As a native New Englander, I’m no stranger to flight delays. That’s why you’ll see me traveling via air much less in the winter months. When I do travel in the winter, I usually have flexible plans or good travel insurance. But I don’t expect to encounter major flight delays in the month of May, when the weather is usually pleasant and there aren’t any major school vacations. This past week, however, it took me over 40 hours to get from the San Antonio airport to Boston’s Logan Airport, via Charlotte, due to some big issues with USAirways. To date, I’ve been offered several vague apologies and a $40 credit on USAirways, but once you read this story, you’ll probably agree that they not only need to compensate the travelers, they need to revisit some policies.
Before I launch into the story, I’ll share an overview of my TripIt account. I have a pro membership (paid for by me) and so I receive text and app alerts every time something changes with my flight. Here are the alerts I got over those 40+ hours.
May 8th, 2014:
US Airways 1988 US1988 ON TIME. SAT dep 6:59am term A, gate 9. CLT arr 10:40am. 50m to make conn @ CLT, US1937 11:30am gate C13
US Airways 1988 US1988 DELAYED. SAT dep 7:15am term A, gate 9. CLT arr 10:57am. 33m to make conn @ CLT, US1937 11:30am gate C13
US Airways 1988 US1988 DELAYED. SAT dep 8:00am term A, gate 9. CLT arr 11:44am. Won’t make conn @ CLT, US1937 11:30am gate C13
US Airways 1988 US1988 DELAYED. SAT dep 10:00am term A, gate 9. CLT arr 1:44pm. Won’t make conn @ CLT, US1937 11:30am gate C13
US Airways 1988 US1988 DELAYED. SAT dep 10:30am term A, gate 9. CLT arr 2:14pm. Won’t make conn @ CLT, US1937 11:30am gate C13
US Airways 1988 US1988 DELAYED. SAT dep 11:00am term A, gate 9. CLT arr 2:44pm. Won’t make conn @ CLT, US1937 11:30am gate C13
US Airways 1988 US1988 DELAYED. SAT dep 11:15am term A, gate 9. CLT arr 2:59pm. Won’t make conn @ CLT, US1937 11:30am gate C13
US Airways 1988 US1988 DELAYED. SAT dep 11:55am term A, gate 9. CLT arr 3:39pm. Won’t make conn @ CLT, US1937 11:30am gate C13
US Airways 1988 US1988 DELAYED. SAT dep 1:00pm term A, gate 9. CLT arr 4:44pm. Won’t make conn @ CLT, US1937 11:30am gate C13
US Airways 1988 US1988 CANCELED
At that point the flight was canceled and they were unable to book any of us on other flights out of San Antonio. The flight was reinstated for the next morning at 7:15am under a new flight #.
May 9th, 2014:
US Airways 9010 US9010 SAT dep chg to 7:30am. CLT arr now 11:17am. 13m to make conn @ CLT, US1937 11:30am gate C13
US Airways 9010 US9010 DELAYED. SAT dep 7:30am term A, gate 8. CLT arr 11:17am. 13m to make conn @ CLT, US1937 11:30am gate C13
US Airways 9010 US9010 DELAYED. SAT dep 10:00am term A, gate 8. CLT arr 1:47pm. Won’t make conn @ CLT, US1937 11:30am gate C13
US Airways 9010 US9010 DELAYED. SAT dep 11:00am term A, gate 8. CLT arr 2:47pm. Won’t make conn @ CLT, US1937 11:30am gate C13
US Airways 9010 US9010 DELAYED. SAT dep 12:00pm term A, gate 8. CLT arr 3:47pm. Won’t make conn @ CLT, US1937 11:30am gate C13
US Airways 9010 US9010 DELAYED. SAT dep 12:30pm term A, gate 8. CLT arr 4:12pm
And we were off to Charlotte.
But that wasn’t it…. Once I got to Charlotte, the text messages kept coming.
US Airways 1806 US1806 may be delayed. Chk with US 1-800-428-4322
US Airways 1806 US1806 DELAYED. CLT dep 6:15pm gate C2. BOS arr 8:13pm
US Airways 1806 US1806 DELAYED. CLT dep 6:45pm gate C2. BOS arr 8:43pm
US Airways 1806 US1806 DELAYED. CLT dep 8:10pm gate C2. BOS arr 10:08pm
US Airways 1806 US1806 DELAYED. CLT dep 9:00pm gate C2. BOS arr 10:58pm
US Airways 1806 US1806 DELAYED. CLT dep 9:15pm gate C2. BOS arr 11:13pm
US Airways 1806 US1806 DELAYED. CLT dep 9:50pm gate C2. BOS arr 11:48pm
US Airways 1806 US1806 DELAYED. CLT dep 10:00pm gate C2. BOS arr 11:58pm
We didn’t end up leaving until almost 11pm and landed closer to 1am. I got home sometime between 1:30am and 2:00am on May 10th, with an original departure date of May 8th.
So now I’ll backtrack.
On Thursday, May 8th, I was picked up at my hotel at 5am (waking up at 4:15am) and easily got through security to my gate. I grabbed a quick breakfast, and waited to board my flight. I was seated next to a friendly man and we politely chatted before both putting on our headphones. I was a bit concerned about my short connection, but was assured that the gates were right next to each other.
The plane didn’t take off right away, and the pilot got on the PA system and explained that there had been a mechanical issue with the flight the night before, and there was some paperwork that needed to be completed. It took about 10 minutes and we were told we’d make up the time in flight. The plane pulled out of the gate, and started taxiing before stopping. At that point, the pilot got back on the PA and told us that there was still a mechanical problem and we’d be delayed for a while while maintenance worked on it. We sat on the plane for about an hour before we were allowed off.
At that point, many of us realized we would miss our connections. We were provided a toll free number to call, but most of us had the line hang up on us as we tried to call. We all got in line and waited for the two gate agents to help. I was rebooked on a later flight out of Charlotte that would get in to Boston at 10:15pm.
While waiting for the plane to be fixed, we were treated to Marti the gate agent, who could honestly be a Saturday Night Live character in the vein of the Target lady. Every time Marti got on the PA, I cringed. She told us things like (paraphrasing here), “They are going back to the garage to look for the part” and “the plane was fixed but it’s still having a problem. The pilot thinks they may have opened the wrong compartment”. I appreciate her honesty, but really don’t want to think about mechanics fixing the wrong problem when I’m putting my life in their hands.
Eventually, the flight was cancelled and Marti explained that we’d need to go back through security to be rebooked. She also told us that the flight was being reinstated for the morning at 7:15am. Our original flight, which was #1988, would still take off at 6:59am, but we wouldn’t be able to get on that one. There was a long line at the desk, but we were provided the phone number again, and after a few dropped calls, I got through to someone and was rebooked for the next morning. A gate agent printed my tickets and gave me a voucher for a local hotel, the Drury Inn and Suites, right by the airport.
During the first day, I was tweeting back and forth with the @USAirways account, which was essentially useless, saying things like “We’re sorry for your delay”, and “We’re sorry for the difficulties, Jodi. Any gate agent should be able to help”. However, once I tweeted this, “Headed to a @DruryHotels property for the night since my flight out of San Antonio has been canceled”, the fantastic folks behind the Drury Hotels Twitter account asked which one. Five minutes after I checked in, the hotel general manager showed up with a surprise:
Drury Hotel social media 1, USAirways social media 0.
After a great night of sleep, I woke up at 4:30am, ready to head home. My daughter’s vocal performance recital was scheduled for 6pm ET, but I was optimistic I would make it. After all, that was a full 36 hours after my original flight time. Who is delayed for more than 36 hours, IN MAY?
Everyone at the gate was in good spirits. We joked about “Groundhog Day” and happily greeted Marti. I talked to my daughter on the phone, letting her know that I missed her but would see her at the show. I tried to get on the 6:59am flight so I would have more time for my connection, but was told it was full. Marti let us know that the plane had been fixed (yes, the SAME PLANE) and was being brought over from the hangar.
Then I got the first TripIt alert that 7:15 had been pushed back to 7:30am. Although Marti never made the announcement, when I approached her, she explained that it was delayed and she wasn’t sure why. She moved my connection to a later time, but I would still have plenty of time to make that 6pm recital. I also told my fellow passengers about the delay, and probably sold a few TripIt subscriptions because of it. I was still optimistic, because at that point the flight crew (the same as the day before) showed up and boarded the plane.
And then came the announcement. Marti let us know that the pilot turned the plane on and IT WAS STILL BROKEN.
Marti encouraged those of us with connections to try to rebook, since it would take a while to fix the plane FOR A THIRD TIME. I called the toll-free number, and after a few hang-ups, was connected to a rep who rebooked me through American Airlines a hour later. I ran through the airport because American was at a separate (but adjacent) terminal, and went to the kiosk to print my new boarding pass.
It was at that point, I realized that flight was also delayed, and I’d miss my connection.
I panicked a bit, and didn’t know what to do. I returned to the USAirways desk to be put back on my original plans, and was then told that I wouldn’t get to Boston until 6:30pm – missing the recital. I’ll admit it, I’m not proud but I did start to tear up. The gate agents didn’t even respond at all, even ignoring my request for a tissue.
I went back through security and waited for the plane with my fellow passengers.
Despite my frustration at missing my daughter’s recital, others were in worse situations. One family was traveling with three kids under the age of five. One family was missing a funeral (“The dead person isn’t going anywhere”, I overheard an off duty gate agent mutter under her breath). For the most part, although everyone was frustrated, this was a polite and friendly group. We watched each others’ luggage for bathroom breaks, chatted about books, and shared what food we had. The kids were all playing together and were quiet and well behaved.
Marti gave us updates, explaining that they were “adding more screws” and “waiting for the sealant to dry”. We boarded the flight for a 12:30pm departure, but had to wait for the paperwork to be completed again. We finally pulled out of the gate, but then was told we had to wait for a little while for some bad weather to pass.
Finally, 30+ hours after our initial departure time, our flight was in the air. The sealant obviously worked, because we safely landed in Charlotte. I made my way to the gate to Boston when the texts started coming through again. Yes, my flight to Boston was delayed because of weather.
I’ll spare you those details, but once we were on board, we sat on the tarmac for 30 minutes. The pilot explained that while we were taxiing, the maintenance required light came on and we needed to have maintenance fix something.
Seriously, shouldn’t USAirways rethink their maintenance plans?
I finally landed at home after midnight and got home by 12:30am on Saturday.
To date, USAirways has offered me a $40 flight voucher. But I have some serious questions. Why was this plane broken three times? Why didn’t they get a new plane? Why did we sit there for 2 days, watching multiple planes take off to Charlotte, without any chance for any of us to get on those planes?
It’ll be a LONG time before I fly USAirways again.
I filled out USAirways customer relations form with a very brief version of my story. I didn’t request any specific compensation.
Thank you for contacting Customer Relations. We appreciate it when customers take the time to share their concerns.
It is relatively easy to provide good customer service when an operation is running smoothly. We know the test of quality service occurs when we are faced with flight irregularities and problems such as you experienced. We are truly sorry for the disruption of your flights on May 8, 2014 and the inconvenience it caused. Your frustration with our failure to operate this flight as scheduled is understandable. It is not our intent to create difficulties for our customers and we make every effort to avoid flight interruptions.
Flight schedules can be disrupted for various reasons, and I regret we must decline your request for a complimentary roundtrip ticket for this disrupted travel. To convey our apologies and regain your confidence, we have authorized one $100.00 Electronic Travel With Us Voucher(s) (E-TUV). Your E-TUV is valid toward the purchase of travel on US Airways. Please be advised the E-TUV is not valid with Internet bookings and must be redeemed within one year from the date of this correspondence. In addition, please take a moment to read the terms and conditions listed below to receive the full benefit of this compensation. When you are ready to make your future travel arrangements, please call our Reservations Department at 800-428-4322 and provide the E-TUV code listed below. The customary ticketing fee will not be assessed at the time of booking with our Reservations Department.
The E-TUV code is:
Jodi Grundig <redacted> $100.00
Ms.Grundig, feedback such as yours affords us the opportunity to learn where and how we can improve our service not only to meet our customers’ expectations, but to exceed those expectations. Given the privilege of serving you again on US Airways, we look forward to providing you with a more satisfying travel experience.
Representative, Customer Relations
US Airways Corporate Office
Dear USAirways and Patricia Kerman, I must decline your request for a second chance.
Get Our Free eBook
Subscribe to get our complimentary eBook with tips, tricks, and info for family travelers.