US Airways Cancels Your Flight, Treats You "Like Dirt"

We’re adding to our collection of complaints about US Airways and Philadelphia International Airport. If we collect them all, we may win a set of steak knives!

David and Sarah write (to US Airways):

September 25th, 2007

US Airways

Attention: Customer Relations

4000 E. Sky Harbor Blvd.

Phoenix, AZ 85034

To Whom It May Concern:

We are writing to inform you of a thoroughly unpleasant experience we had with your airline.

On July 29, 2007, we were flying back to Connecticut from a vacation to the Bahamas. We flew from Nassau to Philadelphia on flight 1487, and were supposed to get a connecting flight from Philadelphia to Hartford, flight 4097.

First, our flight out of Nassau was delayed. We were told it would be delayed by only half an hour. A half hour came and went, and they still weren’t calling anyone to board the plane. We didn’t start boarding until 45 minutes had passed and by the time we took off, we were already an hour late.

When we arrived in Philadelphia at around 5:45 pm EST, we found out our flight to Hartford had been canceled. We then had to stand in a customer service line for 2 hours. When we finally got to an attendant, she told us we couldn’t get another flight until 2 pm the next day. At this point it was 8 pm. We had expected to be arriving in Hartford at 8:15 pm EST, and had family members there waiting for us.

Your staff made no offer to put us in a hotel for the night. We decided that, rather than stay over, we would rent a car and drive home. We asked to have our ticket to Hartford refunded so we could use the money toward a rental car. The attendant said they couldn’t refund our ticket, and that we’d have to call a number to get a refund, which could then take 6+ weeks, (which we still have yet to receive, 8 weeks after making the request.)

We went downstairs to get the bag we checked. Here’s where the customer service was really horrible. The baggage attendant told us that, although our bag was sitting in a room in the airport, we could not collect it. We would have to wait for our bag to arrive in Hartford, and then drive to Hartford, over an hour from our home in Connecticut, and pick up our bag there.

The attendant demonstrated a poor attitude through the whole experience, and was unwilling to give us any aid in collecting our bag. The least we would expect is some common courtesy. She even said at one point, “It’s not my job to get your bag — it’s my job to sit at this desk.”

We understand that airlines do not control the weather, but customer service is something you can control. In this experience, we found it to be sorely lacking. We would hope that this is not how you would want your company represented.

[As a side note, we found the service in Hartford to be much better. The US Airways staff were both helpful and courteous to us, after we drove all the way back to the Hartford airport the following day to retrieve the one checked bag that the Philadelphia attendant refused to give us – an extra 130 miles round trip]

We are not wealthy travelers, but two hard-working people who saved for a long time to go on this vacation. We had a choice among many airlines and chose U.S. Airways. However, we will definitely think twice about choosing U.S. Airways on our next vacation, since this last vacation, an otherwise wonderful experience prior to the journey home, ended on a sour note due to your company’s horrible customer service. Being inconvenienced by a canceled flight is one thing, but being treated like dirt on top of it was really uncalled for.

We are requesting that you reimburse us for the car we had to rent for our 4 hour journey home from Philadelphia. Attached are the details of our flights, a copy of our tickets, the car rental receipt, and the receipt for gas from the trip home. We feel this is a reasonable request, as our other choice was to stay overnight in a costly hotel. We would expect that you would want to leave your customers happy rather than disgusted with your services.

Sincerely yours,

David & Sarah

Encs.

cc: Richard Blumenthal, Esq., Attorney General, State of CT

Aviation Consumer Protection Division, U.S. Dept of Transportation

Federal Aviation Administration, U.S. Dept of Transportation

The Consumerist, http://www.consumerist.com

This is an excellent example of a well-written and to the point complaint letter. It’s a great idea to file your complaint, as they did, with the DOT for inclusion in the monthly report.. It also goes without saying that Richard Blumenthal is a good guy to cc. It’s too bad we all can’t live in Connecticut.

(Photo:meghannmarco)

Comments

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  1. Major-General says:

    Unfortunately, you’ll not be able to take your steak knives home.

  2. thepounder says:

    Wait, “like dirt” is actually a step up from the norm of treating passengers “like sh!#”.

    Wow, just wow… “It’s not my job to get your bag — it’s my job to sit at this desk.”
    Somebody’s going to be in hot water for that little quote… and good for them.

    This is indeed a great letter, and topped off with a great list of CC’s there at the end. Bravo for fighting back.

  3. chili_dog says:

    Oh my, I got to PHL and stopped reading, realizing that they obviously don;t frequent that cesspool and understand that getting thru with out having your bags lost/stolen/crapped in then it was a most successful connection.

  4. aparsons says:

    Anytime someone mentions Philadelphia Airport, I can’t help but think of [THIS] sign.

    “Ranked #2 in customer satisfaction.” WRONG.

  5. TPK says:

    What happened to not allowing luggage to fly on a plane without its owner?

  6. Jean Naimard says:

    Dear David and Sarath,

    you may be “hard-working working people”, but since you have to save for a vacation and don’t have your own yacht or private jet, you are obviously not working hard enough. Try taking less vacations and making more money next time.

    A compassionate conservative.

  7. mconfoy says:

    Never fly US Air unless there is no other way to get there for business. Nothing good can come of it.

  8. MercuryPDX says:

    The baggage attendant told us that, although our bag was sitting in a room in the airport, we could not collect it.

    Unfortunately that’s how it works. An airport attendant at PDX told me essentially the same thing when I cut my trip to Seattle short at Portland after a 3 hour delay in St. Louis made me miss the last connecting flight by 20 minutes. After the “it’s a security issue” excuse came the logical one… “Your bag is in there with about 50 or so other bags that didn’t make it onto their connections. We can’t go in there and try to figure out which one is yours, one bag at a time until we find it.”

    @TPK: What happened to not allowing luggage to fly on a plane without its owner?

    That’s what I thought too, but said bag made it to Seattle on the first flight out, even though I had already canceled that leg of the trip. I had to go back to the airport later that evening to get it after they flew it back.

  9. Trojan69 says:

    Just wait until you get your “refund.” The calculation will result in a nominal amount.

    I got stranded by a blizzard at a hub airport and had zero hope of getting to my smallish home. So, I returned to L.A. at the first opportunity. The full fare was $450. I got back $36.

    Never mind that the fare for a r/t direct flight to this hub city was less than $250 (in effect, I paid $200 for the flights b/t my ultimate destination and the hub).

    I would love to know what you’ve been promised by way of refund, and what you actually end up with.

  10. doctor_cos wants you to remain calm says:

    @aparsons: That sign can be explained by the fact that J.D. Power asked two people, one was flying through Pittsburgh, one through Philadelphia, and the guy flying through Pittsburgh was happier (they didn’t cancel his flight), so there’s your “2nd in North America.”
    Although I did like #2 better as in the common childhood euphemism #2, not as #2 between #1 and #3.

  11. OwenCatherwood says:

    Just wait for when they lose your luggage on non-stop flights to/from Beijing!

    [news.yahoo.com]

  12. silver-spork says:

    I guarantee that they will not see another penny. If all of this was due to weather USAir is not under any obligation to pay for any extra expenses and they are also not obligated to refund your ticket. It would be the decent thing to do, but remember who we are dealing with here.

    Since this happened in PHL, I am sure that the “yeah you can call to refund your ticket” was just a ploy to get the customer “service” line moving. I doubt this couple will even see a ticket refund.

    PHL is my home airport and I am forced to use USAir by my company. One of the best days of my work life came this past Monday when the company added all of Star Alliance to their preferred carrier list.

  13. beavis88 says:

    @aparsons

    Just goes to show you how worthless all those JD Power “awards” really are.

  14. ViperBorg says:

    @Jean Naimard: Ass.

  15. bangoskank says:

    Seriously, has anyone out there ever had a good experience at PHL? Every time I have ever flown through that airport something negative has happened to me. Back when I was traveling if I saw PHL on my itinerary I just sighed and planned an extra 8 hours on my arrival times.

  16. esqdork says:

    I had to fly bewteen Boston and Philly on US Air a few times last December for work. Hand to God, I had no issues with flight delays or baggage being mishandled. I did enjoy was the guy in the Santa Claus suit sponsored by Kodak who was stationed at the airport taking pictures with weary travelers. Who knows, maybe I dodged a few bullets last December.

  17. Dick Blumenthal will help you guys. He rocks!

  18. DarthSensei says:

    Same thing happened to me in the Detroit airport on Northwest a couple months ago.

    I complained so loudly until they threatened to call “the authorities.” At this point I sat down with the rest of the sheeple.

  19. Yourhero88 says:

    @ViperBorg: Oh call me crazy, but I do believe he was being sarcastic.

  20. DeeJayQueue says:

    @bangoskank: I flew out of philly over Labor Day weekend on Delta to Atlanta. I had no problems at all. Granted it was a 6am flight, so there weren’t many people there.

    As far as the guy who said ‘It’s not my job to get your bag, it’s my job to sit at this desk’ he may have been absolutely right. At my job I’m a contractor, and my company has furnished the client with a list of services we will provide. Anything outside of that list we are not responsible for. Moreover, if we’re doing something not on that list, and mess it up, we get fired for it. Real world example: My job is to do design work and run the press/copiers. One of the dock workers asked me to help move some artwork that had arrived for a display from the dock to a storage room. It would have been easy to just say “ok” and do it, but if something were to have happened to that artwork accidentally, it would have been my job. I’m not willing to risk getting insta-fired over something that isn’t even really my job. If the desk clerk was a contractor or a temp, the same situation may apply.

    Or he was just a lazy fuck.

  21. bdgbill says:

    @mconfoy:

    “Never fly US Air unless there is no other way to get there for business. Nothing good can come of it.”

    Well said! I would also add that both the Philly and Pittsburgh airports should be avoided at all costs (regardless of airline).

    There is just something wrong with a major airport that does not have a single Starbucks.

    PHA has the worst signage of any airport I have been to. I found my way areound the San Salvador airport with less trouble.

    PHA has the most unfriendly, hostile, surly employees and food service workers I have ever dealt with.

  22. muddgirl says:

    In situations like this, when I’m waiting in a long customer service line after a cancelled flight, I call the reservation line (usually printed somewhere on the ticket or on the ticket enclosure), explain my situation, and try to get it resolved through the call center. The reservations call center often has the authority to reschedule your flight, give stand-by tickets, or even route you through another carrier. And, they’re not as frazzled and pissed off as the in-airport tickets desk.

  23. specialed5000 says:

    @bdgbill:
    What the hell does Phan Rang airport in Vietnam (PHA) have to do with it?

    Also, I like the Pittsburgh airport, not crowded, walk between all of the gates (no shuttles or trains), soothing warm brown decor and classical music, free wireless internet and a couple of good bars. I couldn’t possibly care any less about anything than about whether or not an airport has a Starbucks.

  24. Rusty215 says:

    I live in Philly and will attest that PHL is the absolute worst. I arrived home late one night and the baggage area in my arriving terminal was closed. There wasn’t even a sign. They made us walk outside in the pouring rain to the next terminal and i dont know how we figured out where to go. We drive to EWR most of the time. I cant wait to get out of this diseased cesspool of a town and back to civilization.

  25. swalve says:

    “Hey, I got screwed by flying on a shitty airline! Weep for me!”

  26. remthewanderer says:

    PHL is also my home airport. I have learned that the only way to have a good flight on USair is to travel without a connecting flight and not check a bag.

    I paid an extra $400 for my honeymoon so that I did NOT have to fly USair. That is how much I hate them!

  27. ARP says:

    Every week we see another complaint about how crappy another airline is. It seems to me that they all suck we’re simply choosing the airline where we haven’t had a completely miserable experience…yet. When it happens, we’ll try another carrier for a while until they do it do us and then rinse and repeat. Who are the GOOD airlines? Are there any? Luftansa? Swiss Air?

  28. MeOhMy says:

    Yes, the desk worker probably could have been a bit more tactful, but the main reason the desk worker could not go get your bag is primarily that the baggage handlers are unionized workers and outsiders can get in a lot of trouble for stepping on union toes.

  29. JustAGuy2 says:

    @ARP:

    Singapore Airlines, Emirates.

  30. badteaparty says:

    My sister flew from Boston to Philadelphia on US air with her infant son. She arrived in the airport at 7 pm, and was kept waiting nearly to the point of tears at 11:30 pm for her baby’s car seat, which she had checked. At one point she found out there was a pile of baggage sitting somewhere near baggage claim but not on a carousel, and pointed it out to a baggage claim employee who told her it was “not his job to care”. True story. It was a 1 hour or less flight with no stops, and US air managed to lose her car seat, and the airport staff managed to tell a desperately tired mother with her infant that it wasn’t his job to care. Bravo all around.

  31. Kurtz says:

    @ARP and JustAGuy2: Last I checked those airlines don’t fly domestically within the US. I’ve heard good things about ExpressJet.

  32. the_goz says:

    @ARP Allegiant Air – but they don’t go to a lot of places.

  33. JustAGuy2 says:

    @Kurtz:

    Isn’t ExpressJet the entity that brands as Continental Express? If so, they’re so-so.

    I generally find Continental to come out tops. JetBlue has nice planes, and the staff’s typically pleasant, although they suffer b/c they hub out of JFK, which is a nightmare.

  34. QuirkyRachel says:

    I used to live in Philly. US Air is horrible! I once was on a Friday evening flight. While sitting on the tarmac for an hour, a woman sitting next to me immediately called the customer service desk and booked herself on the next flight. She told me that she flew that route every week, and that this flight (which was booked solid) was canceled about 60% of the time.

  35. CliveDobbs says:

    @ARP:

    Try Sosoliso Airlines out of Murtala Mohammed International Airport in Lagos. You’ll have some kicks.

  36. Hanse says:

    For years I have taken the train when I travel in the US. The service at airlines has become so poor that I no longer use them and reports like these makes me even less willing.

  37. Buran says:

    @Troy F.: … which isn’t the customer’s problem. The fact that this woman mouthed off and refused to help is.

  38. Buran says:

    @ARP: Not here, that’s for sure.

  39. Anonymous says:

    If you think they treat you like dirt flying on them you should try working for them…
    This company should have been shut down by the government if they couldn’t make there bills they shouldn’t have been bailed out by them ..
    Working for usair=== Is like trying to tye your shoe laces with no hands..

  40. MeOhMy says:

    @Buran: Did I say it was the customer’s problem?
    *re-reads post*
    Nope.
    I’m explaining to the huddled masses here how things work in union-heavy Philly.

  41. mrearly2 says:

    “It’s not my job to get your bag–it’s my job to sit at this desk.”
    And may your ass become huge…

  42. erratapage says:

    Before I booked a flight on US Airways this month, I checked their complaint records. I discovered that almost all the US Airways complaints orginate in Philadelphia. Since I wasn’t flying to Philadelphia, I figured I had a fairly good chance of not being annoyed. In fact, we had a delightful trip, and were even able to change to an earlier flight at the Las Vegas airport.

    Apropos to this story: When we got on the flight from Minneapolis to Las Vegas, someone decided to get off the plane. The flight attendant informed us that the delay in takeoff (maybe five minutes or so) was due to a company policy that prohibits them from carrying a checked bag when the customer is not on the flight.

    I just love how company policy is whatever the customer service representative feels like at the time.

  43. humphrmi says:

    @JustAGuy2: Don’t forget Cathay Pacific.

    @Kurtz: You’re right, none of those do. Swiss and Lufthansa are great European carriers, but codeshare with AA and UA in the US. Same thing basically for Emirates and Singapore.

    Sigh, maybe there’s hope in Virgin America.

  44. LucyInTheSky says:

    @TPK: This is what i was wondering. is it really so hard to send someone, anyone, into a room to pick up ONE bag for a customer that is already pissed? i would think that taking care of an angry customer would be common sense.

  45. Benny Gesserit says:

    @TPK: I agree. We just flew back from Gatwick (Zoom Airlines – no real probs) but the announcements in the airport made us feel guilty if we didn’t keep one hand on our bags at all times.

    Calm British Lady over loud speaker: This is a security announcement. Please do not leave your bags unattended. Bags found unattended will be destroyed and could cause travel delays due to terminal closures.

  46. Consumerist Moderator - ACAMBRAS says:

    “Ranked #2 in customer satisfaction.

    Oh, it’s #2 all right…

  47. Snakeophelia says:

    From 1998 to 2004 I flew USAir out of Philly about 5 – 10 times a year. Since then it’s more like once or twice a year, as I have a different job. I can definitely say that I’ve seen a decline in service over the last 9 years. I don’t recall ever having a cancelled flight, a flight delayed more than 1 hour, or baggage that took more than 30 minutes to arrive up to about 2002. At that point it all went to hell. Since then I have never left on time, I have had flights cancelled right and left, I wait on luggage for an hour, and they’ve lost my bag twice (got it back both times the next day).

    When I got married last year I shipped everything from bows to garter to the wedding destination via FedEx. Cost me $200 in shipping alone but the piece of mind was worth every penny.

  48. StevieD says:

    More than policy, safety or security, the airlines simply do not have contingency plans in place to handle removal of luggage after it has been tagged and placed on a place for another destination.

    IF there was such a plan in place, and the luggage was removed by an “unauthorized” person, there would be screams of complaints from the wronged consumer(s). Better to play it safe and fly the luggage from Point A to Point B.

  49. chili_dog says:

    If you have ever loaded a bin with bags, it is IMPOSSIBLE to get “just 1 bag out” if you are looking for a specific passengers bad. You literally need to unload the entire load to find it.

    This is because anytime a passenger is asked to describe their bag, the common response is “It’s black & big with wheels”.

    And depending on the plane, there could be 200 bags jammed in there, yes, jammed filling the entire space and all available openings with bags. Think tetris with luggage.

    So, with all this in mind, and it usually takes about 30 min to load 200 bags, it’s always better to just let the bag move along as intended and let it come back after the baggage service office picks it up.

  50. tmacent says:

    Wow, great site. And I was just looking for reasons why my US Airways stock was doing so poorly!!
    I have 9 years of experience with US Airways, PHL and everything in between as well as all of the emotions that go with it. While they seem to be plagued with problems, I believe that it is all of the airlines that suffer the highs and lows of customer service.
    I have been stranded with no visible means of support, upgraded unexpectedly, told that they could not serve drinks because they had run out on the last flight and brought free drinks in coach(stranded on the runway for 4 hours!!). So I have had many up and down experiences with US Airways, but I’ve also been “entertained” by the others:
    - Told on Northwest “If you wanted something to eat on the flight, you should have taken Southwest”
    - Continental took me to Texas while my bags ended up in Los Angeles??
    - American charged me $50 for “an extra legroom flight” and then put me in the back in the no legroom section because my seat had been taken and they “didn’t have time” to straighten things out.
    If you fly on one more than the others, you are bound to become a victim at one time or another (or become a mass victim – PHL in a snowstorm with all flights cancelled – the baggage claim area became a hotel as all of the hotels within 30 miles became full in the blink of an eye!)
    I also find that the best remedy for airlinitis is a deep breath and a tall glass of whatever clouds your judgement. It all usually works out in the end.