Yesterday I was schedule to fly back from Philadelphia to Houston. Due to awful storms in Houston, my 12:19 pm flight was cancelled by 7:00 am. Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) had a ground stop in effect for most of the day. Other flights were diverted to New Orleans or Austin. I was rebooked for a 5:40 pm flight that did not leave until 7:00 ET. Our flight was schedule to land around 9:30 CT. Before landing, we had to circle in the air for about 30 minutes. Finally, we landed at 10:00 CT. But then something absolutely crazy happened. There were so many airplanes backed up on the tarmac that there were not enough empty gates to pull into. When we finally landed, the captain announced that there were 14 planes ahead of us waiting for gates. Every 30 minutes, the captain would announce that we were moving up in the line, and would soon have a gate in another 30 minutes. The announcements came at 10:30, 11:00, 11:30, 12:00, and 12:30. Finally, around 1:15 we pulled into a gate. I spent about 3 hours in the air, and about 3 hours on the ground waiting for a gate.
The pilot said in 21 years he had never seen a delay quite this bad. About an hour in, the flight attendants started handing out water. About two hours in, they gave a round of free snacks. Fortunately, no one on the plane misbehaved. Most people were resolved that their travel plans were absolutely screwed. One guy I talked to was flying to Brazil for a wedding on Saturday. No way he made it. The person sitting next to me was heading to Las Vegas for a weekend. She was rebooked for a Sunday evening flight to Vegas. So she will be stuck in Houston for two days.
After I entered the terminal, it was surreal. There are two customer service desks: one in Terminal C and one in Terminal E. As the below videos illustrate, the line snaked hundreds of people deep. It took me roughly two minutes to walk the line, so to speak. And I fear that the customer service reps will not be able to help these poor stranded passengers on memorial day weekend. Flights will be backed up for days, and United does not provide free hotels when delays are caused by weather. I saw a countless number of people sleeping throughout the terminal. Even worse, all food concessions were closed, so there was nothing to eat late at night. I am grateful that I was able to get home.