Tuesday, July 3, 2007

US Airways Customer Service -- SUCKS!

Instapundit links to this post by Dean Barnett complaining of his bad experience with Delta. (Insty's bad Delta experience can be found here.)

I have my own recent Bad Airline Customer Service tale of woe to report, and while I've had bad experiences with Delta in the past, the most recent involves a close competitor for Worst Airline Ever -- US Airways. That's right Google, US Airways may well be the Worst Airline Ever. I never got a chance to fly Aeroflot during the bad old days of the Soviet Union, though, so maybe they were worse. US Airways consistently ranks last in customer service. Even Doug Parker, their CEO, knows they have a problem -- he said at the May shareholders meeting "If we don't start running a good airline, we will drive customers away." Wow, he's smart. No wonder he's a CEO!

In any case, or story begins last April -- the Main Squeeze and I are in Vegas for a short trip. Alas, the most convenient routes are former America West routes, now US Airways. On the way back from Vegas, our flight is massively overbooked, and we are in lousy seats -- two middle seats, back of a full plane. So we generously volunteer to take another flight, in exchange for two travel vouchers for $200 each or two round-trip tickets anywhere in the continental United States. Great Deal, right?

Well, not so fast. Last month, in June, we had another trip to Vegas. We figured what the heck -- let's use those vouchers. So we go online to look for a flight. And we find a flight -- but as it turns out, there is no way to use one of their vouchers when booking online. So we call the airline. I don't know where the woman on the other end of the phone was from -- it didn't sound like India, but she certainly didn't speak any form of English that I'm familiar with. I'm sure that after my recent posts on immigration, some folks have marked me down as an intolerant boob, and I know this ain't PC, but I'm sorry -- somebody whose job is to talk to Americans on the phone ought to be able to speak understandable English.

It is a good thing that we had looked for the flight online, because, in addition to being barely able to speak English, she was barely able to do her job. We had to spell out exactly what flight and route we wanted to take, because she couldn't get us there without help. We were able to reserve the seats, at least.

But as for redeeming the vouchers -- no such luck. At least according to her, we had to go to the airport ticket counter and redeem the vouchers in person. So to the airport we go! Well, we get there and make our way to the US Airways ticket counter. As it happens, it's fairly late at night, and it's not particularly crowded. There are two people working behind the counter, both "serving" customers, and two people in line ahead of us. That is right -- a grand total of four people. How long will this take?

Well, we get in line and we wait. And wait. And wait. Finally, one of the people at the ticket counter finishes his customer. Great! But instead of summoning another customer, that agent dissapears behind a door, and is never heard from again. So that leaves one agent for three customers. Finally she finishes the person in front of her, and she summons the next customer. Another interminable wait. And another for the next person.

Finally we make it to the desk. I swear, for a while I thought the ticket agent was mute, because she didn't say a word to us. No "hello, how may I help you?" Certainly not a 'sorry about the long wait in a short line." She simply stood there. We explained what we wanted to do, and she just stared at us. It wasn't clear that she understood what we wanted, or even that she wasn't a zombie. She made no acknowledgment of us at all.

She tries to call somebody on her phone. No answer. Then, still not saying a word, she wanders into the back for a minute. She returns and tries the phone again. When there's no answer, again, she fiddles with her computer for a while. Then it's the back again. It goes like this for about fifteen minutes -- and she makes no effort to tell us what, if anything, is going on. Soon it is fairly obvious that she doesn't have the faintest idea how to redeem the voucher. In fact, she clerly has no idea what to do, and neither the desire nor the ability to tell us what the problem is or make anythng more than a desultory effort to fix it. Finally, we just give up and pay for the tickets. We were in the airport for over an hour, and of course had to pay for parking. An hour! To wait on five customers, and not very well at that. (One of the people ahead of us was another voucher-carrier, and that person left frustrated, voucher still in hand.)

US Airways offers these travel vouchers whenever their planes are overbooked. Which, these days, is "nearly every flight." I mean, I've seen the gate people give these away like candy on Halloween. Then US Airways make it virtually impossible to cash them in. Can't do it online, can't do it over the phone. And apparently they don't instruct the agents at the ticket counter in how to do it.

That goes beyond really bad customer service at US Airways. To me, that's tantamount to fraud. They're giving away "vouchers" that are worthless because US Airways makes it well-nigh impossible to actually cash them in. What a rip-off!

Oh, I should linke to Christopher Penn, who has a similar tale of woe at US Airways. You know, a story about how US Airways customer service sucks.

UPDATE: More US Airways horror stories here! I feel lucky in comparison!


Anonymous said...

a little late, but i wanted to leave this website for you to join:

its about time someone made one!

Lisa said...

Okay, I am going to tell my tale of woes with US Airways. The date of my great frustration with this airline was on August 5th, 2007. I was trying to get to Oakland California from Myrtle Beach to attend my cousin's funeral. My other cousin, the sister of the deceased, was planning to pick me up at the Oakland airport at 9:30 pm, the time of the landing of my scheduled flight. I had two connections to make, the first in Charlotte and the second in Phoenix. My flight from Myrtle Beach to Charlotte went fine...no problems. However, when I arrived in Charlotte, the connecting flight to Phoenix was delayed because the flight crew was "not available" as they were coming in from another destination. Thus, my flight from Charlotte to Phoenix was delayed by approximately 1 hour. When I arrived in Phoenix, I had about 25 minutes to get to my next connecting flight to Oakland and I thought for sure I could make it. However, this is where things REALLY turned bad. The flight from Charlotte to Phoenix was not only delayed due to a late flight crew. When the plane landed and after we taxied to the gate to de-plane, there was literally a 15 minute wait just for a US Airways attendent to OPEN THE DOOR so that customers could de-plane. We were left sitting in the hot airplane quietly waiting, just staring ahead hoping to get off the plane. I couldn't believe it! Left waiting unecessarily for 15 minutes. These were precious minutes I needed to get to my next gate. After I de-planed, I was RUNNING to my gate...which happened to be in concourse A.....far away from the concourse we initially landed in. As I was running from gate A1 to gate A15 completely out of breath, sweating, and heart pumping like crazy, I ran up to gate A5 and asked the US Airways attendant to "please, please call my connecting gate to let them know I was on my way and please not to close the gate on me". At the same time, I was anticipating that I would at least hear my name being paged over the intercom system, because other airlines have done this for me...but I did not hear any pages for my name and I thought this was rather peculiar. Finally, when I arrived at the gate (it was 13 minutes before scheduled departure), the gate was completely closed, the attendant was GONE and the lights turned off. I noticed 4 other customers in the same predicament as myself....they had ran to the gate as well and were left scratching their heads wondering why they could not get on the plane when the plane was just sitting there. One man was very incensed that the gate was closed three minutes too early and he was yelling, throwing his carry-on bag down on the floor, screaming that US Airways "gave his damn seat away because they overbooked the flight". He became extremely irrate at one US Airways attendant and created a huge scene that caught everyone's attention. The five of us were told to go to the US Airways customer service to head out on the next flight to our destination. So, I stood in line in customer service for about 25 minutes. Once I made it to a customer service representative after the long wait, I was told that the next flight out to Oakland would not arrive in Oakland until 1:30 am and that it could be delayed because there was a connecting flight in Las Vegas and there were thunderstorms moving throughout that area. This was much too late at night to make my cousin drive to pick me up and I did not want to take the risk of another delay via the connecting flight. There was another available flight directly to San Francisco, however, that was scheduled to arrive at midnight. However, if I took this flight, my luggage would not be in San Francisco since it was already on its way to Oakland. That meant I would need to take a cab from the San Francisco airport to the Oakland airport to pick up my luggage and then take another cab from the Oakland airport to San Ramon where my cousins live. I decided to go with the direct flight to San Francisco. However, it soon became apparent that my flight to San Francisco was again delayed by 1 hour due unknown weather reasons (turns out there was only "fog" in the area). Ultimately, my flight to San Francisco arrived at 1 am. After landing and taxing to the gate, the same "waiting for the door to open" situation occurred. There was no US Airways attendant available to open the door to let passengers de-plane for about 20 minutes. Again, we were all left sitting in the plane at this very late hour staring ahead with great hope that someone would open the door. Everybody was exhausted and there was no US Airways attendant to let us de-plane. The Captain spoke on the intercom to apologize to all of us for the delay in geting us off the plane. Finally, once the door was opened, we all started to de-plane. As I exited the plane, I heard the captain ask the US Airways attendent who openened the door "so where were you...I was calling?". I walked back to the attendant and sternly asked him the same thing: "where were you?"...he and the captain both looked at me slightly in disbelief and the attendant did not answer me. I simply walked away from him feeling angry. By the time I hailed a cab from San Francisco to the Oakland airport, passengers from the Oakland flight that I could have taken were already arriving. Thus, I wasted $80 in cab fare. In the Oakland airport, it took me 30 minutes to find my luggage because the airport was essentially a ghost town. I could not find a US Airways attendant to help me until I asked a security guard to assist me. It was now well after 2 am. Next, I had to take a cab from the Oakland aiport to my cousin's home in San Ramon, which was another $80 cab fare, for a total of $160 in cab rides. Finally, I did not arrive to my cousin's home until 2:45 am and was exhausted. Needless to say, I was exhausted the next day, in mourning over my deceased cousin, and barely able to stay awake at her funeral the next morning. Remember, my original scheduled flight was for 9:30 pm and my cousin was planning to pick me up at that very reasonable hour. However, I could not ask her to wait until 2 am to come and get me and insisted that I find my own way to her house. I need to mention two more importatnt things. According to US Airways customer service, their policy is not to close the gate until 10 minutes prior to departure. However, I arrived at my connecting gate in Phoenix 13 minutes prior to departure. Those 3 precious minutes could have made ALL THE DIFFERENCE in the world for preventing a chain reaction of events that caused a great deal of pain, sweat, headache, frustration, anger, inconvenience, and hostility against US Airways and their extremely poor customer service and terrible decision to have closed the gate 3 minutes too early. This was not the way to treat a customer, especially one who was on her way to attend the funeral of a loved one. US Airways probably gave my seat away because they overbooked the flight and hence the reason for closing the gate early. This is not just bad customer service that negatively affects the customer, it is bad customer service that hurts US Airways as well because customers like me will never fly with them again. What a hellish experience I had with US Airways. I have often flown United Airlines, Southwest, and Delta and while these airlines have their issues too, they have ALWAYS paged me when if I was late coming to the gate for whatever reason and they have never given my seat away, unlike US Airways. I am planning to ask US Airways for a full refund of my flight. Wish me luck.

D.G. said...

Hey, this is over a year late, so no one will probably ever read this, but I can definitely relate. Two years ago, I made three ill-fated attempts to visit my daughter oversees. But a broken leg and then surgery intervened. All told, I spent more in cancelation fees than the ticket cost, AND NO ONE COULD FIGURE OUT HOW TO REDEEM MY VOUCHER WHEN I FINALLY WAS ABLE TO TRAVEL!!!!! Ditto to EVERYTHING Iconoclast said!

Happy Daisy AZ said...

Ah, US Air - when will they just go out of business for being so inept?




should be considered fair warning to anyone thinking about giving US Airways their money!