My First Cancelled Flight Experience and 24 Hour Nightmare in Rio de Janeiro

I took the Premium Onibus (12 reais) from Centro Rio de Janeiro and headed to the airport at around 4pm. I arrived at GIG at 5pm due to massive traffic heading to the airport. When I arrived at the airport, it looked like half of the airport was under construction. There are no priority security lines at GIG airport. Security and customs took another hour due to long massive lines and I was in the Admirals Club at 6pm.

My Sunday flight from Rio de Janeiro to New York was scheduled to depart at 9pm and boarding started at 8pm. I chilled in the lounge for two hours and went to the gate at 8pm when boarding began. I was excited my Systemwide Upgrade cleared due to a no show and the gate agent handed me a new boarding pass.

I settled into my seat and enjoyed a glass of champagne as a pre-departure beverage.


When boarding was complete and the aircraft door was closed, all of a sudden the power went out. It took a few minutes for the captain to restore the power. I’ve seen this happen before and didn’t think anything of it until it happened a second time while we were taxiing. All of a sudden, the power went out and the backup lights turned on with the white lights leading to an emergency exit.


Maintenance came onboard to try and fix the problem which took about an hour and a half. It was already 10:30pm and now the captain said he was ready to leave the gate. By now, everyone around me was scared because what would happen if this happened again during the flight? I heard people around me saying that they didn’t want to be on this plane.

The captain began to taxi and a minute later, he announced that he felt the plane was unsafe to fly and that we were heading back to the gate. When the plane reached the gate, the power went out yet again. This time, there was a feint smell of smoke, like burnt electrical wiring.

The flight attendant announced that everyone was to leave the plane and take their belongings. It was 11pm and everyone headed towards the departure gate area. At this moment, people around me were devastated since the flight attendant said that there weren’t any available replacement planes at GIG airport.

The gate agent announced that maintenance was on board to fix the problem. Soon after, passengers began yelling at the two gate agents saying that they don’t want to fly in that plane. A few passengers began crying in tears pleading to the gate agent. At this point, no one knew what was going to happen and the gate agents were powerless. I feared that hell was going to break loose.

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At 12am, they finally began handing out water and there was still no new news. Half an hour later, they took the catering off and began serving the pre arrival breakfast coach meal to the passengers.

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At 1:30am, the gate agent announced that the flight has been cancelled and that they would be providing hotels, meals, and transportation. Soon after, a Brazilian passenger goes off on a gate agent in Portuguese.

This is what happens when a flight gets cancelled at a Brazilian airport. Chaos ensues and passengers start yelling at the helpless gate agents. This was my first time experiencing any type of flight cancellation. There is no way Rio de Janeiro/Galaeo International Airport is ready to handle the World Cup right now.

We boarded the bus at 2am and arrived at the hotel at 3am.


Check in was a mess and I barely got into my room at 4am.


I frantically got a WiFi signal to call American Airlines to rebook me on the same 9pm flight to New York. I slept for 4 hours and barely had time to work. The bus to the airport left at 3pm and arrived at 4pm.

As you would’ve guessed, the checks in lines were humongous.

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This was a huge waste of time and my 24 hour nightmare in Rio de Janeiro finally came to an end. I’m writing this from New York and I just can’t wait to get onto my Los Angeles flight so I can finally be home.

Have you ever experienced a nightmare like this?


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14 Comments on "My First Cancelled Flight Experience and 24 Hour Nightmare in Rio de Janeiro"

  1. oh man!! :\ indeed what a nightmare! i’m hoping things improve dramatically for the World Cup. glad you were able to get out, though, finally! (i feel obligated to ask, any compensation?)

  2. This could happen in any airport because you are flying with a foreign airline, AA does not have a hub at GIG, EZE, MVD, SCL etc etc, which means they “do not have an extra airplane”. In your case they have a problem with the airplane and it was a huge problem that mechanics could not fix it on site (they have to move it to the hangar).

    The agent can’t do anything, the mechanics have to check the issue with no rush and they have to do it the way that the Boeing’s manual says, otherwise if something happen, it will be their responsibility. Most mechanics will give an update to the airline every 30~60 minutes.

    If the flight was not full, when they first detect the problem they should contact TAM to delay their flights, that way AA should had move some passenger to GIG-MIA/JFK (TAM flights).

    After all, you guys were lucky!!!

  3. Why didn’t you rebook on a TAM flight to GRU then the non-stop flight on AA to LAX?

  4. Wow, that is really terrible. Not the PITA that you went through after the flight was cancelled, but, that the bozo “mechanics” would clear an aircraft when they hadn’t solved the problem.

    Excellent call by the flight crew to abort the departure, else you could have been spread across some mountain side or sitting at the bottom of the sea.

    The rest of your experience once you got off the plane was trivial. Be thankful for the decision made by the flight crew.

  5. Yes.. I had similar experience in Barnaquilla on Avianca.. Was it. 772?

  6. I was on Kenya Air transiting in Nairobi last month on a 10pm flight with a mechanical 2 1/2 hour delay after boarding. Had already spent 7 grueling hours in the lounge. Slept on the plane for 2 hours of the delay. Thankfully, they fixed the problem and we made it to Paris in the morning just a few hours late instead of spending the night in Nairobi.

    • omg I had a problem with Kenya Airways too. I was flying from Amsterdam to Nairobi and mid flight over Greece the pilot decided to do an emergency landing because there was fire on the cargo container. it smelled like burnt rubber. it was 1 am and we had to wait there until 4 am to tell us we were going to be sent to a hotel. long story short we were stranded in Athens for 3 and a half days WITHOUT our luggage! since there were no Kenya Air representatives in Athens because they don’t fly there.
      It was total chaos, people lost meetings, safaris and there was this woman who was going to see her father who was dying in the hospital.

      Worst part is I booked my flight with KLM and it was until I was at the gate that I saw I was flying with an african carrier.

  7. A number of years ago, after sitting on the runway at athens airport for hours and hours in a Delta plane, it was decided that they needed a widget, and couldn’t get it from anywhere in europe, so it had to be flown over from Atlanta…. the flight was canceled, we were put up at a nice hotel (Sofitel) but by this point we only wanted to be home….

  8. sorry you got stuck overnight, that sucks. Most important question thought did you still get Business Class the next day 🙂

  9. I had a mechanical issue on the same exact flight (AA 974) last September. The air conditioning wasn’t working on the plane and the temperature inside the plane just got unbearable. We deplaned, the flight was canceled, and AA rebooked us all for the same flight the next morning with a different plane. I don’t remember it being nearly as hectic as this though.

  10. Decided to possibly book some tickets for the World Cup this summer so am now reading back on your posts about Sao Paulo/Rio to get some good info on hotels/sights/sounds/etc. Still on the fence about everything, but what do you think about their preparedness for the World Cup? Doesn’t sound like you’re optimistic. Should I just give it up and avoid the impending fiasco/chaos?

    • I think Brazil will be ready by mid June, but the infrastructure is lacking in terms of the transportation area (lacking subways, traffic). I’m happy that they’re building a subway to GRU airport and that RIO is expanding their subway to the further South Zone but that won’t be completed for a few more years. If you have the $$$$, I would go for it. Brazil is amazing

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