Avoid US Airways' Trans-Atlantic Flights

Joe Brancatelli, travel columnist at USAToday, thought it was strange that US Airways was offering a 20% discount on their international business class flights. So he tried to figure out why. Here’s what he found:

Even your ever-skeptical columnist was shocked at what I found: a near-collapse of the day-to-day operations of US Airways’ Philadelphia-based trans-Atlantic service. Even by this summer’s reduced standards, the operation that US Airways runs between Philadelphia and Europe is shocking.

How about 17% on-time departures from Philadelphia to Glasgow between June 15 and August 15? Or 24% on-time between Philadelphia and London/Gatwick during the same two-month period. Try two in three flights late to Madrid. In fact, all of US Airways flights to Europe except for one are below the atrocious industry on-time average of just 68%.

You might want to spend some extra money to avoid US Airways if you’re flying to Europe. Actually, you might want to just avoid US Airways altogether. Here’s how Joe ends his column:

In the two years since the US Airways-America West merger, US Airways management has proven in a hundred–nay, a thousand–ways that it does not give a damn about its customers, its product, its employees or its reputation. You don’t really think they care about the state of its European operation, do you?

After all, the bosses sit in corporate headquarters in Tempe, Arizona. They’re not going to Europe. For that matter, they don’t go to Philadelphia all that much, either.

U.S. Airways tanks across the pond [USA Today]


Edit Your Comment

  1. jamar0303 says:

    I haven’t really had problems with them… then again, I was going Nashville-DC-Boston, hardly anything exciting. I still wish Virgin America would get going and add some more routes.

  2. crnk says:

    And are there less delays out of the DC or NYC area? Sure, I care about getting there, but leaving 20 minutes late on those flights is to be expected, and can easily be made up in flight.
    So I’m not sure how flights not on time translates into a “near collapse”. When I think of companies like Countrywide Financial, who just needed a $2b to keep them stable.

    and PS…good job with pushing the blame around…one week, it is about how the FAA doesn’t have enough staffing and it is backing up flights at major airports, the next, and US gets blamed for not sending them out on time.

  3. aviationwiz says:

    I flew US in February, and they honestly were’t too bad, albeit, these were flights on the America West side. On Time flight from MSP-PHX, and about 30-45 minute late departure out of PHX coming back. The only annoying part of that delay was that it kept displaying as on time up until the scheduled deparutre time on the flight status monitors, so I ran back to the gate to catch my flight from wandering around the terminal, only to find there was no actual aircraft there yet!

  4. Hawkins says:

    From my direct observation, “near collapse” is correct.

    In thirty years of flying I have never seen anything like the chaos at the Philadelphia hub a week ago, returning from France. To get from the customs to check in for domestic flights, for example, passengers were herded through the parking garage, down three flights of stairs (the elevators were broken). Imagine your grandmother trying to get her two suitcases down a narrow, dark concrete stairwell.

    Far from helping, the US Airways staff simply screamed at the passengers, providing contradictory instructions and abuse.

    “Just drop your goddamn bags in this pile!”

    “All bags must be re-checked! If you leave your bags in the pile they’ll be removed and destroyed!”

    Nobody knows what to do or where to go, so the crowds get more massive, as the moving sidewalks push more people into the mass. People were jumping over the rail of the people mover to avoid being crushed.

    Cattle? No, cattle are treated, generally, with far more respect, and concern for physical safety than US Airways international passengers in Philadelphia.

    Never again in a million years. “Collapse” is correct.

  5. bonzombiekitty says:

    @jamar0303: It’s not up to Virgin America to add more routes. That’s up to the FAA. VA wants to add routes, but can’t just yet.

  6. cliffb says:

    To be be fair to the current US Airways management, when US Airways and America West merged the then America West, now current US Airways management identified Philadelphia as an operation that had been neglected under the old US Airways management and was in need of much work. They’ve been pouring money into it since, and probably will still pour more money into it.

    Sure, it isn’t fixed, but they know there is a problem there and are throwing resources at it.

  7. cliffb says:

    VA can add whatever routes they want in the US. (With the exception of those few slot controlled airports.) They’re fully certified and already flying and under no restrictions from the FAA.

    The old days of applying for and getting approval for domestic routes are long long long gone.

  8. chili_dog says:

    PHL sucks. It sucked since the day they broke ground and it will suck till the day some disgruntled employee burns it to the ground. US Airways has always had a problem in that hub and it will never change because the culture reflects the people employed there. They hate you (the customer) and that is endemic to the Philly attitude.

    Although I really don’t understand why anyone is suprised. US Air/America West was a merger of 2 bad airlines; a negative times a negative doesn’t make a positive in business.

  9. celyn says:

    And let’s not forget the lost luggage rate– 4 times higher for the Philly operation than for the airline as a whole, and US Airways already has the worst lost luggage rate of any major US carrier. Based on the statistics I could find, it looks like US Airways in Philly is responsible for about 1/3 of the average daily lost luggage rate nationwide.

  10. uricmu says:

    USAir used to have a very decent hub in Pittsburgh, since the airport is not particularly busy and since it’s far enough from the usual mess that is the Northeast air corridor. After all, many airlines have hubs in the midwest. Delta uses Cinci, for example.

    But USAir wanted some of the lucrative Northeast traffic, and they picked one of the already busiest airports possible. I avoid PHL like the plague.

  11. Marce says:

    This isn’t at all new to me–my classmates and I missed an entire day in Paris because US Air couldn’t be bothered in 1999. (Our French teacher had been a flight attendant and said that the non-luggage weight was too high or somesuch; they made a passenger get off instead. We missed our Philadelphia connection, but our luggage made it to Paris before us just fine. Thanks SO much, US Air.)

    Never flying with them again.

  12. I flew US Airways from Columbus, OH to Paris via Philly earlier this summer and everything seemed fine. The flights were all on-time except my connection between Philly and Columbus on the way back. As a seasoned traveler, I was prepared for some delays but overall it really wasn’t bad at all.

  13. SodeDogg says:

    I feel that for anything close to an enjoyable experience crossing the pond, these days you have to go with a European carrier. At least they make it pleasant until you are herded into US customs on the return.

    Oh, and Philly airport sucks.

  14. mkguitar says:

    Frequent “victims” of US Air approach the airline through http://www.ffocus.org

    It has been an organised way to get customer complaints to US.

    I was long a happy flier on America West. They made a huge mistake in merging with US.


  15. These Philly airport/USAirways stories are scaring the shit out of me. We just bought $400 tix to Kansas City from Philly for Christmas, because our normal Continental flight from Newark-KC was going to cost $900. (We live in Princeton, so both are an hour’s drive away.) Should I cancel? This is freaking me out.

  16. GuruSteve says:

    If I had any business skills at all I would try to get some venture capital and start up a Zeppelin Transportation Company.

  17. patchmonkey says:

    You’re pretty much fine as long as you don’t fly USAir. USAir is the worst – Air Canada out of Philly was fine, Delta was fine, Southwest is fine…US Air is crapola.

  18. sardonicbastard says:

    I can truly say that I’m a statistic- I flew to Dublin on US Airways on June 15th, and our plane sat on the tarmac for nearly 90 minutes before we actually left. Fortunately for us, the pilot made up a bit of time in the air and we arrived only 45 minutes late… but I guarantee you I’ll never be flying US Airways again.

  19. bedofnails says:

    Great, I have a US Air LAX to Dublin flight in October I booked for a touring band under $500/per – guess I now know why…

    …holding breath.

  20. bedofnails says:


    My new invention called the “IT” will revolutionize travel.

    Just insert this here…

  21. Xkeeper says:

    My USAirways (or whatever it was back then, considering it was a mix of both) experience was pretty bad a year ago (farthest back seat, overbooked, huge mass of people waiting in line for the bathrooms even during turbulence), not to mention horribly uncomfortable seats.

    Southwest was a lot better in that respect. Much more comfortable seats, organization, a pilot who actually communicated, and not only that, but we arrived early both ways.

    Needless to say, USAirways is a massive, collapsing joke.

  22. Mach5 says:

    My girlfriends’ entire family has been screwed by US Air out of PHL:

    – Coming back from St. Kitts to PHL with a stopover in Charlotte, her families luggage was lost for 2 days. There was literally days worth of luggage just piled up in a corner, with no one watching it, cameras, guitars, etc etc.
    – Her sister coming back from St. Kitts (a different time), had her luggage lost, and when she finally got it a WEEK later, it had been completely rifled through (nothing was taken).
    – Her other sister had HER luggage lost for 2 days as well.

    Never fly USAir.

  23. bchains says:

    Philly indeed sucks for USAirways. My 45 min flight to DC was canceled due to the crew reaching their “duty time” limit while we sat on the runway for 1.5h dicking around. So everyone offloads and gets in line for a next-day rebooking with the help of 1 (one!) CS rep. USAirways offered a free bus ride (sans luggage) to DC, but for only 60 people from a packed A320 (capacity 150), so it was fun to watch the mad dash down the hallway..unbelievable. I changed my return flight to the next day and got a room for the night knowing that I would miss my meeting in DC. Amazingly my reimbursement for $170 arrived in the mail today.
    The best part about the experience is that when, the next morning, I got in line to check in on my flight back home (missed my meeting of course) the horrible/rude CSR had no record of my new return flight and tried to sucker me for a change fee. I fought and she rebooked peacefully.

    FFFFFFFFFFFFFFF USAirways and Philly. If it weren’t for the steaks, I’d never go back.

  24. jamar0303 says:

    And for another thing, I wish that they would make more airports international. Letting all the load fall on the coasts and Chicago will cause even more problems in the future.

  25. Onouris says:

    Great -___- I’m flying both US Airways and through Philly in 7 days. Dreading the bloody thing now. Can just imagine having 2 pairs of freaking clothes for 3 months.

  26. Major-General says:

    @jamar0303: Not likely, given that 2/3 of the US population lives basically within a two hour flight from ORD, STL, or MEM. That’s about as far inland as the east coast will go. But then there is DEN or now SLC… of course, I live in LA, so I don’t particularly like the idea of flying for an hour and a half then changing planes.

  27. Hell, we are flying USAirways from Philly at Xmas. Maybe we’ll condense our stuff and take one bag we can check at the gate. We flew from Philly to Louisville, KY, last spring for a wedding (can’t remember the airline now), and had no problems with our one bag.

  28. vanostra says:

    I don’t understand how or why folks still make excuses for the airlines…like many of the other commentators on this story do. No airline customer should expect or defend consistent delays….whether they be 20 minutes or 12 hours. The simple reality is that the airlines have cut staff significantly, shrunk their planes from large jets to smaller ones, reduced the number of routes they fly, consolidated many of their businesses, and raised prices. It should be no surprise that this had led to horrendous service and, as consumers and customers, we should not be ‘fine’ with this scenario. When more than 1 in 2 flights leaves late, the system is broken – period. To make matters worse, this rather simple metric – late flights – fails to take into considersation the wide range of additional problems….bad/rude service, dirty planes, lost luggage, packed airports, increasing prices, a total lack of customer service training, inexperienced pilots, aging fleets, fewer in-air amenities, and so on. There have always been thuderstorms, and the air traffic control system has worked well for decades – the variables are the business practices of the airlines…not the weather or air traffic control. Why, why, why would anyone, who wasn’t an airline shareholder or executive, defend such a dismal state of affairs?

  29. AlphaTeam says:

    I was looking at deals for a domestic flight and US Airways popped up and it seemed decent. Luckily I didn’t book it. Instead I chose JetBlue. They have great service, people are courteous, and not mention the nice seats (w/ TV). They may cost more sometimes, but good service results in me less caring about the slightly higher fare.