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View Full Version : U.S. Airways: Why customer service matters


cspag67
03-24-2008, 08:11 PM
Today, I was really amped to be getting on a flight to Palm Springs to get to the ESRI Developers Summit (http://www.chrisspagnuolo.com/ct.ashx?id=454223cd-db27-4ee5-956d-1de13ee53234&url=http%3a%2f%2fwww.chrisspagnuolo.com%2f2008%2f0 3%2f16%2fOffToTheESRIDevelopersSummit.aspx). Got to Denver International, got my boarding pass for my U.S. Airways flight (notice no hyperlink for U.S. Airways here), and went to the gate...and waited...and waited...and waited. You guessed it, the flight left late. Not sure why. They never gave a reason. We just left about 30 minutes late.


Unfortunately, I had a connecting flight in Phoenix before heading to the gem in the desert. In flight, I mentioned to the flight attendant that based on our departure time, it was going to be a very tight connection in Phoenix (it was looking like about 10 minutes). She said not to worry, I'd make my flight.



So, I get to lovely Sky Harbor International in Phoenix, run my butt off to my next flight...and see a bunch of other poor souls looking distressed at the gate (5 others, coincidentally, were also heading to the DevSummit). I made it to my flight by 7:45 (the flight was scheduled for 7:55). I asked the oh-so-pleasant gate agent if we could get on the flight that was still at the gate. An abrupt "No". That's it, no sorry sir, no nothing...just NO. So we're all standing there saying, "The plane is still there, you've got to be kidding!" A second gate agent, possibly feeling sorry for us, maybe even considering that customer service is a good thing, says to "pleasant" gate agent #1, "Should we let them on?" (apparently there were options here.) Gate agent #1: "No. They're late." So, what were supposed to do now? The answer "Go to customer service...I can't do anything".



So, off we trundle to "customer service". After a wait in the "customer service" queue, I get to the ever pleasant "customer service" agent. After explaining the situation, she has to confirm why my incoming flight was late to make sure I was entitled to "something". After realizing it was U.S. Airways' fault (who else's could it have been), they were "kind" enough to offer a flight out...the next morning. "No more flights out tonight". Correct, no flights on U.S. Airways, but there were flights on other airlines to Palm Springs (gotta love mobile Expedia!).
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</p>Now, to give you a little background here, my dad worked for Pan Am for over 30 years...I've done a ton of traveling and I know what these guys can do for you if they want to. So, I said, "Fine, please book me on another airline." The response "Sorry, I can't do that." As Colonel Potter of M*A*S*H always said, bullhockey...they can and they do. Now I'm losing it. "Look ma'am, you knew you had several inbound passengers on delayed flights and you didn't hold the flight. You should have held it, you can do that you know." The incredible response "It all depends. If we want to make an on time departure, we can leave without you. It's our prerogative. " My response (and loud enough for others in line to hear this) "REALLY? So, stranding paying customers, pissing them off, and making sure they'll never fly your airline again is OK so long as you leave on time?" Her response "Yes. Being on time for departures is important for us." My response "Great, then why the freak was my flight from Denver to here not on time?". Her response "Sir, it's not my fault".
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</p>So, I can't help it now (maybe I read too much Seth Godin (http://www.chrisspagnuolo.com/ct.ashx?id=454223cd-db27-4ee5-956d-1de13ee53234&url=http%3a%2f%2fsethgodin.typepad.com%2f) for my own good). "Ma'am, it is your fault. You represent your airline and you are the public face of U.S. Airways and the best you can come up with is 'It's no tmy fault?' I'm sorry, my dad was with Pan Am his whole career, I've flown for a long time and I've never seen nonsense like this before." She says, with a straight face (and dripping with sarcasm again), "I can't believe that. You must be very lucky." So I politely said "No, I've just flown on airlines that care about customer service."</p>
</p> So, before I ramble too much more, she graciously gives me a voucher for a $49/night hotel room at the Fiesta Inn (http://www.chrisspagnuolo.com/ct.ashx?id=454223cd-db27-4ee5-956d-1de13ee53234&url=http%3a%2f%2fwww.fiestainnresort.com%2f) (which apparently has a great deal with U.S. Airways because everyone on the jam packed hotel shuttle was a disgruntled U.S. Airways customer that didn't make a connection). I looked at her and said "Excuse me, what about food?" She says (again with a straight face), "It's after 8:00, you don't need food." I guess the look on my face said it all, because she quickly replied "Well you've been so nice (read sarcastically again) I guess I should give you something!". In the end, she literally threw my new boarding pass and vouchers across the counter and says "Have great night" to which I responded "You too. And by the way, you're a gleaming example of excellent customer service", to which she sarcastically responded "Thank You." Needless to say, I will make every conceivable effort not to fly on U.S. Airways again and to let others know they should do the same.


The only high point in all of this was the very pleasant front desk clerk at the Fiesta Inn (http://www.chrisspagnuolo.com/ct.ashx?id=454223cd-db27-4ee5-956d-1de13ee53234&url=http%3a%2f%2fwww.fiestainnresort.com%2f) (which isn't all that bad, and, notice the hyperlink here (http://www.chrisspagnuolo.com/ct.ashx?id=454223cd-db27-4ee5-956d-1de13ee53234&url=http%3a%2f%2fwww.fiestainnresort.com%2f)). So, to at least balance my karma for the evening, I was sure to tell her that she was very nice and was the best part of my day today. She smiled and said "That's my job". I'd stay at the Fiesta Inn (http://www.chrisspagnuolo.com/ct.ashx?id=454223cd-db27-4ee5-956d-1de13ee53234&url=http%3a%2f%2fwww.fiestainnresort.com%2f) again just because of that comment and her pleasant attitude. And that's why customer service matters.



For more stuff about my work and travels, check out www.chrisspagnuolo.com (http://www.chrisspagnuolo.com).

bohica
08-16-2008, 02:29 AM
I have been a frequent flyer of US Air for at least 10 years, and I am sad to say that they are currently at an all time low in terms of Customer Service. I have been not only a witness to their steady decline, but a frequent victim of it - so much so that I never say US Air any more - I say I fly Useless Air! (Believe me - if my frequent flyer miles and my status weren't so vested in them, I'd switch to another airline tomorrow!!) Not too terribly long ago, they went on a lost luggage binge. They single-handedly managed to lose my luggage 17 times over a period of 3 months that included 13 trips! They lost it every single time on the outbound trip, and 4 times coming home! And when I finally got fed up enough to complain, I was told, "But ma'am, we only lose luggage 3% of the time." Since this was not a viable explanation, did not help me in the least, and did not exhibit even a note of concern or accountability, my reply was a somewhat caustic, "Yeah, and I'm it. I AM your 3%." This summer has been a disaster - not a single flight all summer has departed on time. Although the tactics of herding everyone on board, then pullng back from the gate to sit on the tarmac for an extended period may satisfy the FAA, they do not satisfy me. I don't care what they say - that is NOT an on-time departure. These delays have caused me to consistently miss connections, further caused MORE lost luggage, and occasionally caused me to be delayed in arriving to meet with clients. The latest lost luggage episode was the icing on the cake - I arrived, my luggage did not, and (of course) I was initially assured it would arrive on the next flight in 3 hours. Arrangements were made to deliver the luggage to my hotel, and I was given a number to call to confirm that my luggage had arrived and been dispatched to a delivery service. Hmmpphh! What a joke. First I was told it had arrived, then several hours later told it had not. Finally they decided it had, and that it was on the delivery truck - which took 9 hours to decide to arrive at my hotel!!! In the interim, I got every run around imagineable, was told point blank that I could not speak to a supervisor, was told there is no phone number for me to contact the corporate office, and eventually was even told, "You know, we don't HAVE to return it to you until 24 hours have passed." So, was that a thinly veiled threat? Just rudeness? Was I supposed to be apologetic because they lost my luggage and had to inconvenience them by demanding that they find and return it (post haste)? You pick -I'm still trying to figure it out.

I have made up my mind that beginning in January of 2009 - I will use a different airline. I am stuck with them for 4 more months because I will not throw away my status and I need to use up a couple hundred thousand frequent flyer miles, but come New Year's - I am officially done with good, old Useless Air.

While I am angry and frustrated with their inability to handle any issue with the courtesy and quality that I deliver to MY customers, I am also a little sad and perplexed. In this day and age where airlines are struggling to stay solvent, wouldn't it make more sense to try harder? Even if they can't afford to give anything away, they should be stiving to regain customer loyalty, and to make the customer experience a pleasant one. So why does it seem that a condition of employment at US Air is a rude, nasty attitude and a desire to alienate any and all customers? I've concluded that US Air has a secret agenda - they WANT to go out of business; nobody with a sincere desire to succeed could manage to be so obnoxious.

Eagleguy
08-16-2008, 01:00 PM
I read your complaint and perhaps have a solution if you wanted to have status on a different carrier. I just called our Aadvantage Desk to see if someone who has elite status on another carrier, if that status could be switched over to American. Here is what I found. Basically, you call 1-800-882-8880 and request a "challenge". From what I understand you have to fly on us so frequently to accrue enough points in a 60 or 90 day (I forget which) period to see if your activity is that of a Gold or Platinum member. The time periods start on the 1st and 16th of each month. Perhaps other airlines offer the same kind of deal to attract other frequent fliers as well.

ironman_3
12-01-2008, 04:47 AM
I am a long term flyer with Us Airways with an Elite Gold member status. My company that I co-own (here in Phoenix) also spends about 1/2 million bucks a year flying this airline. I have watched this company go from one of the best (when they were America West) to the bottom of the barre (after their merger with US Airways). What a shame. Read my story below and see what you think.

I booked a ticket for my mother from Phoenix to Charlotte through my US Airways account online (using my Dividend Preferred miles) and asked her to go to the ticket counter and ask for assistance. My mom has very severe osteoporosis, if she falls she could (and has) landed in the hospital for months. I trusted my frail mother with Us Airways, and made sure that I set her flight up through my account and requested a wheelchair and assistance for her.

When my mother got to the Phoenix ticket counter to check her bag in, the counter representative took her ticket, ripped it up and informed her that she was not a Gold member (her ticket was printed online from my Gold account), told her she had to pay the baggage fee of $15.00 and was quite rude. She issued her a new non-Gold ticket WITHOUT the wheel chair assist and sent her on her way. My mom was so flabbergasted that she didn't ask for the wheelchair. She walked to the gate.

As she left Charlotte on her return flight, she again checked in with the counter representative for assistance, they issued her a Gold ticket at the desk - even after my mom explained to them of what happened in Phoenix. The Charlotte US Airways folks told her that she WAS entitled to the Gold status and DID NOT charge for her bags. They took great care of her there (thank you Charlotte).

When my mother gets back to Phoenix, she tells me the story. I call the Elite Gold member customer representative and told her what had transpired with my mother. The phone representative tells me the Phoenix counter representative was wrong (verifying the info given from the Charlotte folks). The Elite Gold member phone representative tells me to contact Customer Relations. She believed they would take good care of me. She tried to connect me, but I was directed to send an email via US Airways webs site.

As directed, I sent a very polite and honest email about what my mother had gone through. My points were as follows: a) your own reps don't seem to know what your rules are when family members travel under an Elite Member's account (charge for bags or not), gets Gold treatment or not; b) the representative was very rude and was more concerned about getting that $15.00 charge than treating my mother with service; c) they did not reissue the ticket for wheelchair assist and did not take the appropriate care as I requested when I booked the flight.

I received a polite response email, apologizing for the rude treatment, and they gave me some discount for future purchases (most of the email was the rules on how to use the discount) but they didn't address the points that I made: there is not consistency with the counter reps as to the rules and the Phoenix counter representative didn't assist my mother with a wheelchair as I had originally requested.

I sent yet another very polite email and asked for a more senior person to respond with a personal call. I did get a call from an "executive" representative who apologized to me, but didn't seem interested in apologizing to my mother. She was very nice which I appreciated. But, in the end I never got my points addressed.

Okay, I am NOT done. Here is where I was truly disappointed. I got two letters from US Airways a few days later. I was thinking (hmm.... they sent an apology).... NOPE, they sent a letter saying my Gold status account was audited... they reduced my earned miles by 30,000+, reduced my Gold status and accussed me of trying to avoid baggage fees by having my mother and other family members fly under my account!!!!

Well, I never received an "audited" statement of how they could have taken that many miles off of my account or reduce my status, but I do believe that this was plain and simple revenge for complaining. AND, I think it is corporate policy to find any way that they can to rip folks off. Charges for water or coffee on board, finding excuses to reduce your earned miles, charging bagagge fees, etc., etc.

So, when you think about complaining to the "customer relations" department for bad service.... remember my story. Better yet, don't fly US Airways. I won't anymore.

In the end, there were consequences for me in trying to get through to them on how they need to improve their service. I lost mileage and preferred status. I am starting over with another airline. But when my company employees fly, US Airways will be the last resort. They just don't get it.

Thank you for reading my post.

Steve

Jetsetter767
04-28-2009, 06:52 AM
I am a long term flyer with Us Airways with an Elite Gold member status. My company that I co-own (here in Phoenix) also spends about 1/2 million bucks a year flying this airline. I have watched this company go from one of the best (when they were America West) to the bottom of the barre (after their merger with US Airways). What a shame. Read my story below and see what you think.

I booked a ticket for my mother from Phoenix to Charlotte through my US Airways account online (using my Dividend Preferred miles) and asked her to go to the ticket counter and ask for assistance. My mom has very severe osteoporosis, if she falls she could (and has) landed in the hospital for months. I trusted my frail mother with Us Airways, and made sure that I set her flight up through my account and requested a wheelchair and assistance for her.

When my mother got to the Phoenix ticket counter to check her bag in, the counter representative took her ticket, ripped it up and informed her that she was not a Gold member (her ticket was printed online from my Gold account), told her she had to pay the baggage fee of $15.00 and was quite rude. She issued her a new non-Gold ticket WITHOUT the wheel chair assist and sent her on her way. My mom was so flabbergasted that she didn't ask for the wheelchair. She walked to the gate.

As she left Charlotte on her return flight, she again checked in with the counter representative for assistance, they issued her a Gold ticket at the desk - even after my mom explained to them of what happened in Phoenix. The Charlotte US Airways folks told her that she WAS entitled to the Gold status and DID NOT charge for her bags. They took great care of her there (thank you Charlotte).

When my mother gets back to Phoenix, she tells me the story. I call the Elite Gold member customer representative and told her what had transpired with my mother. The phone representative tells me the Phoenix counter representative was wrong (verifying the info given from the Charlotte folks). The Elite Gold member phone representative tells me to contact Customer Relations. She believed they would take good care of me. She tried to connect me, but I was directed to send an email via US Airways webs site.

As directed, I sent a very polite and honest email about what my mother had gone through. My points were as follows: a) your own reps don't seem to know what your rules are when family members travel under an Elite Member's account (charge for bags or not), gets Gold treatment or not; b) the representative was very rude and was more concerned about getting that $15.00 charge than treating my mother with service; c) they did not reissue the ticket for wheelchair assist and did not take the appropriate care as I requested when I booked the flight.

I received a polite response email, apologizing for the rude treatment, and they gave me some discount for future purchases (most of the email was the rules on how to use the discount) but they didn't address the points that I made: there is not consistency with the counter reps as to the rules and the Phoenix counter representative didn't assist my mother with a wheelchair as I had originally requested.

I sent yet another very polite email and asked for a more senior person to respond with a personal call. I did get a call from an "executive" representative who apologized to me, but didn't seem interested in apologizing to my mother. She was very nice which I appreciated. But, in the end I never got my points addressed.

Okay, I am NOT done. Here is where I was truly disappointed. I got two letters from US Airways a few days later. I was thinking (hmm.... they sent an apology).... NOPE, they sent a letter saying my Gold status account was audited... they reduced my earned miles by 30,000+, reduced my Gold status and accussed me of trying to avoid baggage fees by having my mother and other family members fly under my account!!!!

Well, I never received an "audited" statement of how they could have taken that many miles off of my account or reduce my status, but I do believe that this was plain and simple revenge for complaining. AND, I think it is corporate policy to find any way that they can to rip folks off. Charges for water or coffee on board, finding excuses to reduce your earned miles, charging bagagge fees, etc., etc.

So, when you think about complaining to the "customer relations" department for bad service.... remember my story. Better yet, don't fly US Airways. I won't anymore.

In the end, there were consequences for me in trying to get through to them on how they need to improve their service. I lost mileage and preferred status. I am starting over with another airline. But when my company employees fly, US Airways will be the last resort. They just don't get it.

Thank you for reading my post.

Steve

Steve,
I am not sure I am clear on they way you booked your mother's ticket... Did you book it using miles from your account, or just logged into your account on usairways.com and booked a ticket?

Either way, the only time your mother would be exempt from the baggage fees would be if she was traveling on a reservation with you (or whoever it is that holds the Gold status).

Later in your post, you made mention of them ripping up her boarding pass that said Gold... The only way her boarding pass would say Gold is if your DM# was associated to her ticket (which would not be allowed). Sadly, the current state of the Shares/QIK system that US Airways inherrited from America West is that it does not have the ability to confirm the passengers name and DM# match. Based on what you stated in your post, I dont think you had any ill-intent in the way your booked your mother's ticket. It sounds like you and your mother got the run-around.

Something else you said which surprised me... You said that you have watched this company as America West (one of the best) to being one of the worst after merging with US Airways... US Airways (former) was never known for being very customer service oriented, and unfortunately it may be worse now... But the thing is this... the current US Airways has the old US logo and name, but on the inside it is America West, run by America West executives... The comapny is not run the way the old US Airways was... It is America West on the inside and US Airways on the outside. The agents and front-line at the old US Airways had so much more descretion and empowerment to make decisions. Since the merger, it is black and white and the front line no longer has the ability to make judegment calls based on individual needs/circumstances. It is sad!

Sorry to hear about your situation... It sounds like there was definately a breakdown in communication. I don't think they should have taken the miles from you -- that doesn't make anything better. And as for the assistance you requested... That shouldn't have been a problem, thats unfortunate.

Wish you better luck next time.