US Airways Complaint - Safety Concerns About Recent Flight
SAN JOSE COSTA RICA -- US Airways February 21, 2009
4000 E. Sky Harbor Blvd.
Phoenix, AZ 85034
RE: Flight #358 SJO-PHX
Dear US Airways Customer Service Agent,
I am writing this letter in reference to a very serious situation that I recently experienced while traveling on your airlines. During this experience I and my family were made to endure great physical and mental abuse because of the actions of the Captain – [snip]
I will attempt to summarize the events as concisely as possible with this letter. I would be able to expand on the events if you need any additional information please contact me. I also encourage you to please seek testimony from other passengers on this flight. I also would request that the flight recordings of the Captains announcements be retained for reference.
The check-in and boarding of the flight proceeded professionally and proficiently as has other flights I have experienced with your company. Upon closing of the doors and preparations for push-off from the gate the pilot informed the passengers that we would be able to fly non-stop from San Jose to Phoenix only if we could take off from runway 07 because the plane was overweight. If we had to take off on runway 25 we would be required to stop in Mexico to refuel. Unfortunately this was a downwind takeoff and against the flow of traffic so it would be a slight delay to wait for the break in traffic. Most likely no- longer than 20 minutes. I thought this was curious because the flight was not full and the recent change from two 70lb bags to one 50lb bag per passenger should save some 11,000lbs of weight. This and the fact that the tickets did not include a stop in Mexico. I believed that the pilot was obviously trying to save fuel / money by avoiding a stop. I could understand that attempt, as I realize an air stop for fuel can be very costly. I reassured my wife and children that we had a lengthy layover in Phoenix before our next flight so it wouldn’t affect our travel.
After some time, I would guess about 45 minutes, the pilot informed passengers that we missed our break in the traffic because we were unable to warm up the engines in time. About 45 minutes later the pilot informed passengers that the winds were now too strong for a downwind takeoff and that we would have to have both a break in traffic and lower winds to safely take off.
Sometime later the pilot informed the passengers that we had missed another break in traffic because some passengers weren’t trying hard enough to will the wind speed down to a safe level.
The pilot informed the passengers that we were still on standby. During all this time the Flight Attendants were trying to appease the passengers but repeatedly asked if people could conserve water as they would surely run out. I was immediately alarmed at this prospect because due to a medical condition it causes me extreme discomfort to become dehydrated.
At this time, some 2 ½ to three hours into our delay, I began to question the ability of the pilot to make the decision to take off on the other runway and get underway. Passengers were becoming very uncomfortable and children were crying. The pilot proceeded to make several announcements that contradicted previous announcements, and he started blaming the runway, ground crew and overall backwardness of the facilities for the predicament. The pilot announced that a decision was made to take off on the other runway but we were too heavy for that runway also, and we had to burn off fuel. This decision didn’t make any sense but at this point everyone was so relieved that we were doing something passengers felt somewhat appeased. After being moved to a location we could burn fuel it became apparent that we were out of drinking water. Many passengers began to protest and the captain came on and announced that we would return to the gate and get water and food. He was very rude and again blamed the passengers and the Costa Rican facilities for the problems. When we returned to a position near the gate the passengers were informed that we could takeoff from runway 25 without burning any more fuel as soon as we got water and food. I and many passengers, including my wife were confused and really worried about the events. I heard over and over from other passengers “something just doesn’t seem right with this.”
The passengers were getting increasingly upset and someone must have asked if they could get off the flight because the captain informed the passengers that they had no reason to be upset and that no one should be asking about passenger rights and it would only cause further delays. At this point (some 5hrs delay) my wife and I became worried about the decisions being made by the pilot. The inconsistency in direction and the increased tension of the situation seemed to clearly limit his ability to properly consider the health and safety of the passengers.
I don’t claim to know all the circumstances of this situation, but I do have a limited knowledge of flight procedures. I have a pilot’s license, my father got his pilot’s license when he was minimum age, he became an aircraft mechanic and flight instructor and was an airtraffic controller for his career. We owned several aircraft as I grew up. My wife has pursued her pilot’s license, and she was an aircraft dispatcher for many years. We both travel yearly for vacations and business.
I have spent many hundreds of hours seated next to commercial pilots for my work and I consider them to be very professional and based with integrity. I began to really get an uneasy feeling about Captain [snip] and requested his full name and pilots license number. Up to that point he had referred to himself as Captain Archie. I had to repeatedly ask for this information and was finally refused anything except his name.
Captain [snip] then announced that anyone wanting to leave the aircraft would cause a minimum takeoff delay of another 2 hours for the rest of the passengers. My wife and I were concerned about our safety and well being and so we inquired about leaving the airplane. I was told that if I wanted to leave the aircraft that it would be an hour to wait for a bus to come out to the ramp and pick us up, an hour to get our bags off the aircraft, and that no flights out of San Jose were available for 3 days. We were told that no reimbursements for hotel, food, etc. would be paid for during this time.
We were told that we must immediately make this decision. This was a clear cut case of bullying and manipulation by your airline. We had to weigh the potential loss of thousands of dollars and an extended amount of time dealing with customer relations with putting ourselves and children in potential harm. We were assured that we would be taking off within the next 15 minutes and that complimentary food would be provided for the flight.
The fact that we were in a foreign country where we did not speak the language, staying would cost a minimum of $2000 to us, and we were reassured that all missed flights were being taken care of by a special part of the company while we were in route. We unfortunately elected to remain onboard the aircraft.
We burned off more fuel and departed 1 hour later.
We were again told to use water sparingly and were given no food. We landed in Mazatlan Mexico for fuel and were told we could not leave the aircraft. We left Mazatlan and upon reaching altitude we were each given the smallest low quality sandwich I have ever eaten. My little girl was unable to eat the food because its taste caused a gagging reaction. No other food was offered.
I was told that if I wanted water it would be from the tap because of the scarcity of bottled water.
Upon landing the Captain again blamed just about everything he could on the delay but at no time said he was sorry. His parting comment was: “Everybody needs to get their feet wet sometime; I thought I did as good as Sully!”
I was amazed that someone in such an important position as himself with the well being of so many people in his care would be so lacking in consideration and professionalism.
We were told that everyone had been rebooked and to proceed to the desk outside of immigration to get information.
I would like to take the time to say Thank You to Flight Attendant – forgive me for not being sure of his name if it is incorrect. Jeff spent the entire 12 hours of our time on the aircraft trying to help passengers. I believe he was as honest and upfront as he could be and genuinely was concerned about the decisions of the Captain.
Upon arriving at the US Airways it became apparent from the upset passengers in front of us that anyone having to stay overnight was not being reimbursed for any expenses. When I reached the counter we had not been given enough food and water to maintain healthy blood sugar. My daughter was shaking and my son, wife and I were extremely hungry and thirsty. We had been on your aircraft for 12 hrs.
We were told that our continuing flight was the next day at 7pm. I said no problem but I would need food reimbursed and a hotel paid for. I was told very rudely by your manager that it was a weather delay and that no expenses would be paid for by the company. The weather delay is a ridiculous false statement. The weather was clear, 73° and 14 knots wind. We saw many aircraft taxiing by our aircraft and taking off.
The delay was clearly pilot error.
I politely told your manager (Lisa # 247799) that I would require some food for my family or I would not leave the counter. She again very rudely said to write customer service with complaints. I became upset and told her I wasn’t leaving without food money or by security. She immediately called security and refused any further conversation with me. A gentleman behind us tried to record some of our interactions and was instructed to turn off his recording device as it was a security violation. While we waited for security, I talked with another employee behind the counter. She obviously realized your airline was making a big mistake and provided us with some food vouchers for some airport food. She also got us an earlier departure for the next morning. Your manager (Lisa # 247799) continued to be very rude to myself, family and other people.
When security arrived to escort myself, my wife, our 11year old son, and our 8 year old daughter out of the area another passenger had to be escorted away from my family by the officers because of his protests about the way we were being treated. I don’t know this gentleman, but he told us he was an attorney and that he was going to press charges against US Airways. We were escorted by two officers a very long distance from the counter to another floor of the airport. During this time my children were very upset and unsure about the whole situation. I talked with the one of the officers escorting us and he apologized for what he was doing and said he had to because of the way things were set up at the airport. He conveyed to us that he was on our side of the issue and again apologized.
I believe that the whole situation was handled very poorly and that US Airways should take a serious look at the competency level of the Captain on this flight.
I am sure that if anyone of power in your company experienced this flight that Captain [snip] would not be employed by US Airways at this time. I also believe that you owe me, family and many other passengers an apology on behalf of your employee’s actions. The whole incident was a terrible way to end an experience of a lifetime. We saved for years to take our children to Costa Rica and now one of our overpowering feelings is the memory of this flight and of shame by being semi arrested by police at the airport. I cannot convey the desire that I have that your company please follows up on this complaint and do a thorough job researching the events. I would hate to think that someone would be hurt because of the future actions of your company.
If you have any questions, please contact me. Thank you.
Jim Purdy PLS