US Air Flight 2220
Ms. Deborah Thompson
Managing Director, Corporate and Consumer Affairs
US Airways
P.O. Box 1501
Winston Salem, NC 27102-1501

Dear Ms. Thompson

I am writing with complaint regarding US Air flight 2220 from Philadelphia to Ottawa on April 14, 2004.

In general, my complaint is with the way in which this delayed flight was handled. The flight was eventually delayed more than 2 hours, twice the length of the actual flight. This is certainly not unheard of for an airline (although it would be entirely unacceptable in any other industry) but the delay was poorly handled by all staff involved.

Arriving at the gate a few minutes in advance of the 9:15 boarding time, I saw that the departure screen estimated a departure time of "10:00 On time." I assumed we would be boarding shortly. When 10:00 came, the screen was changed to read "10:17 On time." At 10:20, the screen read "10:37 On time." At 10:45, it read "11:07 On time." And this continued until our eventual departure.

The US Air employee at the desk, to his credit, kept a smile on his face the whole time, but did not offer an apology, an explanation, or any accurate information. I was told several times that the plane would be arriving "any minute now." By this time, I had been travelling most of the day (starting in Las Vegas) and was pretty hungry. I had declined the chicken sandwich in a box from TGI Fridays on my connecting flight (and incidentally have never seen a greater abuse of the word gourmet). Unfortunately, all the food outlets in our terminal were closed, and I didn't want to leave the terminal because the plane could be departing "any minute now" as confirmed by the departure screen, which continued to incrementally revise our "on time" departure.

Shortly after midnight, with the departure screen now reading "12:00 On time" we boarded the plane. No apologies. No explanations. No free beer. And due to some malfunction, not even hot water for tea or coffee. When we touched down in Ottawa, the pilot finally apologised for the delay and explained that bad weather earlier in the day had affected scheduling (finally an answer!).

I was truly astounded that your airline managed to generate so much frustration around a one-hour flight. I still have "12:00 On time" burned into my brain.

There may not be a more captive customer than an airline passenger at their connection point. It's simply not possible to change airlines at midnight in Philadelphia when one has to be at work in Ottawa the next morning at 7:00. If a theatre for example announced that it would be starting the film two-hours later than expected, I could simply walk out and demand my money back. Or if a restaurant brought out my food two hours after they said they would, they would bend over backwards with apology and it wouldn't cost me a penny. Even Via Rail offers 50% discounts on your next trip if a train is delayed more than one hour on the four-hour trip from Ottawa to Toronto.

It's a shame that US Air has chosen to take advantage of their captive customers with bad service, incorrect information, infuriating "On time" messages, and absolutely no compensation. I'm hopeful that you and your staff will do what you can to remedy such problems.

Sincerely,

Adam Scott,
The Last Angry Young Man