“Flight has been delayed 16 minutes due to operational difficulties”

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Well that’s an interesting message to receive via the United app, especially if you receive it the night before departure date.  I received this message on a recent trip to Seattle.

What in the world did United know one day before departure that would allow them to pinpoint a delay of 16 minutes?  I had received delayed notifications before, but none this specific and a day before.  Certainly not the weather.  Maybe something wrong with the aircraft?  But while more feasible it still wouldn’t explain a very specific delay of not 15, not 20, not 30, but 16 minutes!!  I had never received a notification like this before, so -needless to say- it was driving me nuts.  I had to know what was going on, so I made sure I arrived with enough time at the gate to investigate.

To my surprise, the gate agent explained what it was all about in his greeting to the passengers in our gate.  Kudos for doing this, as I’m sure many others were wondering just as much as me; and he probably wanted to avoid the same question from some 200+ folks.

Not all Delayed messages are bad.

In any case, he went on to explain that by FAA rule pilots must have 10 hours between flights, with the opportunity for at least 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep.  The pilot assigned to our flight could not legally take flight until 16 minutes after the scheduled departure time.  Although it’s likely that the 16 minutes didn’t make much of a difference in this particular case, it surely is reassuring to see that United is enforcing this regulation even in the seemingly least critical of cases.  I suppose the fact that they would incur in a penalty if they didn’t do this helped them enforce the rule.

In conclusion, while delays are rarely welcome, there are occasions in which we can be glad that the delay happened.  I mean just think about that one plane on the TV show Friends that had a problem with the left phalange.  Delays can be a good thing too!  I digress…  But I also appreciate how UA communicated this tiny delay that easily could have been deemed to minuscule to communicate via push message.  It’s just a great feeling to feel like you’re being kept in the loop; and recently I’ve seen a change for the better with this from UA.  It sure can make the delay a bit less stressful.

If you’d like to read (a lot) more about this and additional FAA regulations regarding flight crew member duty and rest requirements you can find the official rule document here.

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