Monday, June 04, 2012

US Airways Fail

Over the past several times, whenever I've flown out of Cleveland-Hopkins (CLE), I find myself flying the reconstituted United-Continental airlines.  Since I have their credit card, I can check a bag for free, and their service (such as it is in the modern airline industry) has grown predictable to me.  Over the past six months on several flights they've gotten me to where I needed to be within the time that they promised, and although the flights have been packed I've never had to wait through an airline lottery because they overbooked.  Of interest as well is that Mrs. Sandmich had a flight that was delayed slightly due to maintenance issues and it still got to Cleveland on time.

When purchasing her ticket for a flight to New York, our guest daughter Sally purchased it from US Airways.  I was going to denigrate this decision out of hand, but a quick check of flights in the future, booked with the same lead time that she used, shows that US Airways is $100 cheaper (about 1/3 less expensive).  This sounds like a steal, if they actually happen to get you to where you are going.

Sally had a brief layover in Philadelphia on her way to New York and she called to say that the flight was delayed by an hour, which already sounded ridiculous as a cab ride was within striking distance of beating the flight at that point.  She later called to say that it was canceled and when Mrs. Sandmich called US Airways it turns out that the cancellation was due to "congestion"; in other words US Airways over-scheduled their gates and the small flight from Philly to New York drew the short straw and was canceled. I have to wonder if this is something that they're in the habit of doing: playing the lottery with their customers time in the off-chance that they can get every flight in and out of the airports in a too-tight time window in the hopes that they'll win big bucks.

With her flight canceled, Sally was given the next best option: a flight to Reagan National in DC that was departing in about thirty minutes (she found out that her flight in Philly had been canceled around 8pm), and then a 7am flight from Washington to New York.  Now the main issue that I have with this is that Philly to New York is two friggin' hours away driving, but it was going to take US Airways nearly 12 hours, and more than 18 hours total to fly her there (which is actually more time than driving from Cleveland to New York!).  Sally initially said that she would take that ticket, but then seconds later when she conferred with her uncle in New York, she said that she would cancel out and try to get her bags since her uncle said that he would drive down from New York to get her.  Mrs. Sandmich was on the phone with US Airways and got them to cancel her two checked bag fees and, generously enough, her flight from Philly to New York.

That left me puzzled.  US Airways said that they couldn't refund the flight from Cleveland to Philly since that was "consumed".  They're not selling milk though, they're selling a destination; as if they get the option of getting you to a destination whenever they feel like it and however they want to go about it once you set foot on their plane.  It's like with any sold service: half finished isn't "half finished", it's completely unfinished.  Would anyone buy a half done haircut or a half done engine rebuild, it'd be better for the service not to have been performed at all!

To add insult on injury, one of Sally's bags found it's way onto the flight to DC (I should point out that Sally said that she could have more easily understood if both her bags went).  US Airways was kind enough to fly it up to New York and and charge her $50 for the honor of having her baggage get to her too late to accompany her on her flight to China so that she then has to pay again to have it shipped to China.  Mrs. Sandmich called to complain but US Airways stands steadfastly by their crappy customer service, that they went over and above in getting someone half way to her destination and getting her baggage all messed up.

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