Monday, August 22, 2011

An Open Letter to US Airways about Customer Service @USAirways

US Airways, I don't have much choice but to fly with you... you're one of the two airlines that flies out of my local airport, and I like to support it, plus I am cheap and hate to pay for parking in other cities.

All that said, while I acknowledge that airlines are easy targets these days...we should have a chat about customer service. Let's use my own experience as an example.

Take, for instance, yesterday, Sunday August 21st. I started my day leaving Reno. I dutifully checked my not-very-large suitcase when I got my boarding pass, and did not once complain that you charged me an extra $25 for the privilege of having my luggage accompany me in your cargo holds. I know airlines have it tough. Like I said, I'm lazy and don't want to drag the suit case through four airports and drop it on people's heads when I try to get it in the overhead.

So when the plane is not even boarding and the worker at the gate for flight 521 from Reno to Phoenix starts checking bags FOR FREE (because a computer told him there might not be room for them all), I'm a little pissed.

Fast forward several hours...

It's 8:45pm Eastern, I'm in Philadelphia Airport, Concourse F, waiting for flight 3620 to Ithaca, NY, to board. Then it's 9pm. Then 9:10pm. Nothing. No one comes to the gate. No one changes the sign. A plane sits alone and forlorn at the end of the jetway.  Frequent checks of the board in the terminal say that the flight is ON TIME. (Note the picture... even at 9:53pm, the flight scheduled to leave 23 minutes before was still supposedly ON TIME. Hows that for "checking my status"?)

I have technology however. About 9:11pm, I pulled out my iPhone, went to and plugged in the flight number. CANCELLED.

I went to a ticket counter for another flight and was told, yes, the flight was cancelled due to air traffic congestion. "In Ithaca?" I asked, wondering if perhaps the tower was scared by a turkey vulture at the airport, circling and circling. "No, here in Philly," I was told.

When I pointed out the board still indicated the flight was on time, I was told "we don't control the board." Well who the hell does? Gremlins? This particular mantra is well rehearsed by the entire staff in Concourse F, so at least they're well trained in that respect.

I got on standby for an Elmira NY flight, but didn't make it. Syracuse flights were cancelled. I tried Binghamton: also full. When I asked if I could get some kind of voucher for a hotel stay at the very least, they said, "Oh we can't do that when weather is responsible."

So which is it, US Airways? Weather or traffic? Maybe you should try to get the lies consistent in the computer so your people on the ground don't have to make it up as they go.

She suggested I try to fly into Williamsport, PA, a location 123 miles from Ithaca.  Seriously?

I finally found a Rochester NY flight with open seats. I was told it was cost me $100 to make a change to that flight, because it wasn't the same region or some bloody nonsense. Even though it's infinitely closer to Ithaca (and even Elmira). I'm happy to report that the charge was apparently not made--the one instance of good customer service I got from the airline all day.

Arriving in Rochester meant I had to get a ride from my girlfriend, who drove 96 miles to get me, then 96 miles back. I was nervous for her the entire way up because the weather must be horrible! On Judge Judy, I think that's called "mental anguish." Yeah, you caused that.

In the end, did I get home safe? Yes. Though I'm still waiting on my luggage.

So what do I want from you, US Airways? Since you haven't charged me the $25 yet for the baggage handling, I expect you won't. That's at the very least.

For all the other crap, a free flight somewhere or a first class upgrade on a future trip would also be welcome. But my expectations are low in that regard.

Here's what I really want: UPDATE YOUR SOFTWARE. Get your people on the same page. Make sure your hubs have a clue about what's going on. I was one of the first people in Terminal F to know my own flight was cancelled and only because I have a PHONE. That's inexcusable. To then get all sorts of baloney reasons for the cancellation thrown in my face does nothing to help. Maybe you should all try flying your own airline for $800 a pop, do it all day, and see how you feel when people look at you blankly and then read lies off a computer screen. It might make you think.

Yours truly,
Eric Griffith
(Originally published at