Back from Mexico….

Well, I’m back from Mexico, and looking forward to a busy and HOPEFULLY prosperous 2007. But, as a diversion, let me just share with you my experience with US Airways/America West. (Hint. Fly with another airline, unless you relate with the Griswold family in Christmas Vacation and prefer that type of vacation.)

This was my letter to them. I probably would have just sent it to THEM, and given them a chance to RESPOND, but their stupid CONTACT form would not take it, because it had too many characters. Perhaps in the future they will have an alternate available for people who don’t want to say, “Hey, nice job, you guys rock.” You can’t sum some things up in 2000 characters. Yeah, yeah, I know I have a contact form, too, but that’s because people like to send me emails that say things like, “I think I’ll kidnap you until you see things my way.” I am trying to lodge a legitimate complaint to a BIG company. Oh well. I’ll just post it here instead. I was kind enough to send their contact form the link.

Dear Friends at US Airways/America West:

My family and I just took a trip to Cancun, Mexico. I booked the trip with Funjet, so they arranged our air travel. I probably would not have picked your company, mainly because it was a connecting flight. But I figured it couldn’t be too bad. I was wrong.

We flew out from Salt Lake City on Friday, December 22. Our flight number 2874 wasn’t too bad, except for the extremely rude behavior of ALL the flight staff. The attendants were snappy, short, and very, very unhelpful to anyone who needed anything. It was the first time I’ve EVER seen this on an airline. Any airline. I mean, there are one or two rude people in ANY industry, but an entire plane full? My oldest kept whispering to me, “Mom, these people are not nice.” She was right.

We had some trouble in Phoenix because the Jetway was stuck and wouldn’t attach to the door, and whenever someone asked about their fear of missing the connecting flight, the attendant would snap, “I have no way to know if you will miss your flight. We have dozens of flights. If you miss it, we’ll put you on another.” He reminded me of that guy on the old Airplane movie: you know, the one named Johnny who unplugs the lights to the runway and then says, “just kidding”? It’s like they CLONED Johnny and the units are all working at US Airways. “Missing Grandma’s funeral? Too bad! We have dozens of flights! So you’re an hour late. Ya think she’s going to know? Just kidding!”

While I REALIZE that this is the reality (late flights, delays, unavoidable errors, people unplugging the runway lights…er…), service is about SERVING people, and soothing frayed nerves. “We’ll do the best we can to help you when we get there,” would have been an appropriate answer. It would have been a BLATANT LIE, but still, it would have been nicer. There was none of that going on here.

We sat in the plane and twiddled our thumbs, people getting antsier and antsier, and after about a 30-minute delay, and just as they were prepared to have us WALK DOWN THE STAIRS, they got the jetway functioning. Glory be, that we might have to WALK DOWN SOME STAIRS and outside into the dangerous atmosphere of Phoenix! Who knew they even PUT stairs on airplanes?? Can you believe it? Folks, I’ve flown into some tiny airports, and those planes have stairs, and they DO allow you to walk down them and into the terminals. Sheesh.

We were fortunate, because we had plenty of time (our layover was longer) to make our Cancun flight, 315. In fact, we had MORE than enough time because there were so many late flights we sat on the RUNWAY for an hour waiting for people whose connecting flights were late. This was annoying at first, but we later discovered just why this was necessary. Keep reading.

Luckily, we fed the children before we got on board, because we discovered this FOUR HOUR FLIGHT consists of ONE beverage service and a tiny bag of pretzels. You can buy food–awful food–for $5. And there is a very limited amount. You get one drink, some water, and a bag of “snacks” that wouldn’t be “enough for a mouse.”

It was a relief to get to Cancun, where our resort was a delight, the people kind, and the service excellent. I figured the trip back would be better. It was not. In fact, it was much worse.

Our flight was delayed an hour in Mexico (Flight 316, Friday, December 29), so we sat in the airport and twiddled our thumbs. We had fed the kids at the hotel, in anticipation of the fact there wasn’t much on the plane, but the delay made sure they were hungry again before the flight was over. “Don’t worry, we’ll get some food before we get on the plane in Phoenix,” I told them. No such luck. Even though our flight had been delayed (for reasons we were not told), the pilot said we made up time in the air. No matter. We pulled up in Phoenix to discover we could not deplane, as “someone was in in our jetway.” Interesting. We sat on the plane and watched the time tick away. Since we had to reclaim our baggage, go through CUSTOMS and IMMIGRATION, and recheck our bags, there wasn’t a snowball’s chance in Cancun of us making our connecting flight. After a very stressful time going through immigration, customs, rechecking our baggage and going BACK through airport security, we ran from one terminal to the next and discovered that we HAD made our flight…. The snowball lived! God Bless Cancun…. Of course it was only because there again were so many late flights that they were purposely waiting. There had been NO time to stop and feed our kids, as we were RUNNING just to get on the plane! So they had to subsist on a little bag of pretzels, and the attendant woudn’t even give them another when I asked.

I’ve never been so glad to get off an airplane in my life.

I realize that ALL AIRLINES have flights that are delayed, that it’s a busy time of year, and that sometimes there really IS nothing a flight attendant can do. The difference, though, is HOW you address the problem. The problem is:

1. Your staff is poorly trained or not properly hired. They sure don’t seem happy with their jobs. They are short with people, rude, and act as though they are bored with their job. Serving people is not a fun thing. This I know. But it doesn’t matter. I’ve flown on Delta. I’ve flown on American Airlines. I’ve flown on Jet Blue. I’ve flown on Southwest, and more than a few others I can’t remember. I have NEVER seen such rude, incompetent attendants, and it was the same on ALL FOUR FLIGHTS. Cloning Johnny has not worked for you. I’d try something else.
2. You are cutting corners SO far that soon there will be no paper left to cut. Have you ever made a paper snowflake, and discovered you cut the corners just one too many times and all you have is a big hole? That is what is HAPPENING here, people. Even Southwest gives people a damned cookie! I’ve never heard of ONE beverage service on a FOUR HOUR FLIGHT. That is just stupid. There is also no advance warning of this, or I would have stocked up. If I ever must get on this wretched airline again, I will be the one with the rolling cooler, dispensing food to the poor unfortunate travelers with me.
3. The planes seemed in disrepair, with headphone jacks not working and lavatories not shutting properly. Is this what is causing all the delays? Is it something more serious? I kept wondering about an airline that couldn’t fix a lavatory door to keep it shut. What the hell is going on in the engine?

Truly and honestly, the biggest complaint I had was the way we were treated by the attendants. I am a patient person, and I will put up with a lot, but this went too far, and it was the SAME on every flight. Four flights. All delayed. All late. All with rude attendants. And I don’t mind getting my children food from the airport before we get on the plane. If you don’t charge me astronomical prices for a ticket, WHICH YOU DID. And my kids had to go hungry? You couldn’t give them TWO Sprites? Please. We had to pull over in a gas station and buy them hotdogs before we could get home—AT ELEVEN AT NIGHT.

The kicker was the man standing there in the air terminal, trying to get me to sign up for some sort of PROMOTIONAL thing your airline has, as I’m running (literally!!!) to try to get on my flight to Salt Lake City, which is about to depart without me! That was funny.

You won’t be signing me up for that one!


About Natalie R. Collins

Natalie has more than 30 years writing, editing, proofreading and design experience. She has written 20 books (and counting), has worked for the Sundance Film Festival, and as an investigative journalist, editor, and proofreader. She embraces her gypsy-heart and is following her new free-thinking journey through life. Follow her as she starts over and learns a bunch of life's lessons--some the hard way.
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19 Responses to Back from Mexico….

  1. Alex says:

    Holy cows on crack! That is just appalling. Snail mail this letter to them. Pronto. I’ve found that complaints via web forms never get any attention.

    I’m really sorry to hear this, but please note that US Airways/America West is officially off my list of Airlines I’ll fly now. Word-of-mouth is effective.


  2. Cele says:

    Wow, America West is one of the few airlines that services my airport. The two flights I had with them were cramped, but fine. It was also a much shorter, non-connecting flight. But treatment like you survived, just boggles my mind, it makes me wonder how they keep selling tickets. The airline apparently needs Q-training.

    I’m with Alex, snail mail the letter to the company, I’ll find the address if you need it.

    On the other hand, we are glad you are back. We look forward to another year of being Trapped. Well figuratively, that is.


  3. T. W. says:

    Sounds like a hell of a trip, but then coming back always is. I felt so sorry for your travails I went and pre-ordered your book on Amazon as a New Year’s present for myself.

    Happy 2007.


  4. Toni Porter says:

    Why do you think we (people living in the Phoenix Metro area) call this airline “America’s Worst”? I have never been treated well by any of their employees. A year ago we made reservations on AWA for an evening flight on Thanksgiving so that my two daughters could fly home AFTER Thanksgiving dinner. They had to be home for “Black Friday” as they then worked in retail. We made these reservations in late August, and booked with AWA only because of the schedule. The first week of November they cancelled all flights except an 11 am one, and then took 10 days to refund our money when we wouldn’t switch to this flight. Screw AWA! We will never fly them, and have spread the gospel of Southwest everytime airlines come up in conversation.

    I’m sorry for your travel troubles. Continue spreading the news.


  5. Hey T.W., may more people feel so sorry for me they order the book as you did! Hope you started a trend. And I hope you like the book.

    Toni, I agree about Southwest. My main complaint with Southwest has always been they do not assign seats, and I don’t like fighting with people to sit down on a plane. But I’d do that 100 times over again before I would ever board a US Airways/America West flight.

    Alex, Cows on CRACK!? Love that. Too, too funny. Gonna have to repeat that one time and time again.

    Cele, glad you had a better time with them. I’m telling you what, how FOUR flights could be so bad was beyond me. I’m wondering if they pay their attendants poorly, and thus can’t attract better help. I don’t know. But it was NOT a fun time.

    And YEAH for a next year of Trapped! Who thought I’d ever cheer because I was trapped?


  6. Melissa says:

    I too have had troouble with America West. I wrote them off last year at New Years when my boyfriend and I were flying back from Vegas. They cancelled the flight at the last minute (something to do with the workers walking out) and then couldn’t get us on a flight out that night. So they bussed us to some cheap, greasy hotel off the strip so we could sleep for three hours and then bussed us back to the hotel to wait in line for another three hours to get on another flight. They tried to tell us that the only way we could fly out on their dime was to fly the exact same route we were booked for, which meant us not getting on a plane until a full 24 hours later! When we flat out refused and demanded that they work something else out, then they decided they could. All that headache and “cheerful” attitude you described! Talking to others who were bussed to the hotel, this wasn’t the first time for them that this has happened. I am avoiding AWA like the plague!


  7. Dru Ann says:

    Natalie, you have to send this via snail mail. No airline should provide such lousy service especially the flight attendants. They took a job dealing with people and if they don’t like it and/or don’t show proper behavior towards their passengers , then they shouldn’t be on the plane.


  8. Funny… and sad… I had the same problem with the same airline when we were living in Panama. We had one choice (only one flight going to the US per day–only one airline). Never again.

    We ended up in Florida on our way back. We had missed our flight to Panama because of the delays and canceled flights. When I asked for help they just shrugged their shoulders.

    I was standing at the flight desk, screaming, when they finally handed me a ticket for the next day and a place to stay at a hotel near the airport. Thankfully we did not lose our luggage.


  9. Gina Ritter says:

    My husband flew every week for 8 months. He said this airline was TERRIBLE! He aggrees that staff are rude and the facilities are junky. He said that the seats still have ashtrays on the flights he took and one had a cigarette butt in it. What’s even worse?? They were fixing the engine right there while everyone watched. THAT makes you feel safe.


  10. Cynthia, I swear, it’s ridiculous that this is how they treat customers!

    And Gina, your husband is RIGHT. They DO still have ashtrays!!! My daughter pulled one out while we were headed home!


  11. Dru Ann,

    I probably will snail mail a copy of the letter, not that it will get me anywhere. What are they gonna do, offer me PLANE TICKETS to make up for it? YIKES!!


  12. Lyndsey says:

    Maybe they’ll send you a pack of pretzels.


  13. Natalie,

    After a flight from Tokyo to Fukuoka on Air America which at the time was a cover for the CIA, I can pretty much put up with almost anything commercial airlines throw at me but the conduct of those attendants was clearly beyond the pale. Passengers on that AA flight were deplaned and returned to the Tachikawa Air Base terminal because the flight crew was unable to get the fourth engine started. Commercial airline service has been going downhill ever since Pres. Carter deregulated the industry. And I’m ashamed to admit, I voted for him.

    Living in Japan for 32 years meant I flew from Japan to the US and back many times. Northwest had attendants something like you encountered way back in 1974 when we were flying back to Japan to have our first child because the U.S. public health service was so bad: service was deteriorating while costs were going through the roof. At that time, smoking was still allowed on international flights and when I asked a NW attendant if my wife could have a seat away from the smoking section, they simply ignored me. When we made a refueling stop in Anchorage, I found her a seat farther from the smoke myself.

    During that 32 years, I’ve flown JAL to Frankfort, Germany and Delta to the US frequently. Our last flight returning permanently to the States in 2003 was on ANA and the service they provided my physically handicapped wife was superlative. My experience over the three decades taught me that of American carriers, Delta provided the best routes and the best service. Based on your letter, I’ll sure stay away from AWA.


  14. I forgot to mention that in 2005, I was treating my wife to a shopping trip to Salzburg and flew from LA to JFK via United. Talk about excuses for late departures: our flight left LAX over an hour late because the flight crew had “legal problems.” Like what? They were intoxicated? Illegal immigrants? What? Some years back, a NW flight crew were arrested for having flown a passenger plane from somewhere like Fargo ND to Minneapolis and both the pilot and co-pilot were drunk. Our connection @ JFK with Austrian Airlines had been something like a 2-hour lay over. Like you, we were literally running through the airport, but we just made it.


  15. Wahine says:

    America West is the pits. I flew on them quite a bit in the late 1990s, between California and the Midwest, and was constantly getting bumped and arriving late. I had just started working from home, so fortunately I had the free time to waste sitting in Phoenix or other airports. Each time you got bumped you got a free voucher, so a few times I rode three times in a row off the cost of one ticket.

    Try this with the snail mail letter: rather than sending it to the customer service address they try to push everyone to use, where it might take 6 weeks to be heard – address it to the head of the company, such as a vice president mucky-muck, and send it Certified Mail. Someone will have to sign for it – either the mucky much or their agent (i.e. a secretary). It’ll get their attention. This worked well for my husband and I when we had a horror story of our own in Vegas. That time, the company we contacted sent us $$ in vouchers as an apology. You guys certainly deserve no less!


  16. Journey says:

    So what happened?

    Did they ever respond to your letter?


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