The sheer incompetence shown by the US Airways Express staff at Charlotte airport last night was almost hard to believe. Could an airlines operations be so messed up that their own Gate Agents and their supervisors would not know for over two and a half hours what the status of a flight was? Or was the gate staff just so incompetent and unprofessional that they just didn’t care? I do not know which one was the truth (probably somewhere in-between) and how this is even possible for a ‘major’ airline.
The flight in question was flight US 2794 from Charlotte (CLT) to Washington Dulles (IAD), on July 17th. The flight was scheduled to leave at 7:59PM. I was in the US Airways lounge. My original flight, slated to leave at 6:02 PM had been cancelled and I was rebooked on this one. (US Airways cancelled the flight, called me with a recorded message with the info and never rebooked me on another flight. I had to stand in line at the lounge to get this done. Why they do not rebook passengers from a cancelled flight on the next one automatically, I have no idea. It just adds load on customer service agents. But that for another post). I had used the lounge pass I got from my US Airways credit card to get in the lounge once I knew I will be at the airport for a while. (They give one free pass every year).
So, at 7:20 I start the long walk over to gate E38 (the farthest gate from the lounge). I am already concerned because according to the usairways.com website, the first leg of this flight, from Knoxville, TN (TYS) had been cancelled. I am hoping they have another aircraft available they plan to use. As I reach the gate, the board above the gate shows flight is on time. Whew – I breath easy.
7:35 – no boarding announcement. Flights is listed as still being on time. All is well…
7:40 – no boarding announcement still. No biggie. This is a shared gate. They are busy boarding another flight…
7:45 – passengers who were standing in line at the gate start wandering around talking about ‘waiting for a plane’. Board still says flight on time.
7:50 – I am now in line to talk to the GA. I refresh my usairways.com flight status page (they do not have an App) and it says flight is ‘Awaiting takeoff’!
7:55 – I finally get to the GA (she is the supervisor, I find out). She says that they are awaiting aircraft. I ask if it is in the air coming in from somewhere? She says no, it is in the airport awaiting a tow to the gate… I show her the webpage with the status. She says she has no control over what the website says. I point out that the screen on her gate says the flight is on time. She says she has no control over that too.
8:05 – No aircraft. The board above the gate stops showing our flight. We ask, she says that the flight is not cancelled. She has no control over the board. The webpage still shows we are ‘awaiting takeoff’.
8:30 – Still no aircraft. I ask the GA again and she says they are waiting for the plane to be towed over. She does not know when. We ask if we should leave and get food. No response. Webpage still says ‘awaiting takeoff’.
9:00-ish – I find the GA wandering about and ask her what is the status. She says the aircraft is here and we should be leaving in ’15 to 20 minutes’. I ask her if that was her estimate or a formal statement? She walks away without responding.
9:10 – The GA picks up the announcement microphone and announces that the ‘plane is at the gate and we should be leaving in 15-20 minutes’.
9:15 – The flight re-appears on the board. Departure time 9:26.
9:30 – Boarding still not started. I ask again. She says she has no idea when the flight will leave as the full crew is not here. I ask her why she made an announcement that the flight will leave in 15 – 20 minutes. She replies she never made such an announcement! I point to other passengers saying we all heard the announcement. She then GA gets upset and started telling me that I am bothering her. Other GA gather around her. I ask why the board says leaving at 9:26? She repeats, she has no control over the board. Repeats she never said when the flight would leave.
9:35 – I speak to a pilot standing near the gate. He says he is the captain of our flight and they are awaiting a flight attendant. He has no idea where she is or when she would arrive.
9:45 – Still no boarding. The board now says 10:09 departure. I ask another GA. (I was staying away from the one who got upset that she made an announcement everyone heard). He says they have no idea what was going on and they only say what operations tells them. So, it’s US Airways operations fault that we the passengers have been abandoned for over two hours? I ask. No, he says, operations only says what ATC (Air Traffic Control) tells them. So, we were stranded by ATC? Me says. He walks away.
9:55 – We finally start boarding.
10:05-ish – We are still on the ground. I fall asleep…
11:40 – We land at IAD. I ask the GA at IAD if they were giving any compensation for a flight delayed by over 2 hours? She looks at me funny…
How can a real airline operate like this? Is no one responsible? Do they care?
I had also tweeted the @usairways during the ordeal. They responded with a weird tweet which said nothing. Next tweet was ignored.
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