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We Have Too Much Fuel, You Must Get Off the Plane

Our flight from Orlando last week had a very interesting start. A couple minutes after all passengers were seated, one of the flight attendants came on the PA and said that because the plane had to take on a lot of fuel, it couldn’t take everyone that was currently aboard. Five passengers needed to get off.

The airline offered a decent deal for anyone who volunteered to remove themselves: $300 plus the price of their ticket, in return for just taking another flight 5 hours later. That’s a pretty good deal for someone who can take hanging out in the airport terminal for five more hours. But as tempting as that deal was, we didn’t think the boys could handle hanging out in the airport terminal for another 5 hours, especially considering we had already been hanging out for nearly 2 hours. (Read: we didn’t think we could handle the boys hanging out in the airport terminal for another 5 hours.) So we just sat there. As did every other passenger in the cabin.

After a minute, two passengers volunteered to get off the plane. After that, the flight attendant announced that if no one else volunteered, they would have to force the three passengers who boarded last to get off. After another minute, she announced that she was going to get the information for who boarded last. She left the plane briefly, and came back with three names.

Two of the three named passengers were a husband and wife, and they immediately got up and started gathering their carry-ons. The third named passenger to be deplaned turned out to be a mother with a baby.

Since there was other stuff and movement going on in the cabin, it wasn’t immediately apparent that the mother and baby were the ones being ejected. But when I realized what was going on, I leaned to Cowgrit and said, “They’re kicking a mother with a baby off the plane? If you and my mom can handle the boys, I’m willing to take her place. She can’t wait five hours in an airport with a baby.”

Cowgrit immediately nodded and said, “Yeah, do it.”

I stood up and started heading forward. (I’d come back and get my carry-on after I talked with the flight attendants.) When I was about half-way to the front of the plane, I saw the mother and baby returning to their seat. And then everyone on the plane applauded. Huh?

I stopped. I heard someone near me say, to someone else, “Someone took her place.” Oh. As the mother and baby returned to their seat, I turned around and headed back to my own. The suspense and drama was over, and the flight attendants started preparing everyone for departure.

But this whole situation made me wonder: don’t airlines know how much fuel they have to put on a plane for a flight before they sell tickets on the flight? Is this just a version of the old, “the flight is overbooked,” aggravation? Ain’t it kind of rude to kick people off a plane? Ain’t it downright cold to kick a mother and baby off a flight?


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