“I would really appreciate it if I could get my tickets reimbursed”

Jennifer Shin is mad at US Airways — so mad that she’s created a Facebook page urging others to boycott the airline and launched a social media campaign to bring attention to her cause. Actually, it’s her father’s cause.

Late last year she contacted me asking for help. I gave her documentation a quick look and sent her a list of executive contacts. But when US Airways turned down her father’s request, she asked me to mediate the case.

And that’s where I could use a little help.

Last fall, her father, Han Gon Shin, was flying from Barcelona to Philadelphia with his wife.

We were about to board the plane and were already halfway down the escalator when I heard a loud uproar. I look behind to see what was going on when another employee who scanned my ticket, gave me the finger to come back up to see her.

Confused, I ask how she expected me to come up when the escalator was going down, yet, she ignored my comment and demanded me to come up.

“Come up NOW! UP, UP, UP! NOW!”

I felt as if I was some suspect getting interrogated by an authority figure. I came up the down going escalator, tripped forward, and hurt my knee.

That’s something of an understatement. It was a deep gash that needed to be treated by a doctor, and the Shins missed their flight home.

Here’s a photo of the injury. If you are squeamish, you might want to skip it.

Shin continues,

The manager not once did she apologize. What do you expect me to do? Had I not followed the directions of an airport authority, I would’ve been arrested.

In addition, had I not gone UP on a DOWN going escalator following the direction, this would’ve not happened.

It’s unclear why the US Airways staff insisted the Shins make a U-turn on an escalator. Maybe they’d failed to scan one of their boarding passes and needed to check them again. At any rate, says Shin, the airline staff was less than sympathetic. They didn’t apologize. And then they refused to offer the couple any consideration on their return flights. (Given the discomfort of his injury, Shin thought an upgrade to business class would have been appropriate.)

To add insult to injury, US Airways lost his luggage for five days.

“This was definitely a painful experience for me, and I would really appreciate it if I could get my tickets reimbursed,” he says.

Shin took up her father’s cause after US Airways turned down his request for a refund. It offered two $200 vouchers for the trouble, which wasn’t enough. She tried posting her experience to the US Airways Facebook page, but the company quickly deleted her posts. That’s when she started her campaign encouraging others to boycott US Airways and contacted me.

“Help me get the word out,” she asked me. “Because this is absolutely ridiculous.”

I have a few issues with this one. First, I think the refund and the incident are two separate issues. US Airways was responsible for getting the Shins from Barcelona to Philadelphia, in the class of service they paid for. And it did.

Yes, it would have been a nice gesture to upgrade them to business class. But it didn’t have to.

The second incident is the ticket scan problem. If it happened the way Shin described it — and I don’t have access to US Airways’ incident report — then the airlines staff in Barcelona really screwed up. I mean, asking a passenger to walk up the wrong way on an escalator? That’s just stupid.

When Shin tripped, fell and hurt himself, the correct procedure would have been to call paramedics, get his injuries treated, and rebook him on the next flight at no additional expense.

Employees are often trained to not apologize because it can be considered an admission of liability, which could be problematic if there’s a lawsuit. I want to believe the US Airways staff in Barcelona didn’t apologize because of their training, and not because they didn’t feel bad about what happened.

I don’t know if there’s anything I can do with this case. I’m not convinced that a full refund is in order. It appears Shin’s medical expenses and the rebooking were covered by US Airways. The vouchers were a nice gesture. If he wanted additional compensation, he would have to file a claim with the airline’s insurance company.

I’m also a little troubled by some of the differences between Shin’s account on his Facebook page, and the one presented to me by his daughter. Although the details match up, the tone of the first account is far more confrontational, which leads me to believe Shin’s initial approach may have been counter-productive, in terms of his attitude.

I certainly don’t mind helping to get the word out about this incident, but I’m just not sure to what end.

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at . Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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  • Spanky_McF

     Um, because he can walk?

  • scapel

    What was the problem that made the gate agent point to them to come back? If I’m already on a down escalater that is moving  (was it moving), I’m not going back up. These agents have communicators and can tell the people further down the line what the problem is. What is the finger? Was this an index finger or “the” finger and if the middle finger what was that about.
     I have had an agent take the wrong ticket from me and I found out at my next destination where they fixed it.
    So what was the problem the agent had to begin with?
    I think Shin made a mistake to go back up the escalator.
    I think if Shin had fell on the escalator they would have fixed his knee anyhow whether anyone was at fault or not. Insurance is good in this instance.

  • http://twitter.com/jcshin J

    this is my final comment for the evening. i’m tired of clarifying, and it was not my intention to stay online all day commenting. if you all read my blurb earlier, i did mention that i’m not asking everyone to be on my side, and i already knew i was going to get a good amount of haters or folks who disagreed with me, and i’m fine with that… 

    sry, TonyA, i’m not on this page to seek sympathy, rather i am here, and thankful, even though mr elliot is known to be a consumer advocate, and wrote his article in a neutral tone, i was fine with it because i just wanted to get the word out. emanon256, raven & chris, he did get stitched up 12x at the airport, but there are additional expenses that the airline should be liable for. oh and one last thing, it is not about backpedaling nor is it counterintuitive… something called, “sarcasm”… 

    to everyone who took the time in sharing your comments, (yes, all of them) and messaging me and liking my boycott page, i want to thank you guys for your time. for all the haters on this page, life’s too short! smile & here’s a big fat hug… next time, think about flying about US AIR, the #1 airlines in customer satisfaction!

    g’night!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Pedro-Goldstein/100002298477870 Pedro Goldstein

    It’s US Air, what do you expect? They are in a 3 way race to the bottom with Alliegent and Spirit. 

  • emanon256

    So the treatment record form Spain shows that US Air paid?

  • emanon256

    I don’t think even the airport could be found responsible for someone getting injured while going up a down escalator.  He would have to prove there was some sort of malfunction with the escalator, or some sort of safety issue with the escalator.  Maybe if there was a gaping hole at the bottom and to save his own life he had to go up the down escalator, then the airport could be responsible for his injury.

  • emanon256

    Never mind, she admits below they did pay the medical bills at the airport.  But then says there were additional expenses that they should pay too.

  • Raven_Altosk

    Chris,
    Did you read the FB page? It might not be wise to keep it linked. She lists the Miracle on the Hudson (complete with video) as one of USAir’s blunders. She also features the case of the loon who scammed a church, and the Flying Imams. Neither of those have any bearing on “poor customer service” and let’s face it, the landing was a miracle, not a mistake.

    The one case she has linked that could be seen that way was already resolved, but she posted no update. (Cancer patient with non ref tickets wanted tickets refunded and they were)

  • Raven_Altosk

    No, Cupcake. It is backpedaling and if seeing hundreds of lives saved by a very skilled captain is your idea of “sarcasm,” please…get your head examined.

  • http://elliott.org Christopher Elliott

    Yes, I’ve reviewed her FB page. I think it’s important to link to it for context. Otherwise, my observations about her tone can’t be verified.

    I should say that Jennifer seems perfectly nice, and has never been anything less than polite in all of our dealings. I’m just not sure if she has the strongest case here.

  • emanon256

    Could you please outline the facts for us so we could get a better understanding of the situation?
     
    1.       Did the agent give your father the finger, or simply motion for you father to return?  You say both things interchangeably throughout your posts, yet they are quite different.
    2.       Did US Airways pay for your father’s medical treatment?  Did they pay at the airport clinic but not later?  Did your father incur additional expenses? What are these expenses? (i.e. pain and suffering, lost work, additional medical bills). Basically what did they pay for, and what did they not pay for. You don’t need to share dollar amounts.  Just the basics so we understand.
    3.       How did you approach US Airways?  Did you send them a letter outlining the situation, or did you start attacking them on FaceBook right away until they banned you.
     
    People on this site, myself included, share what we would have done and our thoughts based on the information provided.  People on this site want to help you and want to hear your story.   However people on this site also want to understand what happened.  It is very good that you are on here responding to people, but answering them with sarcasm, incomplete sentence, and conflicting information, does not help your case. Perhaps if you had shown a higher level of maturity when working with US Airways in the first place, things would have turned out better.
     
    Also attacking posters on here will not help you.  I have been actively posting for about a year since Elliott helped me with a situation.  I read his column daily, and respond pretty frequently.  I have learned a lot from people on this site.  Raven has been on here far longer than me, and does not work for US Airways.  There are many other great people here who post daily, and provide great information, and great criticism; both of which are very helpful.  I look forward to their posts every day.

  • Raven_Altosk

    I actually support some forms of “public shaming.” Let’s face it, “United Breaks Guitars” was brilliant and so was the video of the FedEx guy tossing a monitor over a fence. Had the homeowner just complained about that, we all know that FedEx would’ve blamed the shipper, the shipper would’ve blamed FedEx, and round and round they’d go while the customer was screwed.

    I just don’t think her approach is rational, given the content of the FB page, but I agree it is good to see the context.

  • http://twitter.com/nectarinetweet Anna Grice

    This has to be one of the most interesting stories by far for me.  I’ve been keeping up with this since it was first published the other day.  I do appreciate anytime the OP comes here to discuss their case with us in the comments as I do in this case.

    Firstly, I voted no because while the accident is sad and unfortunate, they were able to get home and with the lost baggage, while it truly sucks, it does not merit a full refund (their vacation was completed).  I would’ve just asked for my baggage fees to be refunded and called it a day.

    When you take your case to be publicly shamed like on Facebook and scream from the high heavens about being wronged, I know that I will refuse to help you let alone even respond to you like USAir did.  Any chance of a better resolution is now gone after this and I think OP would be better off letting this situation go and hopefully learn to be more rational and compromising instead of letting anger take control when something unfortunate happens.

  • http://elliott.org Christopher Elliott

    At the risk of repeating myself, I’d be very grateful if we could remember our manners when commenting on this case, and any case that I write about. Jennifer is a real person. Some of the comments that have been made here are hurtful to her. Let’s keep this civil, please.

  • pauletteb

    I doubt the airline employee actually gave Shin “the finger” but rather crooked his/her finger in a “come here” gesture. Imperfect command of English is part of the problem here.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    If he gashed his knee on a part of the escalator that should have had a guard over it or something like that, then maybe, but there’s been no hint of anything like that and he was engaged in a dangerous and prohibited act by trying to go the wrong way on the escalator. I can see blame to divide between him and the employee, but hard to see how anybody else would be liable.

  • pauletteb

    Your accusations about Raven being a shill for USAir just lost you what little credibility you had!

  • pauletteb

    The TSA wasn’t involved in your father’s incident!

  • pauletteb

    The escalator was not to blame for the injury; the man who went down the up escalator was!

  • Sadie_Cee

    Now that it has come up again, it is my understanding that the standard of the reasonable person is not used unrestrictedly.  The standard as it applies to this case would be, “What would the reasonable person in this situation (one who was ordered imperiously by a USAir employee in the aircraft boarding area to ascend the down escalator) have done?
     
    Everyone who frequents this blog knows that if one disobeys a direct order from an airport employee, one runs the serious risk of having security being called immediately.  Once said security personnel descend on one, the situation quickly escalates and we know who will come off the worse for it.  The following article appeared in our local paper today.  I hold no brief for the person involved and am only using this to illustrate how very real the consequences for disobedience in instances like this can be.
     
    http://www.thestar.com/news/crime/article/1144874–taser-fired-at-man-at-pearson-airport-after-police-officers-assaulted 
     

  • $16635417

    That would seem reasonable, but when the narrative from the OP seems to be inconsistent, one can’t help but sense a lack of credibility. 

    Perhaps all the more reason for Chris or an attorney to become involved, to assist them in writing a professional well worded letter that identifies the problems and the requested resolution.

    Reimbursement for the ticket is probably too much to ask, but assistance with medical bills may not be out of the question. If nothing else, the insurance company would bring USAirway’s side of the story to the table. 

  • Kevkev12

    No wonder, may be you have to change your attitude.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_OEPJGQPIEB75YYDE5CJY6R3VFE Carver Clark Farrow II

    I”m not an international specialist, but I believe that if the defendant is a Philly resident you might be able too.  Perhaps Joe knows for a fact one way or the other?

  • Philippa_FRA

    No. This was in Europe, and in Europe, when you do something really stupid – like walking down on the up-escalator – it’s your own fault. The OP-dad would have to present some really convincing evidence he was “forced” to do this, and then it would be the airline-people who’d be blamed – not the airport, or the escalator company, or whoever it was who didn’t warn the OP-dad about the dangers of wrong-way’ing on an escalator.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_OEPJGQPIEB75YYDE5CJY6R3VFE Carver Clark Farrow II

    ” An employee asked/ordered your father to return. He got injured while returning. It’s hard to prove causation.” 

    It really depends.  Did Shin’s father have discretion in the manner in which he complied with the airline employee’s order?  If he had discretion, i.e. there was a safe way to comply then he’s SOL.  If however, the only way to comply was to take on an unreasonable risk, e.g. walking up a down escalator; sitting on a toilet during takeoff and landing, etc., and compliance is mandatory, then the airline is liable.

    The best way to consider this is that if the airline forced the OPs father to engage in dangerous behavior, i.e. take on unreasonable risk, then the airline must be liable.

  • judyserienagy

    It’s unfortunate that the man got hurt.  The injury has nothing to do with claiming a refund on his airfare.  If someone in uniform had yelled at him to walk through the window, would he have done so?  This is just another story of someone doing something stupid and refusing to take responsibility for his own actions.

  • Kevkev12

    Good point, that might trigger the misunderstanding between the passenger and the airline employee.

  • sershev

    Ticket is for transportation from point A to point B which is fulfilled by US Airways. If you believe you were not compensated appropriately for the injury you need to consult with an attorney.

  • stantastic

    not sure what all the fuss with the comments is about.  you are not supposed to go against the escalator direction for a reason.  thus, if you’re ordered to go against the flow it is obviously a risk – you are being ordered to break the rules.  us airways was dumb not to just give up first class tickets and squash the situation.  i think ticket reimbursement is appropriate.  i would be pissed if this happened to me or anyone in my fam.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1818564155 Paul Sung Woo Nam

    How is it possible that employees of a major airline company can get away with this type of behavior? The answer: The airline companies do not care because they realized the public is too apathetic to make a substantial impact on their image. Initially, large corporations feared public opinion and negative publicity. Corporations quickly realized their fears were of no consequence.

    The difficulty with gathering support behind a cause is 1) finding a common denominator that will resonate with the audience and 2) making it easy for the public to get involved.

    Here, it is easy to place yourself in the others shoes since most people (I dare say all) would be offended if they were treated in such a manner. Also, there is no time or cost associated with supporting this campaign (simply vote yes and like).

    If we cannot send a message to these companies that the public will not tolerate their lack of professionalism and courtesy, we might as well give them permission to slap as around.

  • mythsayer

    You should do it only because US Airways is a HORRIBLE airline.  I won’t ever fly them again…

  • Rosered7033

    Agreed – “cupcake”, “little tart”, “moron”, etc. are denigrating.

  • Rosered7033

    Well put.

  • Raven_Altosk

    Her FB shame site is misleading. The Flying Imans, the Miracle on the Hudson, and the Idiot Woman who Scammed a Church are not USAir’s fault in terms of customer service. The one case she features was resolved in favor of the customer (Cancer patient with non ref tix). 
    So, perhaps you’re prefer that I call her “Liar Liar Pants on Fire” instead of “Cupcake?”

  • Raven_Altosk

    I was with the OP until the story started changing and her FB shame site was full of irrelevant incidents.

    For instance, the original post states that the father’s medical was covered. Then “Jen” shows up and says it wasn’t, then backpedals and says, yes it was.

    The father was “given the finger” in one account and in another account was “gestured to return” with a finger. There’s a big difference there.

    The FB shame site lists Capt. Sully’s landing in the Hudson as a blunder. When I called Jen on it in a thread above, she claimed she was “just listing stories about USAirways.” Right. On a BOYCOTT SITE!?!?!?

    When I didn’t buy that, she called it “sarcasm.”

    So, the OP’s sense of humor is that hundreds of lives were saved by a very skilled pilot? I fail to see the amusement there.

    Between the inconsistent stories, the shame site that makes no sense, and the OP coming here and changing her tune when called on nonsense, I lost all sympathy.

  • Rosered7033

    So your defense is to go to her level?

  • Rosered7033

    My point is, just as you believe her site is misleading, your use of derogatory terms lessens your statements.  You have a lot of valid posts that contribute to this site.  I hate to see your arguments diluted by this. 

  • TonyA_says

    Bravo! I would like to add one assumption (my guess). I think that the ‘employee’ in question is not even an airline employee. I have taken enough flights to Europe to observe that USA carriers rarely put their own staff over there. This ‘employee’ is likely a contract worker. That is enough reason not to care for the airline’s customers. The least common denominator is apathy.  When low cost labor is the goal, then to expect more service today is insanity.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1818564155 Paul Sung Woo Nam

    We should focus on the relevant facts: 1) A major airline company employee or independent contractor (either way still wearing the airlines uniform), 2) abusing their authority and violating all the written and unwritten rules of decorum and civility, 3) by and through the airline agents actions, a passenger was injured, and 4) even after all of these egregious actions, the airline nor the employee had the common decency to apologize.

    Raven, I wholeheartedly understand your point of view. When there are inconsistencies in some of the facts, it is natural to become a bit apprehensive. However, facts get distorted naturally over time, due to emotion, different points of view (ie: physical location of the observer and/or different cultural background, upbringing, etc.). It is just my humble opinion whether the father was given the finger or gestured to return with the finger has no bearing on the determination of whether the US Air agent was rude and discourteous. Even if the finger in question was removed from the facts, the behavior of the US Air agent is still unacceptable.

    In my opinion, conveying a story accurately to someone else is one of the hardest things to do. However, we should not punish the victim or get distracted from the real issues due to some errors on the storytellers part.

  • Lindabator

    Not if it is the truth – there is NO reason for a story to change if it is.  She called him back or she yelled at him, she crooked her finger or gave him the finger, the bills were paid or they weren;t.  THOSE facts should NOT change in the telling of a story – provided they are the truth!

  • TonyA_says

    The aggrieved party is the FATHER. He got hurt trying to follow the instructions (to come back up) of the airline. We should all focus on HOW TO MAKE HIM WHOLE. 

    The question today is does the airline owe him more than paying for his medical bills, re-booking him and giving him $200 worth of vouchers. The victim (through his daughter) does not think so. I understand they want a refund. Is that a reasonable compensation for pain and suffering? I don’t know. But that for me is the crux of the issue – what is a reasonable compensation for the pain and suffering of Mr.Shin? I am not a lawyer but I believe there is enough case law and history for something like this.

    Finally, we can see that not all social media is effective in shaming an airline. Perhaps there are too many complainers shouting at the same time that viewers have become desensitized to minor wounds. It’s not sensational enough. That said, maybe people need to think twice before they make a lot of angry statements in facebook. It might just make them look foolish and detract from getting true justice.

  • bodega3

    So what about her use of the term ‘pal’ which contributed to the rest of her writings as being emotional.  If you are going to have a complaint, be factual and keep emotions out of the letters/posts.  The yelling, the lower case letters, lack of puncuation over here doesn’t help her any and it certainly gives her FB page a juvenile touch and appearance.  Much like those at the gate who stomp their feet and tell the agent how important they are to that company, they look foolish.  I wonder how much more the father would have accomplished had he written the letter, even if his use of the English language is limited.  His daughters rants have not worked.

  • http://twitter.com/travelingiraffe Crissy

    So do they want everyone to boycott US Airways or do they want their flight reimbursed?  It just seems that they don’t even know what is enough for them.  I would stay out of this one, it doesn’t seem the OP will ever be happy until US Airways goes out of business.

  • Jennifer Black

     One thing I’ve found working with a lot of Europeans in my job is that the use of the middle finger to point at something on a page, at a person etc., is used much more innocently and frequently then Americans are used to.  It can be disconcerting until you realize that it’s not intended as an insult at all.  This piece of the complaint (giving the father the finger) could be just a cultural misunderstanding….

  • TonyA_says

    FYI, an elderly woman died here in NY (Long Island) yesterday in an escalator accident. These things could actually be dangerous.

    http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-201_162-57398217/elderly-woman-strangled-by-clothes-caught-in-escalator/

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1818564155 Paul Sung Woo Nam

    @Lindabator:disqus Take for instance a game of telephone. The information changes by the time it reaches the end of the line. Unless the inconsistent facts are outcome determinative, they are minor details. Whether the agents gave the father the finger or not, whether the medical bills were paid or not have no bearing on the question: whether the agents behavior was unacceptable?

    Simply conveying a message accurately from one friend to another is difficult to do. Adding anger, outrage, and a sense of urgency to get some justice makes it all the more difficult.

    Focus on the relevant facts.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1818564155 Paul Sung Woo Nam

    If you look at the title of this post it is clear what remedy is desired. They want to be reimbursed for their ticket and that is all. The fact US Air has continuously denied their requests for reimbursement have lead to this outrage.

    It is strange how you can conclude the aggrieved has no idea of what is enough for him when that is very very clear.

  • Rosered7033

    Agreed – the OP use of the word “pal” (which, IMO, doesn’t begin to carry the antagonistic intensity that “cupcake” does) is sarcastic and has no place in a thoughtful presentation or debate.

  • pauletteb

    What’s clear is that what they want is ridiculous!

  • pauletteb

    One of the “relevant facts” is that she has frequently changed significant details in her story. That’s not an issue of “telephone.”