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US Airways, Expedia, X-Rays & TSA Body Searches

Sometimes your thumb is better than an airplane flight. Sometimes your thumb is better than an airplane flight.

A friend of mine who travels a lot had a recent and all too typical experience with US Airways, lost baggage, flight insurance, missed connections, Expedia, the Transportation Security Agency (TSA), and the air travel experience…and it’s a warning for us all. Especially these days, when the security freaks want to force you to either go through a machine that lets them see your genitals, or they want to put their hands on you and fondle you.

Or as one TSA official so elegantly put it, "When you buy an airline ticket, you give up a lot of your rights." Here's what happened to my friend...

She booked a simple one-stop flight and bought flight insurance via Expedia. It was a hop from San Fran to Detroit and back. So easy, right? Not!

On the day of departure she diligently checked online US Airways flight status until she left for the airport, and even checked it via IPhone en route. When she got to the airport, and after she’d checked her one piece of luggage (at a cost of $25 extra), she proceeded to the gate, where she was suddenly told that an “air traffic delay” had interfered with the orderly flow of planes.

Further, the anticipated updated departure and arrival of her flight would guarantee she missed her connection. Seeing the long line of irate people at the departure counter, she called US Airways after struggling online to find a phone number that worked for them.

She was told that US Airways counter personnel would book her a complementary hotel in the connection city, and give her a meal voucher, because the missed connection meant she would be staying overnight in the connection city, Philadelphia. She hastily called business associates in Detroit, and her Detroit hotel, to tell them that she wouldn’t arrive until a day later than planned.

But at the US Airways counter, she was told that no hotel or free meal was to be given. In fact, the airlines are not obligated to do anything for you at all, unless the delays are caused by their overbooking of a flight and having to bump you off involuntarily. And in that case, you only get $400-800.

My friend had flight insurance purchased through Expedia, so she figured she was ok. Wrong. Flight insurance rep tells her that flight insurance only covers sickness or accident, not airline delays. So she sits at the airport for hours waiting for a delayed flight, finally gets to Philly, has already booked a Philly hotel at her own expense, and then US Airways tells her that her baggage has gone to Detroit or is otherwise lost. Her baggage contains medicine that she’s not allowed to bring on the plane. A painful night is spent in Philly; she hasn’t got any of her clothes, medicines, toothbrush…nothing.

When she goes back to the airport the next day for the Philly to Detroit connector, she finds out that her suitcase was NOT sent to Detroit, it had been in Philly all along. Not only that, but US Airways wanted to charge her another $25 fee to check the suitcase again!

The connector to Detroit is inexplicably delayed for an hour, but finally gets to Detroit. She gratefully picks up her suitcase and goes to her hotel, only to find that the TSA has gone through her suitcase, broken two items, and removed several others. They left a form letter in the suitcase telling her how they’d searched it. So she called TSA and was told that although she could file a complaint, it was unlikely that any compensation would be provided. And that if she complained too much, she was actually aiding terrorism and might be placed on the no-fly list.

The return flight from Detroit to San Francisco was only delayed a half hour, and her suitcase managed to arrive in San Fran with her. By her calculations, she lost nearly $970 because of the combined incompetence and lack of customer orientation of TSA, Expedia flight insurance, and US Airways. She missed two of her morning appointments in Detroit, which cost her in lost business revenues. She wrote letters to the airline, Expedia and TSA, asking for a refund or compensation: all of them told her to shove it.

This is how air travel has become. Once you book a flight, you are at the mercy of a system with few if any warranties. You are subject to a virtual strip search, zapped by radiation, detention without attorney, you can’t lock your suitcase, government morons search and remove your personal items, the airlines have bought off the politicians so the airlines have no obligation to make their flights run on time, and on and on. Maybe I ought to just take a bus, or walk?

United breaks guitars…US Airways breaks your bank account.

Sure, air travel is a miracle of the modern era. It’s amazing that you can get into a missile with wings on it, sit in the tube while the airplane pours pollution into the upper atmosphere, and even do Wi-Fi in-flight. And we all know the airlines are just struggling corporations getting by on mere billions in profits, just like British Petroleum, etc. We ought to be grateful they’re there for us, right?

Friends, it’s clear that air travel, as with so many other things, is becoming a Mad Max, dog eat dog world. Make sure you check the reliability ratings and features of anything involved in the air travel system, be it Expedia or similar booking services, airlines like US Airways, flight insurance details, and the antics of TSA. Watch out for what TSA wants to do when they x-ray your wife, or put their hands on your daughter. Oh look…I just saw a majestic hawk soaring on a thermal high in the sky. We should all be so lucky!

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Last modified on Thursday, 18 November 2010 01:10

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