Can this trip be saved? “I fail to understand the behavior of your shuttle bus driver”

By | October 10th, 2011

Christine Glovier didn’t have an ideal travel experience when she flew from Philadelphia to Manchester, NH, on US Airways. But is an apology enough for what happened?

Glovier is a loyal US Airways customer and has never missed a flight. But when she arrived at the airport, a ticket agent sent her to a shuttle bus. She had to go through the security line twice, which ran down the clock.

There was still plenty of time to make her flight. But then the fun started.

She recalls,

We stood on the shuttle and waited over 10 minutes before leaving Terminal C to be transported to F 29 terminal. The shuttle bus was completely full when we left the C terminal.

While we were waiting, one of the passengers approached the driver and said she had a 1:50 flight. His response was “I’ll get you there on time”.

Or maybe not.

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The reason why we waited so long to depart for Gate L29 was due to the driver waiting for his co-worker shuttle driver to get him lunch from Au Bon Bain in Terminal C and deliver it back down to him. This action caused us, along with many others, to miss our flight.

We ran to our gate and arrived at 1:45 and were told there were no more seats. The plane was still on the tarmac.

We were directed to a special ticket counter to get another flight. While we were in line, we saw many others that were on the same shuttle bus in the same predicament.

We were rescheduled on the next flight.

We were terribly inconvenienced and in the Philadelphia Airport for more than 4 hours. Why? Because of irresponsible and selfish behavior on part of the shuttle bus driver, awaiting delivery of his lunch.

Glovier sent an email to US Airways, in which she recounted the delay and asked for denied boarding compensation.

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“I fail to understand the behavior of your shuttle bus driver,” she added.

Alright, so US Airways got her to her final destination, but four hours late. Other than the apology (I’ll get to that in a minute) does it owe her anything?

I don’t know. The shuttle bus driver is almost certainly an airport employee, for starters. But a look at US Airways contract of carriage suggests the airlines’ only responsibility was to transport Glovier to Manchester — not on any particular schedule.

Here’s the cookie-cutter mea culpa.

I regret you were unable to travel on your scheduled flight. We realize this was an inconvenient and frustrating situation; however, time restrictions must be implemented due to increased security measures.

We regret you were not able to catch an earlier bus to your gate and the shuttle bus driver was not more conscious of the time constraints you were under.

If you are not checked in and present in the boarding area at least 15 minutes before the scheduled departure time, your reservation may be canceled. Your seat is released to another passenger, and you will not be eligible for denied boarding compensation.

If a flight has been delayed, passengers are still expected to be at the gate at the previously scheduled time. Delays caused by maintenance or weather conditions may change at any time.

Please note that our pilots do have the discretion to depart 10 minutes prior to the scheduled departure time due to factors such as a full flight or operational reasons.

Your concerns have been documented. We use this information as a tool for reviewing where and how we can make future improvements that will benefit everyone.

We know you have many choices when it comes to traveling these days and we would welcome the opportunity to continue our business relationship.

Wow, this is a pretty impressive cut-and-paste job from the airline’s customer service department. But if you listen carefully, you can hear US Airways playing a tiny violin for Glovier.

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I sympathize with her. Had US Airways given her better instructions before boarding — in other words, asked her to arrive at the airport a little early because her gate was far away and reachable only by shuttle bus — then maybe it wouldn’t have wasted four hours of her life.

I think she’s entitled to more than a sloppy form letter. But technically, US Airways doesn’t have to do anything. Or does it?

(Photo: Oran Viriyincy/Flickr)

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