Author and journalist Ann Louise Bardach writes in today's Washington Post that a friend advised her to stay off US Airways — "It's the worst airline in the history of aviation" — but she made the mistake of booking a flight from Santa Barbara to Washington, D.C. anyway. Never again.
When we finally reached the counter a half-hour later, the ticket agent told us that the plane had been overbooked and that there were no seats for us. I explained that I had an appointment in Washington and was also dealing with a health issue. To our surprise, the staff, who seemed exhausted and overwrought, were not especially sympathetic: The flight was overbooked, they said, and that's all there was to it....
Initially, we were told that we were being denied boarding because we had bought our tickets on the Internet. But that wasn't true. Then the counter person said that we were the last to check in when, in fact, there were half a dozen people behind us -- also with reserved seats. Finally, one staffer leveled with us and said: "Look, they [US Air] overbook all of our flights." Not only could we not get on our flight, but the next flight was also overbooked, and the one after that. There was simply no guarantee that we'd be able to get out that day.
Other passengers stepped up to help. Three people who were traveling on vacation offered to switch with us, preferring to get a free plane ticket for volunteering to be bumped. But we watched incredulously as the Mesa counter personnel talked each one out of switching with us.
Bardach's piece is pegged to the death of irate would-be US Airways passenger Carol Anne Gotbaum at the Phoenix airport, whose paid-for seat also was overbooked.