. Things happen. It takes about 10 minutes.

Dr. Leon Star was there. His grown daughter Priscilla Star was there. I never forgot it. And I never wanted to see it again. And that’s what came to mind.

Nearly two hours later, suddenly, as if this jetway had woken up from a sleep or something, it began to once again slowly lengthen. Just short of its full length, it halted. It was waiting.

And then, yes indeed, another tall and shiny tail appeared over and beyond it, heading toward us, wagging its rudder. Soon it was in position, and the jetway slipped out a few more feet and attached. Somebody said if this new plane had something wrong with it, he wanted to get on it and come east anyway.

He’d had enough. So much time had passed. Just get us out of here.

The rest of the evening passed uneventfully. We boarded. We flew. We set down at JFK around midnight, where it took JetBlue nearly an hour to get our luggage to baggage claim. Maybe they had trouble rounding up enough workers at that hour. The next day, the Hampton Jitney brought us home.

The day after that, both my wife and I, separately, received emails from JetBlue announcing we’d be receiving gift certificates from them to make up for the unfortunate situation we’d endured at LAX. The gift was $100. But it would expire in a year if we didn’t use it.

I’ve always wondered about gift certificates expiring. Why is that? When I give a gift, it doesn’t expire. I say keep it. Use it whenever. It’s yours.

I have a friend who, years ago, had to fly around Russia on business. He had to take Aeroflot, the Soviet airline. But with the Soviet Union having collapsed, airplane parts and fuel were often unavailable. So there were crashes.

One happened when a plane’s landing gear failed to come down. The crew, because of a loss of hydraulic fluid, had tried lemonade, reported the itar-TASS news agency. It didn’t work, but no one was killed.

One day, my friend boarded an aircraft packed with passengers. The pilot revved up the engines, then revved them up again, then stopped. Over the PA system he said he didn’t like how it sounded. He would be taking the plane back to the terminal to get another one.

At the terminal, everybody got off, the new aircraft arrived and everybody got back on. Then the pilot motored down to the end of the runway again, turned the new plane around and revved up the engines. Then he did it again. There was a pause. And he was back on the PA system.

“I liked the other plane better,” he said.

This time, when everybody got off at the terminal, nobody would get back on either plane. They never did. Everybody just went home. Try again another day. And that was that.

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