adrian_turtle: (Dracomir)
I tried to use USAirways Shuttle this weekend. My plan was to fly from Boston to DC Friday morning, and back to Boston Sunday evening. There was bad weather in Boston Friday, but my plane was supposed to leave before it turned really nasty. I felt very lucky not to be on either of the earlier flights that were cancelled altogether, but I was puzzled that they were cancelling flights when it was clear and dry in DC, and barely starting to drizzle in Boston. The clerk made apologetic announcements, saying people with tickets for the cancelled flights would need to get new tickets for other flights, and it would take a while because they had a new reservations computer that was giving them some problems (they were also quite obviously understaffed, with 1 clerk trying to deal with 4-500 passengers.) When I finally made it to DC, there were even more confused and unhappy passengers there. I was only concerned as a spectator, and noticing that they created long lines for the restrooms.

Sunday afternoon was clear and dry, and traffic was cooperative. I had no trouble getting to the airport (DCA), but the line to check in and get my boarding pass took 2 hours. The gates where USAirways Shuttle planes come and go were mobbed again, and there was no posted information about any flights. Every so often, someone would announce something over the PA system. (It was usually very hard for me to understand it, between the static and the background noise. I worry that my hearing is failing, because I so often have trouble understanding things over background noise.) "Flight 2040, the delayed 3:45 flight to Boston, has a gate change. It is moving from gate 43 to gate 39." There would be no indication of how long flight 2040 was delayed. This announcement was made after 5pm. Along with, "Flight 2042, the delayed 4:45 flight to Boston, has a gate change. It is moving from gate 39 to gate 45." From another speaker, at very close to the same time, "Flight 2044, the delayed 5:45 flight to Boston, has a gate change. It is moving from gate 41 to gate 44." And sometimes, "The delayed flight [#] to Bermuda has a gate change, it will be boarding at gate 43 instead of gate mumble mumble. As this is an international flight, we remind you that passengers without passports will not be permitted to re-enter the US." Honestly, I would prefer to know when some of these delayed flights would be leaving, so I could go wait in the restroom line without worrying about missing my boarding call.

I called Redbird, who determined that the problem was not bad weather, anywhere on the east coast. She also looked up flight information on the USAirways website, and found estimated departure times the ticket agents were not announcing. The information wasn't perfect, but it was somewhat useful and comforting. (A few minutes on the phone with Redbird was *very* comforting, and likely would have been even if she hadn't been saying anything useful.) We finally boarded the plane, and there was some fussing about as they put standby passengers into every seat while I tried to finish _Fortunate Fall_. I was reading it on my Palm, which is an electronic device that has to be turned off during taxi, takeoff, and landing. Unfortunately, the flight attendants told us to turn off all electronic devices in the middle of the desuppression scene. Then the plane pulled away from the gate and sat there poised and ready for takeoff, for 90 minutes. The captain announced that he didn't know why it was taking so long to get permission. (It was incredibly frustrating. I came very close to hiding the Palm inside a magazine and peeking to see what happened next...I wasn't afraid of crashing the plane, but I was very afraid of a flight attendant taking my Palm away from me, and a little afraid of the plane not taking off while they embarked on a TSA administrative nightmare, and it just wouldn't be worth it.) The captain said he didn't know why flights leaving DCA were delayed. He had heard flights coming in there were delayed because of gate congestion problems. Coming in towards Boston at 9pm, the captain asked passengers to appreciate the hard work of the crew, who had been on duty since 6am, and not had a break for the last 9 hours, and who had left DCA so quickly as soon as we had permission. The captain said another 30 seconds delay would have meant being stuck there overnight, because the window closed that quickly.

Of course we clapped for the crew, when the captain gave that little speech, and there were handshakes and thanks as people left the plane. I'm not angry at the crew of the airplane. I'm still angry, though. I'm not sure if I should be aiming my anger at USAirways, or DCA, or some other target. It bothers me that there was so little ability to respond to problems, or even to acknowledge that problems existed and keep people informed of changes in scheduling.

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adrian_turtle

March 2016

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