Today's Kick in the Ass goes to USAirways. I've used them more than any other airline over the past 20 years. I've got enough miles with them that I've gotten 3 first class upgrades. But yesterday we parted ways. Here's what happened.
5:30 AM, Thursday December 18th I woke up and started getting ready got a series of job interviews.
I had gotten up at 5:00 Am for a job interview, was interviewed all day and then got to the Birmingham airport at 5PM for a 7 o'clock flight to head home.
7:00 PM An announcement was made that our plane would be 15 minutes late due to fog in Charlotte NC.
7:30 PM An announcement was made that our plane would be 30 minutes late due to fog in Charlotte NC. I felt a little sick from not eating. That’s ok, I’d be home in 6 hours. Maybe.
8:00 PM The plane departed Birmingham en route for an hour flight to Charlotte.
10:30 PM After circling Charlotte, the pilot announced, “Sorry folks! Charlotte is fogged in and we’re going to Columbia SC”
11:00 PM The plane landed in Columbia SC and the pilot announced, “I’m still trying to talk the airport into letting us get off the plane. Thank you for your patience!”
You betcha! After all, where would we go anyway?
12:30 AM Friday December 19th, we were instructed to get o the plane and walk across the tarmac, into the terminal, “Where our bags would be brought to us…” This would be the last time we would hear or see any of the flight crew again. We walked about 300 yards across the tarmac to the terminal.
1:00 AM We searched the airport for any USAirways employee for some instruction on what would become of us. Someone finally cornered a USAirways employee at the ticketing counter. She told us, “Buses and taxis will drive you to Charlotte where you may get flights to your final destinations! But before I can let you on a bus, you MUST have your luggage.” I congratulated her on her choice of words, “final destinations”. After much complaining from what was now around 1000 stranded passengers from several planes unable to reach Charlotte, she told us our bags would be in baggage claim.
1:30 AM The baggage carousel finally puked up our bags and we ran upstairs to find a line of hundreds of people all in line at the USAirways counter where 1, yes ONE agent was glad to assist.
3:15 AM Another USAirways employee, a man in business attire arrived to help. He did not help with ticketing, he just told us things like, “Y’all, we’ll eventually get y’all home” Hey, thanks dude!
3:20 AM The guy in the suit announced, “Folks, I know this line is long and I know you’re all anxious to get home but good news! At 4:30 the USAir counter officially opens and there will be 3 more agents arriving to help!” Dude, you kick ASS!
4:29 AM Standing behind the USAir counter listening to the grumblings of what was still about 300 or so very angry travelers, and watching their watches, so they could begin assisting at EXACTLY 4:30 AM.
4:30 AM Three more USAir agents step to their posts behind the counter and begin ticketing the now arriving NON TICKETED CUSTOMERS, the folks that had slept in their own beds the night before, still leaving only one agent to assist the passengers such as myself, form the diverted flights of the night before.
6:00 AM I finally got my new ticket! I could get on the 10:00 AM flight to Charlotte, then the 11:30 AM to Pittsburgh. I thought, “OK, this sucks, but it could be worse. I was right.”
10:00 AM still in Columbia, a city I had not planned on visiting this trip. Attached to my gate, surprise, surprise, was no plane. I approached the USAir counter, now sore and sleepy, my 29th hour with no sleep. They told me the flight would be 30 minutes late, but should still get me to Charlotte in time to make my connection to Pittsburgh.
10:10 AM The announcement came over the PA - "Sorry folks! We're just waiting for a crew to arrive for this flight."
10:15 AM Again over the PA - "Attention, will the flight crew for flight 6901 please report to the gate." I looked over at the food court and saw a crew waiting in line to get coffee. Surely yhis was not our crew!
10:16 AM Again over the PA - "Attention, will the flight crew for flight 6901 please report to the gate."
10:17 AM Again over the PA - "Attention, will the flight crew for flight 6901 please report to the gate." And now that flight crew standing in line starts making their way over to us. People were outraged! They started yelling at them, "Oh GREAT! We're waiting for them to get their f*&king coffee!" Sure enough, that was our crew!
10:30 AM Boarding began of this “10 o’clock” flight. The usual announcement was made about boarding by zones to help speed up the process, but most of the people had been there in line all night and were as mad as I was and so everyone just flooded the door. USAir did nothing about this – they just grabbed the boarding pass of whoever came first. Then we had to walk outside and across about 200 yards of tarmac to the plane, which slowed things down. Then they had to stop the process while one guy had to be taken off the plane. On the plane we were greeted by comments from the flight crew such as, “Wow, such long faces! We realize some of you didn’t get much sleep last night, and we sympathize with you. You know, WE had a long day yesterday also! We’re only allowed to work a 15 hour shift according to law, but we worked 18. There’s nothing we can do about bad weather”
Wow USAir, you know what? I couldn’t give a shit about your long day which ended in a hotel room. And I sure as shit do not need your sympathy. What I DEMAND is your empathy because you do not seem to appreciate how bad you are running things.
Long story short, we were not in the air until 11:10 AM.
11:30 AM the plane reached the gate at Charlotte just as my Pittsburgh connection was leaving. Now I am getting very, very angry. I was directed to the USAirways Special Services desk. Getting there ahead of me were others who had lived through the Columbia fiasco. The man behind the desk grabbed my existing ticket and after going through a few screens handed me a ticket and said, “You’re on standby for the 1:00 PM flight to Pittsburgh”
I said, “Standby? Is that the best you can do? I was part of the Columbia fiasco last night”
He got mad and said, “Sir we can do nothing about the weather. You weren’t the only one who got rerouted”
I said, “I understand that. I saw several planes and about 1000 unfortunate passengers. I do not have a problem with the decision made to not land in Charlotte last night. I DO have a problem with how you handled things after At that that. Our flight crew abandoned us, not giving us any direction on what to do after we were deplaned. Then a thousand of us stood in line all night. We did not sleep on the floor or in a chair. We held our luggage in line all freakin’ night. I was ticketed at 5:30 AM because there was only ONE agent at your counter.”
At this point they got made at me and I moved on to the gate. At the gate I told the agent I had never been on standby and asked her how it worked. After she explained I said, “OK, well if I do get on this flight that will mean it took you 19 hours to get me from Birmingham AL to Pittsburgh PA.” By this time the USAirway staff had heard so many complaints that they stopped listening and she offered no reply. At 1:00 PM my name was called and I did get on board. With just a few more delays in the process, we touched down in Pittsburgh at 2:30 PM. So it did take them 19 hours to get me home. By the time I got home I could barely walk form being awake 35 hours, most of that time carrying tow pieces of luggage. Way to go USAirways!
This is the first thing I'm posting in my anti-USAir internet campaign. I'll keep you posted as to how USAir responds.