This would be funny if it wasn’t me.

I’d booked Flight 1091 at 6:30 AM out of Boston to Dayton, Ohio for the Stephen K. Hayes Full Moon of May meditation seminar. Everything seemed fine – e-ticket booked, confirmation email received (Travel Confirmation: B4P74G, ticket 03721357878361, passenger name Christopher Penn in case anyone from US Airways eventually reads this), etc. I get to Logan Airport this morning an hour and change before my flight is supposed to depart, great. Get to the self-service counter to check in, and the machine says, “No seats could be found for this reservation number. Please try again.” A couple more tries of this, and the machine finally spits back, “No seats could be found for this reservation number. Please see an agent at the booking counter.”

Of course, being Memorial Day weekend, the lines were on the long side, so after a 40 minute wait in line (getting really worried because the flight’s leaving SOON), I see an agent who brusquely tells me, “I’m sorry, we have no record of your reservation.”

[insert profanity here]

After expressing things internally, I said, “Okay, so there’s no ticket even though I booked one. When’s the next flight to Dayton?”

“4:30 PM, getting in at 9 PM.”

Not much good that will do me, since the 2 day seminar begins at 1 PM and concludes the first day at 9 PM. I head home after cancelling a bunch of reservations and calling my teacher to let him know briefly of the foul-up.

When I got home, my wife urged me to call the airline and get a refund. So I called them up – 480-693-6735. The audio voice response unit kept telling me to submit a refund request online, and then when I queued up to speak to a customer service agent, the helpful prompt said, “Due to unexpectedly high call volume, your estimated wait time is 47 minutes.”

I bailed out of there, unwilling to wait 3/4 of an hour on the phone, and instead headed online to submit an electronic refund request. Here’s the email response I got:

Thank you for submitting your refund request via e-mail. We are experiencing an increase in customer e-mail and are working diligently to respond to all inquiries; however it could take between 45 and 60 days to review your request. If this schedule will not provide a timely response, please contact our Refund Department directly at 480-693-6735. When calling, please have your 13-digit ticket number beginning with either 037 or 401 available.

Your refund request is subject to additional audit and final approval by the US Airways Refund Department. All refunds are credited to the form of payment of the original ticket.

Thank you for choosing US Airways.

I’m sorry, 45 to 60 DAYS to review an email? I could send the email by carrier pigeon one word at a time faster than that.

Needless to say, I’m beyond pissed at US Airways for terminally poor customer service, and on top of that, I don’t anticipate getting a refund without a struggle, which I’m not looking forward to.

I’m most amused by the closer: Thank you for choosing US Airways. Yeah, that’s a mistake I won’t make again.

US Airways, and any airline that’s currently worried about staying in business, here’s a tip: if your business is in trouble, improving the quality of your customer service is the only thing that will save you. Take your entire marketing budget – all of it – and dump it all into customer service, because frankly, that’s where you need the most help. Pay your staff to not be surly, or hire people who aren’t surly, figure out a way to communicate with customers that doesn’t involve hold times approaching geological epochs, and make your damn computers work correctly.

Here’s my last bit of petty revenge. According to the web site, the customer service fax number is 800-892-3447.

FAX: 800-892-3447

I hope junk fax spam bots send you Caribbean vacation offers endlessly. May the junk faxes and scams all use US Airways to book their fraudulent, non-existant offers.
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Epilogue: US Airways eventually extended me a credit for the flight… and a $150 fee to use it. #[email protected]# you, US Airways. I’m glad to see this post is #4 when you Google US Airways customer service.

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