Brancatelli Bites, US Airways Bites Back

The other day, USA Today ran a scathing article by Joe Brancatelli regarding US Airways’ transatlantic operation. In a nutshell, it said that the airline’s international operation is falling apart. Flights are horrifically late (demonstrated with FlightStats on-time results), the cabin interiors are in terrible shape, crews are short-staffed, and mechanical issues are everywhere. Who did he blame? “Management incompetence.”

Sounds like a nightmarish scenario to me, but I was of course curious to hear what the airline has to say about this. Yesterday, I got my hands on a correspondence sent to some (but not all) employees from Doug Parker about this situation. I’ve posted the full text of that here. What did it say?

Basically, it seems to say that Joe is right. It’s been a bad, bad summer. But it does give some more background about what’s going on. For those who don’t want to read the letter, here’s a summary.

Yes there are bad flight delays, but part of this is due to the congested northeast corridor. Examples of oft-delayed flights from other airlines were posted as well. That’s great, but Philly is in better shape than New York airports, so the delays shouldn’t have been as bad. This couldn’t have been the only reason, and of course, it wasn’t.

It looks like the aggressive growth in flights this summer just overwhelmed the airline. Remember, the Philly airport had threatened to take some of the international gates and give them to other, domestic airlines. US Airways, knowing it wanted to grow into international markets over time, sped up expansion this summer to show that they needed those gates. Well, they apparently overscheduled themselves. That combined with bad weather made for long delays in getting the right plane to the gate. Next year, they’ve promised not to overschedule.

They also admitted to an increase in schedule maintenance without the corresponding increase in alloted time for maintenance. They’ve promised to cut the number of flights next year to allow for more downtime.

And as for those ratty interiors . . . they are in bad shape (at least, the 767s are) due to years of neglect by the old US Airways (pre-America West). They committed to fix those, but the fixes aren’t complete yet. They will be by next year.

I like that they’re admitting there’s a problem and they’ve pinpointed how to fix it, but it’s starting to sound like a broken record. And some of these problems are really inexcusable. If there was an increase in “routine maintenance,” they should have seen it coming. It seems to me that they thought they could get through the summer working their planes too hard just to make a point to the city of Philly that they needed those gates. Now they’ve angered a LOT of people.

I’d like to see a customer apology and potentially a voucher for a discount on future travel. It probably won’t make it up to the people who had travel plans interrupted this summer, but it’s at least a start. Frankly, the apologies have lost a lot of meaning now that we’re two years into this merger. This airline needs to be running a solid operation.

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3 Comments on "Brancatelli Bites, US Airways Bites Back"

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Justin
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I’ve got tickets from STL-PHL-Munich on US Airways for October 1st. Should I be worried about anything? I’ve heard nothing but bad things regarding US Airways, but at $545 for return fare, I’m willing to compromise…

Zach
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As I’ve written before, I had an awful experience with US’ international operation. My PHL-DUB flight (on a decrepit 757 in what I can only assume was a domestic configuration) was delayed 5 horus and overbooked, forcing almost half the flight to be bumped to the next day’s departure. The same thing had apparently happened on the previous day’s flight, and although I don’t think any of them were bumped, the airline informed that a second day’s delay was a possibility. The service itself was horrible. There was ZERO in-flight entertainment (the VCR system was busted). I could go on… Read more »