US Airways Complaint - Cancelled flight apparently means cancelled customer service
CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA -- I was booked on a US Airways flight from Kansas City to Richmond, VA (with a stop in Charlotte) to get back home on 3/7/08 after a week-long business trip.
Our flight from KC to Charlotte was mostly uneventful, except for a delay in actually parking at the gate in Charlotte due to what our pilot termed "complete incompetence" on the part of the ground crew. We finally got there and were grateful to have enough time to grab some lunch on our way to our next flight to get us home to Richmond. We arrived at our gate (E18) shortly before 2PM, with the flight scheduled to depart at 2:29. Whew!
There were some delays in boarding the flight, as the plane was a bit late getting in, but the gate agent assured us they would make it a quick turnaround in order to get us to Richmond on schedule. We did board the plane at 2:15 and all seemed to be going well. . . until the pilot came on the PA to state that there was a problem with some "maintenance paperwork," and they'd have to resolve that before we left.
2:15 became 2:45, then 3:15, then 3:30 (with occasional updates that they were "still looking" for the mysterious paperwork). At 3:45, after sitting on that plane for an hour and a half, the pilot admitted that an FAA inspector was on board demanding to see the plane's registration, and until/unless they could find it, the plane could not leave. We were all asked to deplane and were told the flight was "not cancelled YET," but they had no idea when or if it would fly out. We were offered the option of trying to get on a later flight, but were told that our luggage would not be transferred, although it should make it to Richmond "eventually."
We tried to get the gate agent at E18 to put us on the 4:10 flight out, but she got frustrated by the long line of people and just told us all to run to C14 (where the next flight was boarding), and try to get a seat on it from there. After sprinting nearly a mile to that gate, we waited in another long line, only to have THAT gate agent decide she didn't want to deal with this--they closed the flight and told everyone (even those who'd called the US Airways toll-free number and "confirmed" a seat on the 4:10 flight) to go to US Airways Special Services for assistance.
By the time it was our turn at the Special Services desk, there were NO SEATS available on any of the 3 remaining US Airways flights to Richmond that evening. All were full, as passengers on our quasi-cancelled flight had called, gone to other agents, or otherwise snagged a seat on these (probably already overbooked) flights. We were told that our only option was to get a flight out in the morning. As my coworker and I were both in a hurry to get home to our families, we quickly calculated how long it would take to drive (5 hours), and decided that a rental car was, at that point, our best bet to get home. When we asked the customer service rep about a refund for the flight we apparently weren't going to use, we were instructed to call a toll-free number after we got home. Great service, there--although at that point, we really didn't care, as we felt pretty confident that since this was business travel, our employer will get the money back one way or the other.
During all this, US Airways seemed to have no real interest or concern in getting us home at anything approaching our original schedule. And let's not get into how they had managed to fly that plane for weeks without having the proper registration onboard--makes you wonder what other regulations they flout on a regular basis.
The only thing US Airways did RIGHT on this occasion was to finally cancel the registration-less flight and move the luggage to the next flight heading to Richmond. By the time we got to Richmond International late Friday night, we saw that the luggage from our cancelled flight was actually already there waiting for us--a pleasant surprise at the end of a grueling, 15-hour day of travel.
If I have any choice at all, I will NOT be flying US Airways again. If I don't have the option (for business reasons), you'd better believe I won't travel further than a reasonable driving distance, just in case.
UPDATE as of 3/11/2008: After sending an e-mail request for a refund for the cancelled flight yesterday, I received a response last evening that my card would be credited for the cost of the cancelled flight. The credit hasn't posted yet, but as soon as it does, I will consider this resolved. I still don't think it's a great customer experience, and I think they have a long way to go to live up to their "Customers First" promise (like, for instance, getting me home themselves, and close to the originally scheduled time?), but they will at least have made me "whole" financially.