Adventures with US Airways

After my last book signing on Monday I went to the airport, where US Airways totally hosed me. Originally I was on a different return flight, but because of a scheduling conflict I had to cancel it and book this one last week. That last minute booking put me into the wonderful world of BOARDING ZONE 4. It also meant that I had to switch planes in Charlotte. Keep those facts in mind, because I’m sure they contributed to the resulting screw ups.

Apparently, since US Airways likes to overbook their flights, there would be no overhead storage for ZONE 4. So we all had to check our carry ons. See all that stuff above about fans giving me gifts? Yep. Most of them were in this carry on. Also, since I had DragonCon Day 4 Brain, my car keys were in that carry on too, and I didn’t think to pull them out just in case. So I checked my bag at the gate.

And then waited, and waited, and waited, oh yeah, because the US Airways flight crew was an hour late for their own flight. We started boarding when we were supposed to be taking off.

Remember that thing about the connecting flight in Charlotte? Yeah. My one hour layover turned into an awesome 5 minute layover. Plus, Zone 4, I get to be one of the last people off the plane (really, jackasses up front who have plenty of time or this is your final destination, you couldn’t bother to stay seated for a few more minutes? Or hey, maybe our one hour late flight crew could be bothered to make an announcement saying please let the poor dumb schmucks in back trying to catch a connection go first)

And since we landed at terminal A and my connection was in terminal D I had five whole minutes to make it across the entire airport. So if you were in the crowded Charlotte airport Monday night, yes, I was the 300 hundred pound 6’5” man sprinting through there bellowing MAKE A HOLE, COMING THROUGH, and SORRY. I caught my flight to Salt Lake as they were doing final call and closing the door.

Big men hate running. I’m actually a far better sprinter than you’d guess by looking at me, but that doesn’t mean I like it. Oh hey, other passengers crammed next to the giant panting man, sorry I’m suddenly drenched in sweat. Nice to meet you too.

But I made it. Yay! Only when I landed in Salt Lake, I discovered that my bag didn’t make it. Oh, it had time to make it to the right plane, because it didn’t need to run across four crowded terminals, so should have made it, and probably would have made it, except for—according to the US Airways luggage employee in SLC—they shipped the item with that tag to Pittsburgh instead…

And nobody is answering in Pittsburgh, because apparently that is where luggage goes to die.

Did I mention I left my car keys in that carry on? So my car is in long term parking but my keys are in the Twilight Zone. Oh, by the way. I don’t live in Salt Lake. I live in the mountains an hour and a half from the airport. So now that it is 11:30 at night and you guys are just now figuring out that you sent my bag to Pittsburgh and nobody there is answering the phone, let me call my wife and wake her up, so that she can drive an hour and a half to Salt Lake international to give me the extra car key.

Yay.

But I didn’t have it the worst. Of the other DOZEN people standing in line because US Airways lost their bags on other flights, one poor bastard plugged his phone in to charge at a wall socket, and while the US Airways employee was helpfully explaining they had no clue where his luggage ended up, some asshole stole his phone too. Holy shit, just pile it on. There’s theft, and then there’s theft with added dickery.

US Airways didn’t call me yesterday. I called their help number this morning, and the automated system basically said  WE DON’T KNOW WHERE YOUR BAG IS GO TO HELL AND DIE (I might have added that last part, I think it was actually something about checking back again later).

UPDATE:

I wrote the above at the end of my DragonCon AAR, but figured I’d save it until I saw how the situation resolved.

Wednesday they called me, but I missed it. When I called them back I got no answer and left a message. But then at about 9:30 Wednesday night I got a knock on the door. It was my luggage!

I got all my autographed books, ARCs, and fan presents back. I wasn’t worried about the other stuff because that’s all replaceable, but I hate losing fan gifts. That’s the part that really irked me. When fans make stuff for authors, that’s like the ultimate compliment. When other authors you’ve inspired give you signed copies of their books, that’s the kind of thing you always want to keep.

So US Airways has been spared from the wrath of the International Lord of Hate. Wendell has ordered the horde of orcs to stand down.

Library Journal reviews Son of the Black Sword
Back from DragonCon

75 thoughts on “Adventures with US Airways”

  1. Based on my last few experiences with US airlines, you got off easy. When I fly to Asia now, I drive 5-6 hours to Atlanta so I can get a Korean Airlines flight direct to Seoul, and connect from there.

    1. A good friend of mine has traveled to Taiwan several times for family visits (he married a Taiwanese girl), and he really likes Korean Airlines. Evidently they haven’t forgotten the ancient art of customer service.

  2. us scareways lost 100% of my luggage when I flew them. after the forth time, I violated company policy and refused to fly them. Still not sad.

  3. Be glad it wasn’t United. You might recall the saga of “United Breaks Guitars”. . .
    ( and the fact that it IMMEDIATELY came to mind shows the damage it did to United’s reputation . . .I mean, BESIDES their usual attitude of “You should be happy we’re even letting you on our property today. . . ” )

    http://www.davecarrollmusic.com/music/ubg/story/

    1. I’m glad I wasn’t the only one who thought of that song. Artists have a way of getting back at those who piss them off…

    2. Ah, United. The worst flying experience I ever had involved United and Chicago, but the same trip had a nice twist. On a family vacation we had a connecting flight in Chicago. It was delayed multiple times and then cancelled. Before they announced the cancellation we had traveling sales weasels already at the desk sweet talking the skanky ticket scanner so she would book them on another flight there instead of them schlepping through the airport to do so. My wife and kids and I take off to to find the United counter and make it before the line gets too long but it starts backing up behind us. 2 women at the counter with one not helping anyone. She looks up at the gathering crowd and says “what’s going on?” to which she gets the reply “they cancelled a flight.” I swear she blinked, said “I’m not dealing with this shit.” and walked away with 30 people standing in line. We got booked on a flight for the next day but decided to trying standby. First try, not even close. Next try we show up before the gate agents and only have a single guy ahead of us. Things are looking good but just as they start boarding some woman with 2 kids and gold status toddles up and we get bumped. My wife asked (nicely) WTF just happened and the nice lady working the gate explained. However, she was watching the latecomer as she and her brood wandered into the restrooms and about 30 seconds later she announced for them to pick up their boarding passes, then second call and almost immediately did a final call. Then she called us. The woman was livid when she came out and realized she got bumped but the gate agent had the biggest smile as she wished us a nice flight and then turned to explain that she followed procedure and called them but they didn’t show.

  4. I’m glad that you got your stuff back, but I admit to being a bit disappointed that the horde of orcs aren’t going to be pillaging and burning USAir headquarters. Couldn’t you just send in one orc raiding party? And if you could have them scream, “This is for the passengers of Flight 610, Stockholm to Philadelphia,” that would be great.

    Meanwhile, I believe that USAir needs to modify their standard speech that the pilot gives at the end of each flight:

    “Thank you for flying with us today. We know you have a choice of airlines, and you chumps clearly chose the wrong one. We hope to see you on a future USAir flight, even though we’re well aware most of you would rather swim the North Atlantic than get on another one of our planes.”

    1. If, by chance, the Orc raider force does go in, I really hope somebody gives them some aerial fire support – preferably with oh, say, an MI-24 gunship? 😉
      Cheers!

    1. Ever read David Drake’s “Venus” series? “Boarding Zone 4” sounds like the close-combat crew on one of the bigger spacecraft.

  5. Oh yes, they are one of the worst for overbooking and even more so since American bought them. I missed my flight from Spokane and although I rebooked as Horizon Air (as Alaska Airlines, for American Airlines) transferring to US Air (for American Airlines) NONE of them could take my money for the rebooked flight. There are no lines of communication. It reminds me of “The Silent Safety Program,” the erudite study of why the space shuttle Challenger blew up. Ultimately it was not about an O-ring; the real culprit was lack of lines of communication after mergers and budget cuts.

  6. I will never willingly fly again until the TSA has been dismantled. That may should like a non sequitur, but it isn’t. I believe, from what I have observed, that the airlines are relying on the TSA being dependably unpleasant to lower their own customer service levels. They know only the exhausted and/or the desperate are going to fly anywhere.

    Somebody wants me to fly somewhere, they can freaking charter a plane for me.

    1. If this keeps up, what if a bunch of us all chipped in to charter a plane to the same destination?

      Then if more find out about it, we might even be able to charter a 2nd plane. Then a 3rd. Who knows, we might have a whole fleet someday!

      Nah, sounds too free-market. It’ll never work. 😉

        1. It exists, pretty much. Google “fractional jet”. You can either buy a piece of a private jet, or buy a card that entitles you to so many hours of flying time. It’s not cheap, but not really all that much more than first class (especially if you have a group going… with most of them you’re renting the whole plane, so more passengers lowers the unit cost).

  7.         I must admit, I’m curious about what Manatee Orcs look like.  Perhaps the ILOH can draw us one?

      1. No, manatee orcs don’t have feet. Flippers.
        They’re essentially fanged, meat eating, sea cows with slightly greener coloration presumed to be used while hiding in kelp beds stalking recreational divers.

  8. You’re a fabulously wealthy International Lord of Hate and you can’t even spring for your own C-130 or even a cheap C-123?

    1. Okay, who’s willing to chip in on a Kickstarter campaign to buy Larry his own jet?

      Larry: You’ll be responsible for finding an airstrip in the mountains by your house.

      1. Buying the jet os only the beginning; that’s a LOT of cash-flow. We should wait until he’s signed for the SECOND Monster Hunter film. You know; the deal where he gets 10% on the action figure action.

      2. If we get him a zeppelin he won’t need an airstrip, just a tower/latchpoint/trained moose. And if he has a zeppelin he’ll have an excuse to wear goggles!

      3. He wouldn’t need an air strip if we chipped in to get him a used Harrier 2-seater but he’d have to pick us up one at a time-

  9. 1 hour between connections is not enough. I always aim for a minimum of 90 minutes. Such are the travails of air travel.

  10. I’m glad you got your bag, but I’m a bit disappointed that an airline HQ wasn’t razed. I wasn’t unaware that US Air was any worse than anyone else, but it would surely be an effective warning to the others.

    What does overbooking have to do with there being no storage in the overhead bins? The overbooked people aren’t on the airplane with their luggage.

    The problem is that a full plane doesn’t have enough overhead storage because the seats are so close that no one taller than 5 feet can use the under-seat storage and people bring carry-on bags the size of houses on board because they are unwilling to pay per bag to check luggage that may or may not go to the same place that they are.

    I was on a plane once where the flight crew identified a number of passengers who would have to do the airport dash and asked everyone else to stay seated, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t US Air.

    1. Someone should check and see if Tom Stranger is insuring their HQ. He could drop by, offer them a policy, and then when they don’t take it, arrange for a nice orc-pillaging. First you pillage, then you profit!

    2. Most airliners were designed with less overhead space per customer, and some have been reworked to stuff in more seats (smaller seats closer together, that sort of thing). If there’s not a few empty seats there’s not enough overhead room.

      1. This has been fixed on the latest batch of 737’s, the ones that share features from the Dreamliner’s interior. The bins are huge, and rotate up out of the way for more headroom. I got to fly on one coming back from LC this year. Almost made up for having to come back through Chicago.

        (Some airports have free WiFi that works seamlessly. Chicago has a system that tries to rape your computer, and then still doesn’t work, and it’s not free.)

  11. Put an extra thin No plastic attached car key in the pocket behind your credit cards in your wallet this has saved me a million times!

  12. One of the nice things about Southwest is the free checked bag policy means there is always overhead bin space.

    I like the Charlotte airport a lot (lived there four years) but it is miserable to connect through because US Airways flies out of every terminal and there is no quick way to get between them.

    1. One of the nice things about Southwest is the free checked bag policy means there is always overhead bin space.

      It’s almost like the other airlines didn’t understand the concept of incentives. “Hey, we’ll start charging fees for checked luggage, which we never charged for before, but not make any changes to the amount of storage room for carry-ons that we provide. Because surely our new charge-for-checked-luggage policy won’t have any effect on how many carry-ons people start showing up with.”

      1. I like Southwest because they don’t think I’m too stupid to be able to tell an empty seat from a full one.

  13. That wasn’t that bad, at least you made the flight and got your bag back in a couple days, it could have been worse. Like what happened to me when I transferred from Sasebo Japan to the USNS Navesota with 30 days leave at home in the middle. Fly into LAX international terminal and have 5 mins to make the US Airway flight in the next terminal over…don’t make it. US Airways then puts me on the Red Eye to NYC ( the missed flight was non stop to Philly) and change planes there for Philly. Flight leaves 10pm PST, missed flight was at Noon PST, 10 hours of Joy sitting in LAX after flying across the pacific. Catch the Red Eye, make the change in NYC and arrive in Philly at 7:30am EST…with no bags. Nope my bags didn’t go on the Red Eye flight from LAX, neither did they go on the non stop to Philly I was supposed to be on and US Airways had no idea where they were for 3 days. Turns out my Luggage got a free vacation in Montego Bay, Jamaica and it took 4 days to get them back from there.

  14. Adventures in Airlines learned while aircraft fueling:
    American Airlines don’t seem to like it when you drive up in your fuel truck (oh, and you are NOT the company contracted to do the fueling) and hand over the 3 bags you picked up off the ramp because the tug driver didn’t notice she shed them in that turn. Optics I guess.
    They also didn’t like it when you drove in between the plane and the jetway, dodging ground workers because they took 5 minutes to back the dang plane, and you had two flights you had to get to that had been on the ground before they interrupted the universe to do their stupid fuel wasting method, and they really get mad when they complain to your boss and he replies “Did he hit anyone? No? Then I don’t care”(they stopped power backing so this stopped being as much of an issue. To do so took about 100 gallons of fuel! A diesel tug burned less fuel than that in a month. Money-savings/Math was not a AA strong point )
    USAir could call that they were pushing back, and SWA would call a minute later, mention they might as well be slotted in front the USA flight because everyone knew who was actually going to be moving first. Yep, and SWA would be in the air before the USAir even started to taxi. Both planes unhooked from the tug at the same time btw.

  15. Maybe you can do what we do: on the last day before checkout, pack and ship everything that isn’t absolutely needed for the trip. The postal service offers a fixed price box, and aside from the freedom from having to check luggage you can even save a few bucks if you want to bring heavy things home. When we attended the American Librarian Association meeting in Law Vegas, we sent home over a hundred pounds of goodies and giveaway books… for $90, IIRC. And the post office has a much better record for getting bags where they belong than the airlines do.
    Next thing to try is to ship our clothes to the hotel ahead of time, so we don’t need to check luggage at all.

    1. This becoming common practice for re-enacters. It is much safer to air mail a machine gun addressed to yourself, general delivery, to the post office nearest to your destination, than to risk it with baggage handlers and the TSA.

  16. A fun tip for those of us in the “o god its coming at me size” Most hotels happily take delivery from ups or any other shipping company and will happily help registered guest send packages as well. Did a Estrella war that way once

    1. I’ve used similar methods when motorcycle touring – just send stuff ahead. Or just keep riding until you run out of clean underwear, find a Wal-Mart, and brand new underwear is about $1 each in the 10-pack size. Compared to the cost of the trip, throwing away dirty underwear is an inconsequential expense.

  17. For a while I lived in Upstate New York, and USAir was the only commercial carrier that served the area. I learned to hate them, and I am baffled at how they stay in business.

    Case in point: I was once looking for a fare from Ithaca to Baltimore. Found one for something like $200. But there was a cheaper fare to Baltimore from Rochester, which is not far away. So my wife drove me to Rochester, I boarded the plane . . .

    . . . which then flew to Ithaca before proceeding to Baltimore.

    1. That sort of weirdness doesn’t seem to be restricted to one airline. I remember right after the new Denver airport opened, for several years afterwards it was cheaper to fly in and out of Colorado Springs–and yes, those Colorado Springs flights inevitably had a stopover in Denver, usually requiring you to change planes. The difference in price came from how the airports charge the airlines–it costs more to have passengers getting on and off at the airport than it does just to fly through.

      So much as I like to blame USAir for everything from war in the Middle East to the disappearance of my favorite brand of hollandaise sauce, I suspect this is Ithaca’s fault rather than the airline’s.

    2. Flew a route home from NY to CA once, JFK to Salt Lake City to Santa Barbara to LAX. No clue what they were thinking on that one.

    1. Will never fly commercial air again. I refuse to be stuffed into a cattle car and be treated like crap by surly attendants. Drive or do do not travel.

    2. When I fly to Asia, I depart from Vancoucer BC for just that reason. Some of the hotels there will let you leave your car in their lot for free, as long as you pay for a night, and drive you to the airport.

  18. My kingdom for a video of the facial reactions of those who witnessed the mad sprint across the Charlotte terminals.

    1. Try “sprinting” across two terminals at Vegas pushing a wheelchair. I was an amazing color by the time Deb and I got there Southwest was unimpressed.

      1. Trip with my mother to LA many years back. She had dropped a phone on her foot just the day before (for those not my age, those Ma Bell phones were 5+ pounds, with sharp corners on the bottom). She was also one of those that required some mild “anesthesia” when flying (about two highballs worth). She almost never drank when firmly on the ground.

        Well, we hit a couple of air pockets on the way – so she was metabolizing two highballs and wearing the third.

        My sister and I got such pitying looks going through the intermediate airport with our obviously alcoholic mother in a wheelchair… If I’d had a hat, I would have held it out for donations.

  19. I tend to fly Delta airlines and they haven’t given me trouble yet, so I recommend them as an alternative when possible.

    1. Yeah, my last flight was on Delta, and while I did spring for Econ Comfort (which gives you extra legroom) they were pretty damned pleasant.

      (The complimentary beers helped too 🙂

  20. Some 44 years ago I arrived in Atlanta just as my connection was scheduled to leave. Running across the airport I watched an Army nurse slip and fall. Picked her up, learned she was running to the same flight. We got there in time to see the tail of the plane. On the plus side, we got married 5 months later. (Still married BTW)

  21. LibertyCon this year was my first encounter with Charlotte. That place has an AMAZING number of gates. And yet, they can’t park connecting flights anywhere near each other.

  22. My condolences on the crappy flight. Flying isn’t bad enough, they have to lose your stuff too.

    I usually travel from Ontario Canada to Phoenix for holidays, I drive an hour and a half to Buffalo NY so I can fly South West Airline. Not so much because they are awesome (they’re not) but more because:
    A) they are not Air Canada.
    B) if US Customs decides to be difficult I can drive home, or at worst be deported to my own country instead of Mexico.
    C) Buffalo NY is a dump, and their airport is small and crappy, but it is -way- better than Toronto.

    Every time I fly anywhere these days I swear I’ll drive next time. So far the four day slog across the continent has me still flying. Eventually I’m sure they will find a way to make the drive worth it.

    1. Are they still “improving” your freeways up there? It must have been ten years ago that I made a night tour of the majority of the city just getting to the airport. (There were some very pretty neighborhoods somewhere north of the main east-west freeway – sorry, can’t recall the number at this late date.)

      1. Toronto is Canada’s New York. There are some nice looking parts in it.

        Trouble is, Torontonians live there. I’m happy to live over an hour away from Toronto, where people are not brain damaged liberals who dress all in black like Mennonites. I’m ‘way out past the point where your average Torontonian thinks the world ends, they never come here.

        And yes, the road “improvement” continues unabated since you came through. Probably still working on the same spot.

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