Saturday, April 11, 2009

Bravo USAir!

If you fly enough, or maybe even if you fly at all, you will accumulate some stories about being wronged or inconvenienced by an airline. Occasionally however, they surprise you.

I recently booked a USAir flight itinerary from Orlando to Philly to Phoenix to Santa Ana. If perfectly executed, this plan would get home moments before my kids fall asleep which is important to me. Obviously, having multiple connections increases the likelihood of a snag.

Upon arriving at the gate for the first flight (moments ago), I noticed that it has been delayed by 15 minutes but I quickly concluded that this probably will not cause a major problem for me. The gate agents announced that "weather in Philly has delayed some take-offs" and we cannot land there until our arrival gate is evacuated. As I was thinking through the implications of this, the agents called me to the counter.

The good people at USAir had reviewed my itinerary, taken note of the risk that my multiple stop itinerary would be disrupted, and booked me on a completely different route through Houston that will get me home 1 hour earlier than the original plan. No cause for a major celebration, right? After all, if they cannot get me to my destination, it is a problem for them as much as it is for me.

Here's the remarkable part. They re-booked me on a Continental flight thereby transferring the revenue from USAir to their competitor. Based on my many attempts to pull off such a maneuver for my own convenience in the past, I can tell you that airlines are extremely reluctant (and that's probably an understatement) to transfer revenue unless it is an absolute last resort. They would usually prefer to pay for your hotel to stay overnight in some connecting city rather that do this. Today, USAir did it for me voluntarily based on what they thought would be best for me.

This is especially remarkable given that, at this point, it looks like I could still probably get into and out of Philly in time to make all downstream connections. I am sitting at the Continental gate now; we'll see how it all turns out but I am quite pleased with USAir for having anticipated a potential problem and taken costly steps to prevent it from coming to fruition.


  1. Jeff Ryer4/11/2009

    I am not so sure that your comments on transferring revenue are accurate. As a past frequent flyer across our great nation, I have had my share of airline induced schedule changes. In past situations when I was flying on a discounter (AirTran) and there was a mechanical or weather related cancellation, they were unable to book me on a Delta flight because AirTran did not have reciprocity with Delta. So i am not certain that any $ actually changes hands in these situations. The plane is going anyway ! I have not been on a plane in 8 months and it is awesome.

  2. So glad you might make it home a little earlier.

  3. Anonymous4/11/2009

    Please let us know how this story ends. I am crossing my fingers for you.

  4. I am sure about the revenue transfer on this one because, as a means of accumulating potentially important intelligence that might help me gain cooperation from an airline down the road, I questioned the gate agent at length about the whole process. He admitted that they generally do not give up the revenue but he had agreed to do it in this instance. By the way, I got to my destination on time.