America West Airlines = America Worst Airlines

November 14, 2005    By: Kristen J @ 5:40 pm   Category: Life

I’m mad as hell and there aint nothing I can do about it! Or is there…After contemplating several ways to satisfy my anger I’ve decided the best recourse I have is to share my story far and wide like an old biddy at a quilting bee.

This morning I left my house, baby and suitcase in tow, and headed for the airport. As my husband and I entered the ticketing area of the airport we noticed the ticketing line was extremely long though it appeared to be moving quickly. The line seemed to be full of beer-bellied, baseball-capped, 40 something men. Suddenly I remembered my neighbor saying something about Nascar weekend a few days ago. No worries, I thought to myself, I’ve got my seat assignment and I’m over an hour early for my flight so I should be fine.

We walk up to the end of the check-in line to wait our turn and the line does move rather quickly. After the attendant checks my bags and hands me back my ticket the she says, “Just go up to the gate counter and get your seat assignment. Don’t worry. I’m sure you’ll get on the flight.”

Hmmm, I think to myself. Why would I be worried? I bought my ticket from an on-line travel website weeks ago. The airline was America West and I was assigned a seat at the time I purchased it. I had decided to make the trip up to Washington so that I could spend some time with my extremely ill father and to let him get to know my baby a little bit more.

As we reach the security check point my husband kisses my daughter and me and we part ways. After getting through the mammoth security lines I head over to the gate counter. I say to the lady at the gate, “Hi, I was told that I needed to get a seat assignment at the gate.”

She gets my name and says, “Have a seat. We’ll call you in a few minutes.”

So I sit…and I sit…and I sit. The plane begins pre-boarding and the boarding attendant raises her voice and says to me, “Do you need to pre-board?”

I reply, “I don’t have a seat assignment.”

She’s says, “Oh” and moves on to the next customer. As they are boarding the plane the attendants ask for volunteers to take a later flight that will land in Seattle at 2:30 am, after you spend several hours in the Las Vegas airport. That’s going to be fun with a baby. Another perk they’re willing to throw in is a $300 travel voucher so you can travel on their lovely airline at a later date. No thanks!

Eventually the plane is boarded and the gate counter is surrounded by angry passengers. I call my husband to let him know to come and get me. As we talk he says, “You better make sure to get your bags.”

I run up to the counter and say, “I need my bags!”

The counter lady looks at me and says, “Your bags are on the plane. You can get them in Seattle.” Oh great, now my clothing, toiletries, and most importantly my baby’s car seat are on their way to the Northwest.

At this point I’ve lost it. I can tell all of the other passengers think I’m a lunatic over by the wall crying my eyes out. Actually, I take that back. There were quite a few who came up and asked if I needed help. Some of them said, “You make sure this airline takes care of you!” Those passengers were actually very comforting.

Eventually it’s my turn and the counter lady says, “Do you want a later flight and a $400 voucher or cash back for $277 (which would not fully reimburse me after airport taxes and such)?

I look at her and say, “I want the first flight out of here on any airline and I want it to be first class.”

She says, “We’ve been calling all morning and there are no available flights out of Phoenix today. Do you want the voucher or your money back?”

I reply, “I want my money back, I want the voucher, and I want the next available first class seat out of here.”

“We can’t do that,” she replies.

Of course I’ve already asked for the supervisor or anyone higher than the lady I’m talking to. Wouldn’t you know it she was the highest ranking person available at the time? Eventually I agree to take the travel voucher and the ticket for the next day.

As she is filling out my paperwork I ask, “If you guys knew you were so overbooked than why wouldn’t you call me this morning to warn me about this? I would liked to have known this before I made the 45 minute drive, checked my luggage, and stood in hellacious security lines.”

She then goes through some asinine explanation and I finally say, “Just zip it and give me my stuff.” (I’m not proud of this, but you have to admit it is a little funny)

After this woman finds out that I’m going to visit with my ailing father she does become softer towards me and I start to calm down. To their credit America West did eventually manage to come up with a car seat for my daughter.

Honestly, I would hate to have their job and I know I could have handled this in a more Christ-like way. I just felt powerless in the situation and frankly, ripped off too. Sometimes those feelings bring out the jackass in me.

Well, I’m off. I must go and purchase some new make-up, a toothbrush, contact solution, and anything else that may be vacationing in Seattle at the moment.

44 Comments »

  1. HA! It sounds like every encounter I’ve ever had with Verizon customer service.

    Comment by Rusty — November 14, 2005 @ 6:24 pm

  2. Man, reading about that just makes my blood boil. My wife and I just flew AmWest about 2 weeks ago. Our experience was just fine, thankfully. It *was* a flight that had been oversold, but we checked in on-line about 12 hours before. We were able to print our own boarding passes at home, and they had seat numbers on them. So, I’m wondering if you checked in on line. If you didn’t, I wonder if doing so would have changed the experience for you.

    Comment by Blain — November 14, 2005 @ 8:46 pm

  3. I feel your pain! I flew to Austin, Texas last week and the flight home, while not full, had a few seats that were double booked. In fact, my seat was double booked. I felt bad for the woman wanting her seat, but I was extremely tired and gladly showed her it was my seat too! :-)

    Another AWA story…

    About three years ago I had some critical parts I needed shipped to my manufacturing area. Instead of sending these parts to my location in Chandler, Arizona, they shipped the parts to some beach resort town in Mexico. When I called AWA to discuss the situation, I asked them why my flights to dull and boring are never routed to warm and exciting. There was a long pause on the other end of the line, and an apology for my missing parts.

    Look on the bright side- your luggage is probably having the time of its life in Seattle!

    Comment by Brian Duffin — November 14, 2005 @ 9:44 pm

  4. Blain-No, I didn’t check in on-line. First, I didn’t know you could do that and second, can you do that if you’re checking luggage?

    Brian-I can only hope that my luggage is actually in Seattle having a grand old time. I’m scared for what may be in store for me tomorrow! Oh the drama.

    Comment by Kristen J — November 14, 2005 @ 10:37 pm

  5. To answer your question (#4), yes, I believe you can do it even if you’re checking luggage. You still have to wait in line to check it, or you check it curbside w/ the Skycap. But, you’ve got your boarding pass–so no worries.

    Comment by Blain — November 15, 2005 @ 7:16 am

  6. I think I’m going to do that today so I can be sure to reach my destination today.

    Comment by Kristen J — November 15, 2005 @ 7:39 am

  7. I hope you labeled the carseat in a blatantly obvious way.

    AWA is not the worst large airline in North America. I’m sure that honor belongs to Air Canada, home of the, “We don’t care if the earlier flight is empty. You can’t get on it. Screw you!” And the, “Well we’ve rebooted the plane twice and can’t get it to operate. We’d return to the gate now, but there are other planes there, so we’re just going to sit here for two hours while the other plans take off. Yes that means that you’ll miss the other two flights to your destination.”

    Here’s what you need to do. Write a letter to the CEO and the VP of customer service. Tell them what happened and tell them your frequent flyer number. Ask what you should have done differently. Put in all the details that made this frustrating. If you do this right they’ll either send you a huge voucher or 50,000 frequent flyer miles.

    Comment by a random John — November 15, 2005 @ 8:33 am

  8. Worst experience I ever had was with United. Late flights, rude flight attendents who refused to help me (I was 34 weeks pregnant) or even tell me where in O’Hare my connecting flight was (which I almost missed due to the first flight being late).

    Comment by Allison — November 16, 2005 @ 7:29 am

  9. Ok courtney turned me on to the site/blog. I was surfing around checking things out. Got a kick out of the AWA story. As I’m sitting here there is a story on the news that a person was awarded $3,100 for missing their flight becaused it was over booked… It didn’t look like AWA.

    Comment by ToddC — November 16, 2005 @ 10:07 pm

  10. Doh! That sounds like a good idea Todd… Sue them every time they sell your confirmed seat to someone else. That would get their attention.

    Comment by Geoff J — November 16, 2005 @ 10:49 pm

  11. Has anyone had anything but a good experience with JetBlue? They seem to be consistently friendly, helpful, cheap(er), and timely. And what’s better than having five ESPN’s?

    The answer is “Nothing. Nothing is better.”

    Comment by Rusty — November 16, 2005 @ 11:10 pm

  12. WOW. Thanks for the reply. I was just checking out a person in my neighborhood’s chat room blog thing. I just thought it was funny that at the same time I was reading their story about being mad at the airlines, a story was running on the news about the exact same thing. I was not endorsing litigation. Good thing we got that straight I wouldn’t want to start a suing frenzy on newcoolthang.

    Comment by ToddC — November 17, 2005 @ 8:39 pm

  13. Don’t worry Todd, I won’t reveal your secret identity if America Worst sends a goon squad out looking for you thanks to your fine suggestion here at the Thang… ;-)

    Comment by Geoff J — November 18, 2005 @ 11:16 am

  14. All (except for a select few) airlines overbook flights, it sucks in a way, but it’s the way they keep their planes full. To avoid this in the future you need to call the airline directly long before your flight leaves and make sure you have an actual seat assignment. Of course seat assignments are NOT guaranteed and it could still change. Check in early, all to many people show up with the minimum time for check in and they get screwed. It’s their own fault.

    If you end up not getting a seat the airline is required to compensate you, either with a voucher for future travel or by refunding the remaining portion of your ticket (minus taxes). If you take a refund they are not required to do anything else with you….you then need to find your own way to where you are going. I’ve hardly ever seen anyone take a refund because then you are on your own. If you take a voucher then the airline will put you on another flight, give you a hotel voucher if necessary and meal voucher.

    I’ve actually seen more denied boardings on Continental and Southwest than anyone. Sometimes they just overbook the flights so much, it’s inevitable that too many people will show up.

    Good luck in the future!

    Comment by Joe A. — November 21, 2005 @ 8:54 am

  15. It’s their own fault.

    Nice comment overall Joe A., but I disagree with this idea that it is the passenger’s fault when they buy a ticket with a confirmed seat assignment, show up two hours early at the airport, suffer through security and check in lines, and then get to the gate only to discover the airline has sold their confirmed seat to someone else. These weasely airlines need clamp down hard on their resale channels (or the resellers need to clamp down hard on the airlines) and ensure that a confirmed sale and seat assignment on the Internet is actually confirmed. If the seat is not going to be there when the guest shows up then there needs to be instructions warning that the seat is not truly confirmed until the boarding pass is in hand.

    The best trick we learned from this fiasco is to print the boarding pass out online before leaving for the airport. (Thanks to Blain in comment #2)

    The sad part is that who knows if doing so is going to leave some other young mother and her baby who is trying to visit her dying father completely out of luck.

    Airlines may do this a lot but it is a scummy practice. (The “everybody does it” excuse their employees gave us is pathetic and insulting, btw. And it is the standard excuse for any discretion one gets caught in… “everybody commits adultery, everybody cheats on their taxes, everybody steals for the office”. No, not every body does; and I find it hard to believe that every airline engages in this specific practice either). They won’t be in business long with such shameful treatment of their customers. But then again, I won’t be surprised if US Air/ America West (Worst) Airlines is out of business in a few years anyway. Based on our experience, the writing is already on the wall.

    Comment by Geoff J — November 21, 2005 @ 9:25 am

  16. Yes it’s an excellent idea to print your boarding passes at home. It really can make the difference when something like this happens.

    One thing to make clear is that when airlines overbook their flights, they are not intentionally trying to make someone get stuck at the airport. They have yield management programs that calculate the “show factor” for a particular flight and authorize the bookings accordingly. Of course no computer program is perfect and sometimes it authorizes too high, or by chance the figured percentage doesn’t happen for a particular flight. Then you have 165 people booked on a flight that only holds 150 say, and you’ve got a mess on your hands. When I worked for the airlines it was one of the things I disliked most, dealing with a severly overbooked flight. I never had any problems getting enough volunteers on an America West flight…Continental was the problem….they bumped people all the time.

    I’d be suprised to see most any of the current airlines in business in a few years..lol. They are all in such a mess. The new US Airways however is in a very good financial position now, better than any of the other legacy carriers. They have good leadership and I’m sure they will be successful over time. Just because someone gets bumped off a flight, or gets delayed, doesn’t mean the airline is horrible and will sink overall. Like I said…it happens to every airline…hasn’t anyone ever seen the show “Airline” featuring Southworst Airlines? LOL

    Comment by Joe — November 21, 2005 @ 2:19 pm

  17. Well Joe, I’m sure there are lots of good financial reasons to overbook flights for the airlines. And I’m sure that the airlines probably are very aware that people like Kristen will get screwed occasionally. And I’m sure that a lot of airlines probably do it. But I still think it is wrong and in the long run bad business to willingly make your customers “collateral damage”. That is what America West Airlines did to Kristen. That is unacceptable. If US Air does indeed have “good leadership” then they will figure out ways to stop systematically screwing their customers. This could be done by:

    1. Refusing to overbook flights.
    2. If they do overbook flights, ensuring that all paying customers know that their seat is not really “confirmed” until they have a boarding pass in hand.
    3. Making the “good leadership” earn their salaries and come up with another solution

    I find it hard to believe the “good leadership” of US Air / America Worst is willing to stop overbooking flights so I suspect option #2 is a better option. But then that might cause a short-term decrease in sales to admit that seats are not confirmed until you get the boarding pass. And since the Board of Directors is usually only concerned about the revenues this quarter, that probably means that nothing will happen to protect customers from getting completely jerked over by America Worst in the future. That also means America Worst will continue to spew offensive excuses like “everyone does it” until they fundamentally change the company or go out of business — replaced by airlines that refuse to systematically treat customers a collateral damage.

    Comment by Geoff J — November 21, 2005 @ 2:48 pm

  18. Yes there are good financial reasons to overbooking flights. The amount of extra revenue airlines bring in by overbooking far outweighs the amount of money they spend with refunds, hotel vouchers, meals, etc. That is why they do it. If they were losing money by overbooking, then they wouldn’t do it!

    As for #2, airlines post information about the overbooking of flights in many places, including the inside of the ticket jacket and their contract of carriage. However to side with the general flying public, most people do not pay any attention to this information and are baffled when it happens. So unfortunately there will be cases like the one above.

    In the 5 years I worked for America West, I can count on one hand the number of times I had to involuntarily bump a passenger. (Continental is another story however!) That shows how little it happens in comparison to the number of passengers flying daily. So you can’t really say it’s a chronic problem with US/HP. In fact according to the dot statistics for YTD 2005, Delta, ASA (Delta Connection), Alaska, Continental, and ATA had more involuntary denied boardings than the former America West. In comparison to the former US Airways; Southwest, Northwest, America West, Delta, ASA (Delta Connection), Alaska, Continental, and ATA had more involuntary denied boardings. (http://airconsumer.ost.dot.gov/reports/2005/November/0511atcr.pdf)

    I’m sorry if I seem a bit stubborn but after actually working for the airlines and being a finance major, it all makes sense to me. Most people travelling do not understand the industry at all and that is why they have problems with it.

    Comment by Joe — November 21, 2005 @ 3:32 pm

  19. Joe,

    Do you still work for America West? You seem extremely adept at preaching the company line. I will assume you do…

    So what I hear you saying is:

    1. Yes we (America West Airlines) overbook our flights
    2. Yes we know we predictably and systematically screw customers in the process
    3. No we have no intention of changing that fact.

    Then you go on to explain that it is ok to screw customers because rumor has it other airlines do it too. Well none of those other airlines treated my wife and baby shamefully — America Worst did.

    The problem with this excuse is that even it does not make America Worst look good because according to the report you linked to America West Airlines ranks #14 out of 18 US airlines in the “involuntary bumping” rankings so far in 2005, with around 2000 passengers getting jobbed just like Kristen did.

    By contrast, JetBlue Airways had a grand total of ZERO involuntary passenger bumps in 2005. So what is it about JetBlue that makes passsengers rave about them and allows them to choose not to systematically screw their customers? (I’ve never flown JetBlue but I will seek to when possible in the future.) What is it about the leadership of JetBlue that makes that airline far and away superior to America West Airlines and its “good leadership”?

    Whatever JetBlue is doing, the “good leadership” of America West ought to start copying it immediately.

    Comment by Geoff J — November 21, 2005 @ 5:13 pm

  20. No I do not work for them anymore but I still have a soft spot for them. They were the best employer I have every worked for. Despite the challenges of working in the airline industry I LOVED my job. But after getting my degree I decided to move on. I just don’t like seeing them get slamed all the time. Believe me when I started all the complaints were valid as there were many, many challenges. Of course now with their good leadership, they are an entirely different airline. But everyone is entitled to their own opinion. No matter how good of an airline they are, there are those (like you I am assuming) that will never like them.

    I’m sorry that you had a bad experience with being bumped. There is no excuse for treating a customer poorly when something like that happens. BUT you have to understand that when this happens you are dealing with a front line employee who is very stressed when things like that happen. Believe me…I’ve been there. Not everyone handles a customer yelling at them well and they might tend to get defensive. I think no matter how well you could have been treated, you still would have been very upset at being bumped. So it really doesn’t matter what airline it is, most find it just easy to blame “America Worst” for something that could have happened anywhere. The customer service department at HP has always done very well with handling complaints. From what I hear they are also one of the most liberal at giving compensation, especially if you are an AZ resident. If they give you anything above and beyond the voucher or refund at the time of being bumped, then consider yourself lucky because no airline is required to give more than what the tariffs state.

    Jetblue and FlyI do not overbook their flights intentionally. I’m not sure what their reasoning is but they are not the “norm” in the industry. Southwest is hailed as the king of customer service and they overbook too. I am not saying it is ok to screw the customer, I was trying to make the point that it is not done intentionally. From the info I posted, the denied boardings at HP went up for this past year, probably due to their record load factors…with that comes more denied boardings.

    I’m very sure all airlines are aware that thousands of their customers get bumped every year. But a couple of thousand out of several million customers isn’t enough to make a significant change in yield management. I know it doesn’t make sense but statistically it does. It’s a business remember and companies are always looking for ways to increase revenues despite the drawbacks they migh incur.

    Comment by Joe — November 21, 2005 @ 5:47 pm

  21. Your initial problem was going past the check in desk without a boarding pass. Personally I think Overbooking is ok. Not all flights are overbooked (if so, this would be a problem). It allows the airlines to capture the full demand for a certain flight. For example: 6:05 PM from Vegas to Phoenix. There are a whole lot of conventioneers wanting that flight. There are also vacationers, students, traveling to families etc. Lets say they oversell by 5 seats. 2 are business people who decide to head out to Pure, 1 is in a meeting and misses his flight. 1 got done early and headed out on the 5:15. 1 seat over. well Joe Student is flying back to school, staying over a little longer won’t kill him and he’ll get his voucher plus a little extra. Who wins? Pretty much everyone.

    I used to pray that the flight would be oversold. My best was flying out of Portland to Phoenix, the weekend of the Fiesta Bowl (I was going to my brother’s homecoming). I checked in on friday night, and the flight was oversold, I volunteered to be bumped. I ended up with a ticket on the next flight, another voucher, a meal voucher and a voucher for the dvd rental place in the airport. No skin off my back and a pretty good return for an hour delay. It would have been even better if I had missed that flight and caught the one in the morning (another free ticket).

    Key to negotiating with the airlines
    1) Be friendly, but firm
    2) Be quick – the sooner you show up, the more they can do for you (more options available, more time to work etc)
    3) Know your rights
    4) Carry a cellphone, sometimes the best CS is over the phone

    Comment by Jay S — November 21, 2005 @ 6:04 pm

  22. Well I hope you can tell that this post and discussion is not a complaint about the front line employees of America West Airlines. The complaint is about the company policy that left our family completely in the lurch. (BTW, I don’t know what “HP” stands for in your comment).

    The fact is that America West overbooks intentionally and considers my wife and baby collateral damage in cases like this. Other airlines (not all) choose not to take such risks with people’s lives. Therefore, until there is a policy change, those other airlines (like JetBlue) are preferable to callous and calculating airlines like America West. My recommendation is that if you still have some company stock in US Air/ America West sell it and buy some JetBlue stock instead. Consider this post a grassroots indicator. (I’d say the same about the other airlines that are at the bottom of the “involuntary bumping” rankings as well, btw)

    Comment by Geoff J — November 21, 2005 @ 6:16 pm

  23. [Note: This came from the same IP address as "Joe" - Editor]

    Overbooked flights aren’t fun, but are pretty common these days. Airlines are using such small planes now they are usually busting at the seams.

    I’m ok with overbooking too. It makes sense, especially in an environment where the airlines are losing so much money, they have to increase their revenues. But when you are the one who does not get a seat, things aren’t so good!

    I have to agree with Joe A. that it could happen anywhere. America West had a bad reputation back in the 90′s and I guess that makes them an easy target. I split my flying between them and Southwest and honestly in the past few years the service levels have been very good. Their new CEO came on right around 9/11 I believe, and he has a very good reputation in the business world.

    I’ve gotten bumped once (not my choice) and have volunteered numerous times. The agent that handled me during the bad bump was very nice and I appreciated the fact that it wasn’t her fault. I wasn’t happy, but no less happy than when Southwest has bumped me.

    Comment by Debra — November 21, 2005 @ 6:19 pm

  24. I just reread the post. The problem I have is with the initial gate agent’s treatment of your wife. Obviously the ticketing agent KNEW The flight was oversold, and hoped that enough people would volunteer to be bumped that your wife would make it on. So the real problems i see are
    1) Ticketing Agent’s failure to tell you the flight was oversold, but you might be able to make it on. If I had been in that situation, been told this info, and gone ahead to be bumped anyway I would have felt much better about it.
    2) Jerky fellow passengers who wouldn’t give up their seat for the Mom and Young Child.

    Comment by Jay S — November 21, 2005 @ 6:26 pm

  25. HP is the airline code for America West, sorry I am used to posting in aviation forums…haha.

    Again it is too bad that you had to experience that but I doubt they intentionally bumped your wife and child just to mean. Or that they were “callous and calculating” in their decision to overbook your flight.

    I actually still do have stock in the new company…and it’s gone up $10 a share since they merged! I bought stock in America West right after the September 11th attacks and I’ve made a bundle…was a good investment. =)

    Comment by Joe — November 21, 2005 @ 6:39 pm

  26. Jay,

    I wish there about 30 of folks like you (ones that don’t mind taking the voucher and getting bumped) on the flight Kristen had scheduled because reportedly between 25-30 people got bumped with her. Although I doubt you would have wanted to conseidering the options available (basically none untul the next day). Overbooking by that much is a severe screw-up by the airline and we paid the price. As it turned out it was about a 4 hour ordeal at the airport with a baby that ended with Kristen being sent home to try again the next day. We didn’t want a voucher — we wanted to get the seat we had confirmed already.

    Comment by Geoff J — November 21, 2005 @ 7:58 pm

  27. Joe: [I doubt that America West was] “callous and calculating” in their decision to overbook your flight.

    What are you talking about? Of course the company was. We were just a statistic. You just said so yourself.

    But a couple of thousand out of several million customers isn’t enough to make a significant change in yield management. I know it doesn’t make sense but statistically it does. It’s a business remember and companies are always looking for ways to increase revenues despite the drawbacks they migh incur.

    They calculated it all out, knowing there would be about .01% of us that would get screwed and said to themselves “oh well — sucks to be them”. And they were right — it did suck to be us last week. What do you call the policy if not callous and calculating? We found ourselves among the planned for screwed customers (there were about 2000 of us in teh first three quarters of ’05 on America West alone).

    I just have a real problem with being planned-for collateral damage. I think it is a bad business practice. Thanks to what I learned in that link you gave, I’m now pulling for JetBlue to be the vanguard to change the industry.

    BTW — I actually am not hoping for the demise of America West Airlines. I just am hoping they will change this particular practice.

    Comment by Geoff J — November 21, 2005 @ 8:10 pm

  28. “25-30 people got bumped with her”

    Whoaaa…hold up a minute…that sounds like it was an aircraft downgrade. I’ve never seen a flight intentionally overbooked by that many. My guess is the aircraft was a A320 and they downgraded it to a 737. That can happen when a plane breaks and they only have a smaller one to replace it. That’s a whole other story. Aircraft downgrades are a major pain…oye vey!

    “BTW -I actually am not hoping for the demise of America West Airlines. I just am hoping they will change this particular practice.”

    Well technically America West doesn’t exist anymore, only as an operating certificate. The corporation was dissolved on the 27th of September.

    Comment by Joe — November 21, 2005 @ 8:37 pm

  29. [Note: This also came from the same IP address as "Joe" - Editor]

    Dude..all the U.S airlines suck. You gotta go over the pond to get treated right.

    America’s finest:

    American’t
    Untied
    Deltard
    Northworst
    Craptinental
    US Scareways
    Southworst
    Air Trash
    Jet Blows
    Alaskare

    I think I’m gonna be sick….

    Comment by Toby — November 21, 2005 @ 8:49 pm

  30. Dear “Joe” who supposedly isn’t on the company payroll still – I find it odd that you just happen to have the same IP address as fellow America Worst supporter “Debra”. And that you just happen to have the same IP address as “Toby”.

    Look bro. – if US Air / America Worst is so weak that you have to fabricate characters to drum up support for it, then you have a more serious problem on your hands than I first imagined. And using your “Toby” character to try to turn this into a post on all how other airlines suck in order to deflect attention from your crappy airline just shows how truly pathetic your company is.

    No, I don’t think there was a plane downgrade. It was just a major screwup by the company that was perhaps exacerbated the NASCAR crowd in town that weekend.

    So “Joe/Debra/Toby” — Your comments will be placed in moderation going forward since you are clearly trying to deceive me and my readers. More examples of the scummy company that is US Air / America Worst.

    Comment by Geoff J — November 22, 2005 @ 8:10 am

  31. You know what is really annoying about all of this? No customer service! First, I must mention that I had an assigned seat when I bought the ticket (11C). Second, I don’t work for an airline so I don’t know all of the tricky ins and outs of dealing with America Worst.

    Finally, why do I have to call the airline to make sure that they haven’t sold my seat to someone else? If they were a decent company they would have had an employee call me and let me know that the plane was severely oversold and any hope in getting a seat would mean arriving 12 hours early. By the way, I was almost 1 1/2 hours early for my flight. It was no last minute arrival.

    Comment by Kristen J — November 22, 2005 @ 8:38 am

  32. Kristen/ Geoff

    I understand how the stakes go up when traveling with a small child. Ugh.

    One question, you had a seat assignment when you bought the ticket, but then when you checked luggage you let them not give you a boarding pass with an assigned ticket number?

    Comment by Jay S — November 22, 2005 @ 8:57 am

  33. Well, Geoff, you know I am a real person and I am unemployed (!) so I am no shill for US Airways (which I don’t particularly like).

    I flew (or attempted to fly) TWA on my first Christmas break at college. When I showed up at the airport, the line for checking bags was literally 2-3 hours long. I was one of the last people to check in for the flight (which didn’t leave without me because it was delayed for 5 hours). Thus, when I checked my bags at the counter, I did not receive a boarding pass, because all the seats were taken (not that they told me that). The thing is, it doesn’t make sense for TWA (God rest their souls) to tell me that there were no seats left. Some people who had a seat assignment did not show up, and people without a seat assignment did get on that flight. Since it was Christmas, there were about 20 people who didn’t get on that flight, but TWA had no idea how many people with boarding passes/seat assignments weren’t going to show (though they knew it wouldn’t be enough to get everyone on).

    As a result of my hellish experience (I eventually got home after 24 hours in the airport) I have some wisdom to pass on.

    1. If you don’t have a boarding pass with a seat number on it, you don’t have crap.

    2. If you don’t receive a boarding pass with a seat number on it when you check your bags, something is definitely wrong, and you will have to be lucky to get a seat assignment at the gate.

    3. Never believe employees who say “Don’t bother checking in, just go straight to the gate.” Liars! (Yes, this happened to me, and I lost a seat because of it.) You have to check in to reserve your place in the virtual queue. Gate agents don’t show up at the gate until an hour before the flight which is often too late to get a seat on a crowded flight. Those employees are just trying to get the length of the check-in line down.

    4. When you buy a ticket, insist on getting a seat assignment (if it’s a crowded flight, you might not be able to get it). If you buy a ticket with a seat assignment on it, unless you check-in late (i.e. by waiting to check in at the gate instead of the counter) you should get that seat (or a seat) when you check-in.

    That’s my (unbiased) wisdom born of many hours waiting in airports. Although I don’t support their deceptive internet tactics, I agree that ALL airlines do this, especially around holidays. That’s just the way it is. Some things will never change…

    Comment by NFlanders — November 22, 2005 @ 9:47 am

  34. Good advice Ned.

    But as has been noted in the thread and in the government report “Joe” linked to, not all airlines do this (though reportedly most do). For instance, JetBlue does not oversell their flights. (And America Worst does rank as one of the worst carriers for “involuntary bumps” in 2005.)

    The other piece of our story that has not been mentioned is that we did the e-check in. We were there between 1 and 2 hours early but the computer wouldn’t give Kristen her boarding pass (even though she had a confirmation for seat 11C). That means it was not a lazy employee that caused the problem but rather the screwed up system by this airline.

    The funniest (most galling?) part of this discussion is the distraction dance “Joe/Debra/Toby” (along with the employees at the airport) keeps trying to pull with this “everybody does it” mantra — as if discretions of other airlines makes screwing their customers perfectly acceptable. He/she made my argument a lot stronger by providing that link to the government report though because it proved that a) everybody does not do it, and b) America Worst is among the most egregious offenders.

    Comment by Geoff J — November 22, 2005 @ 10:18 am

  35. I do have to agree this last may i got on a plane for the first time in my life( i am 25 ) i was scared out of my mind and the rude service that i recieved was nothing compared to the fact that when my plane did land they made us stay on it for 3 hours! oh i should probably mention the bathroom was out of service. i was very careful when i chose my airline service and i can honestly say i will never fly awa agien!nobody even said they were sorry for the mishap and they had plenty of time considering the fact we had to wait another 2 hours to get my luggage

    Comment by cathey m — December 1, 2005 @ 8:12 am

  36. So I used America Worst airlines again this week (to get to a conference and they were the only ones going to Santa Barbara so I thought I’d rather take my chances than drive).

    They lost my luggage — shipped it to the wrong city. It showed up 24 hrs after I did.

    No, I’m not making this up.

    Comment by Geoff J — September 20, 2006 @ 2:38 pm

  37. I won’t use America West again. We arrived at the Airport at 4:00 am for a 6:15 flight on 12/16/06. At 5:30am we were told our flight was cenceled due to weather in Portland. I called 2 other airlines that had no weather issues or delays in Portland. America West told us we had new reservations on a flight at 8:30pm connecting in Philadelphia en route to Cancun, Mexico with a 3 hour+ layover. arriving in Cancun the next day. That way, they would not be required to pay for over night accommodations. The same flight the next day was not available either. We booked this flight in July, 2006. They didn’t care about our flight, our nonrefundable hotel accomodations or screwing up our family vacation. Their goal was to get us to cancel our reservation, because every one of their flights was grossly oversold. They accomplished their goal. We won’t be flying America West ever again. The lines in San Jose to get to the ticket counter at America West exceeded 3 hours.

    Comment by Mike — December 16, 2006 @ 12:41 pm

  38. All I can say, I work for an airlines…its not America West or Worst or what ever you want to call it…but I will say, I see people like most of you everyday. There are some passengers that think they have been sent by the supreme one himself to be the ONLY passenger on the flight.

    Please people, if you dont like the airlines, book yourself a BUS ticket. Apparently you will be happier and I know the passengers on the plane will be happier that you are not there with them because frankly they have their own problems and dont want to hear yours.

    No one makes you fly…you do it to get to your destination a little faster. But if all you are going to do is complain, please again just take the bus!!!!

    Do you need the reservation number to Greyhound????

    Comment by Nancy — March 22, 2007 @ 10:35 am

  39. Ummm… Nancy. We do want to fly. The problem is most of us bought a ticket, showed up hours before the flight, checked our bags, and only then discovered that the airline took our money (and often shipped our luggage) but gave our seat to someone else. America Worst is notorious for such crappy service.

    Comment by Geoff J — March 22, 2007 @ 10:48 am

  40. then ummmmmmmmm Geoff, my suggestion is to make sure you have a seat assignment!!! When you book on line and it doesn’t give you a seat, call the reservation center for your airline, if you make your reservation with the agent and pay the extra $10 or so then that is your right to obtain a seat.

    make sure you dont hang up without a seat. duh…

    the first people to get bumped are the ones without a seat assignment. and if you decide to book with Southworst, then just make sure you get in line first so you can be one of the first ones in the cattle call to get on the plane!!

    But the issue is…no one on the flight wants to hear about your issues…we all have them. Let it go. move on with life, get over it!!! and if you cant move on…then Im sorry for you. Life is just to short to have these little imperfections determine how you feel.

    now which company business do you want to bash?? I know how about Wal-mart??? their customer service stinks…..

    If this is all mormons do is sit around and complain, they must be the most unhappy group around!!!

    Comment by Nancy — March 22, 2007 @ 11:34 am

  41. Calm down Nancy. In our case, after the above described bad experience with America West we discovered the method to get a seat assignment. We now know that even if we book a flight on the corporate Web site and even if they take our money, they might sell the same seat to someone else as well. So we now prevent that from happening by checking in online a day early. That is all well and good for us but it doesn’t solve the America West customer service problem. (And it doesn’t stop them from shipping luggage to the wrong city either as I discovered the next time I tried that airline.)

    So yes, we are free to complain about our bad experience with America West and so are you. If there are no complaints how will the company know what to fix?

    Comment by Geoff J — March 22, 2007 @ 11:44 am

  42. BTW — this post is a year and a half old. None of us have thought about it in almost that long so don’t worry, we got over this experience and moved on ages ago.

    Comment by Geoff J — March 22, 2007 @ 11:46 am

  43. I took a flight from Columbus Ohio to CA a few months ago. We encountered rought weather a few times so the “return to seat” light was on except for a few brief interludes when everyone would head to the restrooms. After several hours I was ready to pop and use the restroom. I just unbuckled and started walking to the restroom when an airline stewardess stopped me and sternly said “return to your seat immediatley”. I explained to her my urgency…needed to pee ASAP! She told me…loudly…so that everyone can hear…”If you need to go I’ll bring you a bag to pee in”! She returned to the front of the plane standing in the isle and I watched in disbelief as she let 2 First Class Passengers get up right in front of her and go to the restroom. I was livid! In addition, this woman was about 50-52 years of age… I am a marathon runner, climber and athlete. If that old bag could walk up and down the isle of a plane flying in turbulance then I sure as hell would have no problem. I was ready to pop and could wait no longer, I got up to go to the restroom and was confronted by the older stewardess and her underling. She told me she would have the pilot come back if I did not sit down. I had no choice but dashed off to restroom then returned to my seat. She came back and told me she was going to have the air marshalls meet me at the gate. I couldn’t beleive the aggression and over-the-top response! You would have thought I was Al-Queda! People seated around my consoled me, and told me that lady was not in the right line of work. Customer service is no place she should be working… and other’s sitting behind me leaned over to whisper “What a B!tch”. I collected the names and address of several passengers seated next to me, the offered to be witnesses about my conduct and the stewardesses conduct if I need their help. WHAT A POWER TRIP THAT STEWARDESS WAS ON!! I cannot believe that really happened to me. It was an out of body experience.

    Comment by John Smyles — July 19, 2007 @ 8:48 am

  44. Went to the airport last summer and arrived in plenty of time for a red eye to tampa. Upon arrival in the gate area was told of a 2 hour delay. 2 hours became 4 and then 5 before we boarded. We sat in the stifling Las Vegas summer heat on the tarmac about an hour until 5:45 when the first officer came on and said…We’re sorry but this flight has been canceled. We were told to go to the baggage carousel and claim our bags and go to ticketing. Upon arrival in ticketing there were huge lines that had formed for the first early morning flights out so I go in a line was about 5 deep. All of a sudden this old jack ass comes out and starts barking at everyone who was on the canceled tampa flight to get in this line that must of been 120 people deep. There were two elderly black women in the front of my line. I got so mad I couldn’t see straight and to the point I blacked out and yelled to the elderly women, ‘NO YOU PUT YOUR BAG DOWN! THEY ARE GOING TO HELP YOU RIGHT HERE! RIGHT NOW!!! I told everyone “STAY WHERE THE HELL YOU ARE AT!!!” so nobody moved and the folks on the Tampa flight were helped first before anybody else that morning!!!!

    Comment by robert — March 3, 2008 @ 11:25 pm

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