Open letter to US Airways

Dear US Airways, I wanted to register a complaint with the level of service that I received for a business trip overseas between May 19th and May 27th. I’ve never had any major issues with flights in the years that I’ve flown with a variety of airlines, but upon each step of the way, I was met with inadequate, unprofessional and poor customer service and organization from your airline, which seriously impacted the trip that I undertook, and ended up costing money that I had not budgeted out for the trip, necessitating several discussions with my bank, landlord and employer, which comes as a serious embarrassment to myself and how I am perceived professionally. I have hoped that in the days since my trip, I would have found some explanation for what I’ve come up against, but I’ve failed to do so: I remain exceedingly angry.

Some of these problems are ones that are excusable due to weather and other extreme problems that cannot be predicted or easily worked around: every step along the way, the people placed into the positions on the ground were the problem.

My first flight was from Manchester’s airport (MHT) to Philadelphia (PHL), on US Airways Flight 3988 on May 19. I arrived at the airport in plenty of time, and waited for boarding, when we were told that the flight was delayed due to an airport closing due to severe weather. The personnel in Manchester were by far the most helpful of the entire trip – they were unable to get a flight into Philadelphia, but they were able to get a flight from Boston to Philadelphia the next day. I missed the next leg from Philadelphia, flight 750, that day. (I believe that it was delayed for the night.) Already, I have missed a day that had been booked at the hotel where I had been booked, which was not recoverable from the hotel.

On May 20, I was forced to arrange three separate car rides from people who generously took time from their day to get me from person to person, and I arrived at the airport on time for the next flight from Boston to Manchester. (The flight is not on my itinerary, and I don’t remember the number – I’m sure that I’m in your records.). I was bumped up from the afternoon flight to the mid-morning flight, and arrived in Philadelphia with no issues.

The afternoon flight from PHL to BRU (Brussels) arrived late, and was further delayed from Philadelphia – US Airways flight 750. The flight itself was comfortable, but a rearrangement of seating meant that the entire airplane had to be reseated, and my ticket didn’t have a seat listed – there was a considerable wait to rebook the flight and to get seats, which caused further frustration amongst my fellow passengers. Here, there was little direction or announcement in the terminal, and had I not asked, I would not have known until the last minute that there would have been an issue. Because of the delay in the aircraft, I missed the last shuttle to my hotel, and I was required to hire a car to get from the airport to the hotel, further cutting into the money that I had budgeted for the trip. I had hoped that I would be away from further problems with flights.

On May 26, for my return, I arrived at the airport early, went through security and arrived in time for projected boarding of my flight. Again, there was little direction broadcast to the passengers in the terminal: orders for boarding by Zone, which resulted in a long line of people unsure of where to go, as many were still getting out of security and had missed the original announcements: Again, had I not asked, I would not have found out what to do. Flight 751 was supposed to take off at 10:45, but several hours later, the flight was still boarding, and a problem had been discovered with the fuel, and there was a considerable amount of time spent waiting for the final checks. We were soon ordered off the plane and to return a short time later, as a part was being replaced. Several additional announcements were made throughout the afternoon as to the status of the airplane, and by 3:30 or so, we were permitted to reboard: we did so in ten minutes, with the understanding that if the plane did not push off at 4:10 in the afternoon, the crew would be grounded. 4:10 came and went, and we were once again ordered off the plane. Many wondered why there was such a delay in getting the passengers onboard and with the crew’s readiness at the same time: it seemed like a poor use of time. I would have happily sat on the plane for extra time (if we’d been seated earlier) to accommodate the crew. Indeed, we were not even informed that the flight would not take off: we saw the 1st class passengers getting up to leave. The aircraft staff were extremely unhelpful.

From this point on, I found the biggest failures in your organization: there was absolutely no direction from the flight crew and US Airways airport staff as to what the next steps were. We were told to report to the desk. There were no instructions for baggage, and a number of people waited at the carousel for bags that simply didn’t come. The contractor in charge of the bags informed me that I had to check out with the US Airways desk, and that I would be able to collect the bags afterwards, a half-hour later. Moving upstairs, we came across a line that was four hours long. By the time that I had gotten off the airplane and through the line, I had spent 5 hours – 5 HOURS – waiting for more information. I did not know if I would be able to get a place to stay for the night, when my next flight would take off and what to do next. A fellow passenger in line, Eric Stoltz, found that his bags (he was moving back to the US, and had 6) were left unguarded and unsecured downstairs, and I retrieved mine, quickly. Anybody could have walked into the room and picked up what was mine. This was unacceptable.

After four hours in line, around 9:30, we were given vouchers for a nearby hotel, and caught the last shuttle to the hotel, hoping to get dinner before their restaurant closed for the night. If they had not held their doors open, we would not have eaten at all.

The next morning, more problems surfaced. I arrived with my fellow passengers the next morning, we were again confronted with a multiple hour line as the computer system was down, and we were left waiting, once again, with no explanation as to the delay. I heard passengers yelling, and there was a lot of frustration on our part. Getting through line and through security, the flight was once again delayed from 10am to 1pm, where we were informed that the aircraft had undergone further repairs. We had been under the impression that the flight had been fixed, and that the flight would be safe: my faith in the mechanical abilities of the aircraft was now shaken: if the crew had claimed that the plane was safe to fly last night, why had they continued repairs, and were their claims honest the second time around? The flight did indeed take off, but with a revised landing time: 3:30, when my next, rescheduled flight would be boarding. I would still have to go through security, immigration and put my bags through, then go from A to F terminal. The staff on the airplane were once again extremely unhelpful, and did not put my mind to ease when I asked them what to do next: I was essentially told that I would miss my flight and that I’d have to be bumped again. Given that we landed at 3:00 and that I’d gotten out of security by around 3:30, I most likely could have made my flight.

Getting off the plane, we came across a table with people who had missed connections. Once again, there was no indication of this from our flight crew, and people easily could have missed it. When Flight 751 landed, two people manned the desk, and displayed the more inappropriate and rude behavior that I’ve seen all trip. They shouted at the passengers, were incredibly rude to myself, and according to my fellow passenger Erik, slapped his hand away when he saw his name. This is unacceptable for an organization that interfaces with customers. I was shocked, and stunned, that after the past couple of days, we could come up across something like this. I can understand shouting to be heard over noise, but this was different altogether: these two individuals were rude and abrasive, and should be fired.

Indeed, I had also been bumped from my flight, from the 4:00 to Manchester to the 6:15. I went through security and passport control and waited for my flight – we were bumped to another gate, and by our boarding time of 5:45, our flight crew had not shown up, although the person at the desk informed us that they were in the building. Our flight was to depart at 6:15, and our pilot and crew only showed up at that point, where we had to wait further for them to prep the cabin. We boarded, and had to wait 20 spaces on the tarmac for our turn to take off. This normally wouldn’t have been a problem, but our plane had been turned off, and until we were in the air, we were told, the air conditioning would be ineffective – it was 80-90 degrees outside, and extremely warm. The flight attendant did hand out water, but came very close to running out. By the time that we had taken off, we were already extremely late, and landed in Manchester around 8 or shortly thereafter. On top of all this, my ride, who had been watching the website for updates, noted that the flight was still registered as not having taken off by the time we landed, and I had to wait for them to pick me up – they were embarrassed to have left me hanging.

In short, I held boarding passes for nine flights: every single one was cancelled, delayed or changed, with considerable problems along the way. Why, in Brussels, did we have to wait by an entire row of empty consoles to reach a desk that was staffed by two people for over 200 passengers. Why were we not given clear instructions on where to go, and why does there appear to be no contingency plan for unexpected problems such as these on your part, causing a major disruption in the plans for your customers? I hold a customer service-oriented job, and had I caused a comparable problem in my own company, I would have been fired. Why were your personnel in Philadelphia, greeting Flight 751, so abusive and rude to us? Why does it appear that your company has such a low expectation of your customers that you treat them as such? I sincerely want answers to these questions, so that I can understand what I went through over the course of my travels with your company. I have trouble imagining that I will ever willingly fly US Airways again, because of this experience, and I believe that I am either owed an explanation or my money back for the work time that I missed, and the money that I had to expend above and beyond what was budgeted. I certainly did not receive the value that I expected – and have received, from your competitors – indeed, I did not get what I paid for, as I was not delivered to either Brussels nor Manchester on time. I expect some problems when it comes to air travel, but not to this magnitude.

Please let me know if you have any questions. I look forward to your e-mail and explanations.


Andrew Liptak