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Sticking The ‘Little Guy’ With The Bill

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The other day I took a flight on US Airways from Los Angeles to Atlanta. I have made this flight with my dog, Max, numerous times & normally take Delta. However due to high fares right now, I chose to fly US Air as it was much less expensive.

When I was checking my bag, the woman at the ticket counter asked me if I had a reservation for Max. This was right after paying $15 to check my bag as I don’t like to carry anything on the plane. I told her I was carrying him on & he would ride under the seat—he is a nine lb. Pomeranian. She then informed me that it would cost me an additional $100 one way. She said that was their policy. She was quite rude in a “gotcha” sort of way. When I first started flying with Max on Delta nine years ago, I was told that as long as he was riding under the seat & was in an airline approved Sherpa bag there would be no charge. He is an excellent traveler—quiet, sweet & manages to charm everyone he meets. I have been taking him to retirement homes to visit seniors for years. He loves to just sit on their laps & give them love. He actually has a little picture ID card as a “pet volunteer” for the Motion Picture & Television Home.

After paying the $100 I went to the gate & called customer service. The woman who answered had a very heavy accent & the connection was very poor. She then told me that she was in the Philippines. Eventually she transferred me to a supervisor in the US who told me to show his service ID card to customer service when I changed planes. Unfortunately I hadn’t brought it.

After boarding my first flight, they announced that there was now a charge of $2.00 for sodas, juices & water!!! I said that I thought it must be illegal to charge for water. The first class flight attendant, Lorrie, informed me in a very short tone “No it’s not.” I said what if you have to take a pill. She replied “Then you have to buy a bottle of water.”

As it was only a 45 minute flight, I saw only three people in coach get anything to drink. It was almost laughable to see the flight attendants to their beverage service & cleanup. I told one of the attendants in coach what Lorrie had said & she apologized for her behavior. She said that if someone needed water to take medication, she would be sure to give it to them, but would have to be discrete about it. I then observed Lorrie come back into coach & wake up two people whom she appeared to know & give them bottled water.

When I got on my next flight things were even worse. As many people had carried their luggage on to prevent being charged $15 for a checked bag, the there was a delay as many of those carry-on bags had to be tagged & stowed underneath for lack of room in the overhead bins. Then there was a woman sitting behind me who appeared to have bronchitis & coughed continuously for four hours.

I got up to use the restroom during the flight. The toilet was dirty as if people hadn’t been flushing & there was an odor. When I went to wash my hands no water came out of the tap. I noticed some hand wipes lying on the counter so I used them to clean my hands. I came out & told the flight attendant. She was embarrassed & said “there is no running water on the flight.” I can’t explain the technical reasons, but she said that in trying to conserve fuel they had not had time to supply the plane with water for the restrooms.

We then got into a long discussion about all the extra charges for things that used to be included, etc. I told her that just that morning at the gym I’d seen a segment on CNN about passengers saying that with the drop in fuel prices they had not passed the savings on to the consumer—i.e. lower fares, charges for checked bags, etc. She then explained the airlines perspective to me—high fuel costs early in the year & the need to make up some of those costs as they were in financial trouble like so many industries. She said their opinion was that passengers were only paying for what they used by this method. I then asked her how much the salaries of upper level management were & what their bonuses were last year. She loweredher eyes & said, “Don’t get me started on that. You’re right. That’s where the real problem lies.”

I talked at length with all the crew on the flight & told them that I was going to write a column about these issues. They told me of the problems in the industry, the merger between US Air & America West which has left some attendants making much less money for doing the same job than others, as upper level management does not want equal pay across the board. The crew was all very pleasant, intelligent & courteous.

If the crew were in charge of US Airways, I would fly on this airline again. When I tried to call Customer Service today to give my feedback, I was on hold for over an hour & never did reach a representative. With a bunch of out of touch “fat cats” in charge, I don’t ever plan to patronize them again. To charge me $100 to carry-on Max, which did not inconvenience them in the least & then to charge $2.00 for non-alcoholic drinks that they get for next to nothing as they are a promotion for the manufacturer is obscene. It shows how out of touch the people at the top are. This was first hand evidence to me of everything that is wrong with our economy & our country right now. Corporate greed & incompetence needs to end if the US is going to recover its standing & reputation in the world. The little guy gets stuck with the bill for the guy with all money to make even more money. If there is such a thing as “sin”, that is it.

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