Déjà vu at Sea-Tac
It was a little like the movie Groundhog Day. I woke up this morning to find myself doing everything I did the day before. I packed and headed for the airport. I checked in for All Nippon Airways (ANA) flight NH 1077, the same flight I checked in for yesterday. I received the same window seat. It was still scheduled to be the first Boeing 787 Dreamliner to leave Seattle on a commercial flight, as it was yesterday.
All the Seattle employees at ANA, Japan’s largest airline, came out from behind their counters and lined up to bow to their customers. Not in apology for sending everyone home the day before because of mechanical failure, but simply to greet their customers as they do at every airline counter around the world.
Just as the day before, I went through security, filling those little white bins with my belt, my shoes, my coat, my iPhone, my laptop and my Kindle Fire. I went through security and took the train to the south terminal. But today there was no big reception, there were no speeches from top executives of ANA, Boeing and the Port of Seattle. No fanfare, even though today’s event ought to be twice as important as yesterday's: Today two 787s will be leaving Seattle, the one that arrived yesterday and was greeted with sprays from water cannons, but then couldn’t leave because of problems with the cooling system, and the other one that arrived quietly this morning and attracted little attention.
With free time before departure, I stopped by the ANA lounge as I did yesterday and got a bowl of the same excellent clam chowder. I was told, once again, it was delivered every morning to the lounge from Alki Bakery Café. I ran into the same USAID employee on his way to Bangkok, and a representative of a Japanese pump company on his way to Osaka. “Here we all are again,” said another executive as we all recognized each other. But the lounge was much more crowded today, with two 787s poised to leave for Tokyo at the same time. And I learned that United had canceled its flight to Tokyo today, perhaps a sign it may be hurt by competition from ANA, even though the two airlines are partners.
In the lounge we all crossed our fingers, hoping the plane would actually fly today. Yesterday the plane was delayed 24 hours because of a defective cooling system. Many of the early Boeing 787s have been having problems such as these. ANA reportedly has been using most of its 14 Dreamliners on domestic routes until they've worked out the kinks. ANA’s first flights to Frankfurt faced similar glitches. And one Boeing employee speculated that ANA may have chosen Seattle as the location for its inaugural U.S. route with the 787 precisely so that the planes could be easily repaired, with easy access to Boeing’s substantial parts center not far from Sea-Tac Airport.
I ran into the same representative from ANA who helped me to arrange the flight. “It must have been difficult dealing with the delay,” I said. "It was fine," she said. “It will be kind of neat to see two 787s leaving Seattle at the same time." I was comforted by her confidence.
But then the announcement came over the loudspeaker: "Flight NH 1077 will be delayed.” Then another announcement. One Flight NH 1077 would be delayed. But the plane I was on, the one held over from yesterday, would be departing on schedule.
Hallelujah. Déjà vu is fun. But I don’t want another yesterday and today tomorrow.