The Unusual Reason Why We Sat in a Really Warm Delta Plane

by joeheg

During my recent Delta flight from New York JFK airport, we were notified of a delay. Generally, flight delays are due to weather, mechanical issues, or Air Traffic Control, but in this case, the cause was less obvious. The plane we were scheduled to depart arrived on time, and there were no weather-related delays at either our departure city (NYC) or destination (Orlando).

Delta’s explanation of why we were delayed was one of the vaguest I’d ever seen:

The departure time for your upcoming flight has been adjusted due to a change in your flight schedule. We apologize in advance for any inconvenience and look forward to serving you on board. Thank you for choosing Delta..

What did they mean by saying that the departure time was adjusted due to a change in the flight schedule? Why would they change the schedule on the morning of the flight?

It wasn’t a big deal, as we were at the Chase Sapphire Lounge and just stayed there for an extra 45 minutes before walking to the gate. Boarding began at the updated time, but we immediately noticed that the plane was exceedingly warm and that there was no air coming from the vents. I’ve boarded planes when it’s very hot outside, like at MCO or AUS in the summertime, when the AC isn’t able to keep the plane cool, but this wasn’t the case as we were in New York in the spring, and it was only 70 degrees outside.

Why was there no air?

As more passengers boarded, the flight attendants apologized for the warm temperature as they waited for the pilot to arrive to turn on the APU. Sharon and I chuckled, as we were probably some of the only people on the plane who knew what an APU was, and that one of its uses is to run the AC when the plane is on the ground. But this also explained the delay, as we weren’t waiting for a plane or ATC, but for the flight crew, who were arriving on a different flight.

It was another 10-15 minutes before air started to circulate on the plane. The flight attendants announced to open the air vents as the airport engineers just connected the plane to the airport’s AC system. I don’t know why our plane wasn’t connected to the airport’s system in the first place. Maybe it wasn’t expected to be sitting at the gate for so long with no power waiting for the flight crew?

Fortunately, it wasn’t very hot outside, so the temperature dropped quickly once cool air started to enter the plane. I’m glad it did because it was another 10-15 minutes before the crew arrived and turned on the engines. That would have been a long, uncomfortable wait while sitting in a packed A321 with no air.

Final Thought

When you consider all the possible things that could go wrong during travel, a 45-minute delay and a hot plane while boarding may seem like minor inconveniences. However, experiencing these situations can make you appreciate the number of things that have to go right for every flight to operate without any interruptions.

When a plane is parked at the airport, there are numerous things that have to happen before it can take off again. The ground crew has to unload and load baggage and cargo, refuel the aircraft, and make sure that all necessary supplies are on board. The cabin crew has to clean the plane, stock it with food and drinks, and prepare it for the next flight. The pilots have to perform pre-flight checks, review the flight plan, and communicate with air traffic control. The maintenance crew has to inspect the plane for any mechanical issues and perform any necessary repairs.

All of these tasks have to be completed within a specific time frame so that the flight can depart on schedule. It’s a coordinated effort between various teams and departments to ensure that every flight operates smoothly and safely. What might have been a miscommunication between Delta and the JFK staff led to our plane not being hooked up to the AC system.

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