Dear US Airways,
I just thought I’d drop you a short note to compliment you on the quite extraordinary level of service you demonstrated on my flight from St.Louis to Pittsburgh yesterday. As you will of course be aware, the flight was supposed to leave at 3:34pm and arrive at 6:15pm, a mere one hour and forty minutes later (when time difference is considered). This short travel time is what encouraged me to choose this direct flight, even though you fly an Embraer regional jet, which as everyone knows, ranks just above sitting on a broken bottle in terms of sheer discomfort.
Imagine my surprise, then, when we discovered that the flight would be delayed for more than 30 minutes. Not that you informed us of this in advance, mind you; I could hear the boarding agent talking on the phone about a 30 minute delay, but you still decided to board us all on time, presumably so we could all exchange our relatively comfortable airline lounge seats, with adjacent coffee bar and lavatories, for a tiny child-sized, cramped seat, with a one inch wide armrest, no legroom and recycled air. Thank you for ensuring that we all received maximum benefit from this experience.
Of course, once we were all duly made captive, your pilot informed us that there would be a delay. What would be the cause? Weather? Maintenance issues? Industrial action, fire, flood or act of God? No, you were waiting for a crew member. Not, I must hasten to add, a crew member to work the Pittsburgh flight, but one who needed a ride to Pittsburgh and whose own plane was running late. So, to recap, you decided to CREATE a delay where none existed, inconveniencing all the PAYING passengers so as to make your own lives easier. How refreshing, in these days of unpredictable weather and schedule issues, to be delayed by an entirely new excuse. Congratulations.
So, as we waited for the oh-so-important traveling pilot to arrive, we watched the sky darken and a storm approach. The pilot arrived, and proceeded to waste time cheerfully explaining to one passenger how he had to fly four times tomorrow. One wondered whether he had any sense of shame. Do you remove that during training, or was that his own work?
By the time we pushed back from the gate (with hardly an apology, and no reference to the arrogant assumption that we all agreed to put our own plans on hold to make US Airways’ life easier) the rain had begun to fall. As we approached the runway my legs had already lost most of their feeling and my arse had assumed the small, square cross section of the seat, but never fear; a further delay was on hand, as the proverbial “golf ball sized hail” started to descend. We waited out the storm and then, of course, had to head back to the terminal for the plane to be checked. Just in case it had been damaged.
(Maybe a plane that can’t withstand hail shouldn’t be allowed to fly commercially – just a thought.)
On returning to the gate we were forced to wait longer, on account of the ramp being closed. Lightning, you understand. Eventually we were sent from the plane and instructed to stay close to the gate; some people tried to figure out how to deal with soon-to-be-missed connections. I actually heard the gate agent tell someone that the delay was the result of weather, and that there was nothing you could do about it. A customer was kind enough to point out that the delay was not caused by weather, only exacerbated by it. By this time, had we not waited for your late employee, we would have been on our final descent into Pittsburgh, instead of sitting in the terminal while our fragile veal-crate of an airplane was checked for holes.
Back on the plane, the eventual departure was not marked by any “mea culpa” or recognition of the delay US Airways had inflicted on us. No additional snacks, bonus soda, or any other consolation prizes were offered to the captive “customers” whose schedules you had unilaterally decided to disrupt FOR NO REASON OTHER THAN YOUR OWN CONVENIENCE.
We arrived in Pittsburgh two and a half hours late. Two and a half hours of my life that I’ll never get back. I waste inordinate amounts of time as it is, dealing with all the unavoidable (or supposedly unavoidable) delays associated with air travel. I have my shoes on and off, my one quart plastic ziploc bag in and out. I sit while flights are delayed, canceled, rerouted, refueled, de-iced and stuck on the tarmac. I put up with crappy seats, miserable flight attendants, no food, turning off my electrical items, putting my seat in the upright position and not congregating around the restroom. I pay stupid prices for tickets that can’t be changed and receive air miles that I can never use. And I do this because I have no fucking choice. All the fucking airlines, to a greater or lesser extent, treat their customers like self-loading freight.
But in all my (according to my luggage tag) millions of miles of flying, this is the first time an airline has simply decided to delay a perfectly on time flight to accommodate one of their staff. With no apology, no compensation for the hours you literally stole from us, no “here, have 10,000 air miles that you’ll never use”, no “how about a voucher good for travel on another US Airways flight until it expires in a month”, not even a bag of fucking pretzels.
Has it got that bad? Has the miserable, pitiful, TSA-ridden, hopelessly inefficient and painful process of taking a flight broken down our expectations to the point that US Airways doesn’t feel the need even to PRETEND to give a shit about customers anymore? Do you no longer feel that people will notice if you screw with them? Did you do this for a bet? Is your idea of customer service that you can treat us pretty much any way you like, and then, should we have the temerity to complain, call the airport police and have us forcibly removed from the flight and sent to the cells? Because that seems to be the reality now. We are herded like sheep, treated like criminals and expected to shut up and put up with whatever you, the almighty airline, deem is appropriate to inflict on us.
I sincerely hope that your airline disappears up its own financial arse, and that the morons who took it upon themselves to take hours of my life away for no good reason, and with no consequence, lose their jobs and have to make a living in the real world, with the rest of us, where those companies who routinely treat their customers like crap go out of business and are replaced by those who do better. Because only in the parallel universe of government services and airlines does it seem to be possible to be so shit and still be in business.