Purgatory Is A USAir Flight

May 17, 2009

in Delay/Cancellation Stories

On Friday, March 27 our party of four was scheduled to depart Orlando (MCO) traveling to Philadelphia (PHL) on USAIR # 706. We arrived in plenty of time to make the flight. The check-in process was smooth and we had no problems getting to the gate. It looked like it would be a good day to fly. Little did we know what hell USAir had planned for us and our fellow passengers.

As we were seated and quietly waiting at the departure gate our plane arrived, pulled into the gate where the arriving passengers deplaned, again smoothly and without incident. At the designated time, which is 30 minutes before scheduled departure, USAir began to board the flight. Once again without any problems or challenges.

Once the plane was completely boarded, weights and measures checked and the passenger manifest closed, the plane pushed back from its gate. Little did we know that our problems were just beginning.

We pushed back from the gate but as temperatures inside the plane began to climb rapidly it seemed odd that we had not heard an engine start, the air conditioners begin to function or that we had not moved in 25 minutes or so. At this point the captain addressed the passengers informing us that we would be going back to the gate as he had been unable to start the right engine. That seemed odd given that both engines had been running upon arrival when the plane taxied to the gate less than 45 minutes ago.

Once back at the gate the maintenance team came aboard, consulted with the flight crew and then went outside the plane to do some troubleshooting. At this point an announcement was made by the cabin crew that anyone who would be making an international connection in PHL should deplane and see the gate agent, strictly as a precautionary measure, or so they claimed.

Roughly three hours passed and without any further announcement from either the flight crew or the flight attendants passengers from the front of the plane began to leave the aircraft. Naturally they were asked by other passengers what was going on and they stated that they overheard the flight crew speaking with maintenance personnel that the engine problem could not be resolved and that the flight would need to be canceled.

When these passengers, all of whom were in seated in the first class cabin, heard this and saw the flight crew packing up to leave they wisely decided to leave in advance of an announcement – a good idea since USAir neglected to make any such announcement until 1 hour after the flight crew had left the aircraft and passengers were trying to find out what had just happened.

Of course it was chaos outside at the departure gate where roughly 170 passengers, having just deplaned from a broken down Airbus 321, were trying to make alternate arrangements. The gate staff were doing their best but were inadequately staffed and unprepared for a cancellation. This is a busy time in Orlando as it is the peak Spring Break travel period. Accordingly there was limited availability on any USAir flights requiring traveling parties to be broken up, rescheduled and to make multiple connections to reach their destination.

Our party was rescheduled to depart on Saturday morning, 3/28, at 07:50AM on USAIR #1746. USAir could not offer any overnight accommodations as all the Orlando area hotels were sold out (30,000 convention attendees, midwest flight cancellations and spring break) and USAir had already booked all the rooms they had reserved and available.

We had to find our own hotel and a way to get there too. The bottom line was an additional expense of $939 as we could only find two rooms at the Peabody on International Drive – not cheap, and we had to rent the only car we could find (thank you AVIS for being so helpful). Okay, it was only one night, we weren’t being treated well by USAir but we didn’t want to ruin it for the kids. Off we went finally getting settled into our rooms just before midnight almost 15 hours from the time this saga began. It was lights out though as we had to leave the hotel by 06:00 to make our 3/28/2009 07:50 flight with rental car return, check-in and security screening.

At 04:45 AM my phone starts ringing and I am subsequently informed that our flight will be delayed by 250 minutes. I asked what the cause of the delay was and was told it was mechanical. Suspicious by nature I asked what type of equipment we were flying and was informed it was a Boeing 757. Odd that we would have two consecutive flights with mechanical problems but at least the kids could get a little more sleep. Not me though because now I was awake and irritated as well.

We head back to the airport, return the car, check-in, make it through security and head to the gate. As we do I realize it is the same gate as the day prior, Terminal B Gate 57 if you care, and that the plane at the gate is – yup, you guessed it, the same Airbus 321 we had been on yesterday. USAir decided to use the B-757 for another canceled flight instead. Three hours later it was déjà vu all over again. The only difference being that we never actually boarded the plane this time.

The end result wasn’t any different though. We were told we would be rescheduled for the next day, Sunday, 3/29. Not one to be fooled twice I requested that we be moved to another airline as two attempts at departure were enough for us.

Request denied as USAir told us that no other carrier had released seats to them. Now I’m really irritated as we bought full fare tickets and upgraded to First Class (on a cash basis) as one of our party was ill.

The net of this experience is that rather than accept USAir’s substandard treatment of full fare first class passengers (which have to be pretty rare for any airline these days), I chose instead to demand a full refund for the MCO-PHL segment from the gate agent and then went to AirTran where we were fortunate enough to book a flight from MCO-PHL.

Air Tran was a good experience, no mishaps, no problems, fantastic customer service, a smooth flight and an overall pleasant flight.

For our trouble USAir offered 4 lunch vouchers, each valued at $5.00 each. USAIR has lost me (27 years on USAir, 6 Gold and 13 years as a Chairman’s Preferred) as a customer and I have finally gotten out of the purgatory that is USAir.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Roto13 May 9, 2009 at 7:53 pm

Once I got through the first three paragraphs and realized they could have been replaced with "So my family and I were on a plane, about to pull out of the gate," I stopped reading. God, tl;dr. Learn to write.


pocomouse May 10, 2009 at 12:09 pm

Wow, an honest to God flight from hell story, instead of a whiny diatribe. Such a rarity on this site.

And Roto13: tl;dr is internet speak for "I'm ignorant and lazy, summarize it for my tiny brain" If you don't want to read a story, don't visit a storytelling site.


Roto13 May 10, 2009 at 1:09 pm

Most of the stories on this site don't sound like they're going out of their way to be as dramatic as possible.


SAW May 12, 2009 at 6:01 am

I gave up on USAir years ago. And besides, who would fly an airline with the audacity to try and charge you $2 for water… and ROTO13 – get lost and stop reading here, you're clearly an idiot.


Hugh May 13, 2009 at 1:29 am

I fly a good deal for work. I understand that mechanical issues come up, I really do. What I find atrocious is when airlines don't let you know what is going on. Living near PHL, many times USAir is the only alternative, and they are IMHO the worst at this. I think American does a great job at keeping passengers informed when thinsg are going on. That makes the differnce between a bad experience and a horrible one. I don't blame the airlines for weather or mechanical issues, but I do hold them responsible for keeping me informed so I may plan accordingly.


Leave a Comment
Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Previous post:

Next post: