It sounds like someone at Ronald Reagan National Airport decided to solve an overbooking problem by cheating Frankie’s girlfriend out of her flight, and then someone else there decided to blame her for it. Despite arriving at the airport before 7pm for a 7:35pm flight, they insisted to her that she’d missed the 30-minute cutoff and lost her seat.
On May 18, 2009 I drove my girlfriend to Ronald Regan National Airport (DCA) to drop her off for her 7:35pm flight to Tampa, FL. I live about 10 miles from the airport and we were not anticipating any traffic, but a car accident held us up a bit. We arrived at the airport and parked at 6:48pm. We were in no hurry because it is typically very quick to check in and get to your gate at DCA. We got out, got her bags, and walked to the check-in counter.
By the time we arrived there it was nearing 7PM. My girlfriend tried to check-in using the computer, but it kept telling her that no seats were available. After two tries I assumed that she must have been doing something wrong, I fly U.S. Airways regularly for both business and pleasure and have never had any issues checking in. I attempted to check her in and got the same result.
It said to notify one of the staff members there. There were two staff members standing right next to us chatting, one male and one female. I politely disrupted their conversation to inform them of the issue. I explained the error and the female staff member said to “just press continue”. I informed her that there was no option to continue, only an option to start over. She argued that there was a continue button and I stated that there was not. She then, seemingly annoyed, came over to do it herself. She got the same error and then said that my girlfriend had missed her flight.
I argued that was impossible because the plane was still there. She then stated that it was U.S. Airways policy that they give your seats away to other passengers if you are not 30 minutes early. I argued that we were certainly more than thirty minutes early. After wasting several minutes of valuable time arguing with me she stated that “as of right now, you are three minutes late of thirty minutes”. I was furious.
She said that she would get my girlfriend onto the next flight to Tampa which wasn’t until the following morning. We cooled off and realized that there was little we could do, this woman obviously doing everything she could to be as little to us as possible. She told us the flight time, 8:40am, and then in a condescending tone told us to “make sure that you are here thirty minutes early this time, which will be at 8:10am”.
There was no mention of any additional money or fees, but the following day my girlfriend found that she had been charged $120 additional on her credit card for the new flight.
I know that she was a victim of overbooking and the airline profitted more that twice from her. They sold too many tickets, making more money than the plane was able to carry passengers. Essentially, selling her seat twice. Then, when she arrived late they charged her for another seat on the new flight.
Is there even anything that we can do to fight back?
You can contact US Airways and ask them to at the very least credit your girlfriend the $120 additional fee that they should have never charged in the first place. If you have any sort of documentation that proves your case, like a parking ticket with a timestamp on it, send a scan of that too. You may also want to emphasize that you’re a repeat customer who uses this airline frequently, and that you’d hate to have your opinion of them diminished because they ripped off your girlfriend and lied to her.