My advice to anyone traveling by air this summer - don't. And if you have to, don't expect it to go well.
My family was among the thousands yesterday caught in some sort of US Airways black hole. Despite it's bad reputation (dead last in this year's Consumer Reports poll), we booked US airways to Texas because it had the lowest fare - and because San Francisco is not a major hub, thus making checking in and out of SFO easier than the perpetual United mess.
Good plan - right?
We stepped into hell as soon as we arrived at SFO. The check-in/ticketing line snaked out the door and onto the sidewalk. It was filled with dazed people, who each had that resigned look on their faces like those old pictures you see from the Depression of people waiting in bread lines.
And not a single ticket agent, customer service rep or US Airways janitor around who knew what the trouble was.
However, since both my husband and I come from news backgrounds - we've learned how to get information quicker than the average traveler. With me chatting up the people in line (as I had the two squirrelly kids to contend with) and him cruising his Blackberry as well as the ticket counter...we found out within minutes that our flight had been delayed two hours.
So much for our connection in Phoenix. We were screwed. The snowball was rolling, and there was nothing anyone could do but sit back and watch it gain momentum.
However, that was nothing compared with the majority of our fellow line-standers, whose cross-country flights had been canceled due to weather and "other causes" as The SFChronicle reports today. The snowball was rolling, and there was nothing anyone could do but sit back and watch it gain momentum.
As it really turns out, many of those people were poor left-over soles from the day before - whose flights were originally delayed or canceled due to a computer glitch at US Airways headquarters affecting 268 domestic and international flights, according to Information Week.
But glitches are just the tip of this iceberg. As Henry Harteveldt, a Forrester Research principal analyst told The Chronicle, drastic cuts in airline staffs are to blame, as well as weather and inadequate and antiquated infrastructures. "The airlines are behaving in an almost suicidally destructive manner, just throwing airplanes into the air, not because they should but because they can,'' he told The Chron.
To make my long story short...we spent the day most in the equally screwed-up Phoenix airport - roaming the concourses, shopping each and every magazine store, and doing calisthenics and gymnastics at the gate. Our one bright spot was the bar/restaurant we had lunch in - where the wonderful Waiter actually apologized for not having processed, but real cheese in the nachos!
It was an unnecessary apology - but the only one we got the whole day. US Airways customer service was atrocious. But in all likelihood, not their fault, since they seemed to be just as ill-informed as the passengers as to what was going on.
Our five hour flight had turned into a 13 hour nightmare. When we finally walked out of the El Paso airport at 8:30 at night - we passed by several TV trucks there to interview people like me about our experience traveling by air that day.
Those TV reporters need to either stay at the airport all summer - or accept the sad fact that experiences like our are no longer news events - but a typical day of air travel in America today.
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"Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale,a tale of a fateful trip...."