US Airways Flight 723: UNKNOWN

In our current culture of fear, it’s no surprise people get worried when loved ones fly. After all, there are breast-feeding mothers with bottled water in them all over our nation’s airports. Not to mention Bonnie Tyler.

So it’s perhaps understandable when Erica, waiting for her husband’s US Airways flight from Philadelphia to Las Vegas, started getting jittery when it was three hours late and he still didn’t phone. Her fears weren’t soothed when she went to check the status on the US Airways site, which told her that while his plane had departed 3 minutes earlier than anticipated, it’s current status was UNKNOWN. Visions of the charred remains of an immolated loved one drifting like snowflakes through sky filled her mind.

Of course, it wasn’t unknown at all… the plane was sitting delayed on the tarmac.

Erica’s email, after the jump.

I’ve been reading your site for a few months and now I need a channel for my rage. My husband flew on a US Airways flight today and he was supposed to land at 1:15PM, my time zone. Air travel being what it is these days, he promised to call when he landed. Well, about 2PM, I started to worry. I hit the US Air website. It said that the flight had taken off 3 minutes before it was scheduled to and had landed exactly on time, although the status was “UNKNOWN”. For the next hour that “UNKNOWN” label, as I refreshed and refreshed, worried me more and more. I’m picturing all sorts of horrible things. Still no call from husband. I start planning my life as a single mother, when finally at 3:20PM, I got a call from him, saying he was finally on the ground. I asked how that could be since he’d taken off on time. He told me that the plane did not leave on time, and that it was about 11AM before they took off.

My beef is with US Air and their misinformation. Call me a worry wart, but if the correct information was on their website, I would not have worried half as much. If the website correctly told me that they had taken off late, I would have expected a later arrival and a later phone call. If the data was old – maybe they only post the info every few hours or something – it still does not excuse the INCORRECT information. And don’t tell me to call US Air. The whole reason the website is there is so that I don’t have to call, and US Air does not have to pay staff to sit on their butts and answer questions like when my husband’s plan has landed. What excuse is there for misleading info? Are they trying to confound the terrorists? They sure confused me. My family regularly relies on airline website information when going to pick up family members at the airport… I guess we can trash that idea. It still bugs me… why have an informative website, and put wrong information on it???…


Edit Your Comment

  1. lpranal says:

    So, wait… rather than be inconvenienced slightly by calling, you would honestly sit there, clicking refresh on an obviously poorly updated website?

    When you visit the weather channel website, only to see that there is “no data available”, do you assume that the skies must be black and filled with fire and brimstone, or stick your head out the window?

    True, something as important as flight status should be a *very* high priority for any airline, but I can’t imagine that relying on any single medium of communication is a very smart idea. If I was remotely worried about someone I cared about, I think taking 5 minutes to check the automated flight status number would be well worth my time.

  2. Hooray4Zoidberg says:

    Aye, don’t ever trust information from US Airways. I had a flight back in May scheduled for 6am, it was cancelled at 4am and by 5PM the website still had it listed as On-Time. If US Airways listed the status as “crashed” it would probalby mean the plane landed safley without incedent and on time..

  3. kerry says:

    I’ve discovered that with some airlines it’s nigh impossible to get flight status over the phone. I had to pick my sister up after she flew on Midwest Air and I wanted to be able to check her flight status on my cell phone during the drive (it was like a 2 hour drive to the airport, so I left only a little while after her plane did. Any in-air delays would be nice to know about before pulling up to the arrivals terminal). I’m glad I called before I left, because you can’t actually get automated info through their system, you have to sit on hold and wait for an operator who basically just looks up the same info they have on the website. I don’t blame Erica for being annoyed, there’s no guarantee that the phone rep would have any additional information or be less of a pain.

  4. There was a great announcement at the gate next to mine earlier this week, something like, “Attention Air Canada Jazz passengers on flight three six eight to Salt Lake City: we thank you for your continued patience during our delay. We’re just waiting for this flight’s crew to arrive. Unfortunately Jazz’s computer systems have been down all day so we have no idea where they are.”

  5. Anonymous says:

    As others said, it’s not uncommon for website data to be out of date. I guess this is news to the writer.

    Maybe his flight left the gate on time, but got delayed for take off, which seems to be pretty common these days.

  6. Mauvaise says:

    From some where in the dim recesses of my mind I seem to recall that airlines consider the time they push back from the gate as their “departure” time, not when they actually lift wheels off the tarmac. Which would explain why your husband’s flight showed leaving three minutes early. Cold comfort now, but something to file away for future reference.

  7. DelayedHubby says:

    I am the delayed-husband in question and I would agree with Mauvaise’s comment if it were not for the fact that we pushed away from the gate, and then returned about 45 minutes later to disembark and get on a different plane. The actual listed take off time should have been the time the second plane pushed away from the gate, or about 10:15. Of course, we then sat waiting to take off on the tarmac for about another 45 minutes…

  8. GenXCub says:

    I do think this is a case of “you should have called them.” Did they have confusing information? Yes. Is that a good business practice? No. The question here is how often do they have incorrect information. If this is not a common occurrence, then calling them would probably get you your information, and then you could let them know about their problem. If it is consistently wrong, then the big complaint up the corporate chain of command can begin.

    I know you wanted to justify your anger at them for putting you through whatever emotions you went through by saying you shouldn’t have to call, but part of being a good consumer is not just complaining about the problems as soon as you find them, it is about finding a complete lack of customer service here. There was never an opportunity given to USAir to remedy the problem. All this was is a mistake, for as far as we can tell. Until there is more evidence to the contrary, just call next time.

  9. Ookseer says:

    My mother told me to never trust what you read on the Internet.

    And she’s never even used the Internet.

    Sometimes, if the airline doesn’t have good flight information, the airport’s web site might have something different. (They’re all using the same information but some web sites update better than others.)

    Also, you can check something like a live flight tracker to see where the plain actually is. If it’s way off course and it’s not moving, then you might want to worry.