Silly Human, U.S. Airways Policies Are Not Based On "Logic"

As a Consumerist reader, Chris really should have known better. He tells Consumerist that he tried to change his US Airways flight reservation due to a change in his plans, but the quirks of scheduling meant that he would end up paying more money to take fewer flights.

I purchased a round-trip ticket through orbitz.com, flying from Pittsburgh to New York, with a layover in Washington D.C. The price I paid for the ticket was $142.80. Today, I had some meetings come up that I need to attend in Washington D.C. My thinking was that it wouldn’t be a big deal for me to skip the Pittsburgh to DC portion of my flight, attend a few days of meetings, fly to NYC and back to DC, and then skip my flight from DC back to Pittsburgh. As I only live a few hours from DC, my plan was to just drive from my hometown into DC and then drive back home. Fortunately, I thought it might be a good idea to call the airline and make sure that nothing strange would happen if I simply didn’t get on the plane in Pittsburgh.

When I called the airline, I was informed that if I did not get on the plane in Pittsburgh, they would void my entire reservation (already bought and paid for) and that I wouldn’t be able to get on the second leg of my flight. I didn’t think that this made any sense at all, so I asked to speak to a supervisor. The supervisor confirmed this policy and I asked to speak to yet another supervisor. Essentially, what they wanted me to do was to pay a $150 change fee and then pay the difference in cost between my original flight and what a flight from DC to NYC costs. This difference amounted to about $75 at the time I checked their website, plus any additional taxes and surcharges. So, to fly half of the distance that I had originally paid for, they want to charge me > $225, on top of the original $142.80 that I paid for my initial itinerary.

The third supervisor I spoke to was based out of Phoenix and said her name was [redacted.] Ms. [redacted] again reiterated their policy and refused to budge or make any concessions, even when I offered to pay the $75+ difference in exchange for them waiving the $150 change fee. No matter how many times I asked for an at least somewhat reasonable explanation, she could not provide one and continually reiterated the policy to me. At this point, I asked to speak to her supervisor to which she replied that she was the highest level supervisor in the Reservations Department and that I would then have to speak to Customer Service. I was told that there is no phone number for Customer Service and that the only way that I could speak to them was via email. This was confirmed on their website (can’t find a 1-800 number for the life of me) and their response time is 5 – 7 business days. My flights are exactly 1 week from today.

I asked Ms. [redacted] for a number at which I could reach her and was informed that she did not have a phone number, despite the her telling me that she was the highest ranking supervisor in her department, the fact that she was speaking to me on a telephone, and that the previous supervisor with whom I had spoken had connected me to her directly. When asked how I had even been able to connect to her and speak to her over the phone, I was told that they simply dialed the number of a supervisor. This tells me that she was not, indeed, the highest ranking person to whom I could have spoken.

After I gave up trying to get a phone number at which I could reach her, I then asked for her employee number and was told that it was ‘EN’. I expressed a bit of disbelief at the idea that a company as large as US Airways would only assign employees a two character employee number, but she assured me that all employees only have a 2 character employee number. Given that US Airways has somewhere in the neighborhood of 36,500 employees, this would be mathematically impossible, as there simply are not enough combinations.

When I pointed this out to Ms. [redacted], she again informed me that all employees only have a 2 character number and that hers was ‘EN’. I told her it was more than slightly suspicious that her employee number was also the first two letters in ‘Employee Number’, but at this point, I was just tired of arguing. I’m sure she was just trying to get me off the phone. I’m also pretty sure that her name isn’t even [redacted].

At this point, the money isn’t really important. Nor is my attendance at the meetings all that important. Really, all I was looking for was to get a question answered and when I didn’t get any reasonable/logical explanations, I suppose I had to keep picking. By the time I reached the third supervisor, I was even willing to compromise and pay the difference in tickets if they would be reasonable enough to waive the $150 change fee.

To be clear, I wasn’t trying to change flight times, airports, or make any upgrades. All I wanted was to simply skip the first leg of my flight and only take the second. I didn’t even ask for any type of reimbursement for not taking the first leg of my flight. The flight is going whether I’m on it or not (believe me, I’ve missed enough flights to know that that is a fact) and their costs are lower as the plane will be lighter. Plus, some lucky passenger would have had an empty seat next to them. It’s really a win/win situation for all. I guess maybe I should just let this go, but no matter how much we as consumers complain, the airlines just keep getting worse and worse, more and more greedy.