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Three More Words: Fu-- You-S Air! (UPDATED)

Posted on July 15, 2010 at 2:08 PM

Scroll to bottom for updates...


What a difference 2.5 hours makes! Barely after I’d put my laptop away from uploading my previous post lauding them for their upgrade program, US Air turned around and acted like a bunch of jack wagons! Well, maybe NOT total jack wagons….the story is still unfolding and I’ll update as they respond.

 

So, here’s what happened. I was on my flight last night, comfortably seated in seat 4C in First Class, awaiting that pre-flight beverage, when they start fiddling with the doors. Turns out they can’t get one of them to say that it’s closed and armed. So they fiddle. And we wait. And they fiddle. And we wait. And then maintenance comes on. And they fiddle. Finally, at 11:40 the captain comes on and tells us that San Diego has a curfew where flights can’t take off after11:30 PM and that – I’m truly sorry from the bottom of my heart! – the flight has been cancelled. (Captain, truly, here’s a punch from the Heart of my Bottom!)

 

As we’re leaving the plane in something resembling a tired but borderline volatile mob – someone might have broken down into racking sobs and screamed, “Buy my seat! My beautiful, big seeeeeeeat!” -- the flight attendant hands us a business card with a priority rebooking number on it, which I call almost instantly – another First Class perk. However, not sensing my mood, the customer service woman on the phone is acting incredibly put out and like she is doing ME a favor by rebooking me. (Look, lady. I did MY part. I bought a ticket on YOUR airline. I don’t really need any kind of grief from you at midnight. And when you *say* “Sir, I understand your frustration” try to say it with just slightly less condescension and like you’re not thinking that I’m the reason why you hate your job.) And her suggestion is rebooking me on a flight that will take ALL day (leaving San Diego at 11 AM and arriving at Florence at 11:30 PM! Plus, I have a 1.5 hour drive home AFTER that...) Oh, and no First Class. So I go to my hotel, where I arrive after midnight and I’m so seething and bordering on bloody nose from that rage stroke I struggle to keep at bay, that there’s just no way I can go to sleep. I’m just laying there, tossing and turning and launching mental hate missiles at this entire lame situation that has me *not* slipping into a nice alcohol fueled, big-leather chair, semi-twilight, but rather simulating Dengue fever as I alternate between menopausal hot flashes and fever chills as I struggle to find the right balance between the Sheraton’s A/C system and double layered comforter. Not to mention that I’ll be waking up 3000 miles from where I want to be. Plus the whole time I’m just hearing the tell-tale heart of the clock pounding away, each second bringing me closer to the (Oh! The humanity!) 4:30 AM wake-up call I need in order to make my 6:30 AM flight. So instead of a wonderful First Class seat from SAN to CLT, I have to endure the inhumanity of coach, crowded into the back like chattle with YOU people (just kidding) and it is going to take me TWO flights to get to CLT. Blood pressure pressuring!

 

Now, I understand that things break and that the flight s are full and that the schedule is what it is, but they can – and should! – handle this sort of mess better. Oh, and plus! When I talked to customer service they are claiming that it was weather related. But unless totally clear, 75 degree skies are poor flying conditions, I don’t know what kind of weather they are talking about. Maybe it was the pissed off storm clouds hovering around the heads of all the disenfranchised passengers in First Class. (This one guy’s entire family got bumped out and now isn’t even sitting together. At least they’ll all share the shame of coach together.)

 

I’m a writer. So, what do I do? I write. So, hoping that my pen (or notepad) is mightier than the sword (though, I’ll be honest, the sword sounds pretty sweet right now; maybe that thing that Aragorn used to hew off all the Orc heads) here is my e-mail to US Air’s customer service department. I’ve asked for a reply and I’ll post that here, along with my response as needed...

 

I have been a very loyal US Air traveler -- this is my second cross country trip on US Air in under 10 days, plus I have another flight in 10 days -- and I'm hoping that your handling of this matter will make me want to continue being one. Last night, my flight was cancelled due to mechanical problems. They could not get one of the exit doors to show closed and armed. We waited in the plane over an hour until they finally cancelled the flight. The only compensation they offered was a hotel for non-San Diego residents. For me, this meant arriving at the hotel after midnight, and then getting up at 4:30 AM to meet my 6:30 AM flight. A totally ruined evening. As a business traveler, I chose this flight (199) to allow me to get home and work today. Missing this flight has put me out of pocket in several fronts. 1) An additional day of $10/day airport parking. 2) An entire lost work day. 3) An entire lost day with my family. It sucks to tell your sobbing 3 year old -- who you promised that you would see this morning -- that you won't be home until after dinner. 4) It is now taking me over 12 hours and 3 flights to get home. 5) I lost my first class seating. As someone who is 6-foot 4-inches tall, having that seating upgrade for a 5 hour flight is unbelievably appreciated. 6) Instead of an overnight flight where I wouldn't need a meal -- though I'd have been offered one in first class -- I now am traveling an entire day where I'll have to purchase at least one meal. 7) The woman at the priority assistance department (888-200-0865) acted like she was doing me a favor by rebooking me, originally on a flight that wouldn't get me home until 1 in the morning. On my flight out here, I was offered $250 on two occasions to take a bump that served US Air. This bump has really ruined my travel, and I don't think asking for that same $250 is unreasonable. I'm a journalist, and the irony is that just yesterday, I posted an incredibly complimentary blog about US Air. You can read that here. (I already linked it for you guys up top...) I look forward to your response and hope that my loyalty to your brand will be reciprocated. Regards, John Sciacca

 

Update #1

Amazingly, shockingly, heart wrenchingly, ass punchingly, this day has managed to get even worse! While trying to complete the Hat Trick leg of my miracle miles getting home, there was...bad weather in Charlotte! Our in-coming flight was 45 minutes late, meaning that we departed the plane when I was supposed to be boarding my last flight to Florence. A mad, and I mean thank-God-I’ve-been-biking-lately-or-my-heart-would-have-been-attacking-me mad run from literally one point of the airport to the furthest point in Terminal E. (Note to my jeans: Thanks for *nothing* on the run. It's hard enough with the luggage cart trip to tip sideways as it exceeds its maximum speed of 1 MPH without you trying to abandon ship every other step!) Get to E and...delayed 90 minutes! Wait that out then...delayed another 70 minutes! I asked the guy, “Be honest. Is there a chance that you’ll just keep delaying and then cancel?”

“Yes. There’s a chance.” I feel like US Air has bent me over, and then when they all had a go, invited Delta and United over to get in their licks. So I rebooked on a flight to Myrtle which should leave in 45 minutes and THEN I’ll deal with how I’m going to get my car. I feel like punching my own self in the balls just to add a high point to the day.

 

So far throughout my crazy, race through the airports as fast as you can day, my entire sustenance has been two hard candies and an in-flight coffee. The lone bright spot was a fellow comrade in arms named Mollie. We met last night at San Diego (she was brandishing an iPad, so she might as well have been holding a sign that said, “Hey, John! Come talk to me!") She was on every leg of my journey today, and we were together on the insane – yet ultimately pointless -- dash across the airport. We were like SEAL Team swim buddies, refusing to leave a man (or woman) behind. We even commandeered one of those handicap people carts for the last leg of the journey; though as I got out, I very nearly had my leg sheared off from another handicap cart that was trying to pass us as closely as possible at top speed. (Mollie said it was karma for taking the handicap cart. I said that karma owed me and that this was just more US Air bad voodoo.) Her flight was cancelled not 4 gates from mine and she made the mad dash to another terminal to try and fly somewhere close to her final destination.


Update #2

Finally heard back from US Air, and while it wasn't *exactly* what I would have liked, it is something, which is more than the other 300+ people on our flight got. Chalk one more point up for the squeaky wheel. Here's there post with my reply....


Dear Mr. Sciacca: Thank you for contacting Customer Relations. I'm sorry your flight was canceled from San Diego to Charlotte, causing you to miss work and a day with your family.


Although we make every effort to bring in reserve flight attendants, we were unable to staff all of our aircraft. When there is a cancellation or delay, there is a domino effect. When we become aware of such situations, we quickly attempt to contact reserve flight attendants. Despite our endeavors, it is not always possible to cover every flight impacted by cancellation or delays.

 

I recognize this flight’s cancellation caused you a major inconvenience. To convey our apologies and regain your confidence, we have authorized a $100 Electronic Travel With Us Voucher (E-TUV). Your E-TUV is valid toward the purchase of travel on US Airways. The customary ticketing fee will not be assessed at the time of booking with our Reservations Department.

 

Denied boarding compensation is offered to customers when they are unable to travel due to an oversold flight. This type of compensation is mandated by the Federal Government. The compensation for each flight where a customer is denied boarding is handled on a case by case basis and is different than the compensation we offer as an apology and gesture of goodwill for flight cancellations or delays. We regret we are unable to honor your request for this type of compensation.

 

I regret that you lost your complimentary first class upgrade when you were reaccommodated the next day. I understand that these upgrades are very important to our Preferred members, and I want to thank you for the blog you published regarding our policy on this.


We appreciate you choose to fly with US Airways so frequently and welcome the opportunity to provide your future travel needs.

 

Sincerely,

Customer Relations

US Airways Corporate Office


Here's my reply:


By the way, my blog is going to be picked up by CEDIA (Custom Electronics Design & Installation Association) and sent out in a blast e-mail to their members, so some good press for US Air. (The *nice* post, not, uh, this one...)

 

If you wanted to bump me from Silver Elite to Gold, it could be our secret....

Regards,

John Sciacca



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1 Comment

Reply Craig
11:05 PM on July 23, 2010 
As a former US Airways employee, and one who used to contribute to decisions to cancel fights, I can honestly tell you that nobody at that airlines "regrets" what they did to you.