Thursday, January 14, 2010

Travel "issues"

Prelude: Back in the summer of 2007, I wrote about our Road Trip from Hell which started at ALA Annual in DC. It was a two part story, with Part 2 here. On that trip, the airline was American Airlines

The Story: Christmas brought us another adventure. We left on Christmas Eve morning to go to Jamaica. We were flying on US Airways [aka Useless Airways]. Now, remember that we are leaving New Orleans, and going to Montego Bay. Which airport is not in a fairly logical route to Jamaica?
  • Atlanta
  • Miami
  • Memphis
  • Charlotte
  • Dallas
While Memphis is not very logical, the correct choice is Charlotte, and that is where we went from New Orleans (MSY). We got there on time. After the hike from the arrival gate to the departure gate (international wing), the board showed that both flights to Montego Bay were delayed. Our 9:30 am flight was about an hour and a half delayed. We got breakfast, and then the flight was scheduled for an 11 am departure, then 11:30 am. Finally, they put us on the plane at noon. After a series of mostly unintelligible announcement from the pilot about electric switches, and then an engine problem, they let us off the plane at 3:30. We went to get food (and were among the first off). No sooner did they get everyone off, did they cancel the flight. There was a mad dash to the main ticket counter (and we had a head start!).

Of course the ticket counter was outside security, and folks with checked luggage were expected to collect their luggage. (After the aforementioned adventure, we rarely check luggage ... never on vacation.) We were #4 in line. There were two agents when we got to the counter. Remember, it is now 4 pm on Christmas Eve, and we were supposed to be in Jamaica, at the pre-paid resort several hours ago (even after the 90 minute bus ride). We overheard the first agent say to the person, "Well, I think I can get you there on the 27th." My companion nearly lost it then. More agents arrived, and we got to the counter. The agent got us confirmed seats on a noon-time flight, on (ironically) American Airlines the next day.....from Miami. However, the flights to Miami were full, and we were #3 and #4 on the standby lists.

We went back through security and to the Miami gate. We looked at the board to see what other options there were. Once the flight was announced, they were looking for volunteers to be bumped to a later flight (first class) or a flight to Fort Lauderdale. As the boarding proceeded, we went to the gate. The gate agent, Philip B [yes, I wrote a complimentary note] worked very hard. First he said, I can get one of you on this flight for sure. So we said, what about getting us to Ft. Lauderdale. He said it was full, but there was a seat to West Palm Beach. Then, he said, there is a train which costs about $7 and goes from West Palm to Miami. We said we would take it!

So, I get to go to West Palm Beach. First Class. That part was fine. Then I got there and talked to the agent. He said, yes, there is a train, but it is not real close to the airport. He said there is a bus, or you can take a cab. I asked if US Airways would pay. He said he thought so, and gave me a sheet about how to contact them. I went down to the ground transportation desk. They sent me to the bus stop, but the last bus had left about 20 minutes before. So cab it was. $29 including tip! Not real close was true! Got to the train station, and boarded a train that was much like the double-decker commuter trains in Chicago, after buying a ticket at the station. The train left.....but it was not a short ride. It was almost 90 minutes!

Meanwhile, my companion got to Miami, got the hotel and meal vouchers, and got to the hotel. We chatted on the phone and said, don't take the shuttle to the airport and then the hotel shuttle, just take a cab. I walked out of the station, towards the cabs, and looked up...there was the hotel across the street! Life was good.

The next morning was uneventful, and we arrived in Jamaica. We had contacted the resort, and while they would not refund our room cost, because we had been in contact, they did give us a voucher for a free night for another stay.

Now comes the fight with US Airways. Remember that I was told that they would pay for me to get from West Palm airport to Miami? Well, I followed all their directions. After several days I received an email. No, they would not pay. Instead? Two $100 certificates for travel. But wait, there are restrictions.....they cannot be used on the Internet, you have to call them. Well, on a later leg of the trip, I tried to call to change date of departure, after three calls and three hours on hold, I never did talk to an agent!!!

Here is the lesson. In our first disaster, we chose to fly through the airport which is the major hub and headquarters of the airline. In the second disaster, yes, we flew through the airport which is the major hub and headquarters of the airline.

So....When in doubt, don't fly through the airline's major hub and headquarters!!

A final note. We came home after the Christmas attempted bombing fiasco. In the airport US Airways was announcing that "TSA Policy now requires that each passenger be limited to one carry on item." Well, that pissed me off. Even more so, when, at work, I received a document which included the note below:
US Airways: Temporary policy effective immediately (updated December 26, 2009): To better comply with new industry security requirements issued by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), US Airways will temporarily amend its baggage policies on all in-bound flights to the United States from foreign destinations. Each passenger will be limited to one carry-on item per person, and first and second checked bag fees will temporarily be waived. These changes do not apply to flights from San Juan, St. Thomas and St. Croix.
It is really clear to me, that the rule is not a TSA rule. It is the way the US Airways has chosen to deal with the new (silly) rules. If it is your rule, US Airways, own it. Don't blame someone else. No other airline is using this rule.

I did have an "A-Ha" moment. Useless Airways (US Airways) was formed from Allegheny Airlines. In certain circles, Allegheny was known as "Agony Airlines."

[I hope this does not "jinx" my trip tomorrow.]


  1. And if I remember correctly, Allegheny merged or bought Mohawk Air, often termed Slowhawk ...

  2. I think I also recall that the Delaware, Lackawanna and Wabash Railroad, DLW, was nicknamed Delay, Linger and Wait .... quirky things you remember from 7th grade New York State history --thank you Mr. Murray.