***UPDATE: US Airways reply dated 6/27/11 below!***
Dear US Airways:
If it weren’t for one perfectly placed Supervisor named Sherrie W., a few things would probably be different in my life: 1) I’d have an arrest record and I’d probably be on some TSA watch list 2) I would never fly, recommend or speak kindly about US Airways.
On Monday, June 20 2011, my father and I were flying from Washington’s Reagan Airport to Columbus, Ohio aboard flight #3071. We had just finished a fantastic (but long and tiring) week of volunteering at the US Open and our day had gotten off to a rough start as we left his cell phone in the rental car.
The night before our flight, I had tried to check us in online and pay for our bags, however the US Airways website was not being cooperative. “No big deal,” I thought, “I’ll just check in at the airport since we are checking bags anyway.” What a “mistake” this proved to be.
As my father looked for his phone, I checked-in for our 1:05pm flight at 10:57am. After an unsuccessful wild goose chase, my father was unable to locate his phone, and he headed to the terminal to check-in shortly before Noon. Being a phone down, we were already in need of some positive inspiration. US Airways would end up providing a large dose of just the opposite.
When 12:40pm came yet there was no announcement in the terminal that the flight to Columbus was boarding, we figured something may be awry. In asking around we were told that the plane was boarding so we naturally followed suit.
What happened over the next 15 minutes is hard to believe. After handing my boarding pass to the most unfriendly employee I’ve ever seen, and expecting to continue to board the plane just like the previous 100s of flights I’ve ever been on, I was told to “step aside.”
Actually, she mumbled for me to “step aside” and she followed it up with more mumbling that was finally deciphered as “this is a weight restricted flight.”
As a naturally positive and polite person, I tried to remain calm and ask exactly what that meant, and if it meant we may not be able to board. I was bluntly and rudely told that I was NOT going to be able to board. In asking for further information I was rudely told that because we checked in “last” and despite having boarding passes, we were not allowed on the flight.
Let me repeat: while holding a boarding pass and looking at a plane with numerous empty seats (that was to take my father and I home on a :59 minute fight), I was rudely and bluntly told that I would not be boarding. That’s it. No further explanation. Not even a remote sense of empathy. It was almost as if she was glad that we were going to miss the flight that we paid for and held boarding passes for.
Trying to remain calm, I asked the first person I saw if she was an employee of US Air. She sarcastically replied “um… yeah.” At this point I’d had enough and I asked told rude employee #2 to call a Supervisor. Enter Sherrie W.
Sherrie came and heard my concerns, and then politely explained what was happening: the plane had more baggage and more fuel than expected, therefore the number of passengers had to be reduced to reduce the total weight load.
Does US Air realize that the passengers, not the bags or the fuel, are the PAYING CUSTOMERS, I wondered?! My father was quick to point out that there is no way for US Air to know exactly how much each passenger weighs and that this decision to not let us board was ridiculous. I politely but urgently informed Sherrie that both my father and I would be getting on the plane, and we were counting on her to find a way to make it happen.
She talked about offering credits to us in case we couldn’t board, but I informed her that a $150 credit on a future US Air flight did nothing for me: first, I paid more than that for the flight you are not allowing me to get on and second, if in fact I do not board my flight, I will NEVER FLY US AIR AGAIN!
Sherrie seemed to understand the gravity of the situation and she even acknowledged the woman who was initially rude to us (“step aside”) as being out of line. Sherrie searched for other flights to Columbus, including other airlines, but the flight we were looking at (literally) was the best/only option that would get us out of Washington within the next 4 hours.
Magically, at 1:12 pm we were told that we could board our 1:05 pm flight and we were shuttled to the plane. The same could not be said for at least one other unlucky passenger, who was simply not allowed to board
despite having a boarding pass as well. How US Air retains customers when they treat them as poorly as we were treated is beyond me.
When we boarded, I had to chuckle at the fact that it seemed nothing had changed. Our seats were empty and waiting for us – our bags (and everyone else’s) were stowed below and I can only assume the plane had the same amount of fuel as before. I may never know what “magic” forces led to us being allowed to board, but I can only attribute them to the hard work and quick thinking of Sherrie W. US Air is lucky to have one employee who cares about their customers, and from my experience Sherrie is the only reason I will ever consider flying US Air or recommending them to a friend, colleague, or the entire Internet.
Nicholas J Nicastro
PS: A response from US Air will do wonders in changing my salty opinion towards them… to any US Air employee reading this: feel free to email me for more information or more specifics. While I understand that no people or company are immune from making a mistake, I also contend that it is how they deal with their mistakes that separates a truly great company from one that is one Government bailout away from bankruptcy.
***UPDATE: US Airways reply dated 6/27/11 below!***