View Full Version : Customer Service Horrible customer service after emergency landing

Oct 11, 2009, 9:46 PM
I was trying to get home last Friday, and it was one of the worst flying experiences I’ve had. Sadly, almost none of it needed to be so lousy were it not for a mix of random unfortunate circumstances and truly awful US Airways employees. I had flown up to Buffalo earlier in the week for some meetings and I since Delta (with whom I usually fly) didn’t have any seats available at convenient times for my return trip, I thought I’d give US Airways a try.

That was a HUGE mistake and one I won’t make again.

Friday evening I was on a small Embraer 170 jet that departed from Buffalo for Washington DC. I had about an hour in DC to catch my connecting flight to Tampa and I’d get home about midnight, which was important because on Saturday morning at 7:00 my son’s football team, which I coach, had their team photos for the year followed by a game. With as many hours as I put in coaching those boys, I really wanted to be in the team photo.

About five minutes after take-off from Buffalo the pilots reduced thrust and started descending. As a private pilot myself, I knew something was up but they didn’t announce anything for a few more minutes. When they finally said we had a problem and were returning to Buffalo to land, I figured then I’d probably not make my original connection in DC. We made an emergency landing and stopped hard on the runway itself, rather than taxiing back to a gate. The plane was surrounded by large fire engines, six by my count, and assorted smaller fire and police vehicles. Several firemen began to inspect the plane and we sat there for a good 15-20 minutes while they did so. Finally, they cleared the plane to return the gate.

The pilots announced that one of the fire detection sensors in the cargo hold was showing an error of some kind and that was the reason for the emergency landing. They didn’t believe that there was an actual fire, but with the sensor not working, there was no way to know for sure, and we couldn’t continue to DC like that. A ground agent came on and started announcing cities to which passengers were not going to make their connections. Tampa was about the third or fourth one listed. Those passengers were told to take their belongs and get off of the plane.
The gate agent announced that nobody should worry, he would not let anyone go anywhere where they would not be able to make their connection and that he was personally “watching out for us”. We never saw him again.

They had us exit the airside of the airport and go back to the ticket desk. This is where the real fun began. The Embraer was a fairly small plane and only some of the passengers were pulled off for rebooking, maybe 20 or so. You’d think it would have been a quick and painless process to find us some other flights for the evening. Apparently not for the horrible, bitter, and generally useless ticket agents. These people were visibly angry with the passengers! I guess requiring rebooking because of their mechanical problems was somehow our fault and a major
disruption for them.

There were four agents to start with, but quickly there were only only three. One of them almost immediately grabbed his cell phone from the counter and walked quickly out the front doors of the airport and was gone. Still, three agents for 20 passengers ought to have been enough, one would have thought.

In the small group, a surprising number of us were trying to get to Tampa that night. None of us did. I stood in the short line for at least 30 minutes, perhaps longer, before getting “helped” (and I use that term very loosely) by a surly agent. It’s hard to describe just how horrible this particular agent one, but let me give you an example.

While we were in line, there were a few other passengers looking to check in to other flights. So those of us waiting for agents let them go ahead of us and use the automated kiosks to check in to their flights. While I was
first in line, I let a young girl go ahead of me and she apparently had a problem with the kiosk and needed help from an agent. All of the agents proceeded to ignore her completely as she tried to speak to them. Most wouldn’t even make eye contact with her and none would deign to speak to her. This lasted for at 10-15 minutes. Finally the agent in front of me was free and this girl tried to get the agent to help her. Since I had already let her go ahead of me, I didn’t complain. But the agent refused to help the girl at all. She said that the “30 minutes before departure time” rule for her flight had passed and it was to late to check in. Never mind that the girl had been there well before that time, but had been ignored by the agents to that point. As the poor girl burst into
tears at not being allowed on her flight, the uncaring agent simply dismissed her and called me up to the counter. I have no idea what became of the girl.

When I got to the counter and asked her (politely) to please find me a way to get to Tampa by 7:00 a.m. the next morning, she just shook her head. I tried to explain why, but she didn’t want to hear it. I’m sure she’s heard plenty of sob stories from plenty of passengers trying to get somewhere and it was clear she didn’t give a damn.

The agent next to her didn’t either. As she finished with one passenger, instead of helping the next one who had stepped up to the counter, she barked, “I didn’t call you up to the counter!” and told my agent she was leaving. I couldn’t believe my ears and I spoke up.

Me: You’re leaving?!?
Her: I’ve been here since [whenever] and I need to get home.
Me: Ma’am, we’re ALL trying to get home tonight!
Her: But I have to be back here in the morning.
Me: It looks like we’re ALL going to be back here in the morning.

And then she left. And so did the supervisor who had been working with another passenger. According to my agent, who responded when several people in line asked where the other two were going, the supervisor had to “check out” the other agent. I have no idea why and about 10 minutes later the supervisor came back. But now there were two. And nobody was getting on any flights that night. From what I could tell, not one single passenger was found another flight.

I was given a flight for the next morning and a voucher for a cheap hotel across the street and a $10 voucher for dinner and $5 for breakfast, both of which really are only accepted at the airport. But there is no food at this airport without passing through security, which I could no longer do without a boarding pass for a flight that night.

Before I left the agent, I asked if I had been booked into first class for my flights, since I had previously been booked in first for my flight out of DC. She said that I had since those were the only seats left. “Both
flights?” I asked. “Yes,” she said. She lied! But more on that in a moment.

I caught a shuttle to the hotel, the misnamed Quality Inn. They had no food available, so I took a walk. It was raining out and very cold, but I walked about a half mile to a Tim Horton’s for a sandwich and then to a gas station for a large beer. I was fairly wet by the time I got back to the hotel room for my beer-fueled pity party…

The next morning I got up very early and went back to the airport for my flight, this time to Philly. I was in seat 4A and boarding with Zone 1, which I assumed was First Class, especially since the agent had said it was. As I mentioned before, she lied. 4A is actually the front seat in coach, right behind the bulkhead, in other words, one of the worst seats on the plane. I mentioned the issue to the flight attendant who said I needed to get off the plane and talk to the gate agent.

When I saw that the gate agent was the same lady who had left early the night before, I knew I was in trouble. I explained my issue and she told me, “No, you’re only First Class out of Philly, and this flight is full.” and she
thrust my boarding pass back at me. Not exactly friendly or helpful, much as I had feared. So I sat in coach for the, thankfully, uneventful flight.
Now, while First Class is nice, I wasn’t that concerned about it, really. But what just pisses me off like nothing else is being lied to. I absolutely HATE it. It makes me want to punch people in the face. (Of course, I don’t.)

On the second flight, I was sitting in First and when the flight attendant asked if I wanted anything to drink before we took off, I most certainly did! I asked for a bloody mary and she told me that she didn’t have the
liquor on board yet and it might be a few minutes. That was fine, and I could certainly wait. And I would have been OK with it, except that just before we took off I saw her collecting cups from other bottles, including a bloody mary from the passenger right in front of me. Apparently, there was liquor on board, just not enough for me.

Remember my comment about being lied to? I really, really hate it, and this was twice now.

Idid eventually get home and was happy for it. But I will not soon forget this horrible experience. The mechanical problem wasn't anybody's fault and could have happened to any airline, but the problem was compounded several times over by the US Airways agents who were rude, angry, dishonest, and almost entirely useless. I will never give them my business again.

Oct 11, 2009, 11:11 PM
Sadly that litany of sour, bitter liars could be working for any number of airlines, especially Delta & US Airways. Until Congress breaks up these monopolies, nothing will change.

Oct 12, 2009, 12:18 AM
I've been 'forced' onto USAirways because of schedules or cost with a partner in CLT and me in NYC and family in MAN (tried them once trans-atlantic, that's not happening again).

My consistent experience is terrible, and I mean terrible ground staff. Flight Attendants tend to be more professional. Their website is lousy and when I drop a seat tray and find a Verizon advertisement I rip them off.

I don't blame you. I now avoid them at all costs, even if I pay more or run over to EWR to fly CO express or mainline CO. Sorry you missed the morning event.

My sister just spent overnight at DCA airport because of a missed connection and they refused hotel vouchers because they blamed the weather when it was a mechanical!