Complaint letter to CEO of US Airways

By | March 10, 2009

(Follow the whole story at http://blog.kamens.brookline.ma.us/tag/trapped-in-georgia/.)

(If you’re trying to find out how to complain to US Airways, see this posting.)

March 10, 2009

Doug Parker
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
US Airways
111 West Rio Salado Parkway
Tempe, AZ 85281

Dear Mr. Parker,

I am writing about the outrageous experience which has prompted my wife and I to decide that we will never willingly fly on US Airways again. I will also tell you about my efforts to share our experience with as many people as possible and to urge our elected representatives to take action to make what happened to us a thing of the past.

At 3:30am on February 23, the day my wife and our five children were scheduled to return to Boston from a trip to Georgia, I was woken by a panicked phone call: “I’ve got the stomach flu. I’ve been throwing up for hours and I can barely walk. There’s no way I’m going to be able to fly today. I need you to change our flight.”

I immediately called US Airways and asked to move the tickets a day later. I was told that it would cost $1,250 ($750 in change fees and $100 per ticket because the new flight was more expensive under the arcane, incomprehensible, rigged pricing system your airline uses). This was well over half the original cost of the trip. Incredulously, I asked, “Surely you must have a policy for waiving the charge for changes due to sudden, serious, contagious illness?” No, I was informed, there is no such policy.

Thinking that perhaps I would have more success in person, I rushed to Logan airport and repeated my request at the US Airways ticket counter. The people there were unfailingly polite and tried their best to be helpful, but on one point they were unwavering: they could not waive the charges. I left the airport with nothing but a slip of paper showing how to contact your customer relations department, which was pretty much useless because it doesn’t open until 9:00am, by which time my wife would have had to leave for the airport, a two-hour drive from where she was staying.

I called my wife and listened to her sob hysterically as she realized that she was being forced to choose between risking her health and her children’s safety and spreading a dangerous virus, or spending a great deal of money we did not have to postpone her travel.

In fact, there was no choice, because her host, an experienced nurse who had been struck by the same virus herself a few days before, said that she couldn’t possibly fly in her condition and refused to drive her to the airport.

I proceeded to spend pretty much the entire day fighting the US Airways bureaucracy in an effort to get my wife’s tickets changed for less than $1,250. Let me tell you about that hellish experience.

The slip of paper I got at the airport had two telephone numbers on it. When I called the first number, 866-523-5333, a recording informed me that I should contact you through your Web site to receive a response within a few days, which of course was entirely useless for getting help with an urgent issue. Then I was hung up on.

When I called the second number, 480-693-6719, a recording said I had dialed an invalid extension. Yes, that’s right, one of the phone numbers given to me by US Airways employees at the airport was simply wrong.

I then wrote a letter summarizing our situation and sent it to the fax number on the slip of paper, 480-693-2305. I doubt it will surprise you to hear that no one ever responded to that letter.

After that, I decided to call back the first number again. I’m not sure why I thought I’d get a different result the second time, since there was nothing in the recording to suggest that. But it’s a good thing I did, because this time, rather than being told to go away, I was put into a queue, where I waited for almost two hours before being connected to a customer relations representative.

I told her my story, and once again, I was informed that the terms and conditions of our tickets did not include a waiver for medical emergencies and therefore the fees could not be waived.

Up to now, I had been nothing but polite to all of the US Airways employees with whom I had dealt.  I acknowledged, to each employee, that I understood that the airline’s policy was not under his/her control.  In each encounter, I politely asked if there was someone else to whom I could speak who might be able to override the policy.

I’m sorry to say that my politeness ran out during this call.  I lost my temper.  I yelled.  I berated the agent for yet again mouthing the platitudes about “terms and conditions” and “airline policies,” when she knew as well as I did that the terms, conditions and policies were created by the airline and the airline could change them on a whim.  I listed all of the people and media outlets to whom I was going to complain if the airline didn’t solve the problem.  I pointed out how absurd it was that the airline gives passengers nothing when it has to cancel flights due to circumstances (supposedly) beyond its control but then expects passengers to pay an exorbitant fee when they cannot fly due to circumstances beyond their control.  I told her that it was simply reprehensible that the airline expected my wife, who spent the night alternating between lying on the bathroom floor, vomiting, and having diarrhea, to get on a plane with her five children a few hours later.  I pointed out how outrageous it was that the airline preferred for my wife to expose many people at the airport and everyone on both of her flights to a serious, potentially lethal virus, rather than letting her and her family fly the next day.

She told me to calm down, put me on hold for a few minutes, and then came back and claimed that if I faxed them a letter from a doctor that my wife was unable to fly this morning, they would waive the fees. She told me to fax the letter to 480-690-2300.

I got such a letter from the nurse who cared for my wife during her illness and refused to let her get on the plane. She went to a great deal of effort to produce the letter, since she had taken the day off to care for my wife and had to drive in to work to get hospital letterhead on which to write. But she got it, and she faxed it to me, and at around 3:00pm Eastern time, I started trying to fax it to US Airways.

I say “started trying” because, although I repeatedly tried faxing the letter to 480-690-2300 for five hours, I was never able to transmit it successfully. Most of my attempts before 7:00pm failed because the line was busy. A few attempts failed because there was no answer. And a very small number of attempts failed because the fax machine on the other end hung up in the middle of the first page of the fax.

Thinking that there might perhaps be a problem with my fax machine, I also made many attempts to send the fax from my company’s eFax account. These attempts also failed.

At around 4:00pm, I called your customer relations department again in a desperate attempt to find out what to do about the fact that I had been told to provide you with this letter but was unable to do so. I waited for around 40 minutes before being connected to an agent, who informed me that there was absolutely nothing he could do.  There was no email address to which I could send the letter that would be read quickly; there was no other fax machine to which I could send it; there was no way he could get in touch with the agent with whom I’d spoken before to make alternate arrangements.  That part of our exchange is so astounding that it bears repeating (emphasis added):

ME: “Can you look up the name of the agent I spoke with before and speak to her about this to try to figure out a solution?”

HIM: “No, I’m sorry, there are so many people here that I probably wouldn’t be able to find her.”

ME: “Well, don’t you have a telephone directory?  Can’t you call her extension?”

HIM: “No, we’re not allowed to make outgoing calls to other people in our department.

At 7:00pm when your customer relations department closed, the fax machine stopped answering completely. It is simply mind-boggling that a major international corporation would use a single fax machine attached to an actual telephone line for urgent incoming faxes, rather than an Internet-based service such as eFax with essentially unlimited capacity.

At this point, I had tried unsuccessfully all day to get my problem resolved through your customer relations department, and it became clear that for my wife and children to be able to come home the next day, I was just going to have to call your reservations number, change the tickets, pay whatever ransom you demanded, and then try after the fact to get some sort of refund.

Imagine my surprise when the reservations agent informed me that we were not going to be charged the $150 per ticket change fee because there was a notation on the reservation that the fee had been waived! Someone apparently decided at some point during the day to waive the fee despite never having seen the letter that had been demanded of us. Wouldn’t it have been nifty if whoever decided this had called to let me know, thus sparing me from several hours of wasted time, aggravation and panic? (Incidentally, my wife brought the letter to the airport with her the next day, but they didn’t want to see it there either.)

I was, however, still charged $100 per ticket because of the bogus difference in fares, for a total of $500 in ransom to get my family home from Georgia.

My wife’s experience on her trip home was equally frustrating. The check-in agent informed my wife that the agent who changed her tickets on Monday night did not reserve seats for her connecting flight, and for some reason he couldn’t do so either, so he couldn’t give her boarding passes and she was going to have to get them at the gate. This, despite the fact that there was only a 30-minute gap between the scheduled arrival time of the first flight and the departure time of the second, and it was unlikely that my wife would make it to the second flight with five kids even if everything went perfectly.

When my wife arrived in Charlotte, the people there were amazingly polite and helpful and bent over backwards to try to get her to her connecting flight before it left. I’m speaking about employees of the airport, not US Airways employees. These helpful people were hampered by receiving all sorts of contradictory information from US Airways – her connecting flight had already closed its doors, or it hadn’t. The flight had already left, or it hadn’t. The flight was going to leave on time, or it wasn’t. Every US airways employee seemed to have a different story. Because of all the contradictory information, my wife insisted that they bring her to the gate so that she and our children could try to board the flight.

When they got to the gate, lo and behold, the flight hadn’t left, and there were five seats open on it that my wife and children could take. They boarded the flight, and they arrived safely in Boston a few hours later.

There are so many things wrong with how we were treated by US Airways that I’m not even going to try to enumerate them all. If you can’t figure out from my narrative what your airline should have done differently, then your airline is truly beyond hope.

Now let me tell you about what I am doing to get out the message about your lousy airline.

  • I have written about our experience extensively on my blog (http://blog.kamens.brookline.ma.us/tag/trapped-in-georgia/) and will continue to do so.
  • I have submitted my story to various consumer advocacy Web sites such as http://consumerist.com/ and will continue to submit it to additional sites.
  • I am trying to get a guest Op-Ed column published in a prominent newspaper about the risk to public health and homeland security caused by your policy of forcing people to fly while ill by threatening to charge them exorbitant fees for changing their flights (an example column is attached).
  • I will be sending letters to all of my federal elected representatives urging them to enact regulations requiring the airlines to allow sick passengers to change their flights without incurring a financial penalty.

I will do my best to ensure that the cost to your airline in lost business due to damage to your reputation far exceeds the $500 you forced me to pay to rescue my family.

Sincerely,

Jonathan Kamens

encl: Guest Op-Ed column submitted to the Boston Herald

cc: Scott Kirby, President, US Airways
C.A. Howlett, Senior Vice President, Public Affairs, US Airways
Andrew Nocella, Senior Vice President, Marketing and Planning, US Airways
Tom Chapman, Vice President, Congressional & Federal Affairs, US Airways
Kerry Hester, Vice President, Reservations and Customer Service Support, US Airways
Jim Olson, Vice President, Corporate Communications, US Airways
Donna Paladini, Vice President, Customer Service, US Airways
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127 thoughts on “Complaint letter to CEO of US Airways

  1. S.S

    Did you ever get a response? I had to cancel my trip based on the terminal illness of my dog. I asked that the date of the ticket expiration be extended by a month and was told absolutely not becasue there is no pet policy. They have no heart and we are currently reaching out to media outlets and to the BBB. Sick over the loss of money – about a month’s paycheck for me. They called to basically tell me to stop trying to change it.

    Reply
    1. jik Post author

      No, no response. Not a surprise, really. It’s perfectly clear that the airline does not give a rat’s ass about customer service.

      Reply
  2. William

    I have had to fly form philadelphia to Columbus , OH for cancer threatments frequently. From April 2010 to May 2011 the roundtrip fares were suually in the $300 – 400 range. However, flight in July and Augusat are now running $600 to $900. They say it is the summer fares or blame it on the contract carriers (MIlwaukee Air or Republic) who fly under thier name. These prices are simply unfair and there is no justification for them. Fuel prices certainly haven’t increased that much. US Airways does provide theonly direct flights unfortunately. Does anyone know who regulates theoir fares or if there is a way to encourage copetition from more reasonable and responsible airlines?

    Reply
  3. Angel

    July 5
    I’m not sure why US Airways continues to stay in business, absolutely hands down the worst airline. The people working are totally incompatent and clueless or untrained. They never know what is going on. The crew has been late on many of my flights. I think the owner should just sale the airline or get a whole new staff. No other airline is as bad as US Airways.

    Reply
  4. sang du

    Hi, I also have a same problem with you. The US Airways is definitely the worst airline I have ever booked. The customer service is pretty poor. They try to steal my money. In my case, I m informed if I change the flight, I have to be charged $150 to get $156 for credit (my original air ticket was $367). Basically, I have to pay 150 to receive $6 cash, then pay a brand new ticket $380 while I have checked online that the price is $256. The Us Argent said that is all information they give me. Further, I called them back and said I dont want to change the flight anymore. I still want to keep the day to return. They said I already canceled the flight. So, I dont receive anything after I called them TO ASK THEM TO CHANGE THE FLIGHT. How does the multi- million company steal my money like the way they did to me. Hopefully, the Us government does something to serve the Us citizens well. They should clean up the “scam” company such as the US Airways.

    Reply
  5. David

    I have a few issues with the poor level of customer service provided to me on 6/14/11. Every flight i boarded was late, flights that others were speaking and cursing about from neighboring gates were late some delayed for more than an hour. It appears to me that a multi-million dollar organization would do more for their customers. The way i see it, the airlines would save money and hold a connecting flight for 5 minutes so that arrival ride arrangements would not need to be changed by the consumer, than putting up hundreds of people in a hotel far from their destination. I see clearly that US Airways is not in the business of providing excellent customer service only gleening the cash for those aboard their vessels and the rest i will relate to the press and media maybe just maybe we can enact some type of boycott of US Airways and when the cash flow slows down it will catch the attention of someone who will care. Thanks for ruining my homecoming to Spokane.

    Reply
    1. Dr A

      I agree On Fri 17 June I was stuck in Charolette for 5 hours a delay that was never explained to us and the gate agents were rude and just kept repeating that he did not kow whay it was delayed and that they were wainting on a crew. The plain was late coming in from south Carolina. Our plane was sitting at the gate. After 5 long irritating hours we were moved to another gate 9 gaites away and was hurried on the plane to be greated by disgruntal flight attendances and still no explaination on why the 5 h our delay. The pliot did not offer an explaination or apology. When we finally landed in Cleveland at almost 0100 it took for ever to get our bags that we had paid $25.00 to check. If US Airways were as quick to issue good customer service s they are at collecting $25.00 per bag than they would be a great airline. They need to contact Southwest and get some idea about ontime service and good customer service. Tried calling to make a complaint and only got a recording and no human person. Way to go USAirways.

      Reply
  6. Mike

    Mr. Kamens,
    You articulated precisely what thousands (if not more) experience with this crappy, money mongering, bottom-line poor excuse for an airline. The non-existent customer service, catch 22 policies, endless mazes of automated messages, unaccountability of agents and CEO Parker is an absolute embarrassment. Then after they screw up everybody’s plans and f*** them out of as much money as they can, they are unapologetic. You hit the nail right on the head when you said they cheat you out of exorbitant fees for an unexpected change of plans that is out of your control, but don’t offer any worthwhile compensation when they incessantly screw up your travel plans. It took my mother 12 hours to get from Boston to Charlottesville…she had a 9 hour delay in Charlotte and no US Air officials could say why (it wasn’t weather). Instead of doing the right thing and giving these people some sort of discount on a future flight or something of value, they more or less said too bad and handed out $5 food vouchers. Parker…your company sucks…you’re a blood sucker that doesn’t mind robbing people legally.

    Reply
  7. Mike A

    I was going to write the CEO to complain about US Airways…after reading these why bother. Same thing going on today 2/27/2011

    Reply
  8. us airway [bleep]

    this is by far the worst airline in the history of flight.they only care about themselves and not the customer.as far as the drunken ceo,hes no better than the staff he hires.have another drink [bleep]. screw up some more flights.

    [obscenities removed. – ed.]

    Reply
  9. Brian

    I too have a very familar issue with US Air!

    My wife, son and I were scheduled to fly to Dallas on 12/29/10 to go see some relatives and celabrate the New Year. My wife’s uncle had a heart attack on 12/27.
    On the morning of 12/28 I called to cancel the flight and was told we would have one year to use the tickets and we would have to pay an additional $150 change fee. While i don’t like this as a frequent flyer (Silver) the last 5 years I can somewhat understand it. My wife called this morning to make flight arrangments to go and visit her Uncle and low an behold they said we were a no show for our original flight and in a USairways representives words “we would have to eat the tickets”!
    At then end of the day they just stole $1,045 from my family so they are no better than common crimanls.

    Reply
  10. Jonathan

    I agree with karen, me and my wife are frequent, loyal customers to US Airways as well, and experienced the same. I always go for US Airways / US Airlines as our first choice when we have our travel every summer, but it seems like they don’t have the exceptional service anymore.

    Reply
  11. Sarah

    US Airways is a crock. I live in Charlotte NC so their are the biggest airline flying in and out. I hope to God that Southwest can get in here someway, they are 10,000x’s better in service and price.

    Reply
    1. GT

      Mr. Parker (USAIR CEO):

      We booked a family reunion/vacation in Belize with my family, my sister’s family, and my parents (10 of us all together). This was a once in a lifetime opportunity to bring all three generations together for a week and enjoy the great climate and activities that Belize has to offer. When the trip was booked months ago, we had a reservation on a USAIR flight from Charlotte to Belize that left on January 2nd and returned on January 9th, and accordingly we booked a house that we were all to stay in for that week. US Air confirmed all our reservations and the tickets were paid for in full.

      However, we just learned from him that a few weeks ago USAIR canceled the returning flight on the 9th from Belize (no reason was given), and did not re-book us on a competing airline’s Sunday flight (both American and Continental fly out of Belize on the 9th). When my father called a couple of weeks ago about the problem, the USAIR representative told him the only solution was to book the return flight on another USAIR flight on the 8th (shortening our once in a lifetime family reunion by over 14%), and went on to say that if we still wanted to sit together on the US Air flight he would have to pay an additional fee to US Air do so (this is hard for me to believe, but he says it’s true). He paid the fee.

      Mr. Parker, I would expect that instead of canceling our flight with little/no notice (we were unable to shorten our agreement on the accommodations so we will waste the $1,750US/day cost of the house), there would be an opportunity for US Air to place us on a Continental or American flight on Sunday the 9th (which there appears to be plenty of seats on). I’m sending you this information because as the CEO of a company (granted millions, not billions in size like US AIR, but I think the concept is universal), I would want to know if one of my companies behaved like this and I would want to make it right.

      Mr. Parker, I greatly appreciate that you took the time to read this email and I look forward to your view and response on this problem with our US Air flight. As you can see from the dates above, we are in the middle of our time in Belize, and therefore can only be reached by email, douglas.parker@usairsu…, or at the house phone in San Pedro Belize (226-2481). Thank you for your assistance with this.

      And sorry for the all the SEO keywords and the http://www.usairsucks.com address. Just trying to get someone’s attention before we have to leave a day early on the US Air flight on the 8th.

      If you guys correct this, I’ll be happy to give you both credit for doing so as well as the http://www.usairsucks.com domain. I look forward to hearing from USAIR on this issue.

      FRIDAY- January 7, 2011

      Friday, January 7th, and US Air still has not responded to any of my emails to US Air Customer Service, US Air Executives (including Doug Parker the US Air CEO), and many calls into the US Air Customer Service line (typical wait time, 45 minutes plus). Looks like US Air will have successfully stolen a day of our vacation and not even had the decency to speak with us about it. US Air still Sucks!

      Later on FRIDAY January 7, 2011

      A number of comments have been posted on other boards around the Internet (mostly agreeing with how US Air sucks and US Air Customer Service is effectively non-existent). However, one person rightfully so pointed out that US Air did not have to help us out in this situation. I agree that every airline is clear in their tiny print that they have the legal right to jerk you around as much as they care to and for any reason (or no reason). I realize that I have not legal case here, but great companies are never built on doing only what they have to do. Among many ways, their brands are defined by empowering their people to do what they didn’t have to do– to do what is right.

      And I think that’s the point with US Air. They treat their customers like cattle going to slaughter and do only the bare minimum required by law in every category (safety, customer service, innovation, etc.).

      I realize US Air doesn’t have to do anything for me (and probably won’t). I just find it amazing that with many posts around the internet (including the creation of http://www.usarsucks.com), many phone calls to US Air Customer Service (who is impossible to get in contact with unless you want to invest at least an hours time on hold), and many emails to US Air Customer Service and all the senior US Air executives (including the US Air CEO Doug Parker), that I can’t get even a single response from anyone. Not even a “go to hell”.

      Like I said before, for all these and many other reasons, US Air Sucks!

      Reply
  12. John

    Similar to Karen, I am a Gold member of USAirways, not by choice, but because I travel often and they are the major carrier out of Philadelphia, my home airport. However, I do also fly several other airlines and have found all them, even the very low budgets like AirTran and Southwest to me far more customer friendly. The staff at USAirways are absolutely miserable people.

    I am dealing with a complaint with them right now. I flew to Johannesburg, South Africa this year and elected to fly Star Alliance airlines to earn credit on USAirways. I could have flown Delta. Although the boarding passes were clearly marked with my USAirways FQTV number I still haven’t received the credit. We are talking about 30,000 miles! I lost one of the boarding passes but still had the other. I sent it in with a letter. I received a response saying the would investigate and to wait 30 days. I did. No response so I wrote again. Then they told me my request was denied but they could investigate again and to wait 21 days! I am livid.

    Reply
    1. David Kilkenny

      I recently had a similar experience with US Air. They refused to help my sick five year old son from the gate to the parking lot in a wheel chair.

      I returned to Logan airport from Charlotte on flight 1770 (arriving at 4PM on 2/5/11). When I arrived at the gate with my family (my wife, 6 month old infant daughter, and 5 year old son), my son was terribly sick. He started vomiting on the flight and could not stop.

      Upon arriving at the gate, the USAir agent directed me towards 10 wheel chairs and four men in PrimeFlight shirts. After doing some research, I have found that PrimeFlight provides wheel chair services for US Air, and other airlines. The US Air agent directed me in a “that’s not my job” type of manner but at least he provided helpful information.

      I asked for help from the four PrimeFlight employees and the PrimeFlight employees said that the wheel chairs were for sick people. This was stated as my son was throwing up right in front of them in a bag. They continued to sit and talk while clearly indicating that my son was not sick enough to use the wheel chairs. I told them that my son was sick and we needed help getting to the parking lot, as my son was not going to be able to walk that far. He ways 50 lbs so I could not carry him, and we had an infant and 2 bags to carry too. The man repeated, “those are for sick people,” as if I were inconveniencing him. He continued sitting in a chair, along with three other PrimeFlight employees. I clearly expressed to him that he was not helpful at all and that I was disappointed. The airport was not crowded at all, and the four employees were just sitting and doing nothing.

      It was not until I pulled out my video camera and began to tape the four PrimeFlight employees, who were sitting down doing nothing while we obviously needed help, that an older gentleman finally brought a wheel chair over to us. I might add that once he saw the video camera, he came over rather quickly. This man did wheel my son all the way to our car. While he was nice, it is unfortunate that it took a video camera to get assistance.

      I am upset, to say the least, at PrimeFlight’s deplorable service. I do plan to contact the Better Business Bureau, as well as all of the airlines that PrimeFlight services.

      As the CEO of a company myself, I cannot possibly state how disappointed that I am in PrimeFlight, and their horrible service. My family desperately needed help and PrimeFlight did not deliver. Not only did PrimeFlight fail to deliver, but they made my son feel badly for being sick and managed to make a bad situation much worse. My son has since asked me, “Daddy, why wouldn’t those people help me when I was sick?”

      This obviously reflects on US Air as well. I am hoping to get an apology from the CEOs of PrimeFlight and US Air to my son. I do not feel that this is too much to ask for.

      I look forward to your reply. I can be reached at either dkilkenny33@hotmail.com or dkilkenny@antheminstruments.com or at 978-667-3224.

      Regards,
      David Kilkenny

      Reply
  13. Kiera

    I have had a recent problem with US Airway myself. From booking, then finding out 5 hours later the tickets were cheaper. Then to CS who was useless. Including the office of the CEO.

    This company is terrible & I too will not be flying them again. Ever. At least if I can help it.

    Reply
  14. Anne

    My husband and I had frequent flyer miles to use. Looking on US Airways web site I attempted to use the both of our miles to get tickets to Las Vegas. After much searching I found flights that were available. I first used my miles and got my ticket. Then went to get my husband’s ticket, and it was no longer available. I called US air and asked if I could change my reservation but was informed that no I could not or I would lose my miles and the reservation.

    I decided to get my husbands ticket anyway even though it was leaving the next day and to purchase a one way ticket from US Air for me to travel with him, even though this was costing me an additional $150. The flight to Vegas was fine.

    When I attempted to check in on the web site, I could not so I called US Airways. The first person was very apologetic but said the reservation was canceled completely since I did not fly with the original flight. I said I was I needed to go home and I needed to be on that flight. He wouldn’t help me and his supervisor wouldn’t help me. I could see on their web site that there was still many seat available and since I used my miles for one of them I should be able to get on the plane. Still only apologies but no help. Finally after over an hour on the phone I hung up.

    I was very upset. The only thing I could do was purchase a one way ticket home for $400. I did complain to US Airways, but again all I get is apologies and no resolution. They did say the would refund my miles to my account for a fee of $150.

    Reply
  15. Mike

    I have recently had the unfortunatate pleasure of dealing with US Airways. I received a response letter from the a “representative, customer relations” that stated “I apologize you were disappointed”. That’s not even a real apology. Yeah, I’m sure it was my fault.

    This airline sucks! They don’t give a crap about anyone. I won’t fly with them ever again. Let’s all do this.

    Reply
  16. Ridiculous

    My parents booked two flights from New York to Florida on US Airways costing between $400 and $500. These tickets were so that they could visit my Father’s Mother before she passes away. She has cancer and very little time left. At the time the flight was booked, they made it as soon as they could according to their work schedules. Then my father’s sister called to inform him that he needed to try and change the flight to 2 weeks before because it didn’t look like his Mother was going to make it to their visit. My Father called USAIR to explain the situation and to find out if there was any way they could switch the flights. The representative that he spoke with on the phone was extremely unhelpful and had no interest in accomodating their needs despite the circumstances. He was told that not only would he have to pay the $150 fee for each ticket, he was going to have to pay various other fees amounting his total paid to well over $1,000. I find it quite ridiculous that they profit at such a high level off of other’s tragedies.

    Reply
    1. jik Post author

      I don’t think “ridiculous” is the right word for it. “Outrageous” or “shameful” might be better.

      Reply
  17. Sue

    I found this page while searching for the President and CEO of USAirways , because I wanted to complain about a recent experience that demonstrated USAir’s complete lack of a soul and their absurd adherence to fabricated “policy.” After reading this, I suspect any attempts to resolve my much less critical issue will be a waste of my time. The company clearly has no heart, no humanity.

    I was attempting to use Frequent Flier miles to fly to my annual family reunion. Using the miles because, unfortunately, I am n Engineer but have been out of work for 2 years now. Come to find out my Frequent Flier miles have vanished. Why? Due to “inactivity.”

    Now get this… the primary reason for the inactivity is the fact that USAir pulled out of my airport several years ago, making flying with them less convenient.

    When I called them, they explained their “policy” and how they notified me three months before the FF annihilation deadline of the action that I would need to take: Either book a flight, or a participating hotel or rental car, or dine at the most expensive restaurant in town. (There are not many local options. I told them theat, when unemployed, none of those options are financially responsible. They did not care.

    They said I could reinstate my miles by a) paying $300, or b) applying for a USAir credit card. I told them that, in my unemployed state, paying $300 for a ticket that would cost me $250 would not be wise. And perhaps they have not looked at the odds of an unemployed person getting a credit card.

    These are miles I earned. Fairly. Legitimately. And they take them away.

    What’s worse, these are the same miles that I already paid $200 to reinstate several years ago. I had booked a vacation to the Caribbean, and had to cancel because my husband developed a medical condition that did not allow him to fly. $200. Gone. You would think that one I paid good money for them once, I would own them. But Noooo.

    I, too, will not fly this airline willingly again.

    -Sue

    Reply
  18. Pingback: Stories of US Airways Fucking Over It’s Consumers | The Adventures of Jessica Sideways

  19. A mad Daughter

    Well the story that I have to tell is far worst! And they have been giving me the run around for some time now. My brother became ill in Florida and my father had to fly out from Oklahoma City to see to his needs.

    He left the state of OKC (American) then got on another flight from Dalls to Charlotte, NC to Tampa, FL (US Airways). When he arrived his bag was lost.

    We went up to the baggage area were a line of people stood. Like robots we were told to give it 48 hours and they bag more than likely would arrive. I explained to the lady at the counter how important it was they find this bag. My dad is a diabetic and recently had three toes amputated and badly needed his meds that he was forced to check in. The lady looked at me and said “Everyone has an urgency” you will have to wait until the process takes its place, she then asked us to move aside so she could service the next customer. I refused to move until she could give me another answer, more friendly answer, and most of all a more realistic time frame for a man with a medical condition. The rep from US Airways looked something up in her system and said the error was on American Air Lines; maybe I should focus my energy on them. We left her counter and walked to the terminal of American Air Lines were we were told nicely the process (which US Airways just had brushed me off pointing the finger).

    While making our way to the hospital to help my very ill brother we stood on the phone line for minutes leading into hours. The call center you call is in India so they are lost as to what to do and have a robotic tone (no empathy to the situation) every time I called, US AIR ways told us to call back in an hour. This went on for 16 hours.

    I became so upset I asked for a supervisor. We now had to leave the ICU room where my brother was to get these calls completed. My dad had not had his diabetic medicine nor the foot cream that prevents his foot from major infection. I was promised over and over again someone would call me back (this never happened).

    I got the Phoenix office supervisor team. This supervisor told me that it was American Air Lines who dropped the ball and was calling them. While she had me on hold we also called American Air Line, spoke to a supervisor who said this US Airways was incorrect. There is a policy that the ending air line is responsible for tracking the bag, they could not get in the middle of it. I waited on my cell phone for the US AIR ways supervisor to return. When she returned she told me it would take some research and would call me back the following morning. To make a even longer story short I was called back by a member of the baggage team who told me they could not track the bag. The analogy she gave me was “The US postal service don’t stop production to find your piece of mail” . WRONG thing to tell me, I work in Health Care Customer Service. I asked her how she would feel if a lab lost her specimen when waiting to be diagnosed with cancer. What if the lab just lost your lab work and said deal with it? She then put me on hold and transferred me to a American Air Lines customer service department where I was told that I was too upset and needed to calm down (I was placed on hold so I could calm down). This went on and on for days.

    As of today my dad never got his bag, an explanation nor compensations. He does not have health insurance so the cream that was not allowed on the plain (this is why he had to check the bag) cost $350.00, on top of his diabetic pills that round off to be around 285.00. I needed to buy him close since his time here was unknown and depended on the status of my very ill brother. I spent over 1,000.00 that I did not have.

    My dad underwent another surgery today because an infection in his foot. They had to cut into his already half amputated foot to get out the “New infection”. They will monitor it until Monday and if the bacteria have spread further into the bone they will cut off his foot.

    The doctor stated today “because he did not have the proper medication to clean his foot, his situation escalated”. All I could say is I told them so. I told this airline over and over again he was in medical need of his meds. This is not the matter of a family vacation and his summer close was lost. This was a sick man trying to get to his very critically ill son.

    I guess you all can figure out what I will be doing tomorrow. I will be visiting a very aggressive attorney!!! The one thing I have on my side is the truth, documents and a very upset doctor. I also work got a major corporation that spends millions in air fair yearly. Guess what I will be doing with that? Yes, I will also write a letter showing them how this air line has no remorse or care for patients. I also will be sending a complaint to everyone that will listen along to a very high political official. The air lines don’t care about the needs of anyone, but their bottom line. Well since I write their paycheck I guess I need to hurt them where it counts, in their pocket. If they don’t have the passengers they cant make the revenue. I to will be on your mission!! For the rest of their time they will talk about this situation and think of a better way to have responded. Word of mouth is not good when you have bad business practices.

    Reply
    1. jik Post author

      What happened to your father is awful, and I hope you find a good attorney who can make the airlines suffer because of it (any attorney worth his salt is going to name both airlines as defendants on any lawsuit because of the ambiguity over which one is liable).

      Having said that, the weak point in your complaint / case against the airlines is your assertion that your father was “forced to check” his medication. The airlines all tell you that important items like medication should be carried on, not checked. Although there might be an issue at the security checkpoint if the cream was more than 4 ounces, that is easily avoided by bringing a copy of the prescription or a letter from the doctor about the medication.

      Given that your father should have been able to carry on his medications, and in fact the airlines at least theoretically encourage people to do so, in what way was he “forced” to check them?

      Reply
  20. jik Post author

    I can’t make any sense of what happened to you.

    The airlines already know how to solve this problem.

    It is common for families with young children to end up assigned to non-adjacent seats when they buy their tickets if the plane is nearly full. When this happens, they are commonly told to ask at the gate for their seats to be changed.

    It is inconceivable that the gate agent was incapable of finding two people in adjacent seats anywhere on the airline who were willing to move so that you could sit next to your son.

    It is equally inconceivable that the flight crew were also unable to find two people willing to move.

    The far more likely explanation is that the gate agent and flight crew were too busy and/or lazy to do the work necessary to move people around to accommodate you. And that’s completely, utterly unacceptable.

    You’re not the only person to run into problems like this with US Airways:

    http://gwendomama.blogspot.com/2010/01/usair-hates-families.html

    And US Airways is not the only airline to have problems like this:

    http://www.usatoday.com/travel/columnist/burbank/2007-01-30-burbank_x.htm

    Clearly, US Airways should have handled the problem better, but treating passengers nicely is equally clearly not something they’re particularly good at.

    After the fact, they’ll probably offer you travel vouchers like they did for me, but of course those are worthless if you don’t intend to ever fly on US Airways again because of the way they treated you. They’re under no obligation to refund your son’s ticket, especially since he did fly on the plane to your destination, so there isn’t a snowball’s chance in hell that you’ll get any cash back from them.

    Reply
  21. Alexis Tyson

    This is what I’m currently dealing with now!!! Please read below!!!!

    Dear Mr. Doug Parker:

    On January 26, 2010 I purchased 2 tickets; one for me and one for my 3 year old son. Upon checking in on our flight from Dallas to Phoenix I noticed that our seats were apart. Immediately I informed the US Airways representative of this and was told that I would have to go to the gate because she could not accommodate me. Once I arrived to the gate again, I immediately approached the representative and informed him of my request; to have me and my toddler son sit together. He informed me again that he could not accommodate my request. Once we boarded the plane I asked the flight attendant if she could accommodate me and she told me that she could not. My seat was 5D and my toddler’s was 8D. I had to hold him in my lap for the entire flight. I contacted US Airways customer relations department because I paid for 2 seats and because of US Airways inability to accommodate a toddler seating with his parent I felt that I should be compensated. On February 4, 2010 I received a phone call from Justin Dannels, he stated; “US Airways has no intention of compensating me for anything because it was my responsibility to ensure that my son and I were seated together and it was my choice to have him sit on my lap”. I asked him what other option I had when I was traveling with a 3 year old. He again repeated that it was my choice for my son to sit on my lap and it was my responsibility to make sure the seats I purchased were together. I then asked to speak with a supervisor and he informed me that “I could not speak to one because they’re all “trained to handle these situations” and he had the final say which was they would not compensate me. He also informed me that I should have planned in advance as the other passengers did. I informed him that I could not see in to the future to predict the death of a family member for me to be able to book my ticket in advance. Again I asked if I could speak to someone above him and he simply told me “that’s not going to happen”.
    In your policy regarding traveling with children you state “Children under 5 may not travel without parent or legal guardian” via your website. Placing my toddler 3 rows away from me classifies him as an unaccompanied minor which by your policy, US Airways does not allow. I think the proper resolution since I was unable to use my second seat would be to refund or credit me for my son’s ticket from Dallas to Phoenix when your policy states “On domestic flights, one lap child will be accepted without charge when traveling with a paying ticketed passenger age 18 or older”. Also your policy states “US Airways will refund fully-refundable unused tickets purchased by credit card within seven business days of receipt of the refund application. Refundable unused tickets purchased with cash or check will be refunded within 20 business days of receipt of the refund application. Eligible tickets include fully-refundable unused tickets with proper documentation”.

    This was my first time flying with US Airways but, because of the lack of customer service from Justin and the inability to accommodate my “special needs requests” this is definitely my last.

    Best Regards,

    Alexis Tyson

    Reply
  22. Nicole

    Tuesday, January 12, 2010

    Doug Parker
    Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
    US Airways
    111 West Rio Salado Parkway
    Tempe, AZ 85281

    Dear Mr. Parker,

    I am writing about the terrible customer service experience we had with your company. My husband and I have decided that we will never willingly fly on US Airways again. We will also share our horrific experience to the world as we know it. I pray this letter will prompt an action of remorse. The insensitive action of your superiors prompts me to believe that some people working for Us Airways do not like their positions in your company. It’s unfortunate that I have to write under such tragic times that we are currently experiencing.

    On November 5th, 2009 we purchased two roundtrip tickets to Las Vegas totaling $638.40. The parties traveling were Myself and my husband.
    We were scheduled to leave 11/21 and return 11/23 for a business weekend.

    Unfortunately on November 15th, 2009 Kawanis Conner’s 12 year old daughter and my stepdaughter went missing. We decided that my husband would not be able to leave at this time under the circumstances. We did not want to loose the money from the ticket so we contacted Us Airways for options. This was a situation we could never predict.

    After feeling a sense that no one cared about our situation, they only cared about telling us there would be a fee to the change tickets to another date. I just could not believe that under this type of situation, where someone’s 12 year old daughter went missing, your representatives were that insensitive. We felt horrible. After being told by 2 different phone reps that there was nothing they could do.
    We requested to speak with a manager. Once the supervisor reached us, we expected that we would not have to re-explain the story again. We did. We spent another 20minutes re-explaining the situation to the supervisor. The supervisors’ response only replicated the previous insensitive representative’s attitude.

    I actually got the sense that the supervisor didn’t believe us. She was not willing to help us in anyway. We were loosing $638.40 and she could care less. Finally after pleading and battling for something to replace our ticket loss, she agreed to waive the $150.00 ticket change fee for later use.

    However she only offered it to 1 ticket holder not both. This seemed very unfair when we were scheduled together and we were dealing with the same tragedy.

    At this point, you can only imagine how upsetting this contact to Us Airways had made us both. I am still in shock as to how we were treated. What happened to customer service? We could not decide at that exact moment, as our minds were clearly foggy from the thought of our missing child, exactly what to do. We were not given very many choices from Us Airways. No matter which way we looked at it, the options Us Airways gave us, we were going to loose.

    We politely thanked the supervisor for waiving the one fee. We also expressed how unhappy we were that we had to go through so much to end up with a mere 1 change ticket fee waived. We thanked her for all her help. We were really focused more on Jameshia so we settled with that.

    Don’t get us wrong we are grateful for any help. It’s just that after an hour on the phone, and under the extreme circumstances, we expected a better response, some signs of sympathy, or at least waiving the fee for us both so a husband and wife can travel together as originally planned. Not one person from Us Airways had any sympathy for the situation. We had hoped our daughter would show up before we were scheduled to leave. That didn’t happen.

    We contacted the MGM Grand Hotel to explain the horrific situation at hand. We had a pre-purchased weekend package at the MGM Grand hotel that was non-refundable. The hotel was willing to make whatever changes including date changes needed to be made for no additional charge. They also went further by upgrading us at no additional charge to a suite and a free night for our terrible tragedy and all the issues we had with US Airways. Thank God for their great customer service.

    On November 19th, our daughter was still missing. We then decided that I would still go to the pre paid weekend. I purchased another ticket this time for $596.00 for my friend to go with in place of my husband. That is a total of $1234.00 spent with Us Airways for the month of November 2009.

    The problem truly began when we checked in to leave for Las Vegas on November 20th, 2009. I followed up at the airport with regards to my husbands ticket. To the surprise of the ticket agent checking us in, she read to me that the supervisor typed in the notes, that we declined the fee waiver for the one ticket. Why would anyone decline a fee waiver to anything?

    We never declined anything. We wanted her to waive the fee for both tickets but settled for the one. She also typed to not offer or give us the fee waiver since we declined. The ticket agent and I could not believe what she was reading. This course of action from this supervisor saddened us deeply. I cried of balling tears at that moment. That feeling of human disappointment took over my entire being. How could someone be that cold, careless, and mean? This was a lot to deal with.

    The ticket agent was so graceful and apologized for our situation but said we had to go back through the customer service number to resolve it. Of course.
    Upon returning, our days were spent searching for our daughter.

    Sadly to say on November 30th, 2009 our daughter was found deceased. There is nothing that will bring our daughter back to us. I pray you train your superiors to respond differently under certain circumstances.

    We are extremely disappointed at this experience. We spend our money with companies that treat us like respected human beings. This did not happen.

    I attached a copy of the obituary with this letter since the supervisor questions of our story’s validity. This has been the worst thing that could ever happen to anyone.

    I pray you or any Us Airways employees never have to experience such a tragedy as loosing child, however this situation proves Us Airways will prove a disappointment in customer service during times you need them to care the most.

    Thank You for taking the time to read this letter. I pray that Us Airways can get back to customer service first. We simply wanted someone to show us that they cared.

    Nicole Leslie
    Celebrity Chef/Owner of The Grill Catering Inc

    Reply
  23. SM

    Well let me tell my tale of travel for this past weekend. In which I was terribly disatsified in everyway. I arrived at Ord at 1:30pm to check in for my 702 flight to PHL from a business trip. I was advised by Erich that there was only a 20 minute delay. But that other than that everything was running on time. I then proceeded to check through TSA. Once through TSA I arrived at the Teleprompt which showed me that my flight is still on time departing Ord at 4pm. I proceed to the F10 Gate. And sat there for 30 mins where ELLEN T noted that it has been delayed until 515pm, but that the plane has left its origin and is approach us as its new destination. With no explaination of why. It would be 10 minutes later that it would be 615pm and after 530pm next Ellen T. stated that the flight has been canceled. We asked her if she stated it had left how then could it be canceled. And the response was please file lines at the open USAIRWAYS kiosk for rebooking. We stood in the line 1.5 hours to be told that oh we had you confirmed for 12/23/09. I noted that I am pregnant and that I would need to get home but still received no actual assistance. And watched how the 3 workers listened to the issues of the college students and talked to their parents and seemed to work harder to get them situated and discounts for rooms and food vouchers. Then it would be said those with direct flights to PHL could go to MKE to board a flight there from MKE to PHL 12/21/09. HOw would we get there and was told oh you have to pay for the shuttle to go 1.5 hour to MKE. THis is after paying for rental car and airport parking which is $11.00 a day (noted that I am liable for my own parking). They noted that you all would not give any type of transportation to this next state that I’d never been to, that I could not be helped even though I was with child. paid the bus company so that I could get back to PHL. Ellen stated that we would be straight just check in upon arrival. Which was false, MKE was not open for customer service to assist. So I sat in the waiting area from 7pm-430am with no vouchers for food or anything. I went to check in but was not able to. I was later told you need to go on TSA and get a number which will prevent you from being flagged everytime you fly because yes you booked it way in advance you still will be flagged because of your lastname. And later found out that the system hadn’t secured seats but the flight at ORd. Now when I get upstairs to TSA and then to my gate. When I reached C18 gate I just waited for my plane to arrive for the next several hours without any type of clarity on what happened with the flights in ORD since there was no more snow fall in PHL. At MKE my flight was delayed also and there was another college student there who was advised if you take a later flight to Tampa that well I can give you two food vouchers and also $250.00 flight voucher. I really got upset and felt like so is USAIRWAYS for college students. I have given you my business for Chicago for years and on a continious basis. And yet it would seem that I even as a miles customer can’t get a compensation (another ticket, food, transportation, hotel). And the fact that I noted that I am with child and find it uncomfortable to stay in the airport or on their chairs to be dismissed absurd. I felt that I was over look and that my money said nothing. No compensation at all. Nothing. I felt like I’d been inconvenienced enough. A trip that originally cost me 300.00 cost me extra parking days, bus cost and peace of mind. Do I feel that I received good customer service no. I feel like I was abandoned. Did I have control over anything no. I feel like USAIRWAYS at ORD was more concerned about getting customers away from their gates then actually helping them. The fact that PHL opened at 1pm closed down when I checked in I should have known ahead time. I had been calling since the am. Had the line being busy and then disconnecting. THen I even checked the website and FAA and TSA but still no update. Which then I could have had a choice to work other options out. But wasn’t given any option. I am disappointed. I feel like my well-being was said totally disregarded. Customer relations seems slim. EVEN a worker said oh well maam if you worked inside USAIRWAYS you would see even worse than you do, and really a supervisor could have used discretion since your case is unique in that you are bearing a child, that we are known to over book and not show empathy to our customers. And ORD is known for that. So tell me this if I was told this from a tenured worker in the kiosk then as a traveler are my feelings not confirmed or not in vain at all. I really am hurt by what has happened and very disappointed. I am not bashing the company at all. But feel like customers help it to run and yes one person buys a ticket, but that person is the one who tells the next person of the good service which brings others to the airlines site or counter.

    Reply
  24. Clark

    I am Chairman’s Preferred on USAir – their highest level. I’ve flown over $100k miles in 2009 and more importantly, I paid over $100,000 to USAir for airline flights this year alone. Despite this, over the past 2 days of flights, USAir completely destroyed 1 of my bags and then stranded me in Charlotte (resulting in a missed business meeting) and wouldn’t either fly me home or pay for my hotel in Charlotte. The lame customer service in CLT refused to help and the supposed special number for Chairmen’s Preferred on my card were even less courteous. I have disputed my flight costs with American Express. I am more than happy to go to court with USAir over this.

    As to this other BS on this blog about people abusing “doctor’s notes” – If the airline has a seat on another flight, they should put you in it WITHOUT any additional changes fees or fare increases. It’s no different than upgrading me to 1st class each time there is an empty seat.

    I think if enough people boycott USAir as a result of their poor customer service, the financial impact may (hopefully) force them to change their ways. The only problem is, is any other airline really any better?

    By the way, did Mr. Kamens ever get a response to his letter?

    Reply
  25. Anonymous

    Re: Extra Baggage Charges:
    Response to email re:US-09TEPPERMAN-043H3/C1R

    To: Rogers Smith
    USAirways Customer Relations
    Corporate Offices

    cc: Donna Paladini, vice President of Customer Service

    Doug Parker
    Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
    US Airways
    111 West Rio Salado Parkway
    Tempe, AZ 85281

    Dear Mr. Smith

    I am writing this letter in response to your email of 4/21/09 re: denial of reimbursement

    for extra luggage costs.

    I think that the USAirways did not follow its own rules and may have been guilty of breaking

    of the laws of contract. The airlines have a “Contract of Carriage”, a legal agreement

    between the company and its consumers, such as myself. I have read the USAirways contract

    online and nowhere do I see the airlines having the right to “double charge” baggage. You

    have admitted to an error on the part of your ticket agent in San Jose, Costa Rica, and I

    should not have to pay for that error with extremely costly “extra” monetary charges and

    inconvenience

    I feel as though I carried out my legal responsibilities by depending upon your ticketing

    agent in San Jose, Costa Rica to inform me of the proper packaging and costs ($125) at my

    airport of departure. By tieing 2 very light packages together, weighing no more than 5

    pounds apiece, as requested by the USAirways ticketing agent in Costa Rica, I was following

    your agents information, instructions and directions, while also depending on her to quote

    the correct cost for the shipment of the extra baggage.

    Then, upon arriving in North Carolina and going through customs, I was told by another

    USAirways agent at my connection that I would have to separate the tied boxes into

    individual boxes and to, “SURPRIZINGLY”, make an additional payment of $315 to continue

    shipment of my property to SFO.

    This was a most upsetting situation, considering your agent in San Jose had given me

    supposedly contradictory instructions. This was a terrible situation to be put in during

    the middle of my trip while changing planes for my connection flight to San Francisco. This

    left me absolutely no time for questioning of the USAirways representative, or any other

    alternative decision making possibilities. There, I was left with NO ALTERNATIVE but to pay

    whatever your representative asked of me.

    Additionally, I cannot understand how the agents arrived at this EXCEPTIONAL OVER-CHARGE for

    my baggage, adding another $315, thus totaling $440 ! Had I known the costs I was toincur,

    and had I had the time, I would have certainly shipped my baggage via DHL or other delivery

    service. This would have cost much, much less, considering that the total weight of the

    four boxes could not have exceeded 35 to 40 lbs. I feel that I was put at an extreme

    disadvantage in that I had to catch my connecting flight and really had no choice in the

    matter considering the limited time I had to connect to my continuing flight to San

    Francisco.

    This was a USAirways error in the communication within the USAirways agency for which I

    should not have been coerced into paying these exceptional extra baggage charges, twice. It

    was an arbitrary and capricious decision made by a dismissive USAirways agent who had very

    little time to attend to me, and definitely had no right to over-rule the decisions of the

    controlling ticketing agent in Costa Rica.

    I am still requesting a refund of the second charge of $315 as reimbursement for the extra

    charges on my baggage.

    As you mentioned in your letter, we are all having difficult times now financially. This is

    a good time to be fair with your customers, to encourage them to want to return to continue

    business relations with your company in the future.

    Respectfully,

    Marty

    Reply
  26. Ann Harris

    I wish to alert US Air (and maybe other airline users?) to an increase in the fees added to every fare after a base price has been stated. It was not much before – $3.60 a leg + $5 security fee, but noticing that the fees ($17.52) on a fare of $137.68 did not add up to the total of $169.20 (there’s an extra $14.20 in there), I was thinking of asking someone – maybe the CEO – for a refund, or at least a more transparent explanation of the fare & fee structure.
    Having just booked another US Air ticket (not much choice where I live), I watched, and found a point where I could get an explanation about added fees. In addition to the small fees added by the US Gov. for security, it turns out that US Air is now charging passengers a fee for the use of each airport (that is, they are passing on to us what they have to pay, but they do not tell us what it costs to wheel our luggage to the gate, or out the exit. It’s an extra $22.12. Has anyone else noticed this? Are other airlines doing it? [Baggage is another issue, of course.] I think this is a sneaky way to get more $$ off us passengers. I plan to notify Consumer Reports at least and hope they will investigate. And my congresspersons.
    And long live Southwest, which I use whenever possible.

    Reply
  27. Michele

    Mr. Kamens,
    Just out of curiousity, did you ever get a response from Doug Parker (or his office)? I am currently dealing with an issue where I had purchased a ticket for my brother-in-law. He arrived at the gate 30 minutes prior to departure but no one was at the podium. After locating an agent, he was not allowed to board the plane because the propellers were on (the plane left 10 minutes earlier than scheduled). The agent told him that if I called in with the flight numbers that I would get a refund for the flight to his destination. According to the computer notes, the agent he spoke to documented that she informed him of the $150 change fee. He was not informed of the charge. Had he been, he probably would not have purchased the $350 one-way ticket on United that was offered to him. In fact, the agent offered to fly him out the next day at no extra charge. US Airways’ response came with similar “reasons” you listed as to why they could not credit me with a mere $110 flight credit. In fact, now I am being told that I must contact United (United issued the ticket) if I want to pursue this. So not only am I getting the run around but I am being dismissed with “Thank you for giving US Airways the opportunity to explain its position.” I know where I stand. I, as well as my family and friends will no longer fly US Airways for travel needs. The same will probably go for United as well.

    Reply
  28. steve

    Friday the 13th Part XV:Philly US Air Screws Up

    While my story is in no way as horrific as other in this stream but it touches many of the same point. I arrived in Philly yesterday afternoon at about 4:20 PM inbound from India via Germany. We had circled in NJ for an hour because of air traffic caused by bad weather over the past 2 days.

    After clearing Immigration and Customs, I checked my bag and obtained my boarding pass for a connecting flight at Terminal A and took the shuttle to Terminal F for a US Air Express (aka sub-contracted) flight at about 6:00 PM . I arrived at my gate to find out the flight was pushed back until 7:10…not really a surprise considering the air traffic. Shortly thereafter, the fligt was delayed to 7:30 PM. When asked what the problem was, the agent indicated they did not a have flight crew. I agave it a little while longer until the next announcement of a delay. I immediately asked whether there was a regular US Air flight to my destination; there was and I immediately re-booked for an 8:45 PM flight, and inquired whether my checked bag would be re-routed to the new flight. “Yes” was the response. I then informed some others on “Gilligan’s Island.”

    I took the shuttle to C-terminal and got something to eat. When I got to the new gate I found several others that followed my advice and switched flights (the gate attendant could not handle the stampede and pushed them to Special Services). They gave me the good news that we had a flight crew but not a plane. We graciously were told at about 8:45 PM that our plane was in fact inbound and that as soon as the plane was cleaned fueled and prepped we would be out. The main topic of discussion amongst the stranded was whether our baggage would actually be on the plane considering the likely rapid turnaround. We finally arrived at our destination at about 10:30 PM.

    As you could guess our luggage had not made the flight. We were informed that some bags from our original flight (w/ no crew) had made it to our airport…what the hell! A woman went ballistic on the baggage attendant about the airline levying baggage fees and having sufficient time to have handled the bag transfer. The “empathetic” attendant told the woman to calm down or she would call the State Troopers. As we queued up to counter to have our bags delievered to home or whereever, three State Troopers joined the party to keep watch (that’s for Nic in a previous reply). We were told that our original flight was inbound and our baggage could be on it…arrival time “40 minutes.” The attendant could not in fact verify whether my bag was on it or not. I was exhausted, and my company had arranged a driver to me home (I kept them informed about my delays); I decided to have them send my bag home sometime overnight or today. My bag arrived at 5:45 AM as I could not sleep because it was raining and I was not sure that the delivery person would see that large plastic bag I left to cover my suitcase as it was raining. The only positive point is that the person that brought may bag, although he did not see my plastic bag had some of his own!!

    As I said, this is a trivial story compared to the others. My key point is less about US Air policies but more about the lack of initiative of their staff: 1) When I got my original boarding pass, the person checking me in could have pointed out the flight delay and perhaps indicated the possibility of booking an earlier flight (after all some bags made it home first); 2) the staff at the Terminal F gate, spent most of the time standing around, might have actively done something to get my bag transferred; 3) the staff at Special Services or Gate attendants in Terminal C could have acted to get bags transferred from F terminal to C terminal tarmac recognizing that there would likely be a quick turnaround once the plane arrived (seeing that a large number of people suddenly appeared on the manifest); 4) the baggage addendantcould have handled an upset customer differently than immediately calling the police to the scene.

    There were ample opportunities for US Air staff to do something for me or a lot of other people. It is pretty easy to see that the US Air corporate culture does instill their staff to “do the right thing” for the customer or to have inate sense to do it. Also, I have to imagine that what happened to myself an others occurs with a certain frequency, yet their is no plan in place to deal with these challenging (yet routine) situations. Likely US Air will either fail or just scrape by, it, however, will not flourish.

    Although my company included a gratuity in the fee for my driver, I gave him something additional in case he lost an opportunity for another fare waiting for me to arrive…it was just the right thing to do.

    Reply
  29. Frustrated Flyer

    We are in the exact same situation with US Airways and will also be sending a letter of complaint to the CEO. My children and husband flew to Florida on Thursday and then were diagnosed with Swine Flu Friday morning. They were originally supposed to return on Saturday. When we called US Airways, we were told the change fee would be waived and they would just need documentation showing that the children were healthy enough to fly back — they didn’t want sick kids on a flight and we agreed with them. Looking back, we should have know that this was just too easy.

    Of course, today when we called to arrange for the new flight, we were told that not only was there no waiver of change fees for “Swine Flu,” but we would also have to pay the difference in the cost of the new tickets ($150 change fee per ticket plus another $116 difference in cost of ticket). When we argued, we were given the same song and dance about Airline Policy, etc. They did not seem to care that we were told something completely different on Friday by their people. I was also told they only waive change fees for “life threatening conditions” and had to remind the lady that plenty of children have now died from the Swine Flu and that it is incredibly contagious. After talking to about 6 different people, we are now at the “if you fax documentation showing your children actually have Swine Flu, we will review and see if we can waive the change fees, but you’ll still have to pay the difference in the price of the ticket which is $116 per ticket.” And I get the feeling they were just trying to get me off the phone and that there will be no waiver of the change fees.

    This is terrible customer service and I can’t believe US Airways is trying to make money off of sick children. Have the airlines lost all sense of humanity? No wonder they are all in so much trouble financially.

    Reply
  30. Nic

    Great blog

    Here are a couple of good ones to add after a trip ending yesterday. We were booked on a flight from Charlotte to Moscow, connecting in Dulles. Flight was booked with United.

    Started off really well, got a call 4 hours before our flight saying that the United flight was cancelled but they had us booked on the next USAir flight. We rush to the airport, try to check in- major problems but they manage to print some boarding passes and rush us off to the gate.

    We get to the gate and hand our tickets to the agent to board and all of a sudden there is a mjor problem with our tickets and we cant be boarded. I asked for a supervisor as it was clear that the gate agent did not have a clue. The response I got startled me(I am a Gold Frequent flyer with USAir) I was told that she could request the POLICE but she did not have to put me on the flight…. I couldnt believe this, all I asked for was a supervisor to assist us as we had to make the Moscow, flight.

    Thankfully a supervisor was near and came over to assist, a call to our travel agent also managed to provide the information they needed. The problem according to their records the flights had not been paid for- yip, in this age where they refuse to make a booking without a creditcard…

    On our return we landed in Dulles, only to be informed that our flight to Charlotte was cancelled, but United had us booked on a 6Pm USAir flight to Charlotte. This was at 2.30PM, they couldnt print tickets at that service center but we should go to another service desk and they would get us tickets. We did this and headed over to the USAir gates.

    At the gates, I was told this before the Gate Supervisor had even looked at the tickets- “You will not be getting on this flight, it’s oversold and you dont have a ticket” Rude would not be a good enough term to explain how I was treated. I should mention that I was traveling with wife and 2 children 3 years and 7 months” He could not explain why we would not be on the flight and told us to go back to United to sort out the problem.

    Back to United, they said we were on the flight and all the docs they could provide were atteched- back to USAir- the same man procedes to tell me the following ” Sir, I have already told you that you will not be on the flight” Once again he told me I did not have ticket- what we had been provided was a reservation and not a ticket. I have been flying for years and did not understand what he was saying!

    I asked for our names to be added to the standby list, having status would have elevated us to near the top of the list… I was told- “No, I will not add you to the list as you dont have a confirmed ticket” He once again told us to go back to United and for them to rebook us.

    At this point I about lost it… We went back to United for the 3rd time and spoke to a Supervisor who was excellent(Will never fly United again but this lady was calm and highly efficient) She called Usair (the same supervisor) and all of a sudden we were confirmed and OK>?

    It was now 5.50 PM- 2 and a half hours of going from 1 terminal to another with 2 children, limited sleep and a whole lack of humor.

    If I never had to fly with US again I would not. Customer service is dead long live Customer Service or at least the memory of it..

    Nic

    Reply
  31. Erica

    any help to whom i can send this complaint letter would be very much appreciated!!!

    thanks again.. erica

    Reply
  32. Erica

    this was what happened with us this past august 22, 2009… US Airways was awful to us!!! and ive been sending this to whomever is connected with US airways through the CONTACT US
    To Whom It May Concern:

    Our honeymoon to Greece went perfect except for our flight coming back on August 22, 2009 (US Airways, flight 797). Due to our delay in Athens, Greece for some unknown reason (we were NEVER informed about our delay), my husband and I missed our connecting flight from Philadelphia to Los Angeles. Philadelphia was obviously our stop over to catch our connecting flight that same evening at 6pm.

    Upset with the fact that we missed our flight and were unable to get a same day flight as we asked/begged the US Airways attendants, we were only given the morning flight the following day. That flight in the morning was another story and I will inform you on that.

    The comp hotel provided by US Airways was a HORRIBLE hotel, Quality Hotel, and was the dirtiest hotel I have ever stayed in. Not only was there a cat show going on (and mind you, I had the BIGGEST allergic reaction that evening AND even on our flight back home – it was a HORRIBLE flight!!!!), my husband got food poisoning from the hotel restaurant- throwing up several times in the middle of the night, along with diarrhea. I even complained to the waitress that they needed to throw away their vinegar because there was DEAD and FLYING gnats in the bottle, which was VERY DISGUSTING AND GROSS that as soon as I got back to our room, I even threw up my food. This past Wednesday was the first day since last Saturday, he’s eaten good and his stool is back to normal.

    The morning came and we arrive at the airport, and was dropped off at terminal A as stated on our boarding passes given by American Airline attendants the night before. We check in our luggage, and the lady assisting us was a bit confused as to why we were flying to Los Angeles. I questioned her regarding our flight, but she had brushed me off. We checked it our luggage, and was on our way to gate A20. Literally, a few gates away, I stopped at looked at the screen because I know that we were in the international part of the airport. As I looked for our flight and gate number, we were supposed to be at gate C23!!!!! Luckily, my husband and I checked in early enough to walk ALL the way from A20 to C23 in a timely manner. However, what my husband, fellow passengers we spoke to and I do not understand is: Why did these ladies at the check out counter not inform us of the gate change? If they were confused themselves (and they did show it) as to why they have passengers checking in at the international part of the airport, they could have easily looked into our flight by contacting someone and informing us then that our gate has been changed. Communication is the key!

    Finally, we board our plane only to find out 30 minutes later, we were going to be waiting for a few passengers with connecting flights that were coming from Jerusalem heading to Los Angeles. WHAT?!?! Our flight now was 30 minutes late and how come this flight was able to wait for other passengers and our flight the night before left at 5:57pm and did not wait for their connecting passengers? In actuality, our flight was to leave at 6pm. US Airways, you pissed off a lot of passengers when we all found out you left earlier!

    All in all, I am very upset with how US Airways dealt with us since we left Greece until arriving and leaving Philadelphia. I have not, EVER, experienced anything negative with any airline company in my entire life, except until this past weekend. I would like to speak with someone regarding this matter. I understand that there are times where things are beyond the airlines control, but sending guests to not up to par hotels with even bugs in their kitchen is very unacceptable. They, too, need to get their kitchen checked by Quality Control.

    I would like to speak with someone immediately as this was a very important situation regarding my husband’s health as well as him missing his Navy Assignment to Japan that Sunday.

    Regards,

    Erica

    Reply
  33. Mike

    Usairways triple booked me, charged me three times on my debit card. I’m not a rich man, I work two jobs to get by, the charges overdrafted my account 1600.00 .
    Ive called customer reservations because these are the only people with a phone number. Spoke to a supervisor was told , yes it was our fault, but it would take 7 to 10 days for a refund.
    Well 7 to 10 days would be past my rent due date, by that time my car payment ,my insurance everything is due and I still need to leave to get to Texas to see my mom , who by the way was diagnosed with cancer and had a hysterectomy when I set these reservations on 8-19-09 since then she’s back in the hospital with more tumors , it’s a crazy time in my family’s life.
    All we wanted was to get to texas to see my mom. To have a simple thing like purchasing airline tickets drive me on the brink of being homeless . It’s ridiculous !!!!
    Today is 09-03-09 I was told my money would be back in my account on Thurs 8-27-09, then I was told Tues. 9-01-09, as of today no money I leave tomorrow I hope the trip isn’t as bad as the rest of the usairways experience.
    So I guess checkintocash or moneytree or most likely both is my only option to pay my bills until usairways decides to return my money. I know I’m not a first class but I’m not a peon . I work at a hospital and I’m caring and compasssionate to any and all patients regardless of how much they’re insurance pays .We have bi-weekly meetings on how we can improve our patient care. I wish more companies took that approach towards their customers .
    I don’t know what actions to take but this is ridiculous , I’m exhausted, I have no energy for this right now . Can I please just have my money back that’s all I want…….

    Reply
    1. jik Post author

      Wow, that’s awful.

      I don’t have much advice for how you can get back your money quickly, but I do have one piece of advice for how you can avoid problems like this in the future — cut up your debit card, tell your bank to replace it with an ATM-only card which doesn’t do direct debit, and use a credit card instead of a debit card in the future.

      Find a credit card with no annual fee, review the monthly statement for unauthorized charges, and pay off your balance by the due date every month. If you do these two simple things, then financially, the credit card will be no different from the debit card. It’ll actually be better than the debit card, because you’ll get to keep making interest on your money during the float period between when you charge and when you pay the bill.

      Why will this prevent this from happening to you in the future? Because if someone puts an unauthorized charge on your credit card, the money doesn’t leave your bank account until you pay the bill, which could be as much as a month and a half later, and if you review your credit-card statement each month and dispute unauthorized charges, you don’t have to pay them at all.

      Debit cards are, in general, bad for consumers and good for banks. You’re doing the bank a favor by using a debit card instead of a credit card. Don’t do it.

      Reply
  34. debbie

    My husband is also a gold member and flies US.Air due to business.
    We have had no luck and they do not know the meaning of customer srvice or loyalty.

    Reply
  35. jg

    L.A. Groves – I am sorry you are so tolerant of a broken world. It makes me sad.

    JIK – you are a hero for fighting this fight and you do it eloquently.

    Reply
  36. jik Post author

    One more thing…

    I have been arguing that US Airways should allow passengers who can’t fly because they are sick to change their tickets for free as a courtesy. That, to my mind, would be the ideal situation.

    Less ideal, but still perfectly acceptable, would be for US Airways to charge such passengers a reasonable fee to change the tickets, a fee that is large enough to cover the actual costs of changing the ticket, but not so large as to be clearly intended to be a revenue producer.

    In other words, a $25 per ticket change fee, for example, would have been reasonable, and I would have paid it with nothing more than perhaps a little grumbling. A $150 per ticket change fee, on the other hand, is clearly not reasonable.

    Reply
  37. jik Post author

    As a former travel agent, please allow me to reiterate that the “doctor’s note” became a MEGA-joke in the industry.

    So what?

    As noted before, Southwest has proven that you can let customers change their tickets whenever they want, for no reason, for free, and still be profitable. This is completely independent of whatever other straw men you come up with to explain how Southwest maintains its profitability in other ways. If Southwest can let people change flights for free without it hurting their profitability, than US Airways could too, if they actually wanted to.

    All four flights on my wife’s recent trip were overbooked. My impression is that the airlines stopped regularly overbooking for a while, but they’ve gone back to it. This means that in most cases, allowing a customer to change a reservation would cost the airline nothing, which makes it an extremely good idea from a customer service point of view.

    As far as “honest people” are concerned; what are the airlines to do? Give lie detector tests? Most of your arguments are just not realistic!!

    Asked and answered.

    However, no smart consumer would dare compare them to a conventional airline. It would be like comparing the Super 8 Motel to a Ritz Carlton.

    This assertion is so absurd that it is truly laughable.

    What makes a Super 8 Motel different from a Ritz Carlton? Customer service and customer satisfaction. And how have airlines like Southwest and JetBlue done well while airlines like US Airways have floundered? By providing better customer service and achieving higher customer satisfaction.

    US Airways may have been the Ritz Carlton once, but now it’s the Super 8.

    If you think that Southwest is such a great airline, wait until you are on one of their canceled flights and told that you must wait for their next available flight (days? away) and stay in a hotel at your expense.

    A bunch of straw men.

    Southwest has the same flights every day just like any other airline. So to claim that it would take “days?” to be rebooked after a canceled Southwest flight is simply false.

    US Airways and most of the airlines won’t put people up in hotels in most cases either (see their terms). That is, they’re no different from Southwest in that regard, so that, too, is irrelevant.

    Southwest has no reciprocity agreements with other airlines. So they will not protect you on another airline or pay for your accommodations and meals.

    Southwest does, in fact, have codeshare agreements with some other airlines, so your first statement above is false.

    I’m not actually convinced that US Airways or any of the others actually use their reciprocity agreements nowadays.

    The $150 per ticket charge that US Airways tried to charge me to change my wife’s flights so vastly dwarfs the potential cost of any food she might have had to buy as the result of a flight cancellation that it is hardly relevant to this discussion.

    Also, US Airways has so many conditions on when they give out food vouchers that they hardly ever do it and in fact look for every way they can to avoid it, which means that it’s mostly irrelevant.

    Let me tell you a story about what happened to us when our JetBlue flight was canceled due to weather a few years ago when we were down in Florida.

    The only flight onto which they could move my entire family was out of Orlando, several hours away by car from where we were. It was an early morning flight, which means that to make it in time we were going to have to go up to Orlando the night before and stay in a hotel.

    It was also a cheaper flight than the one we had originally booked, so I said to the reservations agent, “You know, we’re going to have to drive up to Orlando and pay for an overnight hotel to be able to make that flight, and it’s cheaper than the one we originally booked, so could you refund us the difference to help us pay for the hotel?”

    She said that they didn’t normally do that but she’d check with her supervisor, put me on hold for a few minutes, and then came back on the line and said that indeed they were going to refund the difference. As a result, my family got to spend a day at Disney World and a night at a Disney resort hotel without adding a penny to the cost of our vacation.

    And our tickets were those “severely restricted fares” you’ve been harping on.

    The very labor-intensive back-and-forth of providing the doctor’s note is simply not practical from a business financial perspective.

    Bullshit.

    When you complain of having to wait so long on hold to get a reservationist, who do you think is going to hire all the people to man the revenue-loosing department you suggest?

    Asked and answered.

    And you know that the airlines pay commissions to the credit card each time there is a purchase AND credit.

    Straw man. If the airline didn’t charge to change tickets, then they wouldn’t have to pay any extra money to the credit card company. And again, if Southwest can do it and remain profitable, then clearly it’s not a relevant issue.

    Just another small cost that would add up to the millions each year. We have to be realistic. If you were a US Airways stockholder, you would be singing a different tune.

    You do realize that you’re being contradictory, right?

    First, you say that I shouldn’t be looking to Southwest as a model of how an airline should do business, despite the fact that it has been consistently profitable for 36 years. Then, you say that the behavior of US Airways is reasonable because it’s in the best interests of its stockholders, despite the fact that its stock has tanked.

    Take a look at the stock price history for US Airways, JetBlue and Southwest compared to the S&P 500, and then tell me with a straight face that the way US Airways is doing business is good for its stockholders.

    Cost of doing business?? Are bounced checks a cost of doing business to a merchant? Is shoplifting? “Cost of doing business” is something only consumers mutter, never a business owner. There is no such thing as the cost of doing business; ALL costs are passed to the consumer.

    Yes, exactly. Bounced checked are a cost of doing business. Shoplifting is a cost of doing business. These costs are passed on to the consumer, but the companies that suffer from these problems do still manage to make a profit.

    A relevant example… CVS will take back any product they sell for any reason. Do some customers abuse that policy to return products they’ve already used, or to cheat the store in other ways? Absolutely. Is that cost passed on to other customers? Definitely. Does the policy nevertheless make good business sense? Absolutely.

    Customer service went out of style with the rotary phone because everyone wants exemplary customer service, but no one wants to pay for it.

    That’s a very cynical attitude, one that I do not share.

    Businesses have proven over and over for many years that the single best way to be successful in the long term is to focus on one thing: make customers happy. When you make customers happy, you build customer loyalty. When you build customer loyalty, customers will pay more for your products and services. Customer satisfaction is worthless; customer loyalty is priceless.

    My wife and I have five kids. US Airways could make a great deal of money from our future air travel. But rather than guarantee our future business by doing something that would have cost them nothing, they guaranteed that we would never willingly give them another penny of our money.

    Your purchasing the cheapest tickets with all those restrictions are a typical example.

    A typical example that I expected US Airways to treat my family with at least as much respect as we would have been treated by, say, JetBlue or Southwest. I was wrong, and as a result, I will never fly on US Airways again. This is not an outcome which is beneficial to their bottom line, ergo it is not an outcome that is good for their stockholders.

    Everyone wants to purchase on a beer budget but expect the champagne customer service, how is that possible?

    I don’t think that allowing customers who are too sick to fly and run the risk of getting many other people on the plane sick as well can accurately be described as “champagne customer service.”

    Nor do I think it is “champagne customer service” to expect to be able to reach a customer relations agent without waiting on hold for hours.

    What I’m looking for is basic customer service, and US Airways doesn’t provide it.

    You are clearly a smart guy, I can tell by the way that you write. However, you know nothing about running a 21st century business.

    I’m not sure what the century has to do with it. I know that the way to run a successful business in any century is to make customers happy, and that US Airways isn’t doing that. They’ve got a 51% approval rating, for heaven’s sake!

    And I doubt if you are a stockholder – at least you don’t think or act like one. If the airlines took your advice, we would all be taking the bus.

    Southwest and JetBlue are proof of that!

    BTW, do you want to know how I found your blog? Google. Why? [sob story deleted] And do you know what? USAir (like any other airline) has met my expectations.

    Then why were you googling them?

    Reply
  38. L A Groves

    As a former travel agent, please allow me to reiterate that the “doctor’s note” became a MEGA-joke in the industry. You will just have to take my word for it until you find another old relic like myself who was in the industry in the 1970s/early 1980s. You want evidence?? The next time you run into anyone in the travel industry who has been in it for 30+ years, just ask them. It was particularly frustrating to those of us who worked on commissions to have the client tell us in advance that they might not go and just cancel the trip.

    As far as “honest people” are concerned; what are the airlines to do? Give lie detector tests? Most of your arguments are just not realistic!!

    Yes, Southwest is consistently profitable, they are a different beast and everyone in the industry and most consumers recognize that. However, no smart consumer would dare compare them to a conventional airline. It would be like comparing the Super 8 Motel to a Ritz Carlton. If you think that Southwest is such a great airline, wait until you are on one of their canceled flights and told that you must wait for their next available flight (days? away) and stay in a hotel at your expense. Southwest has no reciprocity agreements with other airlines. So they will not protect you on another airline or pay for your accommodations and meals. Just one of the many ways they stay profitable. Do you want every airline to be like Southwest and every hotel to be a Super 8? Of course not. As a consumer, one must make the choice and relish the benefits or suffer the consequences. Had you chosen Southwest (if available with your travel city pairs), this plight would not exist.

    The very labor-intensive back-and-forth of providing the doctor’s note is simply not practical from a business financial perspective. When you complain of having to wait so long on hold to get a reservationist, who do you think is going to hire all the people to man the revenue-loosing department you suggest? And you know that the airlines pay commissions to the credit card each time there is a purchase AND credit. Just another small cost that would add up to the millions each year. We have to be realistic. If you were a US Airways stockholder, you would be singing a different tune.

    Cost of doing business?? Are bounced checks a cost of doing business to a merchant? Is shoplifting? “Cost of doing business” is something only consumers mutter, never a business owner. There is no such thing as the cost of doing business; ALL costs are passed to the consumer.

    Everything today is a cafeteria service. You pay for what you want-what best suits you. Customer service went out of style with the rotary phone because everyone wants exemplary customer service, but no one wants to pay for it. Your purchasing the cheapest tickets with all those restrictions are a typical example. Everyone wants to purchase on a beer budget but expect the champagne customer service, how is that possible? It’s just that I take ownership of getting what I purchase.

    This is the 21st century. Everything is a la carte. Again, if you are going to purchase extremely restricted tickets, you have to be a grown up and roll with the punches.

    You are clearly a smart guy, I can tell by the way that you write. However, you know nothing about running a 21st century business. And I doubt if you are a stockholder – at least you don’t think or act like one. If the airlines took your advice, we would all be taking the bus.

    BTW, do you want to know how I found your blog? Google. Why? I have (had) a booking next month on US Airways, taking my 81 year old mother on her annual vacation, this year a cruise and post-cruise trip. Not only am I Elite on US Airways, but I am, as always, flying First Class. Due to an agent error, that USAir admits, my reservation was canceled and now the flights are sold out. As I write this, we have no way to get to a $4,000 non-refundable cruise. I have spent about five of the past 18 hours on the phone with Duty Supervisors at USAir. They have offered for us to fly coach part of the way (even though I will have to pay the full First Class fare), fly from cities as far as two hours drive on flights departing at 6am, taking three flights to the cruise with a 30 minute connection at O’Hare switching airlines, buying another ticket on another airline at my expense, et cetera, ad nauseum. One supervisor even resorted to trying to say that it was partly my fault. As I type, I have a $10,000+ vacation planned and no way to get there. And do you know what? USAir (like any other airline) has met my expectations.

    Customer service is dead. Own it. Move on. Buy insurance. I did at $39 per person to cover me canceling the cruise if need be. I’m covered. Needless and tragic; but covered.

    What do you want to bet that this post gets deleted in a femtosecond??

    Reply
  39. jik Post author

    As far as USAir’s “sick policy” is concerned, I’m sure that Mr. Kamens understands and was probably told about why NO airline NO LONGER has a (domestic travel) sick policy.

    Actually, at no point did anyone at US Airways tell me that they had had such a policy in the past or offer any reason why they no longer have such a policy.

    I have already addressed all of your other points in comments I posted at my3cents.com. Some excerpts:

    … The fact that travel insurance exists does not relieve the airlines of the responsibility to treat their customers with courtesy and respect and to protect the health of all of their passengers. The airlines should be *encouraging* customers with contagious illnesses not to fly, not making it difficult for them to choose not to do so. …

    … I find it astounding that some people commenting here seem to think that “what the airline is required to do” is a metric for good customer service. It’s not. Good customer service means treating customers like fellow human beings instead of cattle or marks, providing working mechanisms for containing customer service quickly to resolve issues, and solving problems instead of making excuses. …

    … there is no evidence to support the assertion that if the airlines allowed people to change thrid flights due to illness, it would be abused. Saying it doesn’t make it so. In my experience, the abuse you’re claiming would occur just doesn’t occur in any significant numbers. …

    … the only reason why this is a question in the first place is because of the obscene ticket change fees charged by US Airways and some other airlines. As I noted before, when an airline like Southwest can let people change tickets for free and still be profitable for 36 years straight, it’s clear that, “Should sick passengers be allowed to change their flights for free?” isn’t the right question. Rather, the right question is, “Why should any decent airline by charging passengers to change their tickets?” …

    … the argument that US Airways can’t do this because some people will take advantage of it is specious. Part of good customer service means figuring out how to serve honest people well even if it means that sometimes a dishonest person will be able to game the system. This is true in any business, not only in air travel. …

    … If the airlines insist on charging fees for changing tickets, then the way you both make it affordable for them to waive the fees for sick people AND prevent abuse is by having a RELIABLE system for refunding the change fees AFTER THE FACT, when the proof of illness has been provided by the passenger. That is, you charge the fees to their credit card and allow them to send in the doctor letter after the trip, and then you refund their money once it has been reviewed by an airline employee. This way, there is no time crunch, and you don’t need to hire nearly as many reps because they can process the letters during less busy times of day. …

    I frankly don’t believe that the abuse was as rampant as you claim it was, but even if it was, that’s just a cost of doing business. The fact that Southwest Airlines sells “severely reduced domestic airline tickets” for pretty much all of their flights, allows people to change tickets for free, and has been profitable for over three decades blows completely out of the water any claim that the airlines’ policies are reasonable.

    Reply
  40. L A Groves

    Well no one here probably wants to hear this, but here goes…

    I have more than 30 years in the travel industry, having worked for mega international and small “mom and pop” travel agencies. I worked as a travel agent, customer service trainer, and in management. All of the problems here are not unique to US Airways, but is systemic within the airline industry. I was Chairman’s Preferred (more than 100 segments/100,000 actual miles flown per year) for years before retiring. The treatment was better, but still I saw “issues” that were not unique to USAir.

    As far as USAir’s “sick policy” is concerned, I’m sure that Mr. Kamens understands and was probably told about why NO airline NO LONGER has a (domestic travel) sick policy.

    When I entered the travel business (with a BA degree in Travel Administration) in the late 1970s, all airlines had a policy of waiving fees upon the production of a doctor’s note. Many, many times, when we would advise the client that about the cancel and change fees, they would simply tell us ‘oh, that’s no problem, my neighbor/friend/brother etc is a doctor/dentist; it will be no problem to get them to get a note if I decide to cancel’. I can’t tell you how abusive this practice was to the point of absurdity. Even when bereavement fares continued into the early 1990s, customers would even submit fake documents. The airlines then resorted to calling funeral homes to verify that there was at least someone by “X” name there. This was extremely labor intensive work, again, for a policy that was extremely abused.

    Buying severely reduced domestic airline tickets is a huge risk. If your wife and kids had tickets to a Broadway show or on a cruise ship sailing that day, you would not have received any empathy from them either. At least with air tickets, you have the option of purchasing the, albeit obscenely expensive, non-restricted airfares.

    BTW, there is (was??) a little known IATA (Intl Air Transport Assoc) regulation that requires intl tickets to waive penalties in the event of medical/death reasons for the traveler/party.

    Next month, I am flying across country to take my mother on a cruise. If one of us becomes sick, at any point, it could be a financial catastrophe, like yours. The solution? Buy travel insurance. I doubt seriously the next time that your family flies, that you will heed this advice, but when something like this goes wrong, and it will, the ownership of shame will be obvious.

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  41. T Woods

    We purchased two tickets from Allentown to Ak/Canton Airport through US Airway on 2/28/09. The two tickets were for my future husbands two college daughters attending our wedding in late March.
    US Airway cancelled the outgoing Allentown Flight. The girls had to drive an additional 2 hours to Philly in an effort to join our wedding party, in progress.
    Their return trip to Philly was an equal, if not worse, adventure. The Akron Canton flight was cancelled. We were told that there was a flight leaving Cleveland (a 90 mile round trip drive). Once we reached Cleveland, we were told that THAT flight had cancelled as well. By this time it was late. We pleaded with US Air to find an early flight with another airline, and they did. However, we incurred more cost by having to pay for an overnight stay in Cleveland. We have sent 4 emails to the “Customer Service” Department. The only response stated that the flights were cancelled due to high traffic.(we were offered $100.00 for our troubles!) Oddly enough, all other airlines were in and out of both Cleveland and Akron without any problems.
    3 cancelled flights. Additional parking fees in Philly, extra mileage and gas to go to airports that were not part of the schedule, overnight hotel expenses. Only one response. And a very weak one, at that.
    Oh, and forget about getting real assistance on the phone. We were on hold and disconnected countless times.

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  42. L. Wilson

    I have had a hellish experience dealing with US Airways. Departing New York on 3/26 and attempting to return home on 3/29 except my flight was canceled. This is the first time I have ever flown with US Airways and it will be the last. Their customer relations department is a joke. They suck at dealing with people and their issues. Had I come across this site and many others like it I would have never booked my tickets with US Airways. The amount of time lost stranded in airports, waiting on delayed flights, being rerouted to other Airports too far away from my originial destination, and getting rebooked for canceled flights is ridiculous. EVERY SINGLE PLANE WE WERE SET TO BOARD WAS DELAYED DUE TO AIRCRAFT MAINTENANCE!!!! EVERY SINGLE ONE? My travel experience with US Airways was a NIGHTMARE! I ended up spending more money in hotel and rental car fees than I would like. NO ONE that works for US Airways is helpful AT ALL!!!! They sat me and my husband apart, for I don’t know how many flights. It’s enough to want to shoot the bastards right between the eyes. We NEVER GOT TO ANY OF OUR DESTINATIONS ON TIME due to constant delays. I WILL NEVER!!! NEVER!!!! Fly this airline again. I don’t care if I have to spend the extra cash to fly Delta, American, or whoever! I REFUSE to fly this airline again. The experience was ridiculously inconvenient and costly.

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  43. S. McDonald

    I read your story, and I know where you are. I have booked two trips with US airways since January 2009. The customer service is lousy! I even tried booking first class….same thing. Every time we (my husband and I) book together, they seat us apart. No one at the airport wants to help, everyone at the gate says to approach the people around you and hope they are nice. Do it yourself seating. I would rather fly southwest airlines. Imagine paying for a ticket, to have your party spread out through the plane. No apologies. I mistakenly booked a trip with my three small kids in March. Would you believe they told me that they could not put me with my kids? I will never use them after this trip. Three separate times I gave them a try, never again!

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  44. pam lamaster

    I just flew with US air through a travel agent!! I am so upset we went to Jamaica, but my bag did not!! I was at the beach for 2 days without a bathing suit! Then on the ride home our plane was late and cause us to miss our connecting flight in Charlotte. Then at Charlotte an employee ripped my husbands’ suit!!! How do we get reimbursed?

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  45. Susan Giordano

    I quite agree with your feelings toward US Airways. The customer comes last. The bottom line is that with respect to ariline tickets, there is no consumer protection at all. The airlines have been given a license to steal and they are spitting in our faces. When I recently booked a flight on line I found that the details of the charges did not come on the screen until after the deal went through my charge card, at which point I found a fee for insurance. That is something I never requested. When I called customer service minutes later I was told there was nothing they could do because the insurance is a separate company. Well, that really angered me because it was the US Airways web site that snuck it on to my bill.

    Once the airline has your money, there is no way you will get it back. But I will never take US Air ever.

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  46. Janice Robertson

    I agree that there is no longer any customer service in the airline industry. I fly US Airways only because it is part of the Star Alliance, but was upset to learn after I had booked an 8-leg ticket recently that US Airways does not give any kind of preferential treatment to United customers in terms of seat assignments, etc. Not only that but the code-share flights on United metal booked by US Airways also garnered me crappy seats. I called the airline directly and was told that I could not cancel these flights without penalty. When I said I thought any flight could be cancelled without penalty within 24 hours, I was nastily told that was incorrect.
    Also, unlike United, US Airways customers are not surveyed post-flight about their flight experiences so I used the online US Airways form to submit my comments and got only the form-letter BS response “Thank you for your comments….we will pass them along.” US Airways also would not extend a $250 voucher that I received for the airlines having lost my luggage. Believe it or not, my luggage was lost completely on one of their flights to Madrid, and significantly delayed on another flight a few months later to Stockholm. Given their response and inattentiveness to my concerns, I will continue to concentrate my flights on United and other Star Alliance partners. And here I was so looking to fly US Airways to Tel Aviv later this year.

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  47. karen

    I am a very frequent flyer of US Airways – a Gold Member actually – one of their most frequent flyers. Not by choice but by need due to business travel and US Air being the most convenient carrier for my frequent trip. I would concur that US Airways as an airline is a quite mediocre at best. Clearly their policy is NOT customer first – flights are often cancelled with NO accomodation, courtesy, anything even for a most frequent, loyal customer such as myself. The staff is adequate but never go out of their way to provide exceptional service. Most of them are disgruntled themselves. I am NOT surprised to hear your story … if only they realized that WE are the ones that keep them in business – the customer. It would really be a nice change of pace ‘putting customer first’!

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