UPDATE: Some 36 hours after I initially posted this letter, I received a voicemail from Cynthia, a member of US Airways’ Customer Relations team. Being on vacation didn’t provide any opportunities to call her back until a few minutes ago. During our call, she mentioned a couple policies and outside forces that contribute to their 45-minute baggage check in policy. Long story short, it is related to TSA’s and US Airways’ need to make sure all baggage can get through their systems before a flight departs.
Cynthia also apologized for my experience with the gate agent. She said that individual should have taken the chance to check the flight’s actual departure time (note: it left some 51 minutes late). She also issued us some vouchers to cover a small part of our expenses and asked that we give them a second chance. I appreciate her taking the time to reach out to me, explain what could have helped us make the flight and be sincerely apologetic for the inconvenience that we were caused. Even more impressive, it’s good to see their customer service team listening and responding to consumer complaints from blogs. I haven’t fully decided if I will give them another shot at my business, but this goes a long way to showing me they care about consumer’s concerns and experiences on their airline.
My name is Michael Barber, and I am Dividend Miles member with over 30,000+ miles logged last year. I am writing you from approximately 33,000 feet on US Airways flight #16. This will be my last flight on your airline.
You see I shouldn’t be on this flight right now, but should be heading over the Atlantic for a family vacation in Italy. But alas, my girlfriend and I will be spending the night in New York City (not all that bad, I know) before continuing our journey tomorrow afternoon, providing us one less day for adventures in Italy and over $2,000 in additional expenses from rebooking our tickets, hotel, cab and food related costs. Here’s how we got here.
We were originally booked on flight #12, PHX to JFK arriving at 5pm EST. We arrived at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport one hour and five minutes before our scheduled departure time of 8:52am and got up to the kiosk 42 minutes before our flight was scheduled to leave. Apparently that is 3 minutes too late to check bags. I politely asked one of your customer service agents to ensure the flight was leaving on time and see if we could still make it. She quickly remarked “No”, pointed her finger at another line, said “Go over there to rebook”, and moved on to the next customer. I can’t say I am surprised at the exhilarating customer service she provided because this isn’t the first time your employees have treated me or passengers within earshot with a complete lack of simple respect.
It took us another 30 minutes before we reached the front of the second line only to be told that our original flight was over an hour delayed, that we probably could have got on the original flight had the first associate checked their computer, and we would be rebooked on flight #16 which left some six hours later. This effectively closed the door on any chance of making our connecting flight in New York. What’s worse, we were told that we couldn’t rebook to the following morning without paying for an entire new ticket.
You are going to need to explain to me some things. Why can’t you allow passengers the freedom to change their travel plans within reason? Southwest does. If we could have re-booked to the following day, it would have saved us a couple thousand dollars. Why is that your airline can’t get bags on a plane that leaves in 42 minutes? It is a union requirement, logistical issue? I can understand that if we walked up 15, 20, hell even 35 minutes before our flight that checking bags wouldn’t be available. But, come on 42 minutes. That’s only 3 minutes too late, some 180 seconds. Southwest (the other major PHX airline) would have gladly checked us in, reminded us of the time requirements, and made sure our bags made the flight, all the while making us feel valued as customers. Why can’t your airline do the same? Had this been the only incident with your airline over the past few years, then I could cut you some slack. It simply was the straw that broke the camel’s back, so to speak.
Look I get that your industry is under siege at the moment. Between the floundering global economy, decreased demand and oil prices last year, the airline industry is hurting. It’s widely known that if oil prices were to hit say north of $200/barrel (and this is entirely possible), the industry would be decimated. I also get that airfares haven’t increased with inflation over the past 20 or so years, so there will be complaining from me about increased prices and fees. However, these issues provide ZERO excuses for your company’s lack of focus on your customer. You NEED to give travelers a reason to choose your airline over another. Whether that be friendly communication from your customer-facing employees or checking the bags of a traveler who is a few minutes late, find a way to make your customers smile because we don’t forget these experiences.
Between the incidents with your employees and your airline, the ridiculous online/offline fee structure for baggage and your complete lack of providing any value to your customers, I simply won’t spend my or my employer’s hard earned money for travel on your airline until I hear or read about some significant customer service improvements. I will do my best to fly with Southwest, JetBlue and Delta/Northwest. Between those three airlines, I can get anywhere in the world from Phoenix.
Should you take the time to read this letter and have questions or comments, I live around the corner from your office and would be happy to grab a cup of coffee, lunch or would even be satisfied with a few comments below. Thanks for your time, and I look forward to the day when I can update this post about a better experience with US Airways.
(photo by me)