Fuckin’ US Airways

So my daughter and I flew east today for our annual summer trip to the Jersey shore with my family. (For my daughter it’s a vacation, for me it’s, well, visiting family.)

At the time we booked the flight we couldn’t get two seats together; the best we could get were two middle seats one in front of the other. Not too much of a concern though, as this has happened before, and seats generally open up 24-hours before departure. And sure enough, when I went to check in online, there was an open aisle seat next to my daughter.

But rather than trying to accommodate a father and daughter flying together, fuckin’ US Airways insisted instead on charging me an extra $15 to upgrade to a “Choice Seat.”

You know, it’s not really the money that pisses me off. In the end, it’s never really the money; I mean, it’s only fifteen bucks. In fact, I wouldn’t even mind paying a little more to fly if I knew I was getting better service and a well-maintained plane. But this endless nickel and diming is just so goddamn irritating and insulting. You spend hundreds of dollars a ticket to fly, and then they want to charge you extra to sit next to each other? Fuck that. I mean, really.

The airlines may be raking in millions on these extra fees, but they’re sure as hell losing money on me. Because I simply loathe forking over money to companies who treat me like crap, I now fly maybe half as much as I used to, and considering they fly the only nonstop from Seattle to Philly, it’s mostly coming out of US Airway’s pocket. This year alone I couldn’t bring myself to pull the trigger on tickets for my daughter and I to visit my mother in Florida, or to come in to Philly for my 25th college reunion. That’s four tickets in only a few months that US Airways didn’t sell, not because it cost too much, but because their whole customer experience sucks.

But, you know, they’re the experts, so who am I to tell them how to run their business?

UPDATE:
Yes, I know, my daughter and I arrived at our destination safely, and that’s all that really matters. But honestly, how many other legal products or services do we consume, where the most commonly accepted measure of customer satisfaction is not dying? Could we set the bar any lower?

Comments

  1. 1

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    I know air travel sucks, but ultimately it’s consumers’ fault. They expect to fly from coast to coast for 99 bucks — which doesn’t even pay for the fuel. Competition forces airlines to offer ridiculous ticket prices, so they cut costs wherever they can – ergo narrow seats, no leg room, and jam-packed planes — and make up the difference with add-on charges. Just like banks, where you expect free checking, free online banking, and free ass-kissing. Well, they’ve gotta get money somewhere to pay for all this and keep the doors open! Same with airlines. I don’t touch airline stocks because it’s a money-losing business.

  2. 2

    Puddybud is just another word for arschloch (asshole) spews:

    And then, there’s the “security theater” we all have to endure. I will never fly again if I can help it.

    I think the days of flying being common for regular folks are numbered. Roger’s comment highlights a symptom of the failing airline business model (deregulation) and some “unreasonable” price expectations that are going to be dashed by the expense of fossil fuel — senior military and the EIA are predicting peak oil and gas liquids by 2012 and 2015 respectively.

    There’s always the train. Amtrak’s northern route goes to Boston (via Chicago) and thru some pretty awesome country.

  3. 3

    manoftruth spews:

    goldstein, how can you use the word fuck in a story that includes your daughter? dont you have any class at all?

  4. 5

    sarge spews:

    I’m flying to China next Saturday. Some ancient little de Havilland plane From Seattle to Vancouver BC, then direct flight from Vancouver to Beijing, with my wife, kids, and in-laws. Wish me luck. Not only with air travel, but on the overnight train from Beijing to Shanghai.

  5. 6

    sarge spews:

    By the way, I flew Alaska back and forth to the east coast in early July with my wife and kids. Had no complaints. No delays, quick check-in, short security lines. Yeah, they charged us for a couple of checked bags, but considering we only paid for one of 4 tickets (the other three were bought with miles), I felt pretty good about the overall experience.

  6. 8

    Chuck spews:

    Don’t worry Obama will rescue the airlines, at least as well as he fixed unemployment with his jobs bill. Nice to know that unemployment is holing at 8 percent just like he said i would. Can you say Jimmy Carter yet? This is a repeat…too bad we don’t have a canal he can give away.

  7. 9

    Michael spews:

    @8

    Don’t worry Obama will rescue the airlines

    Let’s hope not, the airlines have already suck too much public money up their noses and they’re not set up to handle $80 a barrel oil.

    Seems to me that, Bush gave them a bunch of money after 911…

  8. 10

    manoftruth spews:

    @9
    what did the airlines do with all the money bush gave them? burn it for fuel? moron. money was made by new york shyster investors by selling the stocks short because they got all the insider info from madoff, bernake et al.

  9. 11

    Salsamanca spews:

    No more Fuckin’ US Airlines for me. Flew on a red eye to DC. Not have enough room for everyone to stow carry on luggage and so once ON the plane demanded that it be checked in. There was a stop over in Philadelphia and I was assured they would not loose my luggage. Got to DC and no luggage…and no clothes other than the jeans slept in and had meetings to attend. All the customer service rep could do was to offer to file a claim. Waited and finally found my own damn luggage-probably came on another flight.

  10. 12

    eponymous coward spews:

    Well, US Airways miles are useful… to buy tickets on other airlines.

    But yeah, the experience can suck. For instance My daughter and I were in Phoenix this February and took a bump off of an Alaska flight for $300 each- one of the options of getting us home was a US Airways flight to O’Hare and then Alaska first class home (it was that or be stuck in Vegas most of the day). We took the O’Hare flight… and the seat I was in had pieces coming off, and we were stuck on the plane an extra 40 minutes when the jetway at O’Hare was broken (making us go to another one).

    My daughter’s comment: “Dad, can we not fly them again? I liked Alaska.”

    I flew US Airways recently going LAX to Vegas for Netroots Nation without incident ($61 one way when everyone else was over $100, and at the right time of day for me, plus it’s REALLY hard to screw up a 250 mile flight), but yeah, US Airways is on my “I fly these guys ONLY if they are the cheapest AND best timed, and there really isn’t a better option that I am willing to pay a little more for”. Problem is if you’re flying to Philly, that basically describes US Airways- nobody else flies that route nonstop, though I suspect Alaska might, someday.

  11. 15

    Michael spews:

    @10

    what did the airlines do with all the money bush gave them? burn it for fuel? moron.

    Um… I was pointing out to a righty that their hero, GWB, was the one forking over cash to the airlines. Didn’t say anything about what they did with it.

  12. 16

    Michael spews:

    @10

    You really need to broaden out. Spread your wings a little. All we ever hear is:

    madoff, bernake et al.

    Let me hear about Lenny Kravitz! I mean, come on, a black rock star who’s dad was a white, jewish, film producer, from Hollyweird? There’s got to be some sort of conspiracy going on there. Right?

  13. 18

    spews:

    eponymous @12,

    Because my family is in Philly, and my daughter and I fly there at least twice a year, and US Airways is the only airline to fly SEA-PHL nonstop, they had been my preferred airline since moving to Seattle in ’92. This was the airline on which we collected all our frequent flyer miles, and my daughter and I still have a couple hundred thousand miles between us. But now, I will only fly them nonstop, and only if they are the only carrier on the route flying nonstop.

    Going to NN in Vegas, I flew Alaska nonstop. It was a little more than the other flights still available at the time I booked, maybe $50 more round trip, but well worth the saving in time and stress. You just never know if you’ll make your connecting flight, and whether you’ll be totally fucked over without compensation in the connecting airport for a couple days.

    If only somebody flew nonstop SEA-PBI, I could resume our February trip to visit my mother. But as it is, the return flight has proved such torture the past few times, that it’s just not worth it for a few days in the sun.

  14. 19

    Gman spews:

    I think the problem is that there are too many heterosexuals running things into the ground. Bush created such a economic disaster even God couldn’t bring back lower unemployment rates – any greater expectations is just being stupid, blind, and an ignoramus. I hope it cost $800 to fly cross country one day, screw everyone and the airlines.

  15. 20

    lauramae spews:

    Air travel in general sucks. Regardless of the airline, it is similar to riding a Greyhound bus that flies. It is true though in the scheme of things, US Air is very bad. Some of the others aren’t so great either. After getting hassled by United a couple of times and wedged into my seat, I started flying American and after having a couple of flights mysteriously canceled with no reason, I switched to Southwest. The seats are more comfortable, the experience isn’t so bad. I don’t care for the “A,B,C” boarding pass thing, but the rest of it is fine. No bag charge either.

  16. 21

    Mark1 spews:

    Ah yes, Goldy’s Mom pays for yet another plane ticket. How nice. She must be so proud. :)

  17. 22

    MikeBoyScout spews:

    If I had a nickel for every horror story I’ve heard about airline customer service since 2002 I could use the proceeds to pay for extra baggage on my next x-country flight.

    Many of the folks who have complained are folks with disposable income who might otherwise spend it on traveling… in airplanes. Most tell me they refuse to go thru the BS and would just rather stay at home or drive.
    Bye-bye repeat customers.

  18. 23

    eponymous coward spews:

    Well, Goldy, there’s no SEA-PBI service… but Alaska does fly SEA-MIA nonstop. Bit more of a haul, but might be worth it to avoid US Airways.

    And what you should do with those 6 digits worth of frequent flyer miles is burn them taking your daughter to Europe in business or first class… on Lufthansa.

  19. 24

    SJ spews:

    Can someone explain the grammar required for use of the adverb “fucking?”

    I can understand the noun and the verb. Fucking another is an easily understood act. Although even here, I do not understand when the verb implies appropbrium vs opprobrium.

    When Jefferson fucked Hemmings, was that oppobristic or approbristic? If Goldy has a fucking airflight is that a trip of pleasure, abuse by his partner or self abuse?

  20. 25

    YellowPup spews:

    I take it that the cafeteria approach to pricing is really just part of competing for price ranking in online searches. You can’t safely raise the net price of a plane ticket, but you can keep yourself high in the search results by making formerly basic services “optional” and fee-based, and so hiding the real costs of the ticket.

    I agree with several posters on Alaska Air, I rarely have had a bad experience flying with them.

  21. 26

    Geov spews:

    Anything within four days’ drive, I no longer fly. Longer trips, if it’s at all possible I take the train. Pity cross-country passenger train service is horribly expensive and it’s a success if you get to your destination less than 24 hours late. But I absolutely refuse to give my money to the domestic airline industry if at all possible. Unfortunately, my mother’s in rural Georgia, and there aren’t many alternatives for that trip.

    There are people who’ll gladly pay hundreds of dollars to be tortured, but I’m not really into that sort of thing. I’m disabled, and the entire airport and on-plane experience is an hours-long exercise in agony that makes the prospect of several days on interstate an appealing alternative.

    This was brought home to me when I took a round trip domestic Japanese flight (from Osaka to Okinawa) a couple of years ago. Both ways, the trip was comfortable, easy, painless. Both ways, it was less than 30 minutes and minimal walking from entering the airport to being in my (comfortable) seat. It was a little more expensive than a comparable US flight (about the distance of SEA-SFO) and worth every penny. Pity not even one airline tries that model here.

  22. 28

    palamedes spews:

    Delta through Memphis and/or Cincinnati (one stop each way, but sometimes they mix-n-match to- and from- stopovers in a single flight) is a lot less expensive and a little longer, but it also has really short stopovers.

    And Delta has definitely been one of the more comfortable domestics to fly in my limited experience.

  23. 29

    palamedes spews:

    And for what it’s worth, I don’t think the airline industry is a walking corpse just yet.

    You have a lot of consolidation happening, finally, in our domestic airline structure. (A lot of that has already happened in Europe and to a lesser extent in Asia, though I think Japan Airlines’ eventual demise or acquisition by All Nippon Airways will open up things considerably.) Less providers will mean higher prices, but also more revenue with less competition, even with a consumer mindset that air travel must be cheap.

    The big question is who will be the next big domino to fall. To my mind, that means United or USAir, either bought out or unable to hold up any longer their crumbling financial structure. (I sometimes wonder if one failing, in our present economic climate, will see a rush towards the fall of the other.)

    With either one of them gone, you’re left with the survivor (if there is one), American, Delta, Southwest, and regionally-focused carriers like Alaska and Frontier/Midwest.

    As for fuel costs, Boeing has been tinkering with alternative fuel options for a bit now. The big question there will be who among the federal entities (The military? Dept. of Commerce? Dept. of Energy?) will push hardest for a viable alternative fuels infrastructure, or whether, if the budding electrical transportation access infrastructure for autos is successful, it’s then upgraded over the next decade to include retrofitted aircraft. The airlines won’t be asked to spend a penny on this.

    Finally, the hardest but most necessary thing needed is to allow more foreign ownership of our domestic airlines, in order to get more capital within them. Politically, no one wants to touch the idea of allowing 49% foreign ownership in a domestic airline, but circumstances may finally force our hand on this issue.

  24. 30

    notaboomer spews:

    i like airplane emissions, don’t you? let’s all fly everywhere we can as often as possible. and then rent cars!

  25. 31

    TJ spews:

    How can a chronically unemployed whiny asshole (Goldy) who has to resort to begging for money under the guise of a “fundraiser” afford all these trips flittin’ all over the country?

    Just askin’.

  26. 33

    zdp 189 spews:

    Don’t forget that some of of the problem lies with the passenger. According to the CDC the average U.S. adult male and female are 191 lbs. and 164 lbs, respectively. And that is from 2002; we’ve probably packed on another 5 or 10 lbs by now.

    I am a marathon runner and weigh about 135. The rare times I fly, it seems like I always end up next to a fat person. Maybe if we didn’t drink beer so liberally….

  27. 34

    manoftruth spews:

    @32
    Did you buy carbon offsets for your flight?

    you dont understand, do you? that is reserved for the great unwashed. goldstein, just like john kerry, who loves raising your taxes, cheated the massachusetts dept of revenue and didnt pay 500k in sales tax and his 7 million dollar yacht. when are we going to wake up and see we are being scammed.

  28. 36

    Roots spews:

    sarge, thanks for the self-announcement about your international travels, got anything to contribute regarding the post by Goldy? Let me add I’m driving to Seattle tomorrow, and will have breakfast around 6. And, this has as much to do with the post about 15 bucks for a different seat as some explanation about some trip to China and a train ride. While you’re there ask if we can borrow any more money.

  29. 37

    rhp6033 spews:

    YellowPup @ 25: Yep, it’s the online searches sorted by “price” which are killing us. A simple consumer protection law which adds up the normal items to be included in travel (i.e., one checked bag, choice of seat assignments, etc.) and requires that to be included in the total ticket price displayed would help solve that problem. If the airlines want to go after the guy willing to purchase standing-room only tickets (as Ryan Air is advocating), they can then go through the detailed options to de-select specific items of service.

  30. 38

    rhp6033 spews:

    Geov @ 26: Yep, traveling by air in Japan (or on a Japanese airline) is a comparitively enjoyable experience compared to U.S. air travel.

    Domestically within Japan, I’ve flown the Fukuoka to Haneda (Tokyo) route several times, and I’m always impressed at how they can take a completely full 747-400 and unload it within fifteen minutes (unloading from back and front simultaniously). Flight attendants are courteous and helpful. Economy seating is a bit cramped, but I’d expect as much considering the average smaller size of the Japanese. As far as purchasing tickets, Japanese think nothing about walking up to the counter and purchasing tickets for a flight which leaves an hour or two later. If that flight is full, there is another one within thirty minutes or so.

    International flights on Japanese carriers are a lot better than their American counterparts. The airplanes are a lot better maintained and usually newer than those used by U.S. carriers. The flight attendants are great, the food is quite a bit better.

  31. 39

    rhp6033 spews:

    Palamedes @ 29: I don’t think the Japanese government is going to allow JAL to be swallowed up by ANA. The government there has been trying to introduce more competition into the airline industry there for the past decade and a half, with mixed results (attempts at low-cost carriers have failed, resulting in them being swallowed up by their larger brethern, such as ANA picking up Skynet Asia).

    Right now JAL is in reorganization (similar to a Chapter 11 plan in America). It has received some sort of subsidy from the government, with the result that the goverment is now the major stakeholder in the airline. It’s trimming about 1/3 of it’s staff and cutting less profitable routes, so it will probably emerge as a much smaller entitity than before.

    ANA will probably benefit from JAL’s sloughing off some international routes, ANA has wanted some of those spots for a long time (currently it’s only able to fly into LAX, SFO, and JFK in the U.S., if I remember correctly). But ANA is having to do cost-cutting to match those at JAL, otherwise it will end up being the highest-cost carrier, which will be a losing long-term strategy for ANA.

    Ultimately, JAL and ANA will probably be of equal size, with a handfull of small low-cost carrier serving the smaller domestic markets in Japan. The Japanese government will keep adjusting it’s policies toward that goal.

  32. 40

    The Riddle of Steel spews:

    Sounds like Goldy’s “fund raising” to pay for the mortgage and grocery bill is paying off more than anyone realized…wow, two trips in two weeks….who knew begging could be so profitable! Hope you are paying your taxes goldy.

    if only us working stiffs had it so easy……

  33. 42

    The Riddle of Steel spews:

    Goldy: You know, it’s not really the money that pisses me off. In the end, it’s never really the money; I mean, it’s only fifteen bucks.

    Hmm, interesting perspective from someone who relies on the generosity of others to pay the rent and keep the power on. I would think that every dollar was important to someone in your position….

    Goldy, you seem to take the same tact that the govt does when it comes to money: “fuck it, its only money, if we need more, we will just ask(or take) more from other people.

  34. 43

    rhp6033 spews:

    Riddle @ 40, 42: You seem to be obsessed with Goldy’s fund raising efforts. But you forget that the charge-at-point-of-service model is only one model for a successful business.

    There are lots of different and valid business revenue models. Aside from charge-at-point-of-service models, you have the subscription model, the advertising revenue model, the commission model, the multi-level marketing model, and so forth. The pledges/donations made by those who benefit from the service, appreciate it’s value, and would like to see it continue, is just one of those viable alternative models.

    You attempt to equate it to begging, like the homeless guy on the corner with his hand out. That’s a false analogy. The homeless guy doesn’t offer you a service, he relies upon guilt or compassion to induce you to contribute. Goldy, on the other hand, provides a service, and allows those who benefit to pay according to their ability and the value they believe they receive.

    I did the same thing this weekend when I had my car washed by some teenagers on a “donation basis”. My decision to patronize them, rather than a car wash, was a charitable impulse. But the amount I decided to pay was according to my value of the services I received, and my impression of the work ethnic of the kids involved. In this instance they worked hard and did a very good job, so I gave them twenty bucks (all the cash I had with me at the time). If they had done a sloppy job, or sat around talking and listening to music while their parents did the work, the amount I would have paid would have been considerably less.

  35. 44

    rhp6033 spews:

    Addendum to # 38: I should point out that one of the thing which keeps domestic airline service in Japan much better than it is here is that there is a credible alternative – train service. Consumers in Japan can choose to travel by air, regular train (at least two different lines to most destinations), plus the bullet trains.

    So airlines have to look at the total travel experience – from reservations and ticketing, arrival at the terminal, security, waiting areas, loading, the flight itself, deplaning, baggage claim, ground transportation at the destination, etc. If the airlines get too uncomfortable in any of those categories, the railroad lines are happy to take the revenue from the dissatisfied airline passengers.

  36. 45

    The Riddle of Steel spews:

    @43

    you completely miss the point(s).

    …and so now you are saying that Goldy and HA is a charitable cause? LMFAO.

    I am only interested Goldy’s “fund raising” efforts to the extent that I find it interesting he begs for money to pay the bills, and then decides to go on a couple of trips across the country…

    Goldy is akin to the govt: neither seems to have a clue about the management of money. When they start to run out of cash(to pay for “critical items”, like rent – or claiming that HA was gonna shut down), they ask and take more. Then amazingly, there is suddenly plenty of money to fritter away on BS items and trips.

    Kudos to Goldy for finding a little scam to live the way he wants, thats how the world works. I suppose it its good enough for the govt, its good enough for Goldy – perhaps thats why he always supports increased taxes – especially the ones he doesnt have to pay.

    do as I say – not as I do…..the perfect progressive mantra.

  37. 46

    rhp6033 spews:

    # 45: No, you miss the point. Perhaps I confused you by adding the car wash into the discussion.

    But as I suspect you are aware, the thrust of my discussion was that pledges/donations are not necessarily “charity”, they are simply a different business model. Sure, big business like to put you into a situation where you have no choice but to turn over your cash before they give you any (arguable) service or product. But that’s not the only valid business model.

    Is a tip jar “charity”? Sure, it’s voluntary, and you don’t have to do it if you are a cheapskate. But the servers earn that money just as much as any other business earns their money by providing a service. If you don’t believe so, ask the IRS – they will quickly tell you that it’s “earned income”, not a “gift”.

    So once we recognized that it’s simply a different business model, then Goldy can spend the money any way he wants. He’s under no particular compulsion to spend it the way you or I dictate.

    By the way, did you contribute to Goldy? You certainly avail yourself of the service he provides. If not, then I suggest you don’t have any grounds for complaining about how he spends his money.

  38. 47

    The Riddle of Steel spews:

    @46

    no, I didnt give to the goldy fund – but I also dont give to offramp beggars either – and no, I am not saying goldy is an offramp beggar.

    complaining? N0, just observing and commenting.

    I think the similarities between goldy and the govt are quite…..funny. Like I said, if you can find a good scam(and it appears he has), then more power to ya.

  39. 48

    rhp6033 spews:

    By the way, we had an interesting experience with Frontier Communications (the successor to Verizon for land-line services). Our phone line went out, so my wife placed a service call.

    The representative informed her that she have to go outside to test the line herself. If she didn’t have the equipment to do so she could purchase it from Radio Shack. If she insisted on Frontier checking out the problem, there would be a non-refundable $13.00 fee, plus an hourly charge for any repairs they deem “not their responsibility”. A “service technition” would be out sometime Friday, unless they don’t get to it, in which case it would be sometime “early next week”, certainly by Friday. She was also fairly rude and condescending.

    She informed them that as far as she was concerned, they weren’t providing the service she was paying for, and she wasn’t going to pay them again to do so. And they had better have the line up and running by the end of the day.

    The supervisor seemed a little more agreeable, but he wasn’t making any promises.

    So we got home Friday night and the line was working again. No note on the door, no explanation of what was wrong. If they try to bill us, we will file a pre-emptive small claims court action and cancel our service (which we may very well do anyway).

    It’s pretty dissapointing that Frontier is coming right out of the gate with customer service issues. They seem to have paid way too much for a service which is quickly becoming obsolete. I’m wondering if they are trying to milk the remaining customers for as much as they can while they still have them.

  40. 49

    spews:

    rhp @ 48

    The telcos used to own the wire all the way to the handset.
    At some point during the deregulation of the 80′s (or 90′s), their responsibility ended at your building’s outer wall.

    Qwest used to sell “Linebacker” service for something like $13/mo. Meaning they’d fix your internal wiring.

    You probably already know this, but inside the telco box attached to your house is a RJ12 jack. I used to keep an old school lowtech handset, just so I could test jacks. These days, most home phones need their own power, are cordless, etc.

    We now have cell phones, no land lines. Don’t even have cable. Considering moving to Clear(Wire), mostly out of spite, because I’m tired of paying top dollar for crappy DSL.