Overbooked Flights Cause Missed Cruise

May 26, 2010

in Airport Stories

I have such a nightmare vacation story it doesn’t seem real…but trust me, it is. I wish it wasn’t. Let me also explain the man I was traveling with has over 1.5 MILLION air miles with American Airlines. Then when you add in all the other airlines he has flown, all over the world, he had many more miles than lots of pilots have. I am appalled at the lack of caring, disregard for passengers, rudeness, apathy and just overall poor customer service I encountered with U.S. Airways. Here is my story:

I planned 9 months ago to take my oldest son on an early graduation present. He is graduating from High School in May of this year. He has not traveled much, nor has he ever been out of the country. I booked a cruise for my son, my boyfriend, and my son’s best friend on a major cruise line 9 months ago. In February, I booked 4 airline tickets from Phoenix. We wanted to get to Miami which was where the cruise line departed from. I went to cheaptickets.com and searched flights, finding no non-stop flights. I booked the tickets for Friday morning, 3/12, at 9:45 a.m. from Phoenix to Charlotte, NC, then from Charlotte to Ft. Lauderdale, FL. We made reservations for a hotel in Ft. Lauderdale, and had booked a rental a car to drive from Ft. Lauderdale to Miami on Saturday, 3/13. The cruise ship was to leave from Miami on 3/13 at 5p.m.

Friday, 3/12 comes and we arrive at Sky Harbor with 2 hours to spare before our domestic flight. Here is where our nightmare starts. The tickets said United Airlines operated by U.S. Airways. We parked our car, got the bus to terminal 2 and waited in line to check-in with United Airlines – the line was not very long and we had plenty of time. When we got to the kiosk we were denied check-in. The woman who stepped in to assist us stated we were at the wrong terminal – we needed to be at U.S. Airways terminal 4. She laughed, said this happens to “everyone” and we had plenty of time to get our plane. We took all of our baggage, proceeded to the curb to wait for the bus to terminal 4.

We arrived at terminal 4 after approximately 20 minutes, only to discover the line to check in for the ticket counter snaked around the terminal, around the escalator and ended 5 feet from the exit door! I have NEVER in my 27 years here in AZ seen a line like this. It was so bad that they even had U.S. Airways representatives at the exit door to direct people to the end of the line. We got in line and waited… and waited… FINALLY it was our turn to check in. We had 45 minutes before our flight – still plenty of time. We glanced over and noticed the TSA line was almost non existent – YAY. We pulled out our reservations and tried to check in at the kiosk – again we were denied check-in. We tried and tried and tried to get someone’s attention to help us – the representatives behind the counter, working for U.S. Airways, looked at us like we were a complete annoyance. NO ONE would take 30 seconds to tell us what was going on. Finally a woman said in passing that the cut off for check-in was 45 minutes before the flight – it was now 42 minutes before the flight and we were directed to yet another line. We found out later (from the representative that the CEO of US Airways had call us) that the people behind the counter could have over-ridden the 3 minutes but no one offered to and no one bothered to explain that to us. We had no idea why we were asked to move to another line, but we did as we were told.

The other line was not very long – however apparently it was a line for people that missed flights (we hadn’t yet) and needed to make other arrangements. Turns out we waited approximately 45 minutes – and then missed our flight most definitely this time. Our questions for help and cries that we were missing our flight went on deaf ears. No one cared. Every single person behind the counter we encountered at U.S. Airways was not interested in helping; they were abrasive, rude, short tempered. I couldn’t believe the poor customer service we were getting. After trying to get another flight from the person behind this new line we were in, and learning there were NO flights to be had (it was spring break) and no way to get to Florida for days, and also finding out that our flight was overbooked by many, many people and we probably would not have gotten on anyway (that was actually said to us), we were told to check in our bags (we did) and try to get on the next standby flight to Charlotte.

We went to the gate, and discovered we could not get on that flight…or the next….or the next…or the next….we were bumped from gate to gate to gate. Every gate we got the exact same response – the flight was overbooked by 20 people, by 12 people, by 15 people – no room and you can’t get on. After the last late afternoon flight, we were told they could get us on the 11:59 p.m. redeye to Charlotte – we had assigned seats – Row 4, Seats c, d, e and f. We checked in at the gate as soon as someone was there. I verified – TWICE – because I wanted to make sure we were on that flight – with the person behind the counter that we WERE on that flight. They call our zone…all 4 of us take our tickets and proceed to try to board. Two of the four of us have good, valid tickets – but two of us were denied boarding – even though we had assigned seats! I tried to protest – the person that was taking the tickets was the exact person who had verified my tickets 90 minutes before! He advised us “don’t worry, these two WILL be on this flight.” I felt relieved and boarded the plane with my son’s best friend.

We waited…the remainder of our party didn’t board. Two complete strangers sat down in the seats that were supposed to be for my son and my boyfriend. I asked to see their tickets – they had the same seat assignment! I used my cell and called my son, still at the counter. Somehow two of our reservations had fallen out of the computer and they could not board. The plane was oversold – AGAIN – and they could not get on. The plane prepared to close the doors. I got up and asked to get off. I was told under no circumstances was I allowed off the plane – they were closing the doors. I was insistent – they were leaving my minor child in the airport without his guardian or parent. I grabbed our bags and rushed off the plane just as the doors were closing. A manager was yelling at me as I exited the plane that I was not to get any refund, my ticket was “used” and I wasn’t allowed on another flight. I was NOT leaving my son in the airport – 2 of us were not going on a cruise that was made for four.

Because of the huge mix-up (it was their fault and they admitted it to us that our reservation “fell out” of the computer system), U.S. Airways finally got us on a flight at 6:30 a.m. Saturday 3/13. We still had time to make our cruise if we got on this flight to Charlotte. We were out the money for the hotel in Ft. Lauderdale that night – we slept at the airport while the same manager who previously yelled at me got us assigned seats for the first morning flight. He told us not to worry, he would get us on the Charlotte flight either the top of the standby list or assigned seats and we should just get on the plane. Six-thirty a.m. comes – we get on the plane – finally we are on our way. Things get worse…

We get to Charlotte. We have 2 hours between flights so we go to the baggage office to check on our bags. We find out our bags are in Ft. Lauderdale. We asked to have the bags brought to Miami seaport terminal and put on the cruise line. We were ASSURED that would happen. We try to check in at the counter for the Charlotte to Miami flight – SURPRISE we have no flight and no seats. Overbooked again. We are told to try to get on standby. This would be the 6th flight we try to make to get to Miami. Turns out we don’t get on this flight either. This was the last flight we could have taken to make the cruise.

***We are stranded in Charlotte…..with two teenagers…..we have no hotel….we have no luggage……we have missed our cruise…we have been wearing the same clothes for two days. We go to the customer service office in Charlotte for U.S. Airways. We explain our story to two people behind the counter – one is a supervisor, a man. We explain we are stranded and don’t know what to do. His exact response – mind you this is from a supervisor – is “SO? What do you want us to do about it?”

After much prodding from the teenagers, we decide to pursue at least trying to get the cruise ship in Ocho Rios, Jamaica. Unfortunately that is the 2nd port of call – the first is Labadee, Haiti and even if we could get into the airport there, we probably would not have been able to get to the ship. Our luggage should be on the ship as previously promised so we should be good. We try online to get one-way tickets to Montego Bay. They show sold out. I call U.S. Airways – I am on hold an hour…I finally hang up and decide to go to the ticket counter two levels below us. We are still at the airport. We get 4 one-way tickets to Jamaica – however we get charged an additional $45.00 because we made the reservation at the airport! We get a hotel in Ocho Rios, then we get a hotel in Charlotte and rent a car. We have to go to Wal-Mart – we have to buy essentials: toothbrushes, clothes, danties, beach shoes, swim suit, combs, brushes, etc. We get up the next day and get to the Charlotte airport – we check on the status of our bags. They are NOT on the ship as promised. They are still sitting in Ft. Lauderdale – surprise surprise. The baggage office promises to send our bags to Montego Bay from Ft. Lauderdale and we are on our way.

Yes, we finally do catch up with the ship and get 1 1/2 days of a 5 day cruise on the ship thanks to U.S. Airways. However when we disembark in Miami, and call to confirm our return flight to Phoenix, we learn that our return flight has been cancelled and we have no way back to Phoenix! I guess because we didn’t complete our 2nd leg of our flight, we were “dropped out” of the computer – again. Of course we didn’t make the 2nd leg of the flight but it was their fault! Cross off another 2 hours on the telephone to try to get return tickets to Phoenix.

We are out: 3 1/2 days of a $5K cruise, hotel in Ft. Lauderdale that we didn’t get to stay in, cost of hotel in Charlotte, cost of rental car in Charlotte, clothes and necessities for 4 people for 3 days since we had no luggage, food in the airport for all of Friday, food for Charlotte, four 1-way tickets to Montego Bay, hotel in Jamaica for 2 days, food in Jamaica for 2 days.

Immediately my boyfriend wrote a letter to the CEO of U.S. Airways who promptly had someone contact my BF. The person said they were concerned about the lack of customer service we got, however they ACT like they want to help you but that’s not what we equated to”help.” We were offered vouchers for the flights to Jamaica (that means we have to fly with them again? No THANKS and that doesn’t help me pay for my American Express bill) and the cost of the hotel in NC. That was IT.

At this point, we are so dissatisfied and frustrated by the lack of customer care, the rudeness, the apathy, the uncaring attitude of all the U.S. Airways people we have run into in every city we encountered, both on the telephone and in person, that we don’t know what else to do. Any help you could assist us with in trying to recover some of our loss (we have complete documentation, receipts, etc) would be greatly appreciated.

{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

A. May 26, 2010 at 6:53 pm



Adam May 26, 2010 at 7:28 pm

That was a nightmare! While not as bad as your situation, I have had similar problems with lost reservations. The problem all started when you booked through Cheaptickets.com, for a "United AIrlines" codeshare flight which was actually being operated by a partner airline, U.S. Airways. When you booked on Cheaptickets, your reservation first went from their computer system to United Airlines. Then it was again forwarded to the operating airline, U.S. By the time of your trip, your reservations have traversed through somany different reservation systems that they got lost! In the future, find your flight on a site like Cheaptickets.com, but then do the actual booking through the operating airlines website. (You can usually find the same fare on there, that you've found on Cheaptickets or Travelocity) I've had problems with lost reservations on codeshare flights booked through travel sites, too!


Hugh May 26, 2010 at 11:26 pm

I sympathize with you. In the future if you ever doo this again, book your air travel with the cruise as a package, that ies them together somewhat and should help prevent the ship leaving without you or bags going elsewhere…may not be a perfect solution, but would have probably worked out better than what happened to you. Living near Philly, I deal with US Air almost every time I travel, and with very few exceptions have been disgusted with them.


The Logger May 27, 2010 at 1:25 am

US Scareways

U Suck Airways

Take your pick. The web is full of sites dedicated to the sorry state of customer service at this "airline"

When a company like this pays its ground staff less than a 7/11 clerk, the result is this type of passive-aggressiveness.


david May 27, 2010 at 5:45 am

that all sucks

but if you think about it, it was a good thing they had your luggage in ft laud because Royal Caribbean (they are the only cruiseline that go to labadee as its their private island- i went on the same cruise "navigator of the seas") wouldn't be allowed to accept them since you didn't go through their security procedures to checked in with them, they are not allowed to accept unknown baggage even if they are passengers suitcases if the passengers are not there…….so if they were taken to the docks they would have probably been removed and you never would see them again


J May 27, 2010 at 8:48 am

I understand your frustration. However, you could have prevented the situation if you had checked in on time. Your first mistake was not determining what airline to check in at which cost you time. Your second mistake was not arriving at the airport earlier that normal 2 hours due to the high spring break travel volume.


err_wrong_blog May 27, 2010 at 9:03 am

you wrote for help in the wrong blog…

this ones for basically bad stories about flights.. not to help you when cra@p happens…

try this one http://www.elliott.org/


Gregg - admin May 28, 2010 at 7:19 am

You're correct, err_wrong_blog – we're not a consumer advocacy site. I would have referred the complainant to Elliott , but unfortunately no contact info was provided by the writer, not even an email address!

But… you have to admit that it was a true flying hell experience which is what this site is about. Also, perhaps some of the advice provided by posters will help to prevent similar misfortunes from happening to others.


D-Money May 27, 2010 at 9:14 am

Why on earth didn't you use a travel agent for this kind of trip?


Jim May 27, 2010 at 9:35 am

Wow…I am sorry this happened to you. Two pointers…during peak travel time, give yourself way more than the two hours to check in. Secondly, any questions about tickets/airlines/check in….call or check out online first…make sure you get to the right line to check in.

With that all said….the airlines and airline employees need to read your story and see the mess that a missed flight, delayed flight, etc…can cause.

Most airline employees have a lackadaisical attitude about such things. For them, a delayed/missed/cancelled flight it is just another day at the office….but, for the travelling public, it can be something much more severe.

Missing a flight for someone that is travelling on business, could mean a missed sale, that could cost the person their job, their ability to feed their family or pay their mortgage. A missed flight could be the real difference between sustainability or not. Foreclosure or not! The business traveller is travelling for a reason…usually an important one.

For the vacation traveller as yourself….we have too few vacation days in our life….they are very precious to us. We also save our money, and look forward to our vacation….that is what gets us through our mundane day to day jobs….so, when we miss a flight, it can cause us to miss 3.5 days of a 5 day 5,000.00 cruise! This is a big deal! This could be the big highlight of our year…something that we have planned for and saved for the entire year….and, because of a general no caring airline employee attitiude…our precious vacation is basically stolen from us. That missed flight is a big deal!

So, airline employees note….while checking in and helping passengers is a mundane task for you….it is very important to us, the travelling public…a missed flight is a HUGE DEAL to most all of us….and, can have far flung implications and ripple effect…..read this story!


Bob May 28, 2010 at 5:17 am

Very well said Jim!


David May 27, 2010 at 10:32 am

Jim….as a majority Americans don't save and when they get their paycheck they go to the mall and purchase anything just coz the can,

Many salary employees go into debt coz they buy more expensive items then their salary covers

as a whole America saves very little hence consumer society


memee May 28, 2010 at 7:29 am

What the hell does "America saves very little hence consumer society" mean? Actually I and a lot of others budget very carefully for our vacations ,including vacation days. This was a trip from hell and I hope it gets wide coverage, so the airline involved gets lots of bad publicity. I will never fly with them.


david May 28, 2010 at 10:44 am

I didn't say that there are people who do save, i am saying the majority of americans (statistically) spend alot more then they save and that is why the personal debt levels are high in america

consumer society- a society that buys luxury or unneccasary products at a higher level then saving money………that is a basic function


Jim May 28, 2010 at 11:22 am


What the heck does this have to do with the price of wine in China?

You are missing the point. The story and my response was not about whether American's save or not… it was the fact that many of us do save and budget accordingly to go on trips….and, plan and look forward to them, etc…. and, then a simple flight delay, cancellation, missed connection….can ruin the entire vacation that we planned, saved for, etc…

there is no commentary being made on the saving habits of Americans….that would be more suited for a financial blog….


tdf May 27, 2010 at 4:13 pm

You (and your million-miler boyfriend) didn't know to check in online before getting to the airport?


madachode May 28, 2010 at 12:16 am

Thinking that the cruise ship would take your luggage without you being there show that you have no idea what you are doing and are too stupid to leave the house. Next time save yourself the frustration and stay home.


David May 28, 2010 at 3:53 am

I am sorry for being a douche and making blanket statements like that about Americans. Please forgive me. I am a t00l.


david May 28, 2010 at 5:22 am

oh well looks like that immature can't get a life person is back who posts as other people………did mommy forget to lock the basement door?


corinne July 6, 2010 at 9:06 am

I personally love US Airways. I fly with them all the time and have never had a problem.


MM July 6, 2010 at 1:52 pm

Comment from a US Airways employee?


Rich October 21, 2010 at 3:34 am

What a horror story! US Airways has the worst customer service out there IMO. I have had similar, though much smaller in magnitude, issues with them. Use Southwest next time.


professionalbackpacker June 23, 2011 at 4:08 am

Your in America … Sue them isnt that what you guys are great at. If a fat girl can sue Mcdonalds for being fat or a idiot that thinks cruise control means the car drives it self can sue and win then I think you have a great case …


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