In about 30 days I will be travelling to US West coast – LA, SF, SD. Exciting stuff for a European entrepreneur, pilot and an air travel enthusiast.
The part I am always looking forward to is reserving tickets for the flight. I like combining different routes (there is a lot air to cover between Europe and San Francisco) so I get the most comfortable flight while enjoying the rides in great aircraft like B747 or A380.
I am usually very picky with who I fly with, but this time my wife is coming along and she insisted to go for the cheapest option so it tuns out that meant USAirways.
After several hours I finally found a route and proceeded to book it on their site. The total cost for tickets was around $2,500.
Entering my billing details and pressing Submit held the first nasty surprise. After a minute of the ‘spinning’ animation, USAirways returned an error. No explanation, nothing. Just an ERROR. I gasp in disbelief but quickly recuperate. I am tech savy that’s what I do for living it must be a glitch.
I quickly discover that funds were taken as well. Having waited for an email from USAirways site for half an hour and after nothing arrives I decide to call them. This adds to frustration as it is properly expensive to make these kind of calls from Europe, and secondly in order to get a human you have to fight their voice robot for ten minutes. I finally get someone, and they explain me that one of the airlines in the process (there were 3 for this flight to happen) could not issue a ticket. They promise to make a refund and suggest that I try a different route.
So I do. Same process again, half an hour later and different route, the same error happens. I thought it was something to do with a specific airline, so I try again going totally different and bit more expensive route and again the ERROR.
I check my account and I see close to $5,000 reserved by USAirways. No ticket for me, and around 4 hours spent so far.
I decide to call them again. Same torture with the machine, I finally get someone they ask me for the confirmation code. I respond I do not have it as I never received an email due to error. What is the flight number – I do not have it as I never received the itinerary either. All I know is that your site took $5,000 and I am left with no options but to call you.
Somehow they figure out what happened (I am near 1 hour on the long distance by now) and say the tickets will be refunded They explain that I will have to wait 7-10 business days in order to get my money back!
Now this is where they lost me as a customer for ever.
Somehow they assume that people can live without that much money for weeks. They assume that I will magically summon more money to purchase a ticket through a different airline.
Today it is 8 days since the incident, the money is still not freed, and I called them up again. The lady just kept saying sorry sir there is nothing I can do. Please call our refunds to get a status of your refund.
So I make another call. It turns out the ‘refunds’ is another machine and after I dictate the ticket number to it, I got ‘Your refund is scheduled for processing, please wait 7-10 business days’. That’s all I get!
Frustrated I tweet this:
To my surprise someone answers and I hope for the best. I explain them the situation and the row of nasty surprises continues:
I soon discover I am not alone:
The epilogue is this.
- I had a very bad customer experience with USAirways.
- They still keep $5k of my money reserved although I did nothing wrong and they did everything wrong.
- If I was not fortunate to have extra to buy a ticket elsewhere, by the time they refund I would have to pay probably 100% more for the same tickets (if I find seats at all).
- Their customer support is trained to deal with these situations in the worst possible way, by repeating Sorry there is nothing I can do. Yes you can. You can strive to have excellent customer service.
- They made me so unhappy that I took extra time to write this post and help them go out of business just a tiny bit sooner
Don’t be a bad company. It’s just so wrong. I ended up buying tickets with Lufthansa. it is more expensive but how expensive was my time and frustration with USAirwas anyway.
Update: Today is Aug 23rd and the refund finally arrived. But only for one pair of tickets! Spent nearly one hour on the phone again, having being served “your other tickets are not refundable now”. explaining the whole case several times all over again finally got to the supervisor who placed them for refund. Seems that I will have to wait for 3 more weeks. Uh.
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