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It was June of 2017 and I was on my way to Connecticut on yet another business trip. Our Southwest flight had just taken off from Midway Airport (MDW), heading to Hartford, CT (BDL) when a loud explosion boomed from the right side of the plane. The plane pitched dramatically, then pitched back the way it came and then leveled out.
Many people started to scream, including a young lady sitting in the row behind me. We immediately started to descend – but we’d not lost cabin pressure nor had the masks dropped.
After a few anxious seconds, the captain came on and informed us we’d lost the right engine, but that we still had one more and not to worry. He told us we were going to land at O’Hare Airport which if you know anything about Chicago airports, is across town and not far. Apparently it gave us a better chance than turning around and landing at Midway. I imagine it was a split second choice.
While the pilot’s reassuring words helped calm some of our fears it was definitely still unclear if we were going to make it. I quickly turned my phone on and started texting my wife letting her know what was up and saying some rushed goodbyes. She didn’t quite realize, at first, what was going on, thinking I was on the ground still, but when it became apparent this was really happening and I was on the plane – in the air, her texts became a bit more earnest. She let me know she was praying and we said our goodbyes – just in case.
The lady behind me had devolved into a full blown panic attack at this point. She was melting down – apparently this was her first flight and she was terrified of flying (I doubt she will ever fly again, honestly). The man sitting next to her, however, was a hero of sorts, offering soothing words about how they train for this, and the plane can fly off one engine no problem, etc. It worked and she began to come back off the ledge. I was really impressed with how he handled his business and how he helped this gal.
For my part, I was a little nervous, but knowing it was out of my hands I really could do nothing so I continued texting with my wife, and made sure I was square with the man upstairs.
Landing was uneventful, honestly. The firetrucks met us in case we had issues, but we didn’t. We made our way to a United gate and deplaned. As I left the jet, the pilot greeted us and shook his hand and congratulated and thanked him for a job well done. He shrugged like it was no big deal. It was to us and he did a helluva job.
And then we waited. And waited and waited. For hours… for another Southwest jet to come pick us up. It was a United terminal, so it was pretty nice. But it was still utter boredom. We chatted with each other a bit, swapping war stories (if you can call this a war story) and shared other travel experiences. Most, honestly, were more relieved at first. Then irritated at the delay.
And while I never fly United, I have to say the gate agent from United who helped while we were there was AMAZING. Truly amazing. He went out of his way to help us, get us water, snacks, and keep us up to date. I made a point of thanking him and his team. They were TRULY great to us.
Eventually another plane arrived and we left. We were probably the first Southwest Jet to ever land at OHare though! (Southwest only flies in/out of MDW)
I had a great story to tell my customer the next day (and of course my Facebook universe). All in all, it ended up being less of a big deal then it sounds. Another frustration that I, as a business traveler, had to deal with. But, in the at moment it was briefly terrifying.
The Southwest Crew and United Gate team were spectacular. Fine job of flying and great customers service.
Here’s the local newstory for more info.
And don’t forget to check out some of the other resources we have here at the C Boarding Group including:
Or for a story that’s the opposite of horror (but could have been rough!), check out the Greatest Business Trip I’ve Ever Had.