Yesterday's flight from San Francisco to Chicago took a little less than 8 hours, including two hours on the ground in Rockford, Ill., waiting for a massive thunderstorm to leave O'Hare. Of course, I have no problem spending 8 hours on an airplane, but I had hoped to get home in time to sleep.
Here's the ground track, showing us entering a 30-minute hold near Beloit, Ill., and the missed approach at O'Hare:
And the view on the ground at KRFD:
Even though they opened the door and pushed a staircase up to it, they wouldn't let us leave because the TSA had already left for the day. Or, more precisely, you could leave the plane and be escorted off the apron, but then you couldn't get back on the plane. That's great if you live in Rockford, not so good if you need to get to Lincoln Park.
I'm sanguine about these sorts of things. A 37 km/h wind shear is dangerous. Running out of fuel is dangerous. Diverting to a nearby airport that has plenty of Jet-A and no thunderstorms means they can use the plane again.
One more thing: the American Airlines flight crew gave us frequent, clear, helpful updates as the situation progressed. Both pilots made sure we passengers knew what was going on and why. Despite the two whiny people in first class—one of whom wound up talking to the Chicago Police about her little dog running around the cabin—the flight attendants made sure everyone had bathroom access, granola bars, water, and orange juice. And while I understand being generally frustrated with O'Hare closing because of the inconvenience of trying to land with marble-sized hail and at least one reported funnel cloud near the airport, I don't understand (a) yelling at the flight attendants or (b) being "offended" that people traveling in coach being allowed to use the first-class bathroom. (Um, sweetie, getting upgraded does not make you a better person. So unless you paid for your first class seat, STFU.)