Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Incompetence of US Airways

Air travel has always been a big part of my life. I've flown across both the Pacific and the Atlantic. I've flown commercial and private. I've flown in coach and first class. Lately it seems like a month doesn't go by without at least one flight. I'm not a novice when it comes flying, and that is why I can write with some confidence that last week's flight on US Airways was the most terrifying flight of my life.

Last Thursday, I was to fly from Miami (on store visits) to Charlotte and then back to Columbus. We were to arrive back in to Columbus, go to work on Friday and then M and I were flying from Columbus to San Antonio for our babymoon. That was the first of what ended up being three plans.

On the first flight from Miami to Charlotte there was some turbulence in the air, which was concerning, but nothing that hasn't happened before on countless other flights. It went from concerning to terrifying when the pilot came on the loudspeaker and in a worried/frantic voice said "Everyone sit down. Flight attendants prepare the oxygen masks. We need to make an emergency landing in Orlando." My coworker sitting next to me immediately turned pale and started sobbing. From then on we listened to every little sound on the plane as if we could control what was going on if things went poorly. When the plane made a loud rattling sound that after about 5 minutes just abruptly stopped into dead silence, it was hard not to think that at least one the engines went out. It felt like we were gliding like a paper airplane.

Now looking back it is is hard to know what ended up happening. It is unlikely that something like the engine going out actually happened, but at the time the only thing that could go through my head was the pilot's scared voice about the oxygen masks. Of course we landed ok (thus this blog post) and ended up getting a hotel in Orlando. It wasn't a very pleasant experience, and one that I blame completely on the incompetence of US Airways. I would suggest that you do whatever it takes to fly someone other than them. Am I being too harsh? In addition to the above consider;
  • The line to get a hotel was about 3 hours long, so we ended up booking our own hotel in Orlando with our own money. US Airways was supposed to pay for the hotel (like most airlines), but we haven't seen a dime towards those costs.
  • I was going to fly from Orlando through Charlotte to San Antonio to meet up with M on our babymoon. My thought was that it made no sense to fly all the way back to Columbus on Friday to get back on a plane to fly to San Antonio. The first flight I had in the morning from Orlando to Charlotte ended up also having problems. Instead of flying into Charlotte, the plane had to land back in Orlando. 
  • When I got off my 2nd diverted flight, I talked to US Airways rebooking agent (now on speed dial) and was informed that 1) I would have to fly back to Columbus and not San Antonio and 2) when I asked about compensation, I was told I could send an email.
  • The result was 4 consecutive meals at the airport and 22 out of 30 hours spent on a plane or in the airport. I had 45 minutes at home to change my bag, take a shower and get ready to go back to the airport for my next couple flights.
So the end result is that no I don't think I am being too harsh.