I’m sitting here at home in New York writing my regular Sunday blog entry, so you’d think that everything is normal. Well, it isn’t.
This weekend I was supposed to be in Las Vegas.
I usually go to Vegas to visit family several times a year, mostly for long weekends, and so it started on Friday evening with a trip to Kennedy Airport. When I checked in with America West/US Airways, I was told that the plane was late coming and in would be late going out. That’s nothing new, and eventually boarding of the plane began (albeit an hour late) – but that‘s when the trouble really began.
First, we couldn’t leave the gate because a British Airways 747 was sitting right behind us. Finally that moved, but we didn’t get too far. At one point, the pilot told us that we were next to get on the take-off line. (That’s right. We were first on line to get in line.) He said that it was all due to thunderstorms ranging from New Orleans to west of Toronto and all flights from the east coast going west were affected.
After sitting there without moving for a very long time, the pilot decided to return to the gate to allow people to get off if they’d given up. Eventually, it all became academic. After more than two hours sitting on the plane, we were all kicked off. The flight had been cancelled.
Now, I’ve been kicked off of my fair share of subway trains, but never before from an airplane – and things continued to get worse. A US Airways employee gave out a phone number to call to book another flight. I thought that if I could book a seat on the 8 am flight, I might still be able to make a weekend trip worthwhile, but first I just wanted to get home and so I took a cab back.
(Others weren’t so lucky. I heard two women say that they were from out of town and had no place to spend the night. No hotel rooms were available, they were told, but they couldn’t stay in the terminal because they had to go down to baggage claim to get their luggage – and from there you can’t get back in! Essentially, these people were being thrown out onto the street, after midnight, with no place to stay.)
Once home, I tried calling that phone number but it was busy every time, so I just decided to give up on the idea of going at all. I did call again the next day (yesterday) to find out how I can book another trip. This time the phone rang, but instead of someone saying “US Airways,” the women at the other end said “Hello. Bridal World.”
Obviously (to put it mildly), this was not what I expected to hear. After I paused for a couple of seconds, having been dumbfounded, I repeated the phone number to see if I had entered it wrong. I had not. Then, already knowing what the answer would be, I asked if this just might be US Airways. Nope – but I wasn’t alone. The woman told me that about 15 people had already called asking for the same thing, so I had not written down the number incorrectly at the airport.
Of course, there’s still more. I then phoned the real US Airways number and was told that for this type of cancellation I needed to fly again within seven days – something impossible for me to do because I have something called a job. Then I was told that my credit would be good for a year but I would have to pay a $100 re-booking fee. I again said that this was unacceptable and asked to speak with a supervisor. (Hey, I wasn’t the one who decided to cancel the flight, was I?) I never did speak with a supervisor, but the woman on the phone did and said that the $100 fee was being waived, so I guess I should be thankful for small miracles. (This does not negate the fact that I paid over $80 for car fare to and from the airport and for overpriced airport food.)
I can understand if uncontrollable delays or even cancellations happen due to things like bad weather. What can be controlled is the information given to passengers and how they’re treated. This is where the airline rates a big fat ‘zero.’ For one thing, they gave out a totally wrong phone number for rebooking. For another, my family in Las Vegas was actually told several times on the phone by the airline that the plane had left New York and landed in Vegas! (If not for my cell phone, they would have gone to the airport to get me.) Then there’s the ridiculous idea of charging people $100 to rebook a ticket for something that was not their own doing.
And people wonder why the airline industry is in trouble – and from what I’ve seen reported on the news, it’s only going to get worse in the upcoming years.
Finally, I’m posting some photos of Rhowena, made a few years ago (with infrared film) on a trip to Las Vegas when the plane actually took off and got there. I’m just glad that I wasn’t planning to photograph a model and didn’t have any show tickets this weekend. (As for next time, who knows?)