Thursday, July 21, 2011

Have a family? Avoid US Airways at all costs!

US Airways is distinctly NOT family friendly. My sister-in-law has just left after a 12-day visit...Mike's mum and our nephew Mark had been planning an Oregon visit for some time, and several days before departure, Kath and her daughter Victoria decided to come as well. They booked on US Airways, because they provided the best schedule and fare prices (although the tickets were by no means inexpensive!). I've never flown US Airways, and after hearing about their experience, never will.

Kath and Victoria sat in the plane on the tarmac at Heathrow for 3 hours with no explanation of what was going on. Although Kath had wisely planned for a 3+-hour layover in Philadelphia, they missed their connection because of the unexplained delay in London. She was surprised at the lack of amenities on an international flight. Each seat did have its own video screen, but they had to pay $6 for a headset. A woman nearby had a malfunctioning video screen, and when she inquired, the flight attendant rudely said "15E doesn't work." Kath and Victoria had to spend the night in Philadelphia and fly out the next day, cutting their vacation short by a day. All of this is par for the course for air travel nowadays.

But this is the unique characteristic of US Airways: they had to pay an additional $140 EACH WAY to get seated together. Even though they had booked their seats together in advance, US Airways does not give advance seating arrangements any heed. When they checked in for their flights, they found that they were seated in different areas of the plane. The only way to be seated together was by paying $140 for preferred seats. (Apparently US Air sells window, aisle, and assigned seats at a premium, so if you do not pay that premium, do not expect to be seated with the rest of your party.) The same applied to the flight back to England today--when they checked in online, those expensive seats were the only ones available. (Note that when they booked their flights in person with a travel agent, they were not told of this policy. I'm guessing that the travel agent was not aware.)

My niece is 10 and would have been perfectly capable of sitting by herself, but most well-behaved children do not want to sit apart from their parents (and vice versa). I was horrified to learn that this airline has no regard for families traveling together and willfully sits children away from their parents.

A few Google searches led me to this tale of a man traveling with his gravely ill sister, who had to pay $15 extra for "choice seating" in order to sit with her. (I'm guessing Kath had to pay $70 per person because of the international travel.)

Sierra on ChildWild wrote about her horrific experiences traveling with her children last year on US Airways. Even though they had reserved seats in advance, the airline disregarded those reservations and seated her and her children all over the plane, including a 2-year-old and a 5-year-old! When she asked a flight attendant for assistance, the woman was outright rude and unhelpful.

The comments to this blog post revealed that this happens more often than one would think. The policy of US Airwarys (typo--but I'm leaving it) is to jumble up all the seating and leave the passengers to sort things out. If you cannot find passengers to switch with you (and judging from some of the rude comments Sierra received on her blog, they certainly exist!), you are out of luck. I cannot believe that the airline has not gotten into hot water for this policy, which surely would lead to some liability on their part. What would happen if there was an emergency, for example, and you were not seated anywhere near your child?

Sierra received a reply from a customer service agent in response, and it was just as shockingly disappointing. Although polite, she made it clear that US Airways does not give a rip about seating parents with their children. It's just not important to them.

That's why all families should boycott this airline until they get their act together. Perhaps they do not want anyone with children to patronize the airline? What they don't know is that even if we are not traveling with our children, we care about the way they handle family concerns. Please spread the word so no one else (a) has to pay through the nose to ensure they are seated near their child, and (2) gets stuck with their 2-year-old and 5-year-old sitting in between strangers.

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