TUCSON, ARIZONA -- The following is a letter I wrote to the CEO of the Tucson airport after a US Airways supervisor falsely and cynically accused me of threatening her.
Ms. Bonnie Allin
Tucson Airport Authority
7005 S. Plumer
Tucson, AZ 85756
Dear Ms. Allin:
This is a long letter, but before dismissing it you may want to go to your computer, go to this link (http://edition.cnn.com/2007/US/10/04/airport.death/), and watch Carol Anne Gotbaum, a lone woman, being tackled by several policemen at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport on September 28, 2007. This woman died while in police custody at Sky Harbor Airport. This is the image and story that my friends, from San Francisco to New York, have of Phoenix Sky Harbor. Then, take the time to read my somewhat lengthy narrative about my experience at Tucson International Airport (TIA).
Yesterday, Saturday, August 9, 2008, a US Air employee, Wendy, tried to use the TAA police force to punish me for expressing a legitimate grievance. My domestic partner, Timothy Taylor, was flying back to Wichita, KS, to visit his brother who is terminally ill with a malignant brain tumor. Like most working people, Tim had only a few days to see his brother and this time was valuable. Unlike most people, Tim has severe, adult-acquired hearing loss which is partially alleviated by a cochlear implant. However, his hearing is not good enough to negotiate difficult situations or to hear announcements made over loudspeakers in areas of high ambient noise like airport terminals.
Tim had a seating assignment from Tucson to Phoenix on US Airways, but could not get a seating assignment online from Phoenix to Wichita the evening before his flight. We suspected the flight was oversold. We drove to the airport early to obtain a seating assignment and I spoke with the US Airways staff as Tim has a communication disability. He frequently misapprehends what has been said to him, especially if the context is unusual or uncommon.
At the US Airways ticket counter, Jessica informed us that Tim could not get a seating assignment in Tucson; rather he would have to fly to Phoenix to get his seating assignment. I asked why this was so, and Jessica replied that the flight might be oversold. There was no offer to reschedule the flight from Tucson, and the implication was he had to fly to Phoenix and take his chances or lose his ticket. This was accompanied by a disparaging remark about the ticket being purchased through Priceline.com.
I told Jessica that Tim would not be able to hear announcements regarding flight status and possible standby arrangements. Still, Jessica did not have the authority to obtain Tim a seating assignment, so I asked to speak with her supervisor, Wendy, who supposedly had the authority to assign Tim a seat. Jessica made the first call to Wendy a 3:10 PM. After a second call and waiting 20 minutes I told Tim to catch his flight and text message me if things went wrong. Only then did Jessica think to write up a notice of disability to alert Phoenix US Airways staff of Tim’s communication difficulties.
Since I had already waited twenty minutes I asked Jessica to place a third call to Wendy, and Wendy arrived a 3:35 PM spoiling for a fight. Without giving a blow by blow description, our interaction resulted in my fleeing the airport with Wendy chasing me down. The TAA police officers who determined that I had done nothing wrong, Officers Losada and Summer, sent me on my way shaken and disillusioned.
Late yesterday afternoon, when safely in my own home out of TAA police jurisdiction, I called the TAA police at 5:40 PM to inquire whether Wendy had committed assault. I was told an officer would call me back. At 6:24 PM, I called back and was put through to Corporal Neil Brown. We discussed whether Wendy’s actions had risen to the level of assault, and he took down my statement and assigned a case number A08080110.
I called the airport police again on Sunday morning, August 10, 2008. I talked with Sergeant Furgeson (sp?) Sgt. Furgeson explained that airline and rental companies involving the TAA police force in disputes was common at TIA, and it was often unwarranted. Further some airline employees were frequent callers for police assistance in situations that do not warrant police involvement. (The TAA police were, on the whole, balanced and professional. They were surprisingly forthcoming, but I know how to chat people up.)
Sgt. Furgeson characterized the incident involving Wendy from US Airways and me as a misunderstanding, perhaps a situation that got out of control. I think she believes that to be true. However, that is not my analysis or my perception.
My perception is that Wendy, the US Airway supervisor, was angry that I had the audacity to ask to see her. That I had the temerity to have her subordinates call her three times. She was fuming because I had the endurance to wait twenty-five minutes and not walk away angry and impatient. She was furious and determined to act punitively, even if that action required deception and false accusation. Why do I come to this conclusion? There are several reasons.
She did not go to the staff side of the counter; rather she walked up to me on the passenger side of the counter and stood uncomfortably close to me. Could she address my problem without the use of a computer terminal? Her demeanor was hostile and aggressive. Wendy’s statement that “she didn’t like my attitude” was both condescending and irrelevant. This statement was meant to provoke. When I told her that if my partner were to be stranded in Phoenix I would write letters of complaint with her as the primary focus, she cynically chose to characterize this as a threat.
When she asked me, “are you threatening me,” I knew this was a thinly veiled attempt to construe this as a threatening situation: it was a set-up.
When I replied, “I am not threatening you physically, I am threatening to write letters,” I was purposefully dispelling the notion of physical threat. Perhaps if I had been more quick witted I would have said that I was informing her of the consequences of her poor customer relations. In any case, it was clear that there was no physical threat.
However, Wendy, unable to accept that I would not fall into her trap, decided to act as if I had: she screamed for the police, and because she was so threatened (I am being facetious) she followed me without police escort outside the building and several hundred yards down the sidewalk toward the street while I repeatedly told her that I was walking away and I wanted her to leave me alone. In between screaming for help she spokes less audible remarks of “getting me.” Her actions were deliberate, cynical, and calculating.
When threatened, I and most people try to distance themselves from the person who is threatening. Wendy’s choice to follow me, hounding me down the sidewalk towards traffic, was not the choice of a threatened person. It was the choice of a disgruntled, angry person who wanted to cause me harm. My question is why did she feel the airport police (or security) would back her up?
What is the institutional culture of the TIA and how did this contribute to her libelous accusations? Again, Sgt. Furgeson told me that this type of incident, airline and rental car company employees calling the police to resolve customer conflict is common and that seldom does the dispute rise to the level of criminal threat. Further, Sgt. Furgeson told me that some employees routinely call security to resolve what should be resolved with good customer relations.
If this is routine, apparently there is no repercussions for those employed at the airport that make hyperbolic accusation and use airport police as de facto goons. Has airport security replaced the railroad goons of the 19th and 20th centuries? Are airports, including the usually friendly Tucson airport, virtual police states where legal and legitimate disputes are resolved with the threat of police force? This kind of behavior would not shock me in Newark, but it shocks me in Tucson.
After speaking with Corporal Brown and Sergeant I now know that the TAA police force are not goons, but how would I know that while being pursued by a harpy like Wendy who was screaming for them to do what? arrest me for threatening to write letters of complaint. How was I to know that I would not be shackled to a bench like Carol Anne Gotbaum who died in the custody police at Phoenix Sky Harbor in September on September 28, 2007.
When faced with apparent misuse of authority and poor institutional culture, I often find it useful to follow the revenue stream. Your website contains the following statement:
TAA does not receive any local tax dollars. Operations are funded through revenues from parking, space rentals, land leases, fuel sales, airline landing fees, and concessions. Capital improvements such as runway and terminal construction are funded through state and federal grants.
If airline landing fees and concessions such as car rentals are major sources of revenue, do these financial interest either directly or indirectly affect the use of TAA’s police or security forces? Is it in TAA’s financial interest not to upset their sources of revenue by instating repercussions for companies whose employees use TAA police to intimidate passengers and customers? Is this why company employees feel free to use TAA’s police to resolve disputes that should be resolved by good customer relations? How well does this serve the economic interest of greater Tucson?
I realize the TAA police do not feel that they are threatening, but when TIA patrons are faced with police with badges, weapons, and handcuffs, most are intimated and, to some degree, threatened.
The current issue of The Economist features articles about Alexander Solzhenitsyn and the headline is: Speaking the truth to power. If you are the power at TAA, I must speak the truth to you. Using police force to intimidate TIA’s customers is wrong. Unless there are repercussions for airline and rental car company employees who de facto use the TAA police as a force of intimidation to quiet customers who are voicing grievances, the TAA is tacitly condoning this behavior. This is the United States of America, and we have the right to state our grievances. In a perfect world these grievances would be reasonable and legitimate, but that is not a requirement. Acting within the law is a requirement.
Unfortunately, my experience at TIA is probably indicative of more widespread deterioration of service in the airline industry. I travel relatively often and I usually fly coach: I see how employees treat the least of travelers. I have seen hints of disgruntled airline employees using the threats of police intervention to quell the dissatisfied of those suffering through delayed, overbooked, and cancelled flights. I’ve had a TSA security agent bark at me like a drill sergeant during a random search at Logan International Airport while I was being a model of cooperation. This bad behavior, or power run amuck, is done in the name of security. How does this make us more secure? I like Tucson. I think of it as a special place to live, but after this experience I feel I might as well be living in any major city in the USA.
The events of September 11, 2001 are a great tragedy. The cynical use of the threat of terrorism to instill compliance and fear in the traveling public cheapens the lives lost and the bravery of those who responded. It is shameful. If TAA is passively complicit in promoting this, TAA is responsible. TAA is as responsible as Wendy who cynically made false accusations and as responsible as US Air who promoted an irrational and vengeful employee like Wendy to a position of authority.
Dear US Airways,
I am writing to share my horrific experience flying with your airline this past weekend.
My purchased, confirmed itinerary was as follows:
Aug 1, 2008
flight 3676 8.55pm BWI - 9.35pm PHL
flight 3350 10.55pm PHL - 12.12am BUF
I arrived at the gate at the BWI terminal at 8.45pm. The gate agent told me I was late and I had to wait until after the standby passengers were processed. Let me stress here that they had NOT started processing any stand-by passengers which meant my seat had NOT been assigned to anyone else. I know this because there were NO agents at the counter - only the agent at the gate who told me I could not board despite the fact that I had a purchased confirmed seat and nobody was processing any standby passengers.
After about 5 minutes of us both just standing there at the gate, the agent went behind the counter and started processing standby passengers. She made me wait while she allowed 3 standby passengers to board and then told me I could board.
The agent tore my boarding pass, let me through the gate onto the tarmac. At the base of the airplane stairs, a baggage handler took my carry-on bag to stow it. I started up the stairs to the plane.
The US Airways gate agent came out of the terminal and told me that I cannot board the plane. I came off the stairs and started walking toward her. She signalled for my bag to be retrieved from the cargo area and the baggage agent brought my bag. At that point, the gate agent signaled for another standby passenger who had been waiting in the terminal to board the plane.
The gate agent rushed back into the terminal without giving me a chance to ask what had just happened and I had to rush to follow her back inside.
Inside, the gate agent said another gate agent will take care of me. After about 15 minutes, the other agent told me the next flight is at 7.30am on Aug 2, through PHL arriving at BUF at 11am.
I asked if there was anything earlier, or if he could check a different carrier. He said no. I asked if I would be refunded should I choose to not take the 7.30am flight. The agent said he did not know and had no way to find out. I asked if he could book me on a flight later the next day. He said no - that he could do absolutely NOTHING except put me on the 7.30 flight.
Now the whole reason for trying to get there on Friday night is this:
I was going to Canada for Caribana. My uncle was supposed to pick me up at BUF airport and we would drive into Canada. My uncle had to work until 7pm on Saturday which meant that if I arrived at BUF at 11am on Saturday, he could not pick me up at the airport.
I called the US Airways number from my cell phone to find out if they could tell me whether I could be refunded for the ticket if I didn't take the 7.30 flight. The agent who spoke to me said that I would not be refunded, and that if I wanted to take a different flight, I could, but I would be charged a $150 change fee, plus the difference in fare.
I spent about 20 minutes on the phone trying to figure out what I should do. At about 9.30, I asked the counter agent to check again to see if a different carrier had any flights leaving earlier. The agent says: well Southwest has a flight that's leaving in 10 minutes, but there's no way you'd make that.
Had he given me this information at 8.10 when I first asked him, I would've been able to make that flight, but he had instead told me that he couldn't check other carriers.
At this point I realized that these agents had had ZERO intention of doing anything to assist me from the time the gate agent held me back from boarding so she could let standbys board.
I left the airport and paid $40 to get back home.
At home I searched for a car rental that I could pick up in BUF at 11am. Everything was sold out as it was Caribana weekend. I looked at the bus schedules and found 3 buses going from BUF to Toronto. - at 3pm, 4pm and 9pm. The next day I paid $40 to get back to the airport and boarded the 7.30am flight. That flight was delayed due to "weather" and I arrived in PHL at 9.10 missing my 9.20 connection to BUF.
The gate agent in BUF told me the next available flight out was at 2.45pm. I went to a different US Airways ticketing counter and the lady there put me on standby for an 11.45am flight. There were 2 other standby passengers on that flight and the gate agent told us to have a seat and he'd take care of us. The confirmed passengers boarded and then the agent went onto the plane and asked if anybody would be willing to give up their seats for a free ticket. Two people volunteered and came off the plane. After about 20 minutes of waiting while the gate agent did whatever behind the counter, one of the other standby passengers went up to him and asked if we were getting on the flight. The gate agent says something to the effect of "Oh that flight's long gone!"
US Airways agents are clearly not very courteous since he couldn't event bother to TELL us that we weren't getting on the flight, despite the fact that 2 ppl volunteered their seats.
So I got on the 2.45 flight and arrived in BUF at 3.45pm. By the time I got to arrivals, it clearly made no sense trying to find the bus station and trying to catch the 4pm bus.
My uncle wouldn't be able to pick me until 8pm, and the next bus left BUF at 9pm. So I was resigned to wait for 4 hours in the airport. I decided to check the car rental agencies to see if there were any cars at all. Alamo told me they had an SUV, but it would cost me $99 per day. After consulting with my aunt, she said I should rent the SUV and drive to Canada instead of wasting 4 MORE hours in the airport.
So I did. I arrived at my Canada destination at 6pm.
Needles to say, I (and my aunt and cousin who had to wait for my arrival) missed all of Caribana.
Now I had rented the SUV for a day, since I can't afford more than 1 day at $99! So on Sunday, which we had planned to spend sightseeing in Canada, we had to spend in 4 hours of traffic trying to get back to BUF airport to return the car.
Despite the fact that we left 2 hours earlier than necessary, we arrived at the car rental place 2 hours late, and I was charged late fees for the car.
So thus far, I've wasted all day Saturday, all day Sunday, missed Caribana which was the whole point of the trip, and I've spent an additional $125 for a car I shouldn't have had to rent, not to mention made my relatives miss Caribana and waste all of Sunday too! All because a gate agent refused to let me board the plane - first by purposely holding me back before she even started processing standbys, and then by pulling me off the plane after she let me board it!
I enjoyed my Monday and Tuesday morning and then returned to the BUF airport for my return itinerary:
Aug 5, 2008
flight 3663 4.14pm BUF - 5.31pm LGA
flight 3759 6.35pm LGA - 7.54pm BWI
The initial announcement was that the 4.14 flight was delayed to 4.51.
At around 4.45 they announced that the plane has technical problems and flight is cancelled.
They rerouted me through PHL and put me on an 8.45pm flight out of PHL arriving BWI very late.
Got home at midnight, which would have been fine except that because I was not at home when I initially planned to be, one of my clients gave my $1200 design contract to a competitor.
So here's the tally:
$80 - from having to drive to and from the airport 2 extra times
$125 from the car that I wasn't supposed to have to rent
$1200 lost contract because US Airways couldn't honor their flight schedule
and 2 WASTED DAYS for me and my relatives in Canada.
It is only fair that I get a full refund of my money, plus compensation, since US Airways was not able to provide any of the services I paid for, and the result is that I ended paying out $205 extra, plus losing a $1200 contract.
PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA -- I can't emphasize enough how rude the people who work for US Airways in the Philadelphia airport are. As a matter of fact, I have never encountered souch lousy customer service in any consumer experience in my life. I arrived at the Minnesota/St. Paul airport at 10 AM for a 12:30 flight to Philadelphia where I would then connect on to Hartford. I was told my flight would be delayed because of storms in Philadelphia and the airport had shut down. At 1:10 they loaded us on the airplane and we taxied out to a spot on the runway and sat their until 3pm. They said the airport in Philadelphia wasn't open because of the weather so they took us back to the terminal so we could get off the plane, stretch our legs and get a snack since they couldn't provide everybody on the plane with one.
At 3:30 they loaded us on the plane again and pulled up to spot near the runway to wait for takeoff then the pilots immediately turned the plane engines off because we couldn't take off yet with the situation still a mess in Philadelphia. We sat on the plane until 6pm and the pilots informed us the weather was easing up and we would be taking off shortly. Why did they load us on the plane and make us sit there all this time if the airport we were flying to was closed like they had been telling us? We finally leave and land in Philadelphia at 9:15PM and sat on the runway until 11 pm because they said there were no gates available.
I looked out the window and saw gates open on other concourses which had US Air planes at the gates next to them but I guess they didn't care about that and they were determined to use concourse B no matter how uncomfortable it was for us after sitting on this plane for so long in Minnesota and Philadelphia. When we were finally allowed to escape this plane they had us sit on for almost 6 hours, we get off the plane to find out if we will be lucky enough to make our connection to Hartford and came across a rude counter person who just said to go to customer service at the check in counter. There was a couple in front of me that spoke very little English and were trying to find out where get they should go to for their flight to Frankfort, Germany. The US Airways agent just said go to the check in counter for help. He didn't seem to concerned with helping these people that told her they spoke very little English.
As my fiance and I were going to the customer service counter because no more flights were going out at this point in the evening, we tried to help them and had them follow us to customer service. The line was long because so many people were being re-booked because so many flights were canceled because the weather closed the airport for a long period of time. A supervisor came out of the back and told us the bad news that because so many flights were canceled, all hotels in the area were full and we probably would be stuck in the airport for the night. I was in line for an hour and then decided to use my cell phone and called the toll free number for the US Airways to rebook my flight, and after an hour of sitting on hold, a was finally able to speak with somebody and rebook another flight to Hartford.
If I stayed in line with the other travelers, I would have waited even longer because when midnight came, most of the agents were done with their shift and only a few people were working for the airline despite a line that had several hundred people waiting in it to have their flight rebooked. Before I left this long line, my fiance and I didn't want to leave the German people alone because they didn't speak English and were going to be stuck overnight in an airport. I then realized I should have checked their tickets to see if they were continuing on with USAir back to Germany. They showed me their tickets and if the attendant who was waiting for us after we got off the airplane took a few seconds to check their tickets instead of telling them to go to customer service, they could have made their connecting flight to Germany. Great Customer service US Airways!
We then spoke to a supervisor and asked him if anybody working in international travels would be able to translate or help out these people and explained how they spoke very little English. Showing very little interest in their problem, he said there wasn't anything he could do and told us to tell them to keep waiting in line. Thanks a lot buddy. I then decided to call the toll-free number and connected with international travel within 5 minutes and asked them if they had somebody that could speak German that would be able to help these stranded travelers and they did. I guess that nighttime supervisor felt it was more important to drink his cup of coffee and talk with a security guard rather than to try to help these foreign travelers in need of assistance. After sleeping in the airport all night with my fiance and 10 year old daughter, the next day is even worse when it came to customer service from US Airways. I went to the self service check in and I print up my tickets only to find out there is nobody their to tag my bags and check my ID so we can go to the gate. I, along with several other travelers that used the self service check-in were waiting for service, asked a US Air agent if there is anybody working this area and all she said was "I don't work it".
We waited and looked for somebody else to help us but nobody appeared so we asked her if she could get somebody to help us and all she said was "talk to somebody down there". We walked about 40 feet to the US Air customer service agent that was standing next to the self service check-in terminal in that area and asked for assistance but she said "that's not my job, go talk to her" and she pointed to the woman that had sent us to see here. We told her that the woman she told us to see was the one that told us to see her and she rudely said" I don't work there, go see that woman and stop being so rude". All we wanted was our bags checked so we could escape the LOUSY treatment we have been receiving from US Air employees at every encounter we had with them. When we finally got our bags checked and went through security, the topic among many passengers was how rude the US Air employees were and a regular business traveler from the Philadelphia area told us they are always rude.
When a customer from the Philadelphia area is so critical of the airline and states their employees are always rude, it shows you this is not a one time event. I forgot to mention, we got at the airport at 10 AM the morning of our flight to Philadelphia, passengers were loaded up on the plane at a little after 1pm and 2 of our 3 bags got lost. It took 3 days to finally get them back from US Air. US Airways was by far the worst airline experience I have ever encountered in all my years of flying. Never mind how many hours I sat on a runway without a chance to take takeoff because the airport I was flying into was closed because of storms(why load if the airport you are going to is closed), it didn't matter that I sat on the runway for almost 2 hours after landing in Philadelphia waiting for a gate to open so I could finally get off the plane and move on to my connecting flight, the one thing I will remember from this trip was HOW RUDE AND UNHELPFUL THE EMPLOYEES OF US AIRWAYS WERE.
LONDON -- Dear Mr Parker
I have addressed this letter to you because I feel that, as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, you will be as concerned about my recent experience as I was.
I am a Silver Preferred Dividend Miles member, # ******* and US Lawful Permanent Resident, and I undertook an Envoy Class trip to the UK by US Airways, leaving the US on Thurs, July 26, 2007, with return flight booked for Weds, Aug 15, 2007.
On Weds, Aug 15, 2007, I arrived at US Airways check-in at Gatwick Airport, London, to check-in for my return flight to the US, 733 to Charlotte, NC, with onward connecting flight 4446 to Lynchburg, VA. My Flight Confirmation number was ******.
At pre-check-in screening, I presented my UK passport and my US Green Card to an ICTS employee named Jemma. I pointed out that my Green Card had expired and I produced the required I-797 Notice of Action (Receipt Notice) extending my Green Card for one year beyond its expiration. I had been assured by the US Citizenship & Immigration Service (USCIS) prior to leaving the US that that receipt, coupled with my expired Green Card, is all that is needed to allow me to re-enter the US. Indeed, that I-797 states that, ‘Your conditional resident status is extended for a period of one year from date of expiration on your form I-551, conditional resident card (green card). During the one-year extension, you are authorized employment and travel.'
Jemma informed me that I would not be permitted to fly with an expired Green Card. I pointed to the above paragraph on my I-797 and explained what I had also been told by the US Citizenship & Immigration Service, and Jemma said she would call the US Embassy to confirm that.
She asked me to return to the US Airways service desk in 15 mins and, when I did so, she told me that she had called the Embassy and they had told her I could not fly.
A US Airways employee at the service desk then offered to call the Embassy and explain to them what other documents I had. She called them in my presence but failed to explain that I had my I-797 with me. She told me that the Embassy had said I could not travel, and that I would need to go to the US Embassy in London to request a Letter of Transportation.
My flight was cancelled and I was then booked on the same flight the next day, Aug 16, 2007. I had to book into a hotel and make my way 30 miles to the US Embassy in Central London.
On arrival at the Embassy, I was refused entry because I did not have an appointment. I pointed out that US Airways at Gatwick Airport had sent me, but was told by security that they had repeatedly told US Airways at Gatwick to stop sending people to the Embassy as they would not be admitted without an appointment.
When I asked at Embassy security how I could arrange an appointment, I was given the phone number of the US Embassy Appointment Line, and I called from a payphone opposite the Embassy.
The first available appointment was on Tues, Aug 21st, 2007, i.e. 6 days hence. That meant that I was effectively stranded, and I called my wife in the US to ask her to approach our Congressman's office for assistance.
My wife emailed the Embassy and in response to that email I was granted an appointment at the Embassy at 9am the next day, Thurs, Aug 16th, 2007. Because I had been booked onto flight 733 on Aug 16th, I again had to cancel my flight.
I attended at an interview at the Embassy with two officers from the Department for Homeland Security, who asked for my Green Card and any other documents. When I produced the I-797, i.e. the same document I had presented at Gatwick Airport the previous day, the officers asked me why US Airways had refused me permission to fly.
I told them that Jemma claimed to have spoken to the DHS at the Embassy, but the officers were adamant that no one had spoken to them. Further, they confirmed that my documents were perfectly adequate and acceptable for travel and that US Airways was incorrect in refusing me permission to fly.
They went on to say that US Airways had clearly not read the Carrier Guidelines issued by the DHS, or they would have known the documents were acceptable, and that US Airways routinely referred anyone with questionable documents to the Embassy, despite being repeatedly instructed not to do so, in order to avoid any possibility of incurring fines.
The officers agreed to issue a Letter of Transportation to avoid any further problems with US Airways and, because my documents were in order and I should not have been refused permission to travel, they even went so far as to waive the $165 fee normally charged for the letter.
I called US Airways that afternoon and rebooked for flight 733 the next day, Friday, Aug 17th, 2007, and attended at the US Airways check-in desk the next morning.
Jemma was again on duty, and asked whether I now had the proper documentation to allow me to fly. I explained that the documents I had presented previously were perfectly acceptable, according to the US Embassy, but I produced the newly-acquired Letter of Transportation anyway.
I asked Jemma for her last name, and told her that I intended to pursue the matter on my return to the US, but she refused to identify herself, and simply referred me to the US Airways service desk.
I went to the service desk and asked them for Jemma's last name, but the three US Airways employees on duty claimed not to know it, though they work with her daily. They told me that Jemma works for ICTS, not for US Airways, but when I pointed out that she was manning a US Airways desk, they agreed and confirmed that ICTS is employed by US Airways to vet passengers.
In summary, then, these are the salient points:
1) I was refused permission to fly because my documents were supposedly not in order, although they were in order, as confirmed by the DHS at the US Embassy, London
2) It would appear that Jemma did not call the Embassy, despite her claim to have done so.
3) I was sent to the US Embassy despite US Airways having been repeatedly instructed not to send refused passengers there without an appointment
4) I incurred extraordinary expenses, c.$2000, because of US Airways' error in refusing me permission to fly
5) On asking an ICTS/US Airways employee to identify herself, that employee, and her colleagues, declined to do so
Prior to me taking any further action, I would appreciate receiving your proposal for dealing with this frustrating and costly experience in a satisfactory manner.
US Air lost another 2 customers. Our flight from Washington, D.C.'s National/Reagan Airport to Fresno via Phoenix was delayed for hours, causing us to miss our connection (a US Air flight) in Phoenix and to also miss the first day of our vacation. After waiting for a long time on line at the US Air Customer Service desk, we were given a voucher to stay at a hotel near the Phoenix airport that night, but the hotel said they clearly told US Air they were not accepting vouchers. The vouchers were worthless and US Air knew it when they gave them to us. Furthermore, the hotel had no available rooms.
We returned to the US Air service counter for assistance in locating a hotel with available rooms, but found it closed. US Air left its passengers stranded at the airport. This same scenario happened to other passengers, as well, they told us.
Another passenger on the flight said he read on the internet that this flight is delayed 60% of the time. The stewardess confirmed that it was usually late, and the reason was because the plane comes from Hawaii and not enough time is scheduled for turnaround. Day after day, this flight is chronically late, and the cause is known, but the problem is not corrected. Instead, passengers are given false information and are greatly inconvenienced.
US Air had scheduled us for a connecting flight in Phoenix that departed just 25 minutes after the flight from Washington was supposed to arrive, assuring us that would represent no problem as the gates were close together. US Air KNOWS the flight originating from DCA will probably not depart on time, and knows that 25 minutes is not enough time to get from one flight to the other if there is the smallest delay, yet schedules passengers this way, knowing they will miss their connections.
A US Air pilot told us there have been tremendous infrastructure difficulties since America West took over US Air two years ago. They have had 2 years to correct the problems, but have not succeeded, and the problems just seem to be worsening by the day.
On the return flight, the scenario was the same - a morning flight from Fresno that was supposed to meet a connecting flight in Phoenix was delayed for hours, causing the connecting flight to be missed or cancelled. The entire day was taken up waiting at the airport in a huge crowd of other inconvenienced passengers. We were not able to depart Phoenix until after midnight, and instead of a direct flight to Washington, which is what we booked, we were rounted through Las Vegas and made to wait in Las Vegas for yet another flight. We arrived only the following day in Washington. PASSENGERS WERE DEPRIVED OF SLEEP FOR AN ENTIRE NIGHT, arriving exhausted and once again, losing an entire day of work or vacation.
On the plane, there were no pillows and only a few blankets, which the stewardess asked passengers to share. Use your blanket to warm up and then give it to another passenger, she suggested, saying US Air does not provide enough blankets for each passenger to have their own. No meals were served on the 4 hour flight and no movies shown. We were told we should feel fortunate because we got the last 2 seats and other passengers were even more inconvenienced.
US Air tells passengers their flights are delayed or cancelled due to weather (so they don't have to pay for their hotels that night) or to mechanical problems, but no passenger we spoke to believed them because every flight, day after day, was delayed or cancelled and there was complete bedlam at all US Air departing gates. As a plane was supposedly about to board, passengers were told to go to another gate or that their plane had been switched or delayed or cancelled. Loud groans could be heard from a hundred inconvenienced passengers at a time.
This chronic chaos in every area will surely lead to safety problems. After we boarded, the pilot shut everything down, even turning out the lights, saying he had computer problems and had to do something with the circuit breakers before he could turn the plane on again and move forward. It does not make the passengers feel their flight will be a safe one.
At the US Air departure gates in Fresno, there were no staff members. Only when the hour for boarding arrived and still no representatives were there did another passenger tell us he had just come from the departure terminal and found out that our flight was delayed or cancelled. No announcement was made at the departure gate, so all passengers there were just left to wait and wonder what had happened and why their flight wasn't boarding. Their only other choice was to walk back through security to the departure area ticket counter, all the while worrying they might miss their flight. Only at the departures ticket counter - where there was a huge line - could they find out that the flight was delayed and cancelled and all seats on any plane out of that situation were already booked. The US Air representatives said they were so busy dealing with the cancellations and delays, they had no time to go to the departure gate to inform the passengers waiting thereof their fate. Left stranded again.
While at the departure gate, I used the counter phone to call US Air. While speaking to a US Air ticket agent, two US Air employees walked passed, and told me I was not allowed to use the phone without permission. I answered that there had been no one there to ask permission from and explained that I was on the line with a US Air representative who was in the midst of answering my question. I asked if I could just listen to her answer. They just pressed the button to hang up the phone, saying they would help me instead, but did not. Then left without another word and without providing help of any kind.
Concerned in advance that our flight from Fresno might be delayed, we asked if we could change our ticket to depart from Los Angeles airport, thinking that at least from that airport, we would have a better chance of finding another departing flight without an overnight delay. The answer was no. US Air does not permit a passenger to change their ticket to depart from a different airport than the one they originally book, while US Air is free to re-route passengers to any airport they please.
If you want to live a nightmare for two days on your outbound flight and another nightmare for two more days on your return flight, and maybe risk your life along with losing your work and vacation time, then by all means choose US Air. If you expect to be treated with respect and decency, and to get what you pay for, choose another airline. US Air is having so many difficulties functioning, perhaps the FAA should put it out of its misery. Hopefully, enough disgusted passengers will write to the FAA asking them to do this. If US Air is incapable of running an airline properly, they should turn their routes over to an airline that can.
I am taking this opportunity to inform you of the absolutely horrendous experience I had on your airline.
I fly for business on a regular basis (basically about once a month).I normally fly the so-called “bargain” airlines, usually Southwest. I had the opportunity to take my wife and 8 year-old son to Florida and decided to splurge and fly on an airline that had a better reputation for amenities, specifically assigned seating and more flexible travel routes.
How surprised was I when as we were leaving to return home that I was entering into a flight nightmare.
We left Orlando Int’l airport at 6:45pm on Friday June 8th. We landed in Charlotte, North Carolina at around 8:15pm. We had just enough time to run to our connecting flight (the flight out of Orlando was late). When we arrived at the gate that our connector was leaving from, we were informed that the flight to Columbus was cancelled. Now, I understand that there will always be interruptions in schedules, and I am sympathetic to that fact. We were told to go to the Customer Special Services desk at another gate. Fine, I thought, they’ll get this straightened out and we’ll be on our way. No problem. We arrived at the desk to find a line of around 250 other travelers who had also been “inconvenienced”. There were exactly two people working the desk. After standing in line for the better part of an hour, and seeing no more than 10 people make it past the desk, one of your associates came out and made an announcement: “Sorry, folks there are no more flights out tonight so you will have to find a hotel and wait for tomorrow”. Understandable, it was late and I realized that the routes couldn’t be adjusted quickly enough to absorb all of us. I asked the woman what hotel they were going to put us up in and she said “The cancellation wasn’t our fault; you are on your own to find a hotel”. Excuse me? I am in a strange city, at 10pm at night, traveling with my family and you are not going to even give us a voucher for food and/or a hotel room?
We then asked where we could pick up our luggage so that we could go to the hotel. “You can find them in baggage claim” was the very rude reply. “Exactly where in baggage claim?” my wife asked. “IN BAGGAGE CLAIM” came the same reply. So, off we headed to baggage claim. After standing in another line for almost an hour, where we met a lovely couple who had saved up for a trip to Paris that US Airways had “interrupted for at least three days”, another of your associates made an announcement: “Sorry folks, your luggage is already being re-routed to the next flight. “Can we get it “unre-routed so that we can change our clothes and get our toothbrushes?” “If you’d like to wait, we MAY be able to get it to you in 2 or 3 hours, but I wouldn’t count on it”. Great, just great.
We found a hotel off of the airport, spent $20 for a cab to get there (sans luggage) as none of the shuttles were running that late, paid $100 for the room, $30 for dinner and we went to sleep hoping tomorrow would be a better day.
We woke up on Saturday in a hotel room (we had expected to be waking up in our own beds this morning). I went down to the business center in the hotel to print out my boarding passes. No luck, there was an “error in the process”. No big deal, we’ll get them at the airport. We arrived at the Charlotte Airport at 11:30 am for a 1:15pm flight (another $20 cab ride). We stood in another long line where there were, again, two people working behind the counter (do you have some rule about that?). After standing in line and being kept on hold on your “Customer Help Line” they got the error fixed so I could use the check–in kiosk. I finally printed my boarding passes with about a half hour to rush through security and race to the gate. Sorry, wrong gate. So we headed across the airport to the new departure gate. We finally make it to Philadelphia to catch our connector to Columbus. Once again, after several gate changes we made it to the departure gate. Sorry, flight’s been cancelled. We ran to the customer service counter to beat out the 100 or so other people to see if we could get on another flight. Understand that it is now around 6:00pm, I have been wearing the same clothes for over a day and a half and I have an 8 year-old in tow who is getting cranky and wants to get home. We make it to the counter before everyone else and are told that there is an 8:15 flight to Columbus. BOOK IT! Oops, sorry not quick enough (total elapsed time 7.8 seconds). I ask to see the manager. Wait 15 minutes while other passengers are booked on the 1:40 pm flight on Sunday. I wanted to see the manager to request a refund. There were several passengers who were willing to pitch in for a rental van to drive the eight hours to Columbus (funny aside – had I decided to drive at that point, I would have gotten home only an hour and a half later than I ended up getting there). Wait another 15 or 20 minutes for the manager. At this point I am LIVID. If you’ll recall from the top of my letter, I fly quite often for business. Guess what I do for a living – Customer Service Manager! I have never seen such inattention to customer’s needs in all my life. Just as the passengers were about to mutiny, due in no small part to the fact that it was discovered that, once again, the cancellation was not your fault and all expenses would be borne by the traveler, the ticketing agent pulled me aside and gave me 3 seats on the plane that was supposedly full not 25 minutes earlier. Not only did he give me three seats, but they were 3 in a row. The agent all but told me that I was riling up the other customers with my story of the previous cancelled flights and he was giving me the tickets to get rid of me. Fine by me. The flight was delayed (big surprise) because we did not have a flight crew. Almost an hour after the scheduled departure time the crew showed up. A big sigh of relief and a standing ovation greeted their arrival. We went wheels up just before 10 pm (this was for an 8:15pm flight). We arrived home over 24 hours late.
Sir, I can appreciate the fact that things don’t always go according to plan. It happens. What I cannot tolerate is the way that we were treated throughout this ordeal. We were shuffled around to multiple gates to find out that the flights were cancelled. We were treated rudely by US Airways employees time and again. We were surrounded by dozens of other people who were in the same position we were in.
I've been flying a long time and airline travel has been going downhill since deregulation. An avid traveler for work and pleasure, flying is regularly the worst part of any trip -- something to be endured rather than enjoyed.
Yesterday, 7 of us were travelling back from Providenciales where we enjoyed several days in the sun and the wedding of a great couple. We were scheduled to fly out of Provo at 3:15 pm, and connect in Charlotte for a 7:25 pm flight to Minneapolis -- a comfortable 1.5 hour layover to clear customs). Our Provo outbound flight was delayed because of mechanical problems with the inbound aircraft. when they got to Provo they found out that the island had no fuel so they didn't have enough fuel to get the 757 back to Charlotte (who flies to a destination island expecting to refuel without verifying the availability?).
We finally board and the pilot tells us we need to go to Ft. Lauderdale to refuel before continuing on to Charlotte. The pilot spoke as though it was information that we clearly should have gotten from the ground crew, which of course we hadn't. This will add 30 minutes to our flight time, seriously jeopardizing our connection time as well the connection time of everyone else on the airplane. The flight attendants then get on the PA system to tell all of us that it simply is not possible for them to have any information on connections.
Adding to the confidence in this entire flight crew, the pilot then comes on the PA to tell us we're about to leave a location other than "Providenciales". The murmuring among the passengers that the pilot doesn't even "know where the hell he is" was audible.
The flight to Ft. Laudredale is uneventful. The refueling goes well but takes about 15 minutes longer than had been promised. Leaving Ft. Lauderdale it is still "not possible to have any information on the status of connections".
As we approach Charlotte there's essentially no chance that our connection will be made, but hope comes when the pilot tells us that other planes have been circling because of some rain that occurred earlier, but we're cleared to proceed to land. Those of us sitting by the window had no difficulty identifying that we circled 6 times before landing an hour later. Who do they think they're kidding?
Baggage and immigrations performed brilliantly in Charlotte. We cleared both of them in less than 30 minutes. The same can't be said for US Airways staff in Charlotte. They're probably good people, inadequately trained who know that their company has hung them out to dry. What a thankless job.
Luckily, because we cleared baggage and immigation quickly, we were one of the first to get to the ticket counter to figure out how we were going to get home.
A totally clueless ticketing agent was what we got. It's now about 9:15 pm. We're in Charlotte. We pretty much know we're not getting home this night. When this has happened to me on other airlines, the rebooking has been done by the time I got off the plane. The gate agent has been able to tell me what's happening. With US Airways in Charlotte, the fact that we had missed our connection from their own flight was a surprise to them.
For the next 2 hours, the groom who was trying to do a quick roundtrip (and get back to his honeymoon) to ensure his kids got home safely, spent coaching the ticket agent, her supervisor, and his supervisor how to do their jobs.
Their first plan was to book the party of 7 onto 5 different US Airways return flights (with further connections) the next day despite the fact that there were 3 minor travelers and one more than 85. When the groom suggested they check for availability on other airlines, the reaction was that they couldn't because all the other ticket counters were closed. He then suggested they call the 800 numbers for the other airlines which are open 24 hrs. The response was that they didn't know those numbers. So he spent the next 10 minutes calling 411 from his cell phone to get numbers for several other airlines with service from Charlotte to Minneapolis.
After messing up the itineraries in the computer so badly that they had to resort to paper coupons, we ended up being booked onto American Airlines leaving Charlotte at 7:45 the next morning. And the rest of the trip on American went flawlessly.
The groom's return flight to Provo on US Airways to continue his honeymoom was originally scheduled out of Minneapolis for the next morning. Since US Airways knew that wasn't going to happen they brilliantly rescheduled it for 2 days later.
He's booked a flight on another airline for this evening at an additional cost to him of $1500. He'll only lose an additional half day of his honeymoon. We're all praying for he and his bride that they'll be able to get back to Minneapolis in a week on the US Airways flight they booked months ago. He is desperately trying to rebook the return from the honeymoon on a different airline.
This complaint isn't about circumstances that happen. They happen. It's all about doing the right thing for your customer. None of this was about money.
US Airways is a lousy airline. They have lousy procedures. They have lousy training. Charlotte is a hub where you'd expect to have the best trained employees. I can't even blame it on the merger with America West. AW was a decent airline. They make the citizens of Charlotte look BAD. And this is all in comparison to a number of other airlines including Northwest (the primary airline of this gold elite status reviewer) which doesn't always get great reviews.
The best thing we can do is put US Airways out of our misery. There are at least 7 of us (and anyone we can get the message to) that will NEVER fly them again.
This is in regards to my recent travels on your airline, July 20th and July 24/25th. I was scheduled to depart Dallas/Ft Worth at 5:15am on July 20th with a connection in Charlotte, NC and final destination of Montego Bay, Jamaica. I checked my bag online and printed my boarding pass the day before (24 hours). When I arrived at the airport that morning, I still had to stand in line to check my bag again which caused me to miss the 45 minute bag drop policy that you supposedly have. I was told that my bag had to be physically tagged 45 minutes before my flight or I would not be able to fly and that I had to fly with my luggage. I have never heard of such a rule and didn’t see it on your website, I figured since I had already checked in online 24 hours prior I would just need to drop my bag. I asked the attendant how late was I in getting my bag physically tagged and she told me I missed the 45 minute cut off by 4 minutes, and that it took 45 minutes for my bag to go from the counter to the plane. I couldn’t understand any of this at all especially since there were passengers standing at unattended kiosk waiting for their luggage tags as well. What is the point of self check-in if someone still has to tag my bag but the kiosk is unattended? So standing in line for a second time made me miss that flight. I was put on the 6:55am to Charlotte, NC with stand-by on the 11:30am to Jamaica which was the last flight from Charlotte for the day. Luckily, I was able to get on it. If I hadn’t gotten on, I would have been stuck in Charlotte for another day and been a day late to Jamaica. Where is the logic in that? Well I figured it was all over and I could enjoy my trip until the chaos I experienced on the way back. Leaving Montego Bay, I couldn’t find my flight reservation at the kiosk. I had to wait in line an hour to see an agent. When I get to the agent I discover that my reservation showed my trip to and from Jamaica for the same day. I feel confident that I didn’t book it like that and maybe there was a glitch in the system. I had to purchase a one way ticket back to Dallas with a connection in Charlotte. I could not get on the last 2 flights out of Charlotte because they had been overbooked so I couldn’t even fly standby. Overbooked? Still doesn’t make any sense. This resulted in my having to stay overnight and leave at 7:45am on July 25th. When I get to the Charlotte airport the next morning, I am observing the same thing unattended kiosk and people waiting to get their luggage tagged. I am wondering are they missing the 45 minute baggage drop too. I decide to stand in the Resolution Line hoping to get on an earlier flight only to have the unfortunate encounter of the worse airline agent ever. I believe her name is Jennifer. She is African American, very short hair that is reddish in color, and she wears glasses. Her attitude and behavior was inexcusable. She was rude, short tempered, unaccommodating. You name it, she was it. When it was my turn to approach the counter, she switched her attention to another line saying she couldn’t keep track of who was in queue. The issue with that is the people she decided to assist weren’t in the Resolution Line with the rest of us, they were off to the side. She also came from behind the counter and turned off some of the kiosk without announcing to those others standing in line what she was doing and why she was doing it. They were just left standing there. One poor lady had been trying to get the Cambodia since Saturday. I must say out of all airlines there is a very strong possibility that I will not be flying US Airways in the future.
I've never been so upset with a flight - I'm not one to complain about cancellations and delays, these things happen. I'm not very sensitive to busy flight attendants either, they're people dealing with their own issues every day too. However, this was unbelievable. Below is the letter I sent to US Airways after getting home from the airport still so furious that I was fighting back tears. I wrote the following to US Airways and was going to leave it at that until I saw the video taken by a passenger of another passenger being deplaned over saggy pants, at which point I decided to Google it. I wanted see how rampant customer service complaints are with this company. What I'm finding is shocking.
To Whom It May Concern:
I did not stop to obtain the name of the person at subject of this communication, so I apologize in advance for my inability to provide the full details of the issue. I'm sure this is not the first complaint about this employee however and have no doubt that you will in short order identify her. I have never been so aghast or repulsed by a flight attendant's performance and do fully expect that this complaint will be taken seriously. The flight attendant was working flight 1480 from Charlotte to Detroit that was scheduled to depart at 4:27 PM and is thin with short blonde hair, approximately 45-50 years old.
I was seated in 11C, just behind the emergency exit rows as the safety speeches were underway. The flight attendant going through the explanation of the duties required for seating in these rows was standing in the aisle two rows in front of me, asking all to affirm that they understood and agreed, asking that they respond with the statement "I understand." The gentleman in 10D said "yes" rather than the required statement and the flight attendant's behavior became shockingly demeaning. She told him that she needed him to say that he understood and he responded that he understood, at which point she leaned down in front of him as one does with a naughty toddler and said to him loudly, "Then what did I just say?" Looking at her in disbelief as she launched into a loud and indiscreet lecture over the necessities of his seating, the gentleman was quite visibly embarrasssed. She then asked if he would like to be moved to another seat, to which he responded no, that he liked the leg room (in what appeared to be an attempt to defuse the situation with humor) and she responded with more public lecture.
She then came down the aisle to me and said "Push your bag completely under the seat in front of you." I pushed the bag the required inches from its original location and quipped to the man seated next to me (who had been equally appalled at her behavior) that three inches will make all the difference and reopened my book. The flight attendant bent down, placing her head between my face and the seat in front of me and said "What did you just say to me?" Shocked at her confrontational behavior and invasion of my personal space, I repeated what I'd said to the man next to me. At this she began a lecture about the space and an accident, to which I said "Yes, yes, I understand". I was trying avoid the same extended public shaming delivered to the man in front of me. She then stood up and pressed the call button, interrupting the other flight attendant in his safety speech, making her threat to remove me from the plane very clear. In my utter horror and surprise, I said "really"? The idea that I was about to be removed from the plane and probably arrested for making a joke about the effectiveness of three inches in saving my life during a plane wreck left me astounded. Was this really happening? She looked back down at me and said, again loudly and as if I was a school child being reprimanded on a playground by a nun, "Are we going to have a problem?" I responded that I just wanted to read my book. I know by this point my face was burning red with mortification and my only goal was to end the harassment. The people seated around me, to my left, behind and across the aisle, all expressed the same incredulity as soon as she was safely out of ear shot - no one wanted to place themselves in her sights.
I fly on a regular basis and I have never been chastised or threatened with removal from a plane. More, I am a paying customer who did not deserve the treatment I received on your flight. If any of my employees EVER treated a customer in such a way, he or she would be terminated with prejudice on the spot. I am still quite beside myself and frankly furious. I tell you now that if I ever see that woman working a flight on which I am scheduled to fly again, I will immediately disembark and find another carrier, knowing that US Airways allows their employees to indulge in pointless power trips, to disrespect and publicly demean its customers. Today was completely uncalled for, utterly unacceptable and I would rather pay much higher prices at Delta than ever subject myself to that again.
P.S. I would recommend that you reach out to the man seated in 10D and apologize - he was also humiliated and did not even crack a joke to bring this degradation down on himself; I am quite sure that he also is furious.
This airline has the worst customer service on the planet. My husband and I booked a trip to Bridgetown, Barbados on 10/23/09. We obtained a spectacular rate, and great flight times as well. There were several other carriers to choose from at similar prices booking that far in advance, however, US Airways had the best schedule to meet our needs. On January 7th, I called to confirm our flights. I was initially told it was a good thing I called as there had been some "minor" changes in our flight times. We were flying from Columbus, OH to Philly, then to Barbados. The customer service representative went through the first three flight changes, which were minor, then put me on hold. After quite sometime, she got back on the line to inform me that our "late night" return flight from Philly to Columbus had been discontinued. No weather issues. All US Airways. I was told that there was absolutely nothing they could do - we would have to leave our vacation a day early, offered to totally cancel our flights (tickets with other carriers now over $1200/ea) or offer a $64 refund for the Philly to Columbus portion of our ticket. Period. There is an American Airlines flight out of Barbados that would have got us home on schedule, however, US Airways refused to book it for us. Our only option is now to pay for an overnight hotel in Philly, and fly home the next day. US Airways sucks. Even if they could not do anything we suggested 1.) Pay for our overnight in Philly 2.) Purchase the American Airlines flight home or 3.) upgrade us to First Class, their customer service was not even remotely empathetic to our situation. It was basically that's the way it is. Unfortunately, America needs better legislation dealing with air passengers rights. Sadly, the airlines pretty much own us.