Unaccommodating Airport Staff

July 18, 2010

in Airport Stories

About 4 years ago my wife and I were returning from visiting family in Los Angeles. This was the experience that convinced me to avoid US Air and the Philadelphia airport at all costs.

The flight from LAX to Philly was not a problem. We had an 8:30ish connecting commuter flight to our little hometown. My wife was giving an exam the next day in a course she teaches so we booked our flights to ensure we’d be home reasonably early Sunday night. So we get to Philly on time, shuttle over to the commuter terminal and wait to board our flight. Things are going smoothly and we board on time (around 8:00PM). As we taxi to the runway, the lights in the little propeller plane flash off and on. The pilot announces, “Well, that’s not supposed to happen. We think we know what’s wrong and it will be a quick fix. They’re sending someone over to the plane to fix it.” After about 30 minutes, it’s not what they thought it was and we are going back to gate.

No problem we’re told (it’s now about 9PM), they are getting us a new plane. We need to stick around because they will have to issue us new boarding passes at the new gate since we’d already boarded another plane. The plane arrives at the gate, we line up to get new boarding passes, all seems well. Suddenly the gate door opens and the crew emerges and says, “This plane is not flying anywhere.” We are advised that there are still a few seats on the regularly scheduled 9:45 flight and we should go to the nearest gate agent to get rebooked. Chaos ensues. There are US Air gate agents everywhere, standing in groups, walking alone. But virtually none are manning a ticket counter. And none seem interested in helping us out. Two are cajoled into helping and we line up 15-deep at two opposing gates. My wife and I are third in line, but our gate agent is taking forever with the first customer. Tap, tap, tap, tap goes the keyboard endlessly, but he can’t figure out how to rebook the passenger. Too late, the 3 available seats go to the first 3 people in the other line (9:45PM).

The reluctant and apparently incompetent gate agent now asks the remaining stranded fliers if they want to be rebooked on a flight the next day or would they like ground transportation (a 4 hour drive). About 10 folks want ground transportation (I would have taken the flight the next day and head to a hotel, but my wife wanted to give her class their exam and not be pushed back further), so we join the ground crowd. We’re told to wait while they rebook the other passengers (10:30PM). OK, now the gate agent turns to our group and says “stay right here, I need to go get approval to arrange ground transportation.” The guy is gone for an hour (11:30PM). Around 11:30 he reappears and tells us the ground transportation is approved and they are arranging for a bus to take us to our destination. It will pick us up outside the terminal in front of the airport.

We head to the pick up spot and wait another hour and half. At about 1:00AM the bus arrives. It is a “party bus” designed for nights out. Bench seats around an empty (of course) bar, we pile in as best we can and most fall asleep somewhere down the road. We got to our hometown airport at 5:00AM. My wife’s class was at 9:00AM. I slept most of the day.

I know mechanical problems happen, but what really made this a flight from hell was the unwillingness of most of the gate agents to try to help us. There must have been 15 in the terminal but they literally ignored what was going on. Then, of the 2 that reluctantly helped, one didn’t know how to do anything. He was the same one that took an hour to “get approval” for ground transportation. And never once did they tell us we’d be waiting an hour and half after that to actually board a bus.

What a night. Haven’t been in that airport since and haven’t flown on that carrier since.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

JK July 19, 2010 at 8:17 am

Do you think that they just pull buses out of thin air to have them there right away? Put some thought into it next time. It takes awhile to get a hold of the station manager, have the SM get a hold of their manager to ok the bus, then call around and find a bus, wake up the driver (it's after 1130p) and get them to the bus and then drive to the airport. 2.5 hours to get that done, I don't think that's too bad. As for the other agents?

"Haven’t been in that airport since", yes, let's be sure to blame a building for an airline mechanical issue with their aircraft. Makes sense to me!


MM July 19, 2010 at 11:35 am

Seems to me the complaints about the airport had more to do with staff inside the building than the building itself.


Aaron July 19, 2010 at 9:52 am

Hmmm…seems you're just looking to pick on the poster. They are clearly not blaming a building for an aircraft's mechanical problem. That is just lame logic on your part. Get a life.


Tom July 19, 2010 at 3:26 pm

One thing I learned a long time ago, delays happen. It is never the airports fault, and usually not the airlines fault. It is usually either weather or mechanical. What happens after that depends on who you get to talk to. Sometimes they care, sometimes they don't. Sometimes they know what they're doing, sometimes they don't. Another thing I learned is to always expect delays. If I have to be home on Monday for something, I will always travel back on Saturday. I have been stuck too many times overnight in airports to know that the airlines will usually do all they can but it usually is not enough, so I take the responsibility on myself and travel smart. When I do this my frustration levels usually stay pretty low.


Harry Palmer July 20, 2010 at 4:44 pm

You should write travelogues and I will read them to "keep my frustration levels low" dork.


Tom July 21, 2010 at 2:50 pm

Harry, I'll be the first to admit that I am indeed a dork, but a dork who is never frustrated by travel delays. I also wouldn't mind writing travelogues if you can hook me up with a publisher.


Laura July 26, 2010 at 8:15 pm

Sounds like bad luck more than anything. Glad you got home safe. Air travel can be stressful.


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