U.S. Airways Boots 274 Stranded Passengers From Caribbean Airport, Refuses To Pay For Hotels

Armed guards ordered 274 stranded passengers out of the Punta Cana airport with no place to go after bad weather forced U.S. Airways to cancel its flight from the Dominican Republic to Philadelphia. Several passengers ended up sleeping in a bus after the airline responded to Tropical Storm Fay by asking passengers to pick up their luggage and get lost.

Mark Watts summed up the experience for CBS:

Abandoned! We’re here in like, a foreign country, you know. And we’re sitting on the ground by the tarmac with a roof over our heads with no sides on the building, and we refuse to get on a bus that was going to take us to the front of the aircraft to give us our luggage and say “see you later.” And it’s dangerous, man!”

Passenger Mike Maney sent us this brief missive from the island nation:

Battery dying but usairways is abandoned 200 of us in Dominican republic and saying we have to leave airport without any hotel. Pasengers including kids concerned about safety.

He later added:

We’re still in the airport after being kicked out of the airport last night by armed security (they threatened to arrest one passenger who was demanding answers. We ended up sleeping in a bus because they couldn’t find any hotel rooms. Seemed all they wanted was for everyone to leave the airport. Rather than fly in a fresh plane US air left 274 passengers scrambling all night to try to get back home. Sounds like all flights are overbooked. US air should be ashamed more than I suspect it normally is, as should the Dominican republic tourism agency.

And:

Also, we were told at first it was weather related but also that the crew had burned through their hours. Flights were going in and out. Absolutely no acceptable excuse on either the airline’s or the airport’s part. The weather only exacerbated the logistical and human incompetence of both organizations.

It is unclear when the passengers will be able to return to the United States.

Dozens of Philadelphians Stranded in Paradise [CBS3] (Thanks to Tim!)

Comments

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  1. “Stranded in Paradise”? Yeah, being stranded sucks but that headline makes me a bit jealous.

  2. karmaghost says:

    well looks like US Airways has just lost another 274 repeat customers, minimum.

  3. Moonshadows says:

    The island may be paradise but I’m betting they aren’t enjoying it. That would really suck. I hope US Air pays and pays and pays.

    The comment about bringing in another plane makes me wonder though. Was it mechanical or weather related?

  4. WisconsinDadof2 says:

    @Matthew Hughes: Paradise is relative, I suppose – warm weather and nice beaches don’t make sleeping on a bus much more comfortable is my guess!

  5. bugout99 says:

    Its no secret that airlines have zero responsibility for weather problems. At least they weren’t stuck on the plane.

  6. deadspork says:

    They couldn’t at least let them stay on the plane? It’s not like the plane was going anywhere anytime soon. I don’t get why they were booted off the plane AND out of the airport.

  7. timmus says:

    You can’t buy this kind of bad PR for Dominican tourism and for US Airways.

  8. williehorton says:

    @karmaghost: USAir doesn’t get many repeat customers… Aeroflot, shickens and all, has a better reputation.

  9. williehorton says:

    chickens, that is

  10. blainer says:

    This seemed reasonable to me until that guy mentioned that US Airways ateabdung. That is simply inexcusable for US Airways ateabdung anyone, let alone 200 people.

  11. Fly Girl says:

    How is this in any way US Airways problem? It’s no secret that the airlines are NOT responsible for extra expenses incurred because of weather related delays and cancellations.

    US Airways is my number-one-all-time-least-favorite airline– I love to hate them, even more than I love to hate United– but daaaaaaaamn, what do the passengers expect them to do?

    They can’t fly during a hurricane– that much is a no-brainer. It said in the news report that NO ONE is flying out of Punta Cana, so it’s not like they chose to cancel their flights unnecessarily. And they don’t own the airport, so they can’t allow the passengers to stay there. The decision to kick all of the passengers out of the airport was the Dominican Republic government’s decision to make, not US Airways’.

    If this is anything, it’s yet another lesson in “BUY TRAVEL INSURANCE.” If the passengers had travel insurance, they’d have all of their expenses covered. And perhaps this is also a lesson in “DON’T TRAVEL TO THE CARIBBEAN DURING HURRICANE SEASON IF YOU DON’T WANT TO BE STRANDED WHEN A HURRICANE HITS.”

    C’mon, 272 people chose to travel to the Dominican Republic during hurricane season and didn’t plan for the possibility of, say, a HURRICANE? They obviously aren’t Consumerists, or they would have known better/been better prepared.

  12. benn09 says:

    i’ve been fortunate enough to have stayed in the DR before, but you couldn’t pay me enough to be in that airport for any longer than necessary. it’s more than a little terrifying, and i can’t even imagine being taken off a plane and out of the airport by armed guards. i hope they take US Air for everything they’re worth…which isn’t much.

  13. Dominican tourism couldn’t care less. Most of Punta Cana was sold to private investors and they had to do all the infrastructure (roads, electricity, even the airport) because the government wouldn’t spend a dime on it. Once you’re out of the private lands, you see a sea of poverty with the same lack of infrastructure and you get taxed to death for it (I’m talking taxes worthy of a First-World superpower). The people never get to see a penny of those taxes, but it pays for the politician’s mansions. Tell them if they care what happens at the beach.

  14. lingum says:

    This is why most airlines need to be allowed to finally fail.

  15. Triborough says:

    It has been my experience that the first rule of air travel is never fly on US Air.

  16. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    I couldn’t play the video. What happened to the plane they were supposed to be on? Did US Airways leave it at the airport (because no planes were supposed to be flying out of there), or did they fly it out anyway, just without the passengers?

    If the first thing, then I think it’s probably legit… a plane is not a hotel and is not designed for overnight accommodations after an already long flight. If the second, there’s no excuse… they were either trying to get their property to safety (without the passengers??) or planning to use the plane “strategically” for a different flight.

    Anyone know which?

  17. michaelangelo1969 says:

    ateabdung?? don’t they have editors around here? what the heck is that?

  18. failurate says:

    @Fly Girl: Well, in there defense, other than going back to the resort to which they were staying, if that was even an option, I would say there was no possible plan B’s available.
    Punta Cana is not a city like Santo Domingo, there are no Airport hotels or anywhere at all safe to go, other than the resorts.
    The Punta Cana airport is beautiful, but it’s not much structure wise. It is mostly a gigantic open air hut.

  19. Zenne says:

    @Fly Girl: I heard that December is prime Caribbean time. ;)

  20. Cliff_Donner says:

    Battery dying but usairways is ateabdung 200 of us in Dominican republic and saying we have to leave airport without any hotel.

    It sounds like things were handled badly when this flight had to be cancelled, but forcing these passengers to eat a bug seems completely uncalled for.

  21. hills says:

    It’s NOT usair’s responsibility to find hotels since the flight cancellation was due to weather – The airport should have let passengers stay the night for shelter. This is the airport’s bad decision, and not usair’s.

  22. TeraGram says:

    @Matthew Hughes: any place where dengue and malaria are endemic is automatically disqualified from the “paradise” category in my book.

  23. wgrune says:

    ateabdung = stranding in a quick finger-mashing t9 text message? Just a guess…

  24. mythago says:

    @Fly Girl: Really, not every disaster is meant to be a “lesson” in how other people aren’t as smart and good at advance planning as you are. Travel insurance is fine after the fact, IF you can get the travel company to pay up (instead of claiming that hurricanes aren’t covered under your policy), and just about every location has natural disasters at some point; it’s not like they flew in DURING a hurricane.

  25. Last time I flew USAir to Punta Cana, our departing flight was a nightmare.They had us wait in line for three hours to board, people were fist fighting, it was 95 degrees. After we got on board, we sat on the tarmac for 4 1/2 hours, no food or drinks (we had our child with us). We got into Charlotte, another 2 hour wait on the plane, no food or drink. Airport restaurants closed. My kid is crying, there’s an hour wait to get through customs, it’s a three hour wait in line to book another flight to Norfolk, the USAir people are being horrible….24 hours later, we got home.

    This year, we used AA to Turks & Caicos, and had no problems. USAir will never see another dime of my money, I don’t care how much cheaper they are.

  26. @Fly Girl: Were the people supposed to book an extra night when they initially booked their hotel? Is that the Plan B you’re thinking of? Yes, I’ll tell you that always crosses my mind when I book a trip to a foreign country. “Hmmm, maybe I should book another night at the hotel in the off chance the flight gets cancelled, and there are no other hotel rooms available, and I get kicked out of the airport.” I think that seems fair, right Fly Girl?

  27. timmus says:

    BTW, the video on this page does not even appear for me — someone at Consumerist should check the source code for the page.

  28. williehorton says:

    @michaelangelo1969: Spell-check is not an available option in Web 2.0
    …maybe this will be fixed by Web 2.3 or so.

  29. TomCruisesTesticles says:

    @williehorton: She actually makes a very good point in the first three paragraphs. I agree with her if you can get away from the blaming the OP and the attitude

  30. TomCruisesTesticles says:
  31. Angryrider says:

    Poor consumers, a shame these guys have no bill of rights.

  32. dafountain says:

    The legacy carriers need your business now more than ever and all they can deliver for their customers is hell. How many years do you suppose they have left?

  33. Heresy Of Truth says:

    That’s horrible! I can’t imagine being stuck like that.

    (I am getting no video either.)

  34. BeeBoo says:

    @karmaghost: No, they probably didn’t lose all 270+ customers for repeat business because USAirways practically has a monopoly in Philadelphia. Generally if you fly another airline in or out of there you have a much smaller choice of flights and they are frequently at higher cost.

  35. muckpond says:

    wait…who did usair teabag?

  36. TomCruisesTesticles says:

    @BeeBoo: Good God. Where I need to fly, it’s cheapest to go through Philly, but good GOD, I’ve never not been delayed on my connecting flight from Philly to my next stop, or coming home. Apparently they pay the gate agents to give you blank stares and and throw their arms up when you ask where the plane is. Of course, they’ll say it’s on time until 20 minutes after the departure time, and then they’ll announce a “small delay” Grrrr

  37. Yes you can fly through a Hurricane

    [www.hurricanehunters.com]

    Of course there is a guy, I believe his rank is Airman Basic, who is assigned the task of cleaning the puke off the ceiling after each flight…. but is possible to fly through a hurricane.

  38. Nick1693 says:

    I would try to get them to accept rule 240.

  39. There’s a reason going to the Caribbean during hurricane season is way cheaper than the November-June season. You get what you pay for.

  40. RedBraid says:

    I got stranded in Puerto Rico, once, in a similar situation.

    It was awesome.

    Would buy from US Airways again. (Ok, maybe note, but it was fun.)

  41. Hogan1 says:

    From all accounts I’ve seen, the “Armed Guards” were locals trying to clear the Airport, not purposefully targeting the U.S. Airways passengers. That’s just quick assumptions.

    Not to defend the airline too much but while U.S. Airways is not legally required to put these people up due to acts of God, providing details on local hotels would have been nice on their part. Airlines having an emergency plan with brochures they can hand out providing details on local accommodation, transportation, and re-booking assistance would be a great benefit. That said, people need to understand that not everything can be prevented but alas most run around thinking their “entitled” for everything including acts of god and their own mistakes. If a storm brews up it affects everyone, not just them.

    In any case a lawsuit against U.S. Airways for this would be an epic fail. The Bad PR is already out in any case and the airline will most likely provide reimbursement or refunds to the passengers affected.

  42. Altdotweb says:

    Rule 240 is not in the US Airways COC and, since deregulation in the 70’s, is no longer mandated by the gov’t.

  43. Carl3000 says:

    “DON’T TRAVEL TO THE CARIBBEAN DURING HURRICANE SEASON IF YOU DON’T WANT TO BE STRANDED WHEN A HURRICANE HITS.”

    They only get brushed once every 4_years_in the Dominican Republic, a direct hit once every 17 years ( [www.hurricanecity.com] )….you’re much more likely to get grounded over a thunderstorm or something, and that could happen almost anywhere.

  44. Coles_Law says:

    @wgrune: Wow. 15 awesome points for decoding that. That makes the most sense to me.

  45. Fly Girl says:

    @mythago and AbsoluteIrrelevance: No, I don’t think they needed to book an extra night at their hotel or resort “just in case,” but, like someone else stated already, prices in the Caribbean during hurricane season are DRASTICALLY cheaper than other times of the year, and they’re that way for a reason.

    It’s not a matter of “IF” a hurricane (or MANY hurricanes) are going to come, it’s a matter of when– especially over the last few years, when the season has been longer and more severe than in the past.

    I often take advantage of the low fares and hotels during hurricane season, BUT I plan for the worst– I have back-up cash accessible to me and I have a travel insurance policy that covers any delays and cancellations that I might encounter. I obviously make sure that the travel insurance policy covers things like hurricanes. Those little steps ensure that, if and when the shit hits the fan, I’m going to be okay.

    I don’t know if you’ve ever purchased a travel insurance policy, but I travel constantly and extensively and I always travel with insurance. I’ve never once had a problem with my policy or in getting a claim paid promptly and in full. Travel insurance policies are easy to read and understand and their inclusions and exceptions are easy to understand, even by a layperson. And they’re CHEAP– pennies on the dollar.

    Does it suck that the hurricane hit and their flight was cancelled and they were stuck in Punta Cana? Hells yes it does. Does it suck that the airport closed and all of the passengers were stranded? For sure. But is it anyone’s fault? Anyone’s responsibility? Nope. Sure, they’re mad. I’d be mad, too. But there’s not really anyone to be mad AT. It’s a frustrating situation, but one that should have been anticipated and planned for.

    When you travel to the Caribbean during hurricane season there are inherent risks involved. In this case, that risk became a reality. (And it was a serious risk– there were fatalities in the Dominican Republic caused by the hurricane.) For the passengers on the plane that had travel insurance and had planned for and anticipated the risk, they were taken care of and just fine. For the rest, it was a lesson learned– I’m sure they won’t be traveling to the Caribbean, especially not without travel insurance, during hurricane season again!

  46. 11hawkinst says:

    US Scareways strikes again! Just flew in an hour ago into Philly on Delta. No problems. Of course, there weren’t any Tropical Storms either.

  47. Kajj says:

    @Fly Girl: Can you explain the part where travel insurance makes hotel rooms magically appear when the city’s all booked up?

  48. Ubermunch says:

    @muckpond:

    “wait…who did usair teabag?”

    Dude… who didn’t they teabag?

  49. Fly Girl says:

    @Kajj: Nope. But can you explain how US Airways is supposed to make hotel rooms magically appear when the city’s all booked up?

    Like I said… This is Mother Nature and Fay’s fault, not US Airways’. In my comments above, I stated that people who had the foresight to purchase travel insurance will be reimbursed for any additional expenses incurred. That comment was directed at all of the commenters claiming that US Airways should have put people up in hotels.

    My point is that it was, in no way, US Airways’ responsibility to pay for the accommodation of the 274 people booked on that flight and that when people take trips to the Caribbean during hurricane season, it makes sense to plan for emergencies… Like hurricanes.

    If the commenters, and the displaced passengers, want to complain about someone, their arguments should be directed towards the government of the Dominican Republic. The people of Punta Cana have no problem accepting U.S. dollars and milking the tourist trade for all it’s worth, but they obviously haven’t invested in the infrastructure necessary to accommodate and take care of those tourists in the case of a natural emergency– something that is not a rarity in the Caribbean, especially not in the late summer and fall.

    My point is that making this a consumer issue that is somehow related to US Airways is just too easy and lazy, because this has nothing to do with how bad US Airways sucks (and believe me, they suck) and everything to do with a country’s lack of preparation in anticipation of a major natural disaster.

  50. Mercurywaxing says:

    It is sort of related to US Airways. There are times when a company needs to go beyond the letter of the law and look at the moral situation. So what if they legally didn’t have to do anything? You have 247 customers stranded in a tropical storm.

    To say that USAir had no part is technically correct. That doesn’t change the fact that it’s also morally wrong.

  51. Sugarless says:

    I’ve traveled to the caribbean during hurricane season. I grew up in a city where hurricanes are a way of life.

    The passengers are right to be upset with US Airways. Although they couldn’t fly them out due to weather, the airline should have at the very least given passengers the information for local hotels or provided a bus service to a hotel.

    US Airways is at fault for not assisting their passengers once they realized the plane could not leave the DR. I understand the airport closes at night, I’ve been in that situation when a flight was cancelled at the last minute.
    But passengers should have been assisted with phone numbers or transportation to nearby hotels.

  52. hmk says:

    @everyone
    if we were to believe one of the OP’s who says flights were indeed going in and out and it’s possible his flight was cancelled because of the crew using up their hours, then US Airways is definitely responsible for this. if that’s the case, wtf are those passengers gonna do? US Airways ought to step up.

    forgive me if this is ill-informed as I have not watched the video yet (slow connection).

    man every day I hear another horror story about the airlines. how are they all still operating? the only one I like to fly is Southwest, but if I ever move away then there goes that idea…

  53. failurate says:

    Again… there are no local hotels. Punta Cana is not a city. The airport exists only to support the massive resorts which are all about 15 to 30 miles away.

  54. jamar0303 says:

    @Altdotweb: True, and this is where Northwest stands above the rest. A little-known policy lets passengers “Rule 240″ their tickets on any airline to Northwest without endorsement from the airline that issued the ticket.

  55. FLConsumer says:

    @Fly Girl: Considering we’ve seen tropical systems form as late as December, when do you suggest people travel to the Caribbean?

  56. I’m sorry, I just can’t forget the guy that says “We’re here in like, a foreign country, you know. … And it’s dangerous, man!”

    Yes, yes you are. What are you doing there? You see, I’d suspect that you sent yourself there; it’s not like you were flying from Atlanta to Philadelphia with a layover in the Dominican Republic. Maybe you should have brought a raincoat or something.

    And for the record, what Fly Girl said.

  57. perruptor says:

    I’m impressed. 10 whole comments before flygirl showed up to blame the victims. That opened the way for all the other industry apologists to jump in and make it the vacationers fault.

    Ignoring the line “Flights were going in and out” was a nice touch.

  58. Meathamper says:

    @Matthew Hughes: It’s kinda like the episode of a show titled “MILF Island”. It sounded good, until you found out the show was actually 30 Rock.

  59. Consumerist-Moderator-Roz says:

    @Fly Girl: Read the comment code. Comments blaming the victim are tiresome, generally irrelevant, inflammatory (as we’ve seen here) and most importantly specifically not allowed in comments.

  60. incognit000 says:

    I am never getting on an airplane ever again. Ever.

    If I go somewhere, I drive.

    The ONLY thing that will EVER get me on a plane again would be if the executives responsible for the major airlines were publically and brutally killed and their heads put on spikes as a warning to others.

  61. erratapage says:

    Seems to me that the problem is that the consumer can never prove that the cancellation was not due to weather. That means the airlines can decide whether to provide accommodation. I’d like to hear a few stories about how the airline was more than happy to provide a hotel stay. I was given a free night once when my flight was cancelled, but there was no weather anywhere in the country.

  62. Eric1285 says:

    I have to agree with what Fly Girl is saying. It’s not US Airways fault in any way. I’d blame the DR really. They could have at least kept the airport open, although I don’t know what staying in that airport is going to do during a hurricane. It really is nothing more than a straw hut. No air conditioning either.

    Paradise? You’ve got to be kidding me. Outside of the resorts, the DR is NOT a nice place to be. Not unless you want to be robbed of all your possessions.

  63. Tina62374 says:

    I was one of the 275 passengers stranded in Punta Cana. My flight was scheduled to depart at 3:00pm. Up until about 8:30pm we were getting updates about it being delayed. At 9:00pm we were told the flight was cancelled, to pick up our luggage and leave the airport.

    Now bare in mind we are in a foreign country that speaks a different language. We have armed guards surrounding us, because we refused to leave. It’s a dangerous area if you are not on the resorts.To tell 275 people to get out of the airport, with no place to go, is crazy.

    So finally at 11:30pm a U.S Air Rep. decided to grace us with his presence. We were then told there was lodging, and transportation to get us there. The hotel was an hour and forty five min. away from the airport.It’s already midnight by this point, what was the point of us leaving if we had to be back by 6am. Needless to say we were all upset. We were told if we didn’t leave, we would be detained, and refused travel out of the country! Obviously, we all got on the busses.

    So, we are driving about an hour on flooded roads, and come to a road that was completely impassable. Our bus driver then proceeds to back the bus atleast three miles until he was able to turn around. We pull over to the side of the road to wait for the other five busses, and what should pull up beside us? Two truckloads of men. Now, it is pitch black, And you got a busload of tourists on the side of the road. Common sense should tell you how terrified we all were. About 2am we ended up in the parking lot of a resort. We stayed there for an hour and a half, sitting on the bus the whole time. Then we were driven back to the airport, where we stayed on the busses in the parking lot, until 6am.

    This entire time we had no WATER or food. I would say atleast 75% of us were dehydrated.

    I will never go to that Country again. Nor will I fly U.S Air again.

  64. I’ll never fly US Air again. I was on a flight to DCA when at the last minute (we could see the city, runway, etc) we were diverted to Philly, not Dulles, not BWI, but PHILLY! The crew then held us prisoner on the plane for 2.5 hours (without water until a near riot broke out) and so we missed the last possible train to DC, saying that they were “arranging transportation”, which turned out to be school buses that were going to (when they finally arrived) take us to DCA (which closes at 11.30pm) and leave us at DCA, no taxis, no Metro, no nothing, at 4am! By this time, I’d heard enough and made for the nearest Hertz and rented a car, with a couple of other DC bound passengers. I was supposed to have arrived at 8.30pm, and finally got back to DC at just after 5am the next day, no thanks to US Air. In addition to this, I had a monstrous UTI and could NOT get the stewardess to bring any water around while I was trapped on the plane. In the end, threats of a law suit made her bring a few tiny plastic cups of water around. By the time I hit the airport bathrooms in Philly, I was pissing blood.

    Completely furious, I wrote to US Air and was IGNORED! After repeated letters and complaints, they offered (but never sent) a $50 travel voucher on US Air, which I said I’d accept if I got to make their CEO eat the damn thing in front of me.

    @Eric1285: You can say that about most places: been to Detroit lately?

  65. While it’s not USAir’s fault there was a hurricane, I’m a but appalled that airlines and/or airports don’t have contingency plans for these type of situations, especially an airline that flies thru hurricane territory. And that the airport kicked them out knowing they were stranded is just infuriating.

  66. Mike says:

    Hello from PHL (finally). Thanks to everyone (including FlyGirl) for chiming in on this disaster of a trip. I’ll try to do my best to clarify/respond to some of the themes in the comments.

    * Ateabdung is, alas, not an exotic tropical bug, but Blackberry smart texting gone awry.

    * While weather played a role, we were told on the ground that the crew had exceeded its allowable flight time. Again, as one commenter said, the airline industry’s credibility on issues such as this is subterranean. Other flights were indeed taking off and landing.

    * While the entire airline industry is definitely in shambles, US Air is clearly doing its best to accelerate its own demise. While US Air chose to ignore its customers, at least one other airline that cancelled a flight — American — somehow found a way to get an entire planeload of passengers booked for a night at a local resort.

    * I respect FlyGirl’s armchair quarterbacking on insurance (seriously), however, the issue here was one of safety first and foremost. Nobody was being the ugly American in this case (and my radar is usually up pretty high on this one). We were being forced to get out bags and leave the airport. That’s it. That’s the communication. And it was done with armed security standing around us and one traveler being threatened with arrest to make an example of what would happen if we didn’t comply (@Hogan1 guards with firearms are armed in my book, especially when they are pointing at their weapons). Mind you this included children and a couple of elderly.

    * Several commenters have also justly directed much of the problem on the Dominican Republic itself. We found out firsthand what happens when two similarly incompetent organizations collide. One can only assume that the island’s tourism director was enjoying a vacation on an island run by one of his or her more competent counterparts. I did not hear anyone on our flight say they would return to the Dominican Republic. Rather than treat 274 revenue-contributing visitors with a bit of human decency, the Dominican Republic has allowed them (in fact, given them reason to) warn other travelers to avoid the island and its resorts. There have already been 20k+ views of this story on Consumerist; it has also run two consecutive days on the local Philadelphia CBS affiliate (reporters there have told me they have not been able to get in touch with US Airways PR).

    * US Airways reinforced its attitude and policies toward exemplary customer service on our return flight, going above and beyond by saying — I’m still in shock over this one — “We realize some of you have had a bit of an adventure the last couple of days. We’re going to waive the $2 fee and do an old-school beverage service for this flight.” I kid you not.

    * To the best of my knowledge, no passengers have been contacted by US Airways about this issue (myself included).

  67. @Mike: W00t! Free water! And soda too! That’s the best news I’ve heard all week!

    In all fairness regarding weather/crew issues, it’s probably hard to get a fresh flight crew in during a hurricane but of course maybe US Airways should have planned for the possibility of an hurricane. I imagine you’re going to have to be proactive in contacting them. If they’re sticking to the weather story, then I doubt they’re going to contact anyone out of the kindness of their heart.

    But I wasn’t there, so that’s all I’ll say and please ignore it at your pleasure. Glad you made it back OK.

  68. mythago says:

    @Fly Girl: If an airline runs flights into a hurricane-prone area during hurricane season, shouldn’t the airline, too, have some kind of backup plan? If the airline knows it is flying people into a country where the government and airport management is incompetent, hey, might it dawn on them to prepare for that fact? Why are airlines specially exempt from idiocy?

    And you don’t have to tell me how much US Air sucks.

  69. Altdotweb says:

    The solution is to stop flying US Airways and book American.

  70. Fly Girl says:

    @mythago: I’m seriously tired of this topic, so this is the last that I’m going to say on it…

    We pay an airline to get us from Point A to Point B. We *don’t* pay an airline to accommodate us in either points when the shit hits the fan unless, of course, that shit is caused by the airline. A hurricane? Not caused by the airline. Would it have been nice of US Airways to give the passengers a list of hotels nearby? Sure it would have…

    …But Punta Cana is NOT New York City– it’s not as easy as strolling out to baggage claim, finding a hotel shuttle, and crashing for the night. Other than the resort zones, the Dominican Republic is a developing, not first world, nation. That kind of infrastructure just doesn’t exist, and that is not the fault or responsibility of the airline. (And that’s something that people traveling to developing nations need to be prepared for.)

    How could US Airways have better prepared? Built and manned their own airport? Purchased their own hotel? It’s really not fair to expect them to take care of and provide shelter for 274 passengers in the case of a natural emergency. Airlines fly into unsafe places, unstable places, and places with poor infrastructure all of the time. Passengers make the decision to go there, accepting the assumed risk that is involved.

    You can take Royal Jordanian into Baghdad International. There’s obviously not any remaining tourism infrastructure in Iraq. If a passenger gets stuck in Iraq because a bomb dropped on the runway and caused the cancellation of their outbound flight, should Royal Jordanian have planned for that? Should they have a place set up to accommodate the passengers?

    After September 11th, I was stuck in London. It was the end of my tip. I was broke. Naively, I didn’t purchase travel insurance. I was totally screwed and, basically, on the streets for five days while I waited for the skies to reopen and my flight to be rebooked. That was, in no way, Air Canada’s fault. And I didn’t expect them to do a damn thing to help me, other than to tell me when they could get me on a flight back to the States.

    Like other people have said, there probably WASN’T anywhere for them to go– many of the resorts were probably full, there isn’t an airport Motel 6, and there aren’t a lot of other options if staying at the airport isn’t an option. (And staying at that airport was NOT an option– it’s got a thatched roof, fer crissakes.)

    I’ve said it before, but travel insurance is there for a reason. Pretty much every travel insurance policy also includes a 24-7 emergency help desk that will do things for policy holders like find them a hotel nearby when a hurricane is landing and the passenger is stranded.

    Reference: [www.travelguard.com]
    [www.travelguard.com]

    US Airways sucks hardcore, make no mistake about that… This just isn’t an example of their suckiness.

  71. Mike says:

    American had no problem finding and transporting its CUSTOMERS to a hotel. One can only assume that American has a much higher respect and regard for its customers than US Airways does for its.

    That said, please stop the nonsense with the thatched roof being a reason we couldn’t stay. I was there. The storm was long gone by the time we were being removed from the airport. Safety *inside* the airport was not an issue; in fact, it was probably the safest place to be at that point.

    And, lastly, this situation was first and foremost one of passenger/visitor safety, not of entitlement or insurance-based restitution.

  72. @Fly Girl: “We pay an airline to get us from Point A to Point B. We *don’t* pay an airline to accommodate us in either points when the shit hits the fan unless, of course, that shit is caused by the airline. A hurricane? Not caused by the airline. Would it have been nice of US Airways to give the passengers a list of hotels nearby? Sure it would have…”

    So by your logic… if the plane gets caught in a hurricane and crashes at Point B, sending all it’s passengers to a fiery death, it’s done it’s job, case closed?

  73. Wolfey says:

    I was one of the stuck passengers, lucky enough to catch one of the few seats on the 747 the next day.

    The blame here lies with both US Airways and the Dominican Republic.

    Once out flight was canceled we were given no information. The representative told us nothing at first. We were told to get our bags, leave, and they would “call” us somehow magically. Then we were told that all flights were booked and we couldn’t leave till Monday. Then it it was there would be a 747 coming Saturday that could fit some. Off the bat their whole attitude was “sucks to be you guys”.

    Finally, we were told that US Airways was putting us up for the night and at 6 the next morning we could get tickets home. This was about 1030. After getting bags and such, about 11:15 the buses come and we are told that the resort was an hour and forty minutes away. Plus it would be up to us to find a way back. So two hours there, two hours to sleep, then 274 of us get to fight over taxis back. Plus there was 16 of us in my group, quite a bit of money. A lot of us didn’t want to pay that, or couldn’t, so we set up makeshift beds by the ticket counter. Yes, armed guards told us to get on the buses, in fact telling us if we did not, we would be detained and not allowed to leave the country.

    The bus trip was extremely scary. In fact I doubt more and more that there was a hotel and it was an excuse to get us off the property. About an hour into our ride the buses stop and claimed they could not go on because of flooding. The buses then all separated. My bus stopped in the middle of a small village about one in the morning. The bus driver got off and vanished. Suddenly all these men on motorcycles appeared, and a truck dropped a bunch of men off. We are in the middle of nowhere with about 50 people staring at us. We were absolutely terrified they were going to do something. Luckily the driver got on and left. After cruising around for a while we made it back to the airport where we were not allowed to leave the bus. 8 hours on a bus, with no food or water. By the time six rolled around people were sick and dehydrated. I was, and almost passed out twice in the ticket line, had to be walked trough security. And they were so kind as to not hand me a bottle of water till I coughed up two dollars.

    I was one of the lucky few to make it out on that 747. Few did. The rest of my family did not make it home until about two in the afternoon today (Sunday). We were all supposed to be home Friday night. So it was crappy response and communication by US Airways, and inhumane treatment by the Dominican Republic.

  74. Altdotweb says:

    ^^ that’s a bit of a stretch.

    The contract of carriage covers getting you to your destination ALIVE.

  75. mythago says:

    @Fly Girl: If you’re tired of the topic, then don’t discuss it. “This is the last I’m going to say on it” is the Internet equivalent of running up, punching somebody on the arm and shrieking NO TAGBACKS!

    That said, if you pay an airline to get you from A to B. If the airline says “Golly, we’d love to get you to Point B, but this totally foreseeable problem that we, in the business of flying you to Point B, should have anticipated, didn’t actually address! Good luck with that!” then they’re not doing their job. Period.

  76. SutapaJudo says:

    well well,
    i was stranded in the DR when Hurricane george hit, I was flying jetblue and
    they called me about 3-4 hours before my flight and said that it was
    canceled due to weather. Now thats a backup plan. Hotels and resorts get
    news updates when a hurricane is near and they pass that on( at least during
    my stay). If the airline was on top of things, they should have known that
    the hurricane was forming and it should have made plans, specially when they
    know that there are not hotels near by. Blame whoever, since its everyones
    flault. US airways for lacking common fukcking sence, the passangers for not
    calling ahead, and comfirm if he plane was actualy leaving becaus of the
    weather. The airport, for not letting the people stay, but like others said,
    its a shack. the DR is paradise but it comes with its own problems when sit
    hits the fan, Im from there and would not have known what to do, the ony
    thing tha might have gotten me ahead is the language, but thats it.

  77. PierreDunlop says:

    Interesting thread.

    While yes, US Airways does not have to re-imburse the passengers for
    the delay and/or cancellation, their apparent lack of caring is shown
    through the actions of the passengers. Apparently the ground staff in
    the DR was horribly uncaring, and it shows in all the bad publicity
    that US Airways keeps getting. It’s not necessarily what they are
    “required” to do thats annoying people- it’s that US Airways can’t
    even do “what’s right”. Geez, at least help people find some sort of
    accommodations, or if the stupid weather is already being a problem,
    be pro-active and cancel the flight early and have your flight crew
    rest so that when it clears up, you can get outta there ASAP. It
    doesn’t help that this airport apparently has no walls (what the heck
    a Boeing 767 or equivalent plane is doing at an airport like that is
    also bewildering) so the “alternate” accommodations in a Hurricane
    situation was not there. US Airways showed that they don’t really care
    at all. Hence the reason I fly Delta.

  78. johnfrombrooklyn says:

    The argument that US Airways should avoid all blame because it’s not responsible for weather is a shallow one. Passengers flying on an airline, particularly to a foreign country, have mostly zero knowledge on local hotels and transportation. Passengers are completely reliant upon an airline for everything. Since we know that weather is going to cancel flights at times, the airline should be prepared to help its passengers. US Airways knows that weather will affect flights in the DR, it knows that tourist passengers from Philadelphia probably don’t speak Spanish and don’t know anything about the DR, and US Airways (through its position and fees) has a lot more leverage with the DR government and the local airport than Connie from South Philly. So, yes, if weather does affect a flight, then US Airways should still be responsible for offerings its passengers better options than to sit on a hot tarmac under a tent.

  79. johnfrombrooklyn says:

    A $300 r/t ticket and a week in the DR is hardly expensive. I’m surprised you can afford your dial-up expenses.@DogStarMan:

  80. Hogan1 says:

    Okay, I’m confused now. Wolfey states that “Finally, we were told that US Airways was putting us up for the night”. So U.S. Airways did attempt to provide lodging? and “Then it it was there would be a 747 coming Saturday that could fit some.” So they tried to get as many booked as they could out as soon as possible?

    As a consumer it’s always important to hear the entire story from both sides before making a verdict. It was earlier stated that one of the reasons the flight was canceled was due to “pilots exceeding their hours” which was supposedly overheard by someone. I’d like to see these kind of statements confirmed by the airline before using them as an argument.

    Mike) The armed guards were from the airport and had nothing to do with U.S. Airways. Some countries/airports don’t take too kindly to people sleeping in them or even milling around and have rules/laws against it, this is why the guards removed everyone.

    In any case, weather is not something that cannot be predicted with absolute certainty. Airlines cannot be held responsible for trying to provide transportation service that is hindered by sudden changes in weather. If you look at the details of the storm, you’ll see it strengthened abnormally quickly right near the DR. As a few have mentioned earlier, if you fly during Hurricane season it’s common sense to be prepared and to expect the delays. Most likely you won’t have to experience the chaos a Hurricane can bring on travel. If you do run into the situation however, expect a 1-3 day delay in getting home and make sure you have the financial resources to stay an extra few days. If you don’t have the resources, you probably shouldn’t be taking a trip at all. In many cases airlines will help as much as they can but don’t expect free hotels, transportation, and food. It’s simply not their responsibility but it is good customer service if they do.

    I believe people are assigning a far larger portion of the “blame” for this on the airline then they should.

  81. AirliaAjax says:

    I too, plus 11 others in my party, were on this flight back to Philly from Punta Cana. I am amazed and disappointed with some of the responses to our horrendous experience.
     
    We traveled to Punta Cana to attend my son’s wedding.  It was scheduled for the summer to accommodate 3 public school employees.  We did not just purchase a flight ticket; we bought the entire package including hotel and trip insurance through US Airways Vacations. 
     
    On Friday we arrived at the airport at 12:30 for a 3:00 pm flight.  The storm (it was not a hurricane!) set in.  Heavy rains and some wind, the visibility was poor.  There was limited communication, but we were told at one point that our plane couldn’t land and was running low on fuel and was diverted to San Juan to refuel.  We waited and waited to hear more.  American Airlines cancelled its flight and bussed its passengers to a hotel for the night. 
     
    We assumed we would be cancelled and tried calling the airline and the travel insurance but 800 numbers (that is all we had) would not go through.  We called family in the states to see if they could find out what was going on.  I called my travel agent.  They saw online long before we were told that we were cancelled.  I was prepared and had a map of the area with hotels and phone numbers.  By this time it was dark and I called 7 hotels, with no luck, for rooms.  Family at home booked us through hotels.com, but when we called the hotel to confirm before we headed out there they could not confirm a reservation.  It was then announced US Airways cancelled our flight and we were to proceed to baggage to claim our bags and leave the airport because it was closing.  No one from the airline was there, 274 people were stranded.  One thing to add, before US Airways decided to cancel our flight the weather improved and several flights did take off.
     
    Finally it was announced that US Airways was sending busses to take us to a hotel (never told where) for the night but we had to find our own way back in the morning.  That was the last communication.  Armed men escorted passengers to the four busses at 11:00 pm we set out.  We drove around for 4 hours before ending up at 3:00 am in the airport parking lot to sleep on the bus.  No food, no water, no communication from anyone, not even the bus driver said anything.
     
    At 6:00am we got off the bus and went to the ticket counter to be reticketed. Finally 1 worker showed up with 1 working computer to reticket all of us plus the peopled scheduled to fly out that day.  We stood in a chaotic line 5 hours, just barely making our flight, I don’t know if all made it.  There was no organization or system in place to handle the chaos.  More workers showed up but with only one computer they were useless and added to the chaos by trying to help people who cut the line and made their own line off to the side, infuriating those in line. They had to stop to hand write luggage tags!  American Airlines had several ticket agents, computers and zigzag roped lines to maintain order and promptly process its passengers.
     
    US Airways sent a larger plane (wasn’t that nice) and sat us all in the rear of the plane.  It was then announced that they had no food for sale on the flight because of refrigeration and only a limited number of snack boxes.  They started selling them from the front and of course ran out before the people who experienced this nightmare got any.  In my party we had one who was pregnant and the father of the bride with heart problems.   We were all hungry and dehydrated.
     
    When I arrived in Philly I went to the US Airways customer service desk.  I was greeted with expressions that I was obviously interrupting the 4 employees’ conversation.  When I asked for an address to send a customer complaint she just printed out an email.   I then asked for a postal address.  I was never asked what was wrong or if they could be of any help.
     
    I was never so glad to be home!  We all cheered when our flight lifted off!  All of us promised to get our story out.  I will be writing a more detailed letter to the airlines and “cc” it to everyone I can think of.  THINK TWICE BEFORE FLYING US AIRWAYS!
    -L. Babine

  82. pigbearpug says:
  83. DogStarMan says:

    @johnfrombrooklyn: Gee, only 300 bucks. You make that sound cheap. You must be a multi-thousandaire.

  84. Samuelm456 says:

    Flygirl said, “US Airways is my number-one-all-time-least-favorite airline– I love to hate them, even more than I love to hate United– but daaaaaaaamn, what do the passengers expect them to do?”

    First of all, to not boot them out of the airport into a foreign country with no safety protections at all.

    Is that so much to ask? No, U.S. Airways cannot control the weather…nor do I book a hotel room just in case there is one.

    If there are armed guards available to escort people OUT of the airport, for which they paid exorbitant prices to get into, surely there are armed guards availablet to guard THEM, the paying customers, whose lives were put in jeorpardy due to bad planning on the part of the airline.

  85. lbabine says:

    I too, plus 11 others in my party, were on this flight back to Philly from Punta Cana. I am amazed and disappointed with some of the responses to our horrendous experience.

    We traveled to Punta Cana to attend my son’s wedding. It was scheduled for the summer to accommodate 3 public school employees. We did not just purchase a flight ticket; we bought the entire package including hotel and trip insurance through US Airways Vacations.

    On Friday we arrived at the airport at 12:30 for a 3:00 pm flight. The storm (it was not a hurricane!) set in. Heavy rains and some wind, the visibility was poor. There was limited communication, but we were told at one point that our plane couldn’t land and was running low on fuel and was diverted to San Juan to refuel. We waited and waited to hear more. American Airlines cancelled its flight and bussed its passengers to a hotel for the night.

    We assumed we would be cancelled and tried calling the airline and the travel insurance but 800 numbers (that is all we had) would not go through. We called family in the states to see if they could find out what was going on. I called my travel agent. They saw online long before we were told that we were cancelled. I was prepared and had a map of the area with hotels and phone numbers. By this time it was dark and I called 7 hotels, with no luck, for rooms. Family at home booked us through hotels.com, but when we called the hotel to confirm before we headed out there they could not confirm a reservation. It was then announced US Airways cancelled our flight and we were to proceed to baggage to claim our bags and leave the airport because it was closing. No one from the airline was there, 274 people were stranded. One thing to add, before US Airways decided to cancel our flight the weather improved and several flights did take off.

    Finally it was announced that US Airways was sending busses to take us to a hotel (never told where) for the night but we had to find our own way back in the morning. That was the last communication. Armed men escorted passengers to the four busses at 11:00 pm we set out. We drove around for 4 hours before ending up at 3:00 am in the airport parking lot to sleep on the bus. No food, no water, no communication from anyone, not even the bus driver said anything.

    At 6:00am we got off the bus and went to the ticket counter to be reticketed. Finally 1 worker showed up with 1 working computer to reticket all of us plus the peopled scheduled to fly out that day. We stood in a chaotic line 5 hours, just barely making our flight, I don’t know if all made it. There was no organization or system in place to handle the chaos. More workers showed up but with only one computer they were useless and added to the chaos by trying to help people who cut the line and made their own line off to the side, infuriating those in line. They had to stop to hand write luggage tags! American Airlines had several ticket agents, computers and zigzag roped lines to maintain order and promptly process its passengers.

    US Airways sent a larger plane (wasn’t that nice) and sat us all in the rear of the plane. It was then announced that they had no food for sale on the flight because of refrigeration and only a limited number of snack boxes. They started selling them from the front and of course ran out before the people who experienced this nightmare got any. In my party we had one who was pregnant and the father of the bride with heart problems. We were all hungry and dehydrated.

    When I arrived in Philly I went to the US Airways customer service desk. I was greeted with expressions that I was obviously interrupting the 4 employees’ conversation. When I asked for an address to send a customer complaint she just printed out an email. I then asked for a postal address. I was never asked what was wrong or if they could be of any help.

    I was never so glad to be home! We all cheered when our flight lifted off! All of us promised to get our story out. I will be writing a more detailed letter to the airlines and “cc” it to everyone I can think of. THINK TWICE BEFORE FLYING US AIRWAYS!
    -L. Babine

  86. DogStarMan says:

    Whn yr vctn cnssts f kdd pl nd sx pck, ppl gttng stck n xtc lcls dsn’t vn rgstr n yr rdr. Pr rch ppl.

  87. Wolfey says:

    Yes we were told that US Airways got us a resort for the night. I don’t believe that was the truth. They never gave us a name except it was 2 hours away. What resort there magically has 247 rooms open? The roads are bad, but is there only one road that leads to this resort? There was no attempt to find an alternate route there. It seemed like an attempt to get us off the airport, and it worked. In a foreign country we rely on the airlines to help us, they really are our lifeline home. In a country where 1-800 numbers don’t work and the natives just smile and say “yes” to every question you ask, who do you turn to? We were just abandoned.

  88. bwcbwc says:

    @hillsrovey: Well except if the airport is open-air as described, it isn’t a safe shelter during a tropical storm.

    Next time go to Puerto Rico. Plenty of flights out of SJU and it’s a real city, not just a latin disneyworld.

  89. bwcbwc says:

    @AbsoluteIrrelevance: Well, in Punta Cana, booking an extra night may be a viable option. It seems like there aren’t any other alternatives for plan b if things go haywire there.

  90. bwcbwc says:

    @hmk: This is true. Flights typically continue until actual tropical-storm force winds hit the airport. So the truth of the story depends a lot on the timing of when the storm hit. I suspect it was a little of both. If the flight was delayed from another cause that extended into the airport closing, then the armed guards would have been clearing the airport since it wasn’t an appropriate storm shelter.

  91. bwcbwc says:

    @FLConsumer: May through early July. It’s after the high season, but before the hurricane season gets really risky (unless it’s like 2004 and ’05). Same goes for much of Florida too. Orlando is pretty much thunderstorm central every afternoon, so your theme park tickets lose about 25% of their value in July and August.

  92. bwcbwc says:

    @Tina62374: Now this has the ring of truth. I can understand how scary it was. And US Air should’ve done something to get you out of there before 8:30 instead of just kicking you out. But once you were stuck in that country, you were pretty much dealing with a police state trying to maintain order during a natural disaster. So it’s not surprising that they tried to scam you just to keep you quiet until they could get you out of the country.

    I’ll shut up now. Too many posts in a row.

  93. bwcbwc says:

    @bwcbwc: Have to take this one back, since eyewitness testimony states that the storm had already passed. It looks like it was just closing time and everyone just wanted to go home.

  94. Hogan1 says:

    I sympathize with the passengers obviously. It sounds like a mix of mostly storm and DR related bad luck/circumstances (quickly developing storm, road washouts, insufficient lodging in area, bad shelter at airport, guards eager to clear the airport at closing, etc) with a decent side portion of bad customer service and poor planning from U.S. Airways.

    @Samuelm456: This is the false sense of entitlement too many people have. You simply can’t/shouldn’t expect a company you paid a fare to for transportation to sit around, hold your hand, and guard you from all the dangers of the world. People need to stop assuming that they’re not responsible for themselves, their decisions, and their mistakes (in general of course and not implied at this airline debacle or anyone involved in it)It’s kinda like the mortgage bailouts, why should the government and the taxpayers have to bail out people who didn’t read the fine print on their home loans and see that the rates go up after 5 years on their ARM and claim it’s not their fault because there was no one to explain to the contract with pictures, flash cards, and musical accompaniment?

  95. hobbs357 says:

    I was there at the airport in Punta Cana when Fay cancelled my flight also. And yes, I had to find me a place to stay although the airline had arranged lodging at my expense. The reason I found my own was that it was at my cost and the place they were putting us up was too expense for me. It is too bad that some people never grow up and become responsible adults. It was most definately not the airlines problem that a storm caused flights to be cancelled. To those crybabies and other kids at the airport, be a responsible adult and not a child. If you travel and do not plan for contingencies and back-up, you are not being a mature adult. The ladies beside me at the airport had purchased flight insurance. They called they travel company and they found them a room for the night and paid for the cost, because they had insurance. Now, there were no shortages of rooms in the Dominican. It is not like it is peak season. Those that complained just wanted it all handed to them and they did not want to take personal responsibility for themselves. As for the armed guards, writers need to focus and not make issues that are not there. In case you have not travelled in the past 5 years or so, ALL airport guards around the world are armed…so please don’t insult people’s intelligence. As for their behavior, you would not find any US security that is as nice as the security at the Punta Cana airport. They actually want you to come there and not a one of those people ended up in jail, which is well some of them needed to be put and if they had behaved that way in the states would have had a place to stay for the night free of charge..in jail. Again, I was there so don’t blow smoke. Michael Hobbs