US Airways responds to my letter

By | March 18, 2009

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

Executive summary

As expected, US Airways refused to refund the $500 we paid to get my wife home after her illness, and instead offered me five $150 travel vouchers, one for each ticket.  I told the customer relations rep that she could send the vouchers if she wanted to, but as she well knew, it was extremely unlikely that I would ever use them.  The rep proved herself to be both clueless and willing to lie to my face.

Details

We got a voicemail message at 3:42pm yesterday (names and phone numbers changed because I don’t want to be rude):

Hi, Mr. Kamens.  This is Jane Doe at Customer Relations, US Airways. Just responding to your letter and we’d like to have a full conversation about your ongoing concerns regarding the reissue fee and ad collect to reissue your tickets when your family was ill, and we wish them good health and godspeed and a speedy recovery. If you could call me — I work from 7 in the morning until 3:30 in the afternoon Monday through Friday. I can be reached at 123-456-7890 and I’d be more than glad to speak with you. Have a great day sir.

A couple of minutes later we got a second message:

Hi Mr. Kamens. This is Jane Doe calling from US Airways. Wanted to specify the time of the timezones that I work in. It’s mountain standard time. Right now this call is going out at 12:44. That would make your time 2:44. I believe we do currently have a 2-hour difference. So, that information I hope it’s helpful in connecting with us, and we’d be more than glad, again, to speak with you. Have a great day sir.

Apparently, no one told Jane that DST started on March 8, and that since Arizona doesn’t observe DST, the time difference between Arizona and Massachusetts is currently three hours, not two.

I called the given number and reached her directly on the first try (wow!).  I’m not going to transcribe the whole call, but I’ll share some interesting tidbits:

Jane: I want to make sure that we’ve addressed everything that we can, find a way to bring closure to your situation, and I was just wondering how can we do that?  How can we help make this better?

Me: Well, I mean I think I’ve said pretty much everything I have to say in my letter about what I thought went wrong, so I think the ball’s in your court.  Why don’t you tell me what you think you can do to make this better.

Jane: What would bring closure in your mind’s eye?

Me: Well, I mean, I think… (pause for thought)

Jane: I understand the severity of your wife’s situation.  and I understand that she had the flu and she was sick and it was going to make it difficult to fly.  Across the board, every airline has reissue fees and they have to reprice the ticket when you make changes, and that’s just to make changes…

Me: OK, so that’s not true.  Southwest Airlines has no reissue fee, they charge zero dollars…

Jane: It’s the only airline, you’re correct, Southwest is the only airline that does not. [caught in a lie!]

Jane: [claims that US Airways had no choice but to charge the difference in price of the two tickets]

Me: If the CEO of your company wanted to give someone a free ticket to fly on his airline, would he be allowed to do that, legally?

Jane: No.

Me: He wouldn’t be allowed, you never give away free travel on your airline, you’ve never given anyone a free trip anywhere?

Jane: You said on another airline. [no I didn’t!]

Me: No, I mean on US Airways.  If your CEO wanted to give someone a free ticket on US Airways and not charge for it, would he be legally allowed to do that?

Jane: [silence]

Me: How would that be different from saying to my wife, “You know, we understand that you were sick, and we’re not going to charge you for these tickets on the next day’s flight because we understand that you were unable to fly because you were sick.  So it’s just erroneous to say that you would be unable to give my wife new tickets without charging her.  It’s a decision that the airline makes to do that.”

Jane: [claimed that every other airline except Southwest would have charged us to reissue the tickets for my wife]

Me: And what are their policies about people who can’t fly because they are ill?

Jane: That’s up to their way of doing business and what their business model is.  I do know that they have reissue fees, they do have ad collects. [In other words, either she knows zip about what the other airlines would have done about our situation and was lying again, or she knows that some of them would have waived the difference in cost and didn’t want to admit it.]

Me: What if my wife had shown up at the airport and she was visibly too sick to fly.  What would the gate staff have done?

Jane: If an individual is too sick to fly, they don’t fly.

Me: And then does the airline reissue their tickets?

Jane: [silence]

Me: If the gate staff makes a decision that that person is a danger to other passengers and they have to be taken off that flight, do they give them new tickets for the next day’s flight?

Jane: [silence]

Me: My impression is that they would have to reissue their tickets and they wouldn’t charge for it.  So the only difference here between that situation and this one is that I called up and said, ‘My wife has been spending all night on the floor of the bathroom throwing up and having diarrhea and can’t fly and if she shows up at the airport, that’s going to be visibly obvious, and I want to make arrangements.’  That’s the only difference.  And I had a letter from the nurse who took care of her and diagnosed her, verifying that that was the case.

Jane: You and I both know all these facts.  We have communicated all of your concerns to the various divisions that need to know about your concerns with the reissue fee.  But right now we’re trying to bring closure to your situation [there’s that word again!] and how can we do that?

Me: In terms of closure to my situation, the only form of closure that would be in any way a form of closure would be to give me back the $500 that I had to pay for my wife to fly home the next day.

Jane: I can’t refund the reissue fees.  What I can do is send you out five electronic vouchers in the amount of $150 per voucher… issued in the names of the passengers who flew.

Me: So, I mean, if you want to issue vouchers to me, that’s fine, but the odds are that I will not use them, because I have no desire to ever fly on your airline again, so that’s not really bringing me any closure.

There was a bit more back-and-forth after that, but that was pretty much the end of the conversation.

Leaving aside the question of whether we should have been charged to change my wife’s tickets, at no time during this conversation did Jane ever admit that US Airways had done anything wrong with regard to any of the terrible experiences my wife and I had dealing with the airline throughout the day.

At no time during this conversation did Jane ever apologize in any way for any of what we experienced.

And this is one of the people that US Airways employs to placate angry customers!  Astounding!

Interestingly, it’s now over an hour after our conversation ended, and the travel vouchers still haven’t arrived.  I wonder if they ever will.

UPDATE: The vouchers did arrive later in the day, with the following introduction:

Dear Mr. Kamens,

On behalf of US Airways and the entire Customer Relations team, please accept our sincere apology for the travel difficulties you experienced. Your concerns have been thoroughly documented and your comments have been shared with the appropriate management teams to help us improve our service.

We are so sorry for the difficulties that you experienced re-booking your flights. We have shared your experience with the manager of the reservation center.

We have authorized five Electronic Travel with Us Voucher (E-TUV) in the amount of $150.00 as a gesture of goodwill.

Wow, look at that, an apology!  What a shame that it came so late and with such a useless “gesture of goodwill” attached to it.

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7 thoughts on “US Airways responds to my letter

  1. paul r. waddell

    Today, was a day of frustration, travelling on US Air. My flight from Lexington, Ky was changed due to maintenance issues. The airlines contacted me and alerted me to it, about an hour and one half, before the flight’s departure. I was told to report to the ticket counter to get a voucher. When I approached the ticket counter, the ticket representative ,Chris, a male, responded that “the flight was cancelled due to inclimate weather. I told him, “that I got a call from the Airlines and that the flight was cancelled due to maintenance . I asked for a voucher for a hotel room. He said, “We don’t do that, if the flight is cancelled due to inclimate weather.” I told him that it wasn’t the weather. He and a female ticket agent, both at that counter,were rude, vile, condescending and unattractive bullies. When I asked again for the voucher,Chris threatened me, harassed me in front of other customers and then and told me that he would have me arrested. He called the police. It was humiliating. The police took me outside and I told them, “that if I did something wrong, arrest me and take me to jail. But, before you do that, ask those customers in line. They heard the entire conversation. ” The police let me go and I was given a voucher by US Air supervisor, Keely. She apologized. I understand when planes are delayed for maintenance and the safety of the passenger. No passenger and no human being should be treated with such unprofessional and disrespectful behavior. In the military, you could be discharged for this kind of behavior. On Wall Street you could be terminated. In any business, an employee, is an extension of the business they represent, so are the CEO’s that don’t address customer concerns. My wife was expecting me tonight. She’s disabled and was already having a very hard day. When I told her what happened she cried. It seems nobody cares about anything or anyone, just their bottom line.

    Reply
  2. clarissa aquino

    It’s appalling what this family has gone thru. I wonder what other passengers will say if your wife came into the plane and made an announcement to everyone that she was sick with a virus but she was left with no choice but to fly because she would have been charged by the airline a change fee. Im sure that if the other passengers had knowledge of the situation they would have said “We do not want to get sick, let her change her flight to another date so that others health is not compromised”. Just a thought????? But I know its too late for that. I work in the health field and I can tell you first hand that if one of the passengers has AIDS and US Airways allowed a sick passenger to board which caused another person to die – your talking about a BIG LAWSUIT.

    I myself am battling with US Airways right now. They are charging me a change fee of $150 and a flight from reno, nv to san jose, ca is going to cost me $900+ not including the change fee. I could fly to another country for what they’re charging me. US AIRWAYS is unwavering about their terms and conditions but you would think that at this day and age where airlines are suffering they would be more about gaining customer instead they are pissing them off with their stupid and ridiculous rules!!!!!! I tell you what I would rather throw $170 down the drain than give them another penny.

    Reply
  3. Fran Counihan

    I would love to have this Jane Doe’s direct number. You could sell it and get recoup the $500 -easy! 🙂

    I would tell you my tale of US Airways woe, but it is boring me to death, as I have spent countless hours this week between US Airways’ customer zombies and Barclay Bank US Airways Mastercard employees – who also don’t care – regarding all the “fees” for my “free” tickets.

    Good for you, at least for getting their attention, albeit not to your satisfaction. Fran

    Reply
  4. jik Post author

    Are the vouchers transferable?

    Do you really think a company like US Airways would give disgruntled customers transferable vouchers?

    Reply
  5. jont

    Are the vouchers transferable? If you sold them for $100 each, you could recoup your financial loss.

    Reply
  6. abbasegal

    I admit I was a bit surprised at the defenders ot USAirways on my3cents. They almost seemed to be industry shills. I would have responded, but when I tried to create an account, there were various web errors. Perhaps my3cents isn’t the optimal venue…

    Reply
  7. Michael A. Burstein

    I wonder if anyone over there realizes how many customers they may lose because of this. I suspect a lot of people have read your posts and made the decision never to fly them again.

    Reply

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