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US Airways makes case for Passenger Bill of Rights

Over this past weekend, US Airways suffered a major meltdown, when check-in kiosks at its Charlotte hub ceased functioning, resulting in hours-long lines to check in and many travelers missing their flights.

There are reports of similar service breakdowns at the Philadelphia and Boston airports as well, although to a lesser extent.

The cause: the integration of the reservations systems of America West and US Airways in the aftermath of the two carriers’ 2005 merger.

US Airways will undoubtedly come in for criticism for mismanaging the integration. After all, it was done on the airline’s own schedule, by its own technical people, and any glitches should have been foreseen and nipped in the bud. And if there was any doubt as to the project’s success—as there should have been, given the outcome—US Airways could have planned for that, including having extra customer service staff standing by to assist as needed.

US Airways botched the integration, and then the carrier botched the response to the self-inflicted debacle.

According to Associated Press coverage of the incident, US Airways’ spokesman Phil Gee said, “We are aware of some folks missing their flights because the lines are long. No flights are being delayed or canceled. We are waiving the rebooking fee.”

Waiving the rebooking fee is a laughably insufficient response to the problem. And the suggestion that the long lines are the cause of the problem is an obvious attempt to sidestep responsibility.

The US Airways’ website, in a Travel Advisory advises as follows: “Due to heavy passenger volume and long check in lines, you may experience delays at the airport. Please allow additional time for early check-in if you are departing from any of these cities.”

Long lines indeed! But were they caused by unusual passenger volume, as claimed? Or, again, is that simply a face-saving lie?

Travelers are tolerant of mistakes and forgiving of lapses. Stuff happens. But US Airways’ combination of incompetence and dishonesty is over-the-top.

An Airline Passenger Bill of Rights, anyone?

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