Travel Nightmare Number 835
by Gordon Duff, Senior Editor
As editor of the largest military and veterans publication in the world, I am inundated in scams of all kinds. As a disabled veteran, I am subjected to the horrors of VA medical care, or, more appropriately, the utter lack thereof but, moreover, charity scams, government ripoffs and every form of human depravity imaginable.
As a regular traveler, one who has millions of airline miles, some of it open cockpit flying into grass strips on the African velt, I have almost become immune to inconvenience. Ah, but when you think you have seen it all, along comes US Airways.
Last month I had two days with retired special operations folks, meetings, dinners, etc. Call us “old troublemakers” past our prime, but we do love to meet, share information and plot. We do so love to plot.
Under normal circumstances I would never fly US Airways. There was no other way to get from Detroit to New Orleans but to use them. What a mistake.
I expect filthy planes. I don’t mind rude crew members or pilots who flub landings, after all, this is what keeps us going. Last month, I flew Ethiopian Airways from Addis Ababa to Nairobi. They were wonderful, new Boeing jet, great crew, wonderful airport lounge. Why can’t US Airways do the same?
OK, here is what got to me:
I was booked for a 3 plus hour layover in Charlotte, North Carolina. I do love the airport restaurants, you can’t get better BBQ than there. I do so hate the pay toilets. Please? Pay toilets in the US?
OK, this is what I did wrong; I went to the ticket desk of US Airways and looked for an earlier flight to Detroit. They gladly accepted my Visa card, booked what they said was an earlier flight, issued me a ticket and sent me across the airport.
I was in terminal B, the flight left from terminal E. I estimate the distance at about a kilometer. What I failed to notice is that the ticket they issued me gave me four minutes to walk a kilometer before the doors at the other end closed for the flight.
Here is the fun part. Charlotte has tons of golf carts, nearly everyone rides on them to get to flights. It seems eating that BBQ has left North Carolina with a bit of a weight problem, lots of very very heavy people buzzing around the airport, unable to walk distances that actually can be a bit much.
Dodging the zooming golf carts filled with anxious travelers or bored airport employees was actually a real danger. Perhaps I should have been riding on one of these things?
About a week before, I had to walk across Frankfurt airport. It took me over an hour from my gate to the first class lounge nearest my flight. Even then, the limousine ride to the plane was 20 minutes. Thank goodness Lufthansa offers a full spa with massage for stressed first class passengers. I do so hate the ride out to the plane with a glass of 40 year old single malt in my hand. Ah, but we are talking about US Airways, not Lufthansa.
There is no comparison.
I think my problem is that I don’t look “dead enough” for North Carolina. I am a disabled veteran (100%), certainly old and have genuinely service connected knee injuries. Shuffling across an airport is not one of my skills, not anymore anyway.
What is also not in my skill area is being sent across an airport, a big airport, for a flight that had departed long ago, a flight I paid extra to be included on. I wasn’t the only one, there were several others that missed the same flight, those unable to match Jesse Owens or OJ Simpson.
As I had a long wait for my other flight, which I made sure I was “re-ticketed” for, I met with a US Airways supervisor and processed the refund for the extra charges to be put on the flight that really never existed.
My Visa statement showed that this process was never entered, it was all done “for show.”
Then, here, nearly 3 weeks later, I tried calling US Airways. They refuse to process refunds over the phone. They demand you send them an email.
I did that. Within seconds, the email was returned. Their company mailbox was full.
So, let’s add it up:
I was lied to and cheated when I was sold a ticket change for a plane that I could never fly on. I was lied to when my refund was processed by a supervisor at Charlotte. I was “spit on” by US Airways, yes, I am a Vietnam Veteran, when my refund email was “bounced.”
I could go further. The website for US Airways is designed to simply make people with any problem simply “go away.” It is nearly impossible to negotiate. There are no real people you can talk to. They don’t exist.
In fact, they are quite bad mannered and hostile, but I expect that during the holidays. I will let that part go.
Maybe I look like I can run a four minute mile while carrying luggage across an airport. Lots of disabled people in their 60s can do that or so US Airways seems to think.
I remember when the supervisor said, “You don’t look that old.” Don’t believe him, I feel that old. As for US Airways, saying I am “unimpressed” is an understatement. That they have recently merged with American Airlines is scary.
Will US Airways improve or American Airlines head down the slippery slope to hell? Only time will tell.