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disturbingfurniture
06-04-2008, 01:04 PM
My partner Trent said near the end of our ordeal that May 30th was the worst day of his life, and I would agree. We thought in a time when the airline industry is getting some of the worst press in years, that US Airways might go a few extra steps to win its customers over. Instead, from our experience it seems that US Airways has just given up.

Due to an unexpected death in the family, we had to fly to Northern Maine on very short notice. We booked our flight online on the 29th to fly out the next afternoon. Here is a rundown of what we encountered:

Our first flight out of Dayton (to Philadelphia 2476) was supposed to leave at 1:37. The plane had trouble with its landing gear sensor. The ground crew tried to fix it. Our delay kept getting longer. Finally, they brought in another plane. We were set to leave Dayton at 4. The staff at the desk said they would call customers who might not make their connections up to the desk. After a half hour, they had not called ANYONE. Knowing we would not make our 4:15 flight out of Philly, I took the initiative to go to the desk and ask for a new flight. The staff didn’t seem to be able to handle the task. The ticket agent booked us on a flight out of Philly leaving PHL at 6:15, and assured me we’d make it. She basically lied about when the plane would arrive in Dayton and what the turnaround time would be to get it back in the air. She had booked us on a flight we had little chance to make.

While sitting on the runway for a half hour in Dayton, the stewardess let me use her cell phone to talk to customer service to try to get another flight from Philly to Boston. I asked the customer service agent if, since we had such a tight connection, they would hold the plane for a few minutes if we were late. She said, “Sometimes if there are a lot of people on a flight that is late who are making the same connection, they will hold the flight. Are there a lot of people on your flight connecting to Boston?” What did she expect me to do? Ask for a show of hands? She concluded that we’d probably have no trouble making the connection and stated that the flight we were booked on from Philly to Boston was the last flight of the day from PHL to BOS. Two more lies.

On arrival in Philly we ran to the bus between terminals, and we ran to the gate. We arrived at the gate (per the airport’s clocks) at 6:13. And were told quite rudely by the ticket agent at the counter that the flight had already left—it had & it hadn’t just pulled away from the gate, it was gone. (I find this even more reprehensible since on our return journey, I watched a ticket agent in Philly open the access door for a customer after it had been closed for departure and say, “Oh, they almost left without you.” Why did she merit this treatment when we didn’t especially since I had talked to the “customer service” agent on the phone?) We were told we had to trek across the terminal to find a customer service desk to see what they could do for us. Thinking that we had just missed the last flight out, I thought we’d have to get booked on another airline…but the woman at the customer service counter—who could not have displayed less concern for two wheezing, stressed customers—booked us on a 7:30 flight to Boston (flight 777).

Knowing our connection from Boston to Presque Isle was tight, I went to the ticket agent and asked if we could be moved up from the 16th row so we could deplane as soon as possible. He moved us up to the 10th row saying that was the best he could do and confirmed that the flight from Boston to Presque Isle was running about 20 minutes late. I thanked him profusely. But he’d lied too. When we got on the plane, the row in front of us was empty; and there were at least 10 other seats in the rows in front of us that were unoccupied. Flight 777 was supposed to leave at 7:30…but when the plane arrived it was subject to a TSA security check because it was an “international flight.” Then it had to be cleaned. Then we spent another half hour on the runway. If a flight has already been made late by airline or airport staff, wouldn’t it be a good idea to bump it to the front of the line for take off?

Our first break of the afternoon, now evening: the flight from Boston to Presque Isle WAS delayed due to “routine maintenance.” Thanks for that, but shouldn’t that be done after the flights for the day are complete or when the plane isn’t in service? So we actually made our original flight (4955) between Boston and Presque Isle. It had been scheduled to leave at 8:45. When we arrived at just after 9, it was scheduled to leave at 9:45…then 10:15…then 10:45…it finally left the ground after 11. Each time I checked on when we might leave, I was told another lie. We had been in the travel pipeline since noon. At no time did we have a chance to get something substantial to eat—we were always about to leave. Both of us were exhausted. Trent had a migraine. When I asked the ticket agent and her hangers-on if there was a way to turn down the annoying and omnipresent “Boston Logan Airport Radio,” I was treated to three sarcastic, joking responses (one from each).

We got to Presque Isle at about 12:30…but our luggage did not. So after being on the ground in Boston for over two hours AND making our original flight number, our luggage did not get on the plane to PQI with us. We got to go back to the airport the next day to pick it up.

So we spent $1700 to be ignored, lied to, starved...basically tortured. An unbelievably stressful day was made excruciating by US Airways.

Butch Cassidy Slept Here
06-04-2008, 08:38 PM
Perhaps, in ten years, US Airways ("US"), if they haven't merged or gone out of business by then, may figure-out how to allow their customers to make connections in Philadelphia ("PHL") without problems. Until then, NEVER book a US flight, with a PHL connection! In fact, avoiding US alltogether, if possible, is the best course.

To Presque Isle, it looks like booking an interline ticket--Continental (DAY-Newark-BOS), then US (BOS - PQI), would probably have been less chaotic, but, most certainly, more expensive. If you had an extra 4 hours, the best routing would probably have been Air Canada to Fredrickton, New Brunswick (via Chicago and Toronto), then driving 3 to 4 hours to PQI.

ChrisH
06-05-2008, 06:03 PM
As far as the seat situation goes ... many airlines "hold" seats, even when nobody it sitting in them, which means the agent is not able to book someone into those seats, until the gate agent opens the seats. Usually these seats are reserved for elite members of frequent flyer programs. I doubt that the agent lied to you, that row 10 was the best he could do ... it probably was the best he could do, at that time, until the gate agent "unheld" the other seats. Being as though they were seats ahead of row 10, I would be willing to bet that is exactly what the case was. Usually these "Held" seats are located in the front of the airline. They are held, again, for elite members of their frequent flyer program, children who may be flying alone, as well as hanicapped passengers. These seats are usually not "unheld" by the gate agent, until about 30 minds prior to departure.

As far the airplane being bumped to the front of the line, for takeoff, that is air traffic control, and something USAir has no control over. Air traffic control, is FAA. USAirways didn't have any control over their place in line, for takeoff.

In regards to being lied to about the departure time of your flight to Presque Isle. The agents did not deliberately lie. They can only go by what they computer tells them. They times that are put into the computer are "estimates", and often change. If they gate agent told you 9:15, originally, it was because that is what the computer said. It later got pushed back. Gate agents, unlike what most people think, have no control over that, and can literally only go by what the computer says.

Routine maintenance doesn't mean that the airplane was scheduled for maintenance at that time. It means that the situation is routine, in that it is something that is not serious, and that the mechanics fix on a routine basis.

It sucks what happened to you, but I don't think that the airline lied to you as much as you think. There are many things that are completely outside of customer service agents control, that get updated constantly, so they can only give you an estimate, or an educated guess. For example, at the airline I worked for, we turned flights around, in 13-15 minutes, plenty of times, other times we spent much longer. You cannot predict things that may allow you to turn a flight fast, and things that may hold you up. They do happen.

disturbingfurniture
06-05-2008, 06:49 PM
If seats in row 2 are "on hold" and a customer comes up with a compelling reason to be near the front, why not switch the "held" seats? No, that guy is not off the hook nor is US Airways. Having spent my life serving customers in retail and the library, I know poor service when I get it.

I can let US Airways off the hook for our planes not being bumped to the front of the lines for takeoff, but that doesn't let them off the hook for everything else they put us through.

The gate agent at Logan doesn't get off either. Those were lies. She's been doing her job long enough to be able to 1) better estimate when a problem will be solved 2) indicate when something is a blind guess, when it is an estimate, or when it is a certainty and 3) how to communicate that to an obviously distressed customer.

And, Nope! US Airways does not get off for the "routine maintenance" issue. If it's not serious, get the dang plane in the sky. A month earlier when we were in Presque Isle for a pleasure trip, we flew from PQI to BOS on a plane with a malfunctioning toilet & we didn't mind. If the problem is serious enough to warrant fixing that will take over an hour, then get another plane.

I know there are plenty of things that are out side of the ticket agents' control. That's where the company's policies are at fault. I told several people (that day and since) that I knew they were just doing their jobs. Yes, it sucks what happened to us...but no US Airways does not get off the hook.

I spend my days going the extra step and bending over backwards for my customers...I don't expect it when I'm on the other side of the desk, but I expect to at least be met halfway. And when I get POOR customer service, I call a spade a spade. What we got May 30th was a spade.

Jetliner
06-05-2008, 08:31 PM
Those seats still may have been booked at the time you were put on that flight. After all, YOU had two seats on the plane you missed. To someone on that flight, it looked like they were available. There may have been an inbound aircraft that was late into PHL, and those passengers missed that flight you flew on.

disturbingfurniture
06-05-2008, 08:38 PM
To say that 13 passengers+ missed their connections on that one flight is just condemning US Airways all the more for not being able to deliver on their promises.

Jetliner
06-05-2008, 08:43 PM
Not really - from just one flight, especially to Boston, there could have been 20 or 30 connecting passengers. And that inbound flight could have been delayed for any number of reasons.

I'm not saying that US Airways is a great airline. I think that right now they are a great mess. But even so it is still very possible that is what happened.

ChrisH
06-06-2008, 12:44 AM
If seats in row 2 are "on hold" and a customer comes up with a compelling reason to be near the front, why not switch the "held" seats? No, that guy is not off the hook nor is US Airways. Having spent my life serving customers in retail and the library, I know poor service when I get it.

I can let US Airways off the hook for our planes not being bumped to the front of the lines for takeoff, but that doesn't let them off the hook for everything else they put us through.

The gate agent at Logan doesn't get off either. Those were lies. She's been doing her job long enough to be able to 1) better estimate when a problem will be solved 2) indicate when something is a blind guess, when it is an estimate, or when it is a certainty and 3) how to communicate that to an obviously distressed customer.

And, Nope! US Airways does not get off for the "routine maintenance" issue. If it's not serious, get the dang plane in the sky. A month earlier when we were in Presque Isle for a pleasure trip, we flew from PQI to BOS on a plane with a malfunctioning toilet & we didn't mind. If the problem is serious enough to warrant fixing that will take over an hour, then get another plane.

I know there are plenty of things that are out side of the ticket agents' control. That's where the company's policies are at fault. I told several people (that day and since) that I knew they were just doing their jobs. Yes, it sucks what happened to us...but no US Airways does not get off the hook.

I spend my days going the extra step and bending over backwards for my customers...I don't expect it when I'm on the other side of the desk, but I expect to at least be met halfway. And when I get POOR customer service, I call a spade a spade. What we got May 30th was a spade.

The 'gate agent' would have to assign those seats, not the agent you spoke to. The gate agent has control of the flight, and only s/he can "unhold" those seats. I worked for two years, for the airlines, and frequently we would have people not show up for flights. I've seen flights overbooked by eight people, go out with empty seats, because people do not show up. It happens much more often than you might think. It is VERY possible that the seats that were open, were "held" seats, which that particular agent cannot switch/unhold (only gate agent can do that), and that some of the seats were from people who didn't check in, checked in too late, or misconnected. When I was a customer service agent, and someone asked me to move them closer, or change their seat, and there were no options closer, I ALWAYS informed them to check with the gate agent, again, because seats do, and will open up from time to time, especially, 30 minutes prior to departure. This is when the flight is restricted for check in, and when the "held seats", will be "unheld", and when people who didn't check in, in time, or didn't show up, their seats will now be open. I always communicated this, to passengers, when I couldn't change their seats. This agent did not, and many do not, but I always tried my best to let them know to continue checking. I doubt the agent deliberately lied to you, about not being able to get you closer, so much as he didn't communicate that you could check again, at the gate, and other seats may open. Also, if there are open seats in an airplane, passengers are allowed to get up, and move. Once you realized that there were seats open, closer, you could have gotten up, and moved into them.

Glad you understand that ATC has control over airplanes, and when they takeoff, and not the airlines themselves. Unfortunately, many people do not understand that.

Again, I worked for the airlines for two years, and there is no way I could estimate to anyone how long it normally takes for particular delays, it varies, WAY too much. I've seen airplanes with the exact same delay reason, on seperate occassions, where one left earlier than it's original delay estimate, and one left well after it's original delay estimate. There is no way to predict how long a delay will be, and it varies, even with the same type of delay reasons. I know you may not understand that, but work a week in the life of an airline customer service agent, and you will see. Things can get out of control, when flights start delaying, and it is completely unpredictable. I always communicated this to passengers, during delays. I would tell them, "your flight is estimated to leave at 9:15, however, keep in mind, that is just an estimate, and it could become later". Typically, delays are always later than originally estimated, but it is VERY hard to predict how much later, as it constantly varies. I just always made sure that passengers understood the delay could be extended. An example of this ... I once worked a flight, where the airplane was delayed due to a tire needing to be changed. The flight was estimated to be delayed 1 hour. The mechanics had to be flown in, with the new tire, and tools to change the tire. Problem is, when the mechanics arrived, they had forgotten the "jack", that allows them to lift the side of the airplane, where they will change the tire. Long story short, the flight went out WAY later than just 1 hour. There is NO WAY I could had predicted the mechanics would forget their jack.

As for routine maintenance. The issue may not be a 'serious' issue, but there are certain issues, serious, or not, that are required to be fixed, by FAA regulations, before the airplane can fly. Again, I am a pilot, and there is something called a MEL (minimum equipment list). There are certain items that can be "written off", and the airplane can fly, even with the problem, while there are other problems that must be fixed. If they could have flown this particular airplane, with the problem, they would have, and trust me on that. Some of these issues are serious, while others are not so serious, but still required to be fixed, before flight, because they 'can' become serious, later on, etc. Sure they could have gotten another airplane, but airlines do not have spare airplanes just sitting around. By the time they would have gotten a new airplane, in place, chances are, it would have been not much, if at all, earlier than the delay to just fix the problem.

I am not trying to stick up for USAirways, at all. They are a pretty bad airline, and I've heard A LOT of bad things about them. I am just sticking up for the customer service agents, because there is so much about being a customer service agent, for an airline, that people don't understand. There is so much that is not within the CSAs control, etc. I can assure you that if these agents could solve the problem, themselves, they would. There was NOTHING more stressful, that made me want to walk off of the job, than dealing with flight delays, cancellations, and frustrated passengers. Unfortunately, there is only so much you can do, and as you said, it is about the airline's policy, and what CSAs are told they can/cannot do, that is the problem. I understand that you had a bad travel day, on the 30th, and USAirways didn't do much to help the situation. I would call their customer service line, and seek a voucher, if you haven't already.