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I hate this airline. I hate it more every single time I have the miserable misfortune of flying on it. Sure, all airlines have trouble from weather. The way you handle it, however, makes you a good or bad airline. As always, US Air handled it badly. I should have driven.
All I wanted to do was fly home from Philadelphia yesterday. I was earlier than I'd planned, so the night before I'd forked over their $100 extortion fee for changing tickets -- itself more than a ticket on some airlines would have cost -- and booked a 4:55 flight from PHL to PWM. I was at the airport by 1:30. Had I kept the rental car and driven home, I'd have made it by 9pm or so. Instead, I tried to suffer through the nightmare of a 1970's airline that they run.
At 2:30, things were already backing up. My 4:55 was scheduled to go out at 5:30, but a 1:30 flight was still on the ground and getting ready to leave. I got to that gate at 3:00 and asked the gate agent if I could grab a seat on it. I was told no, absolutely not, you can't separate from your luggage. I took her name, and explained that given the weather, it looked unlikely the later flights would make it, and I'd be happy to pick up my bag at the airport the next day. I was quite rudely told that it "wasn't going to happen, not any way.".
By 3:30 that flight still hadn't left, and my 4:55 one was cancelled. A few minutes later so was the earlier one. I was in line already (having some experience with this) and was able to beg, plead, and simper enough to be granted permission to change to another flight. I asked for "Anything north of here. Just get me closer. Bangor, Boston, Manchester, Hartford, all are closer and I'll drive from there." I was given a 4:30 flight to Boston. The 4:30 flight to Boston was listed as "on-time" at gate B4. The 4pm flight to Chicago was listed as 4:15 at gate B4. Does anyone else see immediately the likelihood of this happening? Meanwhile, the weather is getting worse, and worse, and worse.
It was at this point that I realized I did not know if my luggage was going to Boston now, or to Portland. So, I asked a gate agent. Without looking at anything, she told me that I'd have to ask in Boston. There was no way she could tell. I explained that it could mean the difference in making the 7:25 bus to Portland versus the 8:25 but she didn't care and made that clear. I sat down and called the "customer service" number. I think they mean "service" in the same way a horse breeder might use the term. Anyway, I called them and waited 25 minutes to get through. I was transferred to the department that was to help me, at which point the connection dropped. I called back. After 25 minutes I asked not to be transferred and was told I had no choice, she couldn't help me at all. I was transferred to a busy signal, then the call dropped. I called back. After 25 minutes the hold music stopped for 10 seconds, then went back to playing. That happened twice. I used to work in a phone queue and know exactly what that means. It means it rang at someone's desk and they didn't pick it up so I went back to the queue. After 58 minutes (I checked) I got someone on the line. I took his name, and said he did not have permission to transfer me or to put me on hold. I told him that I'd fallen for that twice already. I then explained that I just wanted to know if the bag was rerouted with me or not. In 5 seconds he checked and said it was. To find that out, had taken me an hour and a half. By the time I had the answer, we had boarded the plane and they were about to call for cell phones to be put away.
The whole time I was on hold (a total of 158 minutes), they played a 4 second announcement once every 15 seconds. The same announcement. "The TSA has relaxed some restrictions on carry on items. Please see your ticket agent for more information." I heard that announcement 632 times.
Finally, at around 5:30 we boarded out of gate B6 -- most outbound flights were not yet listed as cancelled, however there were very few planes because you couldn't land in this weather now. You could, apparently, take off if you had a plane. After a long wait on the runway for a storm cell to pass, we took off in 40 mile per hour cross winds. The plane was swerving as it went down the runway before it even got in the air. Fortunately, the one thing that went right was that we had an excellent flight crew who handled the plane magnificently. It could have been one of the worst rides ever, and wasn't that bad. You could feel them manipulating the throttle to work with the gusts and so on. The pilot gave us a virtuoso performance. We landed safely in Boston.
By the time I got to the baggage claim, all the bags were off. It took only 3 minutes because they only had 1200 pounds of baggage. Apparently, the 5+ hours I spent in the airport was not enough time for my suitcase to evolve a pair of legs and a brain so as to load itself onto the aircraft.
Now get this, while I am missing the 7:25 bus, the woman at US Air's baggage claim had the nerve to tell me that the suitcase "was not lost yet." It may be on the 9:30 flight or it may be going to Portland. She declared it was clearly going to Portland because she looked at my ticket jacket and that's the sticker it had. The fact that the sticker had been placed on the jacket some 6 hours prior and that the flights to Portland had all been cancelled didn't help. I told her there was no way I was waiting two hours and missing the last bus on the off chance my suitcase climbed onto the next plane by itself. I said very carefully "I am here. The suitcase is not here. It is, by definition, lost." She replied, no, not yet. You can go to Portland and look for it, then fill out the paperwork there. I said, "No, that isn't going to happen. Once again, let me be clear. I am here. The suitcase is not here. I did not fill out and sign a voluntary separation from baggage form today. Therefore, this bag is lost." About 10 minutes later we agreed that the bag was lost. I filled out the form, and am told the suitcase will get to me here at home. Someday.
So far, no bag.
I did still have to look forward to a bus ride, a cab ride, and finally my car once I got to Portland. I finally got home just after 11pm. Had I just kept the car, I would have been home with my bag two hours prior. It would have been worth whatever Avis charged for the drop off in another state.
If US Air buys out Delta, it will set the airline industry back 40 years. They can call the new airline "Aeroflot".
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