Philadelphia Airport Blog - begins 12:50 AM 9 Mar 2007
So the past few weeks we've heard about Jet Blue alternating between stranding passengers in planes on the tarmac for 6 to 10 hours and cancelling flights at the last minute. I don't think I've ever taken Jet Blue so I wasn't too worried about their issues impacting my travels.
Monday morning, I flew out of Richmond to Boston for an on-going project - taking US Airways. Since the merger with America West, US Airways has been working to merge their IT systems. The merged result went live Sunday, and the results were immediately evident to me Monday morning.
As I am apt to do when working on a writing project, I got up at 3:00 AM and left Farmville around 3:30 thinking I could get to the airport a little early and write for an hour or so before the flight. Internet access at the Richmond International Airport is free (as in beer) - how cool is that? When I arrived around 4:45, however, there was a long line of people waiting for human interaction - and notes hastily taped to kiosks explaining they were broken.
Not a good sign.
I made my 7:00 AM flight with minutes to spare. Fast forward to Thursday afternoon.
My flight leaves Boston at 5:00 PM, a stop in Philly, and then off to Richmond and home. At least that was the original plan. A funny thing happened on the way home.
To remain as objective as possible, I will begin describing the events as they happened to the best of my recollection:
- US Airways flight 1109 fom Boston to Philadelphia was delayed from 5:00 until around 7:20 PM.
- Around 6:30 PM, we boarded the plane with plenty of time to fly to Philadelphia and make the 8:40 PM Richmond connector.
- Around 6:45 PM, someone announced over the airplane sound system "If you are connecting to a flight in Philly, get off this airplane! We have a mechanical problem and this flight will not be leaving for a long, long time."
- A lot of us deplane.
- The gate agent motions for us to continue back to the US Airways Ticketing Counter to get new tickets.
- A nice lady at the Ticketing Counter in Boston informs us that we need to move to the back of a line roughly (remember, no exaggerations) three hours long.
- I laugh to myself and get in line to return to the damaged plane and take my chances.
- Security stops me and immediately asks for the remainder of my ticket. They won't let me into the gate area with my remaining portion of a boarding pass.
- I tell my story to a sympathetic TSA person. The security manager comes over and walks me to the counter, where a nice lady gives my a new boarding pass.
- I go back through security and make it back to the gate just in time to watch the door close. I am unable to board the plane that was going to be under maintenance too long to make my connector.
- The gate people will not open the door. I think this is a good thing for security, even though it is keeping me from my family.
- I book the next flight to Philly, hoping it will take off on time and the Richmond connector will also be late.
- The Boston - Philly flight leaves later, the Richmond flight is not late enough, and I miss the connector.
- I get off the plane in Philly and go to the ticket counter here. They tell me I can stay in the airport tonight until a 7:40 AM flight tomorrow.
- I ask for a hotel room. The lady behind the counter tells me I qualify for a Distress Rate ($69) at the Quality Inn in New Jersey.
- I ask to speak to the manager. The manager appears and asks which flight I was on. Upon learning I came in from Boston he informs the ticket agent "Give him a room."
- I receive a voucher for the Quality Inn in a bordering state and go wait for the shuttle. The shuttle never comes.
- I couldn't raise them on the phone until I let it ring (again not exaggerating) about five minutes.
- When the lady answers, she tells me they're not accepting vouchers.
- I return to the ticket counter in Philly and wait until I am tired of waiting.
- No hotels are accepting vouchers.
- I stay in the Philadelphia Airport tonight.
It is now 1:30 AM. My flight leaves at 7:40 AM.
And now for some subjective observations:
When I arrived at the ticket counter in Philly, there were two people out front and five people in line. I overheard a conversation between two agents - complaining about the people filing in. One of them was the person who tried to send me out of state to a Quality Inn for my hotel stay, while the couple one counter over was offered a voucher for a Ramada right up the road.
Being a data person, I notice patterns. As we passed through security this morning, everyone in the lines for those complaining agents was "randomly selected by their airline for a security screening." The lady at the front of the security line even commented "what's up with all the screenings?"
Now I am all for the Patriot Act and for empowering officials to do what is necessary to protect our nation and us individually from the threat of terror. Ask anyone who knows me, they'll vouch for this.
But this was clearly a case of two agents who were upset at having to work later than expected taking out their frustration on the public they are entrusted (and paid) to serve.
This was just wrong. It undermines the integrity of every effort to protect the nation. And it should be corrected immediately.
Can you guess which airline I will never fly again?
I have this theory: Perhaps this is a self-correcting problem. It should certainly take care of all those long lines at the US Airways ticket counter.
At least I made some cool young friends in line. We're camped out in front of security, waiting for our morning flights.
Technorati Tags: US Airways delays new system merger spend the night at an airport near you!