Employees May Hate US Airways More Than Their Customers Do

US Airways is America’s most hated major airline. It’s not really a secret. What’s new and exciting is that the employees actually hate the airline more than you do, according to the New York Times, and it’s not for the reasons you might suspect. They actually hate the dirty airplanes and gross food, too.

A rich record of the employee discontent emerges from regular question-and-answer sessions held at US Airways, which is both the worst-performing big airline in the country and a company that encourages its 36,000 workers to direct tough questions at its chief executive, W. Douglas Parker.

“Doug, I watched you on CNBC today,” said one e-mail message from a worker, sent on Oct. 25. “And I hate to tell you but the interiors of our plans [sic] smell bad and they are filthy. As an employee I am embarrassed to admit working for US Airways. When are you going to quit talking and do something about it?”

The rancor is not any worse at US Airways than at most other big carriers. What is different is that Mr. Parker, 46, subscribes to the let-it-all-hang-out school of employee relations. He says management learns a lot about how the airline is actually performing through an uncensored give-and-take — and he willingly provided transcripts of the Q. and A. sessions.

And here’s our favorite part. Why are the snacks so gross on US Airways? Because better tasting pretzle suppliers can’t beat $0.03 a package!

“We’ve worked with our purchasing team,” management explained, “to bring in many companies to compete on our main cabin tidbit item (pretzels). To date, no one has been able to match our current cost, about 3 cents per package.”

We’d say US Airways was like Walmart Airlines, but we don’t want to be unfair to Walmart.

Fliers Fed Up? Airline Employees Feel the Same [New York Times via Kottke]
(Photo:meghannmarco)

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  1. coren says:

    Pretzel :p

    But 3 cents a package? You gotta wonder what the hell they’re actually paying for in that case.

    I miss the days of bringing your own snacks with you onto planes..

  2. RISwampyankee says:

    You can still pack your own snacks and meals. You just can’t bring liquids into the so-called “sterile zone”.

  3. m4ximusprim3 says:

    @RISwampyankee: second that. I never fly without funyons. If you eat them right when you sit down and then breathe on people when they ask you “is that seat open”, you almost always get your own aisle.

  4. m4ximusprim3 says:

    that was a joke.

    But I do bring my own snacks.

  5. sleze69 says:

    Flying out of Philadelphia Airport, I always stop at Tony Luke’s for a hoagie on the way there. 10 minutes away from the airport and better than ANY food you could get there or on the airplane.

    Cheaper too.

  6. @coren: The last time I flew US Airways (my job made me), a woman two seats in front of me brought Taco Bell food on board and ate it on the plane. The plane smelled like taco sauce for the whole flight.

  7. jamesdenver says:

    Yes – out of courtesy people should eat fast food BEFORE boarding.

    I’m not above a Big Mac every now and then, but burgers and fries sitting IN A BAG for 20 minutes smell and taste disgusting.

    There’s plenty of dry food, (powerbars, granola, hell even salami) that is great and doesn’t stink.

  8. coren says:

    @Michael Bauser: Hm. Things may be less stringent than the last time I flew (which, admittedly, was after one of the major scares)

  9. dvdchris says:

    The last time I flew UsAirways out of Vegas they put us on this TINY 44 seat jet with a rude flight attendant. The plane was so small they had one person relocate to the back to even the weight load. There was an older man in the row in front of me and he kept having to get up to go to the bathroom. In fact, another guy got up and went while we were rolling to the runway and they parked the plane for 10 minutes on the tarmac while he went.
    After we took off, she called the cabin every time someone walked to the bathroom.
    I was never so glad to get off a plane in my life.

  10. djanes1 says:

    I flew US Airways the 24th and had, as far as flying goes, a great experience. I flew from LGA to Charlotte to Houston, and both flights were on time. Around this time of year, my bags are usually lost for a few days, but US airways didn’t lose them, even though my Charlotte layover was only 1 hour. No cryin’ babies and I even got the whole can of diet coke on the first flight. So, its hard for me to buy all of this hatin’ on US airways.

  11. croeso says:

    Two years ago a Christmas trip on US Airways from San Francisco to Tampa was interrupted in Las Vegas on Christmas Eve when the plane I was connecting on was determined to have an engine problem. The needed part was in Phoenix, and it was determined that it couldn’t be fixed until the next morning. i took too long to get to the ticketing area where they were handing out the hotel vouchers and they ran out. There were still about 20 of us in line. They opened up their first class lounge to us and gave us anything stocked there free through the night. The station manager came in and talked to each one of us apologizing and took our names and addresses. She told us we’d be receiving something from the airline for our inconvenience. I wonder if her positive attitude was because Las Vegas is a former America West hub and staffed by people trained by them. Anyway, we received a $100 voucher which had to be used within a year, which I thought was pretty lame. In the end I wound up never using it. But I always remembered that their people were polite and apologetic through this big mess.

    Since then business has put me on US Airways three times without any problems in clean planes on time. But I have to admit that I’ve NEVER been anywhere near their trouble hubs in Washington, Philadelphia and New York nor on a plane coming from there. That would be tempting fate too much.

    As to food on a plane… I get on a plane to fly, not to eat. I never take any free snacks or liquids nor buy any food on a plane. If I want something I get it before or after. For me, at 6’4″, a cramped seat is just not conducive to eating or drinking. I just always have a couple of good books with me and zone out. No matter how overweight the woman is next to me, or how hyper the kids are who are kicking the back of my seat, or the guy in front who has his seat back in my face from the second he can do it until the flight attendant tells him he has to bring it forward… I just stay in my novel with the realization that this too shall pass…

  12. ZekeDMS says:

    The only happy employees I ever met on the tarmac were with Southwest, other airlines went from meh to misery.

    When US Air grabbed America West(and thus Mesa Airlines), I started to experience the joy firsthand, and it was a major factor in my leaving. The combined suck of Mesa Air and US Air was just too much, it was definitely into the misery category. Possibly into the “run facefirst into a spinning propeller” category for some people.

  13. endersshadow says:

    On Friday, I have to fly US Airways since it’s the only carrier that goes to my hometown, and I have to arrive around midnight since my fiance has to work, so a regional airport wouldn’t work for my folks. I’m dreading taking the last flight from DFW to Philly…I’m positive we’re not going to get home any time around what we’re schedule for.

    By the way, is there any other industry where you drop hundreds of dollars to purchase a product/service and it’s only about a 70% chance that you’ll be satisfied? Why is this acceptable for airlines? Is it because of low profit margins on flights, or is it due to a sort of de facto monopoly that, say, telecom has, for example?

  14. torqueU says:

    My parents are flying in to visit today. Not sure when they’ll be here – Dad is flying his own plane. Mom always complains about the inflight movie, lack of snacks and rude pilot. Though she does appreciate that he will land for a potty break if you threaten to mess his seats. Commercial or private, everyone is cutting back on service.

  15. vastrightwing says:

    I think of flying like taking the bus now, only I prefer the bus: less hassel and they actually run on time.

  16. econobiker says:

    @RISwampyankee:

    But you can bring empty Gatorade bottles and Gatorade mix (we usually find and buy single serve packets) which then can can be mixed with fountain water for drinks for the children. People kept asking use how we got the bottles through security. I am actually thinking of opening a mini-concession next time we fly to undercut the expensive airport stores- at least ’til boarding.

  17. econobiker says:

    @RISwampyankee:

    But you can bring empty Gatorade bottles and Gatorade mix (we usually find and buy single serve packets way in advance) which then can can be mixed with fountain water for drinks for the children. People kept asking use how we got the bottles through security. I am actually thinking of opening a mini-concession next time we fly to undercut the expensive airport stores- at least ’til boarding.

  18. polyeaster says:

    Buses don’t run on time in Baltimore:(

  19. Voyou_Charmant says:

    I just flew US Airways to R.I. and I have to say. Not one single problem. Nice flight, on time, friendly people.

  20. irishfly says:

    Love the tag. It is gross. I worked for America West for years and, even though I made very little money, I was always happy to go into work, and loved my job. Since the US Airways merger, my work life has gotten steadily more stressful, and it’s to the point where I don’t even want to go in anymore. If I weren’t quitting and moving in a few months I would have been gone already. The management has such a disgusting lack of respect for the employees that it would be funny if it weren’t so true. Not only do they not pay people what they are worth, but they actually encourage turnover. They WANT good employees, people who have worked there for 25 years, to up and quit. When I am back to being a paying airline customer in a few months, this fact alone should keep me away from US Airways. I don’t want to fly on an airplane that has been serviced and loaded by inexperienced, ill-trained, 8 dollar an hour employees. Especially not if it means Doug Parker gets a bigger bonus.