Can this trip be saved? A “disappointing and shocking” flight experience

Norm Schoenfeld is no stranger to bad service, particularly bad airline service. As a retired CEO, he’s flown millions of miles, encountering the occasional missed connection, delay, and lost luggage.

But what happened to him and his wife when they flew from San Diego to Lisbon via Philadelphia on US Airways crosses the line, he says.

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Schoenfeld describes it as a “disappointing and shocking” experience. After having read his version of events and US Airways’ response, I’m not sure what to do. Maybe you can help me figure something out.

The first leg of the cs flight was delayed for no apparent reason, and they arrived in Philadelphia almost an hour late. They sprinted across the terminal to make their connection to Portugal, but were told that even though the flight hadn’t left, the doors closed 10 minutes before departure, and no one could re-open them.

The gate agents icily announced that (1) we would have to wait for the next plane to Lisbon, which would be the same flight 24 hours later, (2) neither meal nor room vouchers would be offered, and (3) in any case there were no hotel rooms available anywhere in Philadelphia.

But the Schoenfelds had a cruise to catch, so they asked a US Airways representative to get an alternate routing. The ticket agents reluctantly found a US Airways flight to London Heathrow scheduled for 9:45 p.m. departure that could connect with a Lisbon flight. But it was oversold, and they found themselves stuck in Philadelphia overnight.

On the next day’s flight, two things happened that aggravated an already difficult situation.

The doors neither closed ten minutes before the scheduled departure time, nor at the scheduled departure time. We were told that they were holding the flight for connecting passengers from a delayed flight.

Next, we were told that a match of the passenger list with the checked baggage list indicated that two bags would have to be removed because the matching passengers had not boarded.

The flight finally departed about 25 minutes late at 9 p.m. No US Airways folks could explain why flight #738 could be held for delayed connecting passengers on May 17, but not on May 16.

It got worse. US Airways lost the couple’s luggage for 24 hours on the outbound flight, delivering it to their hotel in Lisbon just in time for the cruise. When they tried to complain, they were told given the cold shoulder.

I’ve never encountered the apathy, rudeness, and failure to accept any concern or responsibility.

I even tried phoning the Customer Relations 800 number in Phoenix that one agent gave me, but the lady there said I’d have to talk with Customer Services (or vice versa) since I was still enroute.

Everyone was anxious to blame the FAA, TSA, or “company policy” for everything.

Schoenfeld sent a brief, polite email to US Airways, outlining the troubles he’d had on his flight to Portugal and asking to be reimbursed for his expenses. In response, US Airways sent him a form letter explaining that the first leg of his flight had been delayed because of air traffic control issues — an event for which the airline isn’t responsible, and for which it couldn’t reimburse him.

It offered two $50 flight vouchers for the delays and misplaced luggage.

He turned down the offer.

“If we were ever foolish enough to fly again with US Airways,” he said, “we would have to have our heads examined.”

As I review Schoenfeld’s case, it looks as if US Airways is both right, and wrong. Right, in the sense that it did everything it had to under its own rules to compensate these passengers. But wrong in the sense that it failed to deliver good customer service.

All of which makes this exceptionally difficult to mediate. If I forward Schoenfeld’s file to US Airways and ask them to review it, I’m almost certain the best they could expect would be an additional apology and a few more vouchers. But the airline wouldn’t cover their expenses, including their hotel room in Lisbon for their missed night, or any other incidentals.

Most troubling to me is the attitude of US Airways staff along the way. Had they treated the Schoenfelds with a little more empathy, I’m not sure if this case would have ever come to my attention.

93 thoughts on “Can this trip be saved? A “disappointing and shocking” flight experience

  1. I remember you having a column about US Airways and one of their executives was talking about how important customer service is, and what they were doing to address it.

    This case certainly is in stark contrast to what I believe was said in the column.

    An airline should be able to effectively deal with issues like this every day.  Regardless of the cause, they happen.

  2. This has happened to me more than once. Got to the connecting gate in time to find the airline had either given away my seat (even though they knew I was connecting), or closed the door early and wouldn’t reopen it. And then lied about the circumstances (I know this for a fact in at least one case, and suspect it in several others).  A couple of these involved me dashing from my first flight and getting to the new gate in time but finding out that my seat had been given away because they figured I wouldn’t make it.  Never with such severe consequences as these people though – I feel for them!

    1. Airlines always close the door 5-15 minutes before the flight is scheduled to leave (assuming that it is on time), more for international flights. Hence them always telling us to be at the gate 15 or however many minutes before the flight is scheduled to depart. Having your seat given away is a different issue that is wrong, but closing the door ahead of time is normal and reasonable for the airline to do.

  3. I find it interesting that airlines almost always respond to issues like this by stating it’s beyond their control, and they CAN’T reimburse you. We all know they CAN, it’s just that they WON’T…

    1. And they WON’T reimburse you because it isn’t their fault for you missing anything – their contract is to get you there safely, which they did. Things happen which cause flights to be late and the like, but they got you there which is what matters.

  4. Something similar happened to a friend on a flight on Emirates out of JFK… He was there, the flight hadn’t left, he was even calling them on his cell phone as he landed on the first flight to let them know he was at the airport on the delayed flight and was on his way to the gate … and he got there BEFORE the scheduled flight time … but they had sold his seat (the flight was totally full) and they shut him out. Plus his luggage was delayed at least two or three days getting to his final destination. Perhaps your taking on this mediation would help turn the tide of dismal customer relations.   

  5. The responses of the USAir personnel is what made this situation worse than it needed to be.  The corporate culture at that company seems to be “what passenger rights?  we create passenger wrongs!”  Do they actually train their employees to be rude and not helpful?  
    As a FF I try to avoid USAir even if it means I give forfeit an upgrade.  I was in Charlotte (hub) on a flight that was late, it arrived 15 minutes before my connection was to depart – I landed in the gate next to the departure.  Would they let me on my plane that was sitting there?  NO
    I simply can’t imagine Southwest or Jetblue personnel taking the attitude the USAir employees have evidenced to their travellers.

  6. I live in Philly and try to avoid flying US Air at all costs.  Also, this is why I: 1, buy travel insurance; 2, give myself more time between connecting flights and 3, have a credit card with a large open line of credit-ugh!

  7. I don’t understand something. If he had a single ticket, a single reservation, with a connecting flight and US Airways was unable to connect him, then I’m very skeptical at the implication that US Airways’ contract of carriage says that the passenger is screwed, and US Airways is not responsible. Even if the connecting flight was on a different carrier (the story isn’t clear on that point), US Airways, as the originating carrier, is responsible for any misconnection, and they would most certainly owe him cash compensation, and most likely a hotel voucher.

    But if they booked two separate reservations, and the first leg was late, they would be out of luck, obviously. But as I read it, that’s not what happened here, so US Airways should’ve certainly been on the hook.

    Something’s missing from this story.

    1. Yes, but US airways got them to their destination in the end, which is what is implied in the contract of carriage. If the delay isn’t their fault (weather, ATC, misconnection due to these causes etc) regardless of if it was 1 or 2 reservations, then they have to get them on another flight to get them to their destination, but aren’t responsible for hotels or any cash compensation.

        1. he said “no apparent reason”. they may well have been told it was an ATC delay, but because the OP didn’t see tons of planes in the sky, this was not apparent, and not a real reason. just spitballing here. 

          rarely will an airline delay you for an hour without SOME explanation, whether you agree with it, believe it, like it, or not.

        2. The Airline used the ATC Delay as the excuse to deny compensation. The Customer was not informed until he filed his complaint.

  8. I don’t think you’ll get much via Customer Relations, but it would be interesting to see if the CEO could square his words with his company’s actions.

  9. I don’t remember buying a ticket flying on US Air but may be already being on US Air once because of rerouting. US Air flight was OK but nothing exceptional. But I never hear a good comment about US Air, may be just because people complaint louder when they aren’t satisfied.
    But in this case US Air must give the Schoenfelds voucher for meal and accommodation because the late arrival of incoming flight operated by USAir .
    Delta/Northwest and American Airlines provided me the vouchers for room and meals when the incoming flight of a connection were late because of their fault, and they did it with courtesy and apology.
    Other points to be considered in today traveling with bizarre weather, TSA screening and service cuts by the airlines are having more than 2 hours for connection and planning 48 hours arriving to the port of sailing before a cruise.

    1. sorry Dang, no meal or hotel voucher “must” be given when the delay is due to Air Traffic Control. that is NOT THEIR FAULT.

        1. not sure who you mean by the writer, so:

          in Chris’s post: “In response, US Airways sent him a form letter explaining that the first
          leg of his flight had been delayed because of air traffic control
          issues — an event for which the airline isn’t responsible, and for which
          it couldn’t reimburse him.”

          the OP didn’t say it, but that’s the reason that was given for the delay.

          and Dang said it when he wrote: “But in this case US Air must give the Schoenfelds voucher for meal
          and accommodation because the late arrival of incoming flight operated
          by USAir .”  which, according to every single US airlines contract of carriage, they do not.

  10. You should mediate but not with an American perspective as you usually do.

    1. “Right, in the sense that it did everything it had to under its own rules to compensate these passengers.”. Their rules are not relevant in this case.

    2. The relevant rules are EU 261. Article 2c clearly applies.

    3. Your choice do as you usually do, and lose, you’ve already set up losing by your quote in 1. Or go with EU261 and at least have a chance of winning.

    Richard from Europe.

    1. EU261 only applies to flight operated by European carriers (US Airways is not an European carrier) or to flights leaving an EU Airport (Philadelphia is not an airport in the EU).
      So EU261 does not apply in this case. For incident where there is a clear legal or contractual issue in your favor, then argue that way. but if not, it just makes it easier for the airline to deny you compensation.

      1. Wrong Fred – its any carrier issued a license to operate in the EU – and you need a license in order to land there – so USAirways has a license. . .

        The issue is stretching the definition of denied boarding to the facts here – I would clearly claim this was a case of denied boarding – they checked in and arrived on time at their origination point for an international journey.  USAir denied them boarding in Philadelphia while the aircraft was still at the gate prior to departure time. 

        1. You can argue that all you want but EU261 does NOT apply to non-EU carriers flying TO the EU as in this case. 

        2. Joe–The EU rules clearly state that the flight either must be on an EU-based carrier, OR any carrier ORIGINATING from the EU.  The EU has no authority regulating non-EU carriers outside of the EU.

  11. Sadly, this is a perfect example of US Airways’ apparent contempt for customers. While they may believe they are right in following policy to the letter of the law, they fail to realize that it will likely cost them much more in lost business from this customer and others who read of this incident than it would have cost to accommodate the customer and bend the rules.

    The first thing I would do is try to look back to the date of the missed connection and see if there is any evidence of ATC delays on that date. Somewhere I think there is an archive of weather and ATC delays in effect on a given day. I do NOT automatically believe US when they say that a delay is due to weather or ATC because they have been known to use that as an excuse to wiggle out of making good for customers. We have helped in cases where US first said the delays were due to ATC and it turned out NOT to be the case. For future reference anyone with a smartphone should check immediately if given ATC as an excuse-delay programs are always posted there.

    The fact that they buttoned up the original flight to LIS on the day of travel, and that they held the flight the following day for connecting travelers just adds insult to injury. US is as inconsistent as it is uncaring, so knowing that they COULD have held the flight for connecting customers, I’d say this case should go to the customer. Also remember that if there were truly an ATC delay program in place ALL inbound flights would be affected, not just the flight this customer was on. I sincerely DOUBT that this was the ONLY flight with passengers connecting to Lisbon that day…..

  12. The biggest question for me is, Why the difference between not reopening the doors for the couple on the first flight but doing so for folks the next day, even to the point of delaying departure? The rest, except for the lousy customer service by US Air staff, is pretty much following the rules. For what it’s worth, I never go on a flight over the ocean or with tight connections without travel insurance. This guy, as a veteran traveler, should have done that. To its credit, the couple scheduled their arrival in the cruise-departure city a day in advance of the departure. That takes a bit of the stress out of the equation and should be followed by all cruisers.

  13. If you mediated the case what would the outcome be?  Whats the best case here?  Return of his out of pocket hotel expenses?  I thought there was not a hotel to be found?   Did they sleep in the airport then?

    The more interesting thing would be to uncover the lie about the delayed flight.  Airlines ALWAYS claim first weather then ATC delays – its simple enough thing to do to undercover the reason for the delay – US keeps records – get them. 

    EU261 applies here – use it.

    1. Just because you want EU261 to apply doesn’t make it so.  It doesn’t apply to a non-EU carrier (like US Airways) flying TO the EU (like from Philadelphia to Lisbon). 

  14. Ah, UScareways, one of the worst airlines in the industry. I doubt you’ll get blood from this stone, Mr. Elliott, but I think these folks are due something. As far as holding the plane one day and not another, it may have to do with the number of connecting PAX who are inconvenieced. I don’t fault the airline there since risk-benefit pulls some weight, but if the plane was STILL there on the first day, they could’ve easily opened the door. Unless of course, UScrapways gave away their seats and just wanted to cite some ridiculous policy rather than show their greed… 

  15. Chris:  I think your last paragraph says it all! Had the airline staff acted as they would have wanted others to act, the whole situation would be have ended up differently and as you said, not with you.

  16. His experiences were actually not that unusual. As a former CEO, he probably isn’t used to being treated as one of the crowd, but that’s what he got on US Airways. A tight connection in Philadelphia was blown because of an hour-long air traffic delay in San Diego. There’s nothing that US Airways can give this guy that will make him happy and he said he’s never flying US Airways again, so this story is over.

  17. Rankled me a bit that he begins by telling you that he’s flown “millions of miles” and is a “retired CEO.” Blow hards screaming at counter staff always yell about how important they are and how many miles they’ve flown. I’m not saying this guy doesn’t have a legitimate gripe, it’s just the DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM? and I’M SUPER GOLDEN ELITE attitude that amps up the stress level for everybody and make staff feel like they are dealing with a real jerk.

  18. You are  WRONG.

    It applies to all “Community carriers” including American Companies that ENTER or LEAVE an EU State (see paragraph 6).

    “The protection accorded to passengers departing from
    an airport located in a Member State should be extended
    to those leaving an airport located in a third country for
    one situated in a Member State, when a Community
    carrier operates the flight.”

    I do believe that Philadelphia is covered by the above. Don’t you?


    A community carrier is defined by paragraph 2c (see below since obvious you couldn’t be bothered to read the reference I furnished despite the fact that it was in English.

    All carriers that enter the EU MUST have a valid operating license granted by an EU state. IS THAT TO HARD TO UNDERSTAND. It seems to be for a number of people here, including Chris!

    ‘Community carrier’ means an air carrier with a valid operating
    licence granted by a Member State in accordance with
    the provisions of Council Regulation (EEC) No 2407/92 of
    23 July 1992 on licensing of air carriers (1);

    Je pourrais aussi l’écrire en français, s’il y a des gens qui trouvent l’anglais troublant.

    It’s not the first time I’ve written this. People on this forum seem to have a difficult time understanding paragraphs 6 & 2c, I wonder why?

    1. According to this page (part of the EC website), American airlines are not Community carriers. 

      The last 2 sentences are the pertinent ones: “Contrast his situation with that of Tina who is travelling from the same airport to Ireland with an American airline which is not a Community carrier.  She does not have rights under the Regulation.””Are there limits on where and when the Regulation provides protection for me as an airline passenger?The Regulation (Article 3.1) applies to all passengers departing from an airport in a Member State and to all passengers departing from an airport in a country outside the EU to an airport in the EU where the operating air carrier is a Community air carrier. ExampleThomas is travelling to Ireland with an Aer Lingus flight from Newark Airport in the USA. He has just learned that his flight has been cancelled. He has rights under the Regulation. Contrast his situation with that of Tina who is travelling from the same airport to Ireland with an American airline which is not a Community carrier.  She does not have rights under the Regulation.”

  19. i know i’ll be in the minority here, and  big fan of USAirways, but…NO NO NO.  their 1 hour delay caused them to miss a connection by 10 minutes or less? that means they did NOT leave enough time for a valid connection. how did they make the reservation? were these 2 separate itineraries that they pieced together? that would explain why USAirways wouldn’t have known about any delayed connecting passengers. they’re not listed as inbound connections on the manifest. 
    but even if this was a whole itinerary scheduling, it still doesn’t make sense for a 1-hr connection time.  if USAirways made this reservation, then yes there are some answers due, *maybe* some reimbursement.

    did they get their luggage in 24 hours? then no, they don’t get additional compensation for that, either. a refund of the bag fee would be nice, but not necessary (though i do believe that should be SOP when a checked-bag-fee airline fails to produce the luggage on the checked flight…however, that is not the current case).

    bottom line, they had a crummy experience because of ATC delays (yes, they are VERY real) and because employees followed rules. many times people claim the staff are “rude” or “uncaring” because they’re not getting what they want from them, not because the employee was actually rude (i see it daily). not everything goes your way. do NOT mediate.

    1. I agree… if you are making an international connection, and a puny 1 hour delay causes you to miss your flight… well, I wouldn’t expect them to hold the door for me either.  It’s a legal connection, but with all his travel experience he should have known it was a risky choice.

      Also, it’s an international flight; this experienced world traveler should know that the door closes well before departure.  On DOMESTIC flights that door gets shut 10 minutes before departure, I believe it’s 20 minutes for international.

      USAir should refund his luggage fee, but no more.

    2. I checked the US Airways schedules for this month for itineraries from PHX to LIS via PHL. There is one connection listed that allows only 58 minutes for change of plane in PHL. If the airline lists that combination of flights as a legitimate connection, then it should be their responsibility to provide meals and hotel to passengers who cannot make the connection.

      1. If everything goes perfectly, 58 minutes is long enough to make this flight.  As it turned out, everything did not go perfectly for reasons outside of USAir’s control.  Just because a connection can be booked doesn’t mean there is any “wiggle room.”

      2. i would agree with you had this not been determined to be an ATC delay. if anyone should pay the OP, it should be the FAA.

    3. “they did NOT leave enough time for a valid connection”
      Go to and search for flights from SAN to LIS (just about any date) and the “best match” will consistently involve a 61 minute connection in PHL.

      If that’s not a “valid connection”, then why is it the “best match” according to UsAirway’s own website?

      Of course, it’s easier to just knee-jerk blame the customer in every situation without giving it a second thought.

      1. like i said, if you bothered to read further: “if USAirways made this reservation, then yes there are some answers due, *maybe* some reimbursement.”
        it wasn’t until after i posted that it was shown to have been a 1-hr, 11-minute connection, and USAir believes 1-hr, 10-mins is valid for international itineraries.  as sirwired says, just because it’s there doesn’t mean it’s a smart idea.

        bottom line, however, is that it was determined to be an ATC delay, which USAir has ZERO control over.

        1. Your claims about the connection times are demonstrably false.  Please don’t take my word for it: go to and verify for yourself that the connection was 61 minutes, exactly as I wrote.  Furthermore, go to and verify that this itinerary consistently meets their “best match” seal of approval.  And try a different origin city (e.g. MHT) and verify for yourself that even a *50* minute connection in PHL meets US Airway’s seal of approval for international flights.
          BTW, an ATC delay may not technically be USAirway’s responsibility, but that can’t excuse or explain (a) offering the unrealistic itinerary (so prominently) in the first place (b) departing San Diego 4 minutes late (c) showing zero flexibility to allow the OPs’ to board BEFORE departure time — especially if they weren’t willing to re-route them for another 24 hrs and (d) hiding behind self-evidently false explanations (given that the same flight was held for connecting passengers the next day).

          1. The actual time between flights is not a matter of opinion.  US Airways minimum connection time, and the way they present these aggressive connections on their website is not a matter of opinion.  Your claims about these matters notwithstanding.

            Your earlier claim that even 70 minutes is too close is certainly a valid opinion.  What’s telling is that after bashing the OP, you still haven’t acknowledged that there’s anything improper for the airline to promote connections as short as 50 minutes with its “best match” seal of approval.

            You hide behind a buried quasi-disclaimer (“*maybe* some reimbursement”).  And at the same time you emphatically disavow that same quasi-disclaimer (“no meal or hotel voucher “must” be given when the delay is due to Air Traffic Control. that is NOT THEIR FAULT.”)  And you don’t pause to consider that the ATC delay does not appear to explain 100% of the actual delay or to consider that the OP’s were (allegedly) at the gate before the scheduled departure time.

            BTW, US Airways could have potentially kept the OP’s stranded in PHL for many days or even weeks (consider the possibility that flights doesn’t necessarily operate every day; the upcoming flights could be full; other stranded passengers could have been ahead of the OP’s).  And US Airways could still argue that they were just following their contract of carriage and don’t owe a cent.  I wonder if a judge would actually buy the argument.

          2. i don’t care whether they were 61 or 71 or 51 minutes (i was basing my belief of times on another poster’s findings). my point is that the connection length is NOT good enough–and i even stated that if these are USAir’s proposed times, then they are in the wrong and should provide some answers for that.

            reading comprehension really isn’t that hard.

          3. i don’t care whether they were 61 or 71 or 51 minutes

            Except I suppose when you cared enough to reply to the very post where I first stated it was 61 minutes and contradicted that.  And now you make condescending remarks about reading comprehension.

            Anyway, thank you for finally acknowledging (without maybe’s and equivocation and passenger bashing) that US Airways is wrong to propose these connections.

          4. UM, I DID THAT IN THE VERY 1ST POST.  Yes, I AM talking about reading comprehension when that most basic of facts was completely lost on you throughout multiple replies. sheesh.

          5. Huh?  The post were you wrote:

            “…NO NO NO.” ???  

            “…they [i.e. the OP’s] did NOT leave enough time for a valid connection” ???

            “…do NOT mediate.” ???

            And you think those direct quotes are not fair to cite because you also wrote: “.. there are some answers due, *maybe* some reimbursement.”???

            And [attn: reading comprehension police] you think THAT post is an example of you acknowledging US Airways is wrong without any maybe’s, equivocation, or passenger bashing?

          6. Please note that legal connecting time vary from carrier to carrier, airport to airport and if you are using two or more carriers in on PNR, times vary on that, too.

            You can not piecemeal your advance purchase, nonrefundable ticket.  Even I can’t do that as the airline’s marry the segments and the class of service might be available for pricing if you book segment to segment, but you will get UC message and can’t price or ticket.  With refundable fares in coach, biz and first you can segment select.  So you are stuck with what the carrier shows you on the screen, IF they show you all their flight, which I found not to be the case.  Only in the GDS can I find all flights.  For this OP, he had no choice if he was flying USAIR.  I see this all the time now that the segments are married.  DEN with UA is equally bad.  It is so annoying as you know the tight connecting times just are not good if there is any delay what so ever even with the padding they have allowed with pulling away from the gate and waiting for takeoff.

  20. Totally off topic, but maybe someone can help. DISQUS will not allow me to register my username “Raven.” Does someone else here use that name or is DISQUS some kind of global thing? 

    1. I should mention I’ve never seen anyone here use it and I’ve been here for years…but hey, worth asking.

      1. The registered username is “global” – for the whole Disqus site which is used by many blogs – and is not specific to this one.  So someone else must have registered that for use elsewhere on Disqus.

  21. So, he gave what appears to be slightly over an hour to make a connection to an international flight?  That’s just a dumb, dumb, dumb thing to do, especially since getting re-accommodated on a later flight these days can be a challenge with all the schedule reductions and such.  At least he had the foresight to plan an extra day in Lisbon before his cruise, or this could have been an even bigger disaster.

    1. FYI:There is only one flight from SAN to PHL to connect to LIS all on US and it is a hour and 11 minute connection.  A legal connection on US to US in PHL from a domestic flight to an international flight is one hour and 10 minutes.  Now what is legal isn’t always reasonable. 

  22. They will not hold a flight for 1 or 2 passengers. When multiple passengers are trying to connect from a delayed flight they will usually wait for them if they are not already delayed themselves. The waiting flight will get a call as to how many passengers are late and when they will arrive.   

    1. “They will not hold a flight for 1 or 2 passengers.”

      We’ve seen plenty of stories where connecting flights are held for single individuals.

      But these decisions are made on a whim, as this story shows.

  23. I’ve never understood this phenomenon myself.  Several times I have been on a late arriving connection and ran to the gate only to find their either closed the plane early, given away my seat and I am now stuck in a back middle, or given away my seat and there are no more and I have to wait for the next flight.  Yet I have also been on a plane several times when they held the plane and said they were waiting for late arriving connections. Why do they not hold it for me when I am arriving late?  It really stinks. 
    I am also a 100,000 mile flyer in a frequent flyer program, so you think they would hold the plane, but alas no.  Nor do I expect them to.  It’s not listed in the frequent flyer benefits, so it’s not something they should be doing.  Now I do think they should extend this courtesy to all passengers.  If they can see that a passenger is on an aircraft that is arriving late, they should hold the plane a reasonable amount of time or proactively re-book them if it looks like they will be there more than 10 minutes or so after the scheduled departure.  That’s just my opinion, I don’t know if it’s possible.
    As far as the passengers in this case, I think the customer service was atrocious and things could have been handled differently.  However, if the delay was due to Air Traffic Control, then they are due no compensation as that was outside of the airlines control.

    1. “Several times I have been on a late arriving connection and ran to the gate only to find their either closed the plane early, given away my seat and I am now stuck in a back middle, or given away my seat and there are no more and I have to wait for the next flight.  Yet I have also been on a plane several times when they held the plane and said they were waiting for late arriving connections. Why do they not hold it for me when I am arriving late?”

      My guess is they’ll hold the plane if a “considerable” number of passengers will be delayed from another flight, especially if they’re all within the same carrier. It’s an arguably hard choice balancing between the needs of the many with the needs of the few.

      1. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few — except when the few will end up costing the airline real money. 

        It is my guess that the times the plane is held it is because of a situation that the airline cannot argue its way out of and avoid paying for meanls, rooms, etc. because there are no alternate means to get the passengers to their destinations.  Or the airline is able to sell the seats to standby passengers for more than the bumped passenger paid.

  24. I agree that you’re involvment probably wont get much more then some vouchers.  But, I think it’s good to put pressure on the airlines when they are inflexible and then unempathetic. 

    I know it’s not uncommon to hold a flight when there are people making a late connection, which makes me think that they used the opportunity to put someone else on the flight.  I know they know when people are on a delayed connection and should make a reasonable effort to accomodate, especially when there is only 1 flight a day.

  25. Once the doors are closed, the airlines cannot reopen, under FAA rules, which is why if they KNOW they have a lot of people on one flight connecting with that flight, they may decide to hold the flight.  But if it is only 1-2 passengers, they generally do not.   

    1. I did see them re-open a door once.  I was not aware it was against the rules. 
      I was on a Delta flight connecting in Detroit and my first flight was delayed over an hour.  I ran to the gate as soon as I got off my first flight and I was too late, the door was already closed.  The gate agent told me that they could not re-open the door.  Then another guy showed up who was also on my original flight as well, he told the agent that he was Delta Diamond and that he was on a paid First Class ticket.  The agent walked us both down the jet bridge, and after some hand signals with the crew on the plane, re-opened the door and let us both on.

  26. While it’s all aggravating, the bottom line is they did catch their cruise. And I think it’s ridiculous to allow only an hour for a connection to an overseas flight. I don’t even like to allow short layovers for domestic flights, but I do make exceptions. However, I would never allow only an hour to connect for an overseas flight. I do think US Airways should still reimburse them for the night in Philadelphia plus meals. I thought that was in the contract of carriage?

  27. I don’t believe it’s against FAA rules to reopen the doors–it’s up to the airline.  I’m betting that US gave away their seats since they were “no-shows”, which for international flights I believe is 30 minutes before flight time.  It would have been complicated anyway if they had checked luggage, since the bags wouldn’t have caught up with them.

    And, in US’s support, I have to say it isn’t at all unusual to have ATC delays at PHL in the evening–US schedules many of their flights to connect to their transatlantic flights, and delays are commonplace, and holding planes at their origins is one way to reduce the ATC load….but since US knows this, they should hold flights for people (of course, to them it’s important how much you’ve paid and what your status is).  Ultimately, while they didn’t have to do anything, perhaps US should have?

    1. I was on a US flight from Venice to Las Vegas via Philly, I had a problem.  There was a mechanical on the plane from VCE, a mechanical on a flight from London and another from Europe, all to arrive in Philadelphia at the same time.  We all missed our connections, and every other connection that night.  The staff in PHL were surprisingly very nice and professional dealing with very grumpy passengers.  We were all put up in hotels and given food vouchers in VCE and PHL.  (We actually ended up crashing a wedding at the hotel and were all given cake by the Bride and Groom for our troubles!).  Now, US did admit to a mechanical delay but were treated well.  The cabin crew on the delayed flight even apologized and thanked us for being respectful of them. 

      Compare my US experience to Northwest;  Northwest did a terrible job years ago and caused an entire plane to miss their connections in Minneapolis due to weather and we received nothing and had to sleep in the airport because the staff claimed there were no hotel rooms left in the entire Twin Cities area.  NW sent planes onward with less than 10 people on some instead of holding them for our plane.  NW truly could not care less about any of us. 

      As to this issue, this was too short a connection but apparently legal and US got them there eventually.  I voted to mediate because they should have held the plane and reported the actual reason for the delay.  I wonder if Mr. Schoenfeld asked the FA to report his late arrival to the ongoing plane.  I have heard that it is possible to do so.

  28. I’m also curious to know why they would hold a flight for some passengers, but not for others.  I do not understand how airlines makes the distinction.  I was once connecting through DTW and had to go from the A concourse to the C concourse.  The connections was a little tight but we were on time.  At least until we sat at the gate for an excessive amount of time because there was no one there to let us off…then the gate agent came on and insisted on making announcement about connecting flights before letting us off.  Then we asked her to call our gate and tell them we were on our way and she refused because “we don’t do that”.  We got to our gate and of course they had closed the door to the jetbridge – but we could clearly see the plane door WAS STILL OPEN and they would not let us board.  We had to spend the night. 

  29. I remember waiting for my connecting flight in ATL and
    witnessed how an agent at the next gate closed door a little early and before
    all the connecting passengers could make to the gate on oversold flight so she
    wouldn’t have to deal with finding volunteers or denied boarding issues. I
    think it was Delta. And the last time I flown on US Airways three years ago I
    experienced a problem with an entertainment system on A330 and politely asked a
    flight attendant if there is something she could do to correct an error. In
    response she went into a rant how she doesn’t care and she only had to do three
    more flights before she retired


  30. I think the airline should have been much nicer toward these passengers and handled the situation much better than they did.  The overall attiude of everyone the passengers dealt with comes accross as one of completely uncaring and almost as if the airline was annoyed that the passenger was having issues.  Even so, I think the airline doesn’t really owe them anything more since they did get to their destinaiton with their luggage eventually.

    My suggestion is to avoid this airline since we seem to see way too many bad reports about how this airline handles things.

    No airline has ever held a flight for me past their door close time.  I have had various levels of frequent flyer status on several different airlines and it has never made any difference.  Fortunately I have not had a tight enough connection lately that would have required them holding a flight so maybe they might do so now since many airlines seem to do that more than in the past.

  31. I wonder if the reason the gate agents wouldn’t re-open the aircraft door was because the OP’s seats were already given away to other passengers.  

    [I’ve personally seen aircraft doors re-opened on a couple of occasions to accommodate a last minute passenger.  Including once when I was the last minute passenger].

    I’m not sure there’s any good way to find out for sure short of pursuing a small claims case and asking in discovery whether the Schoenfelds’ seats were occupied on their scheduled flight.

  32. On one hand, the OP was smart to allow an extra day in Libson.

    On the other hand, I don’t understand why the OP selected an itinerary with an hour layover especially if he has flown millions of miles.  Personally, three hour is my minimum to connect with an international flight.  Also, I make sure that there are later flight(s) in the day in case I don’t make my flights.

    To select a flight with an hour layover is cutting it too short especially since US only has one flight a day to Lisbon.  If the OP wanted to fly US, he could have flown through PHX (the price is the same as his itinerary) and had a 2-hour layover in PHL instead of one hour…yes, there is another flight which cause additional problems but at least you have two hours instead of one hour.

    Another option, to fly from SAN to LAX the night before, the OP could had a 6-hr layover in PHL on US…yes, there will be the extra cost but it will give me a piece of mind.  In addition to US, there 18 other airlines that have flights from LAX to LIS.

    I would have purchased travel insurance since it was an international itinerary. 

    1. Agree with your points, except that when you enter an additional flight into the equation, you essentially double your chances for something to go wrong.  I don’t think the 1 hr. gain is worth the chance.  Leave the night before if that’s the only way you can get more than @ 60 mins. between flights.

    2. I don’t understand why the OP selected an itinerary with an hour layover—I don’t understand all the criticism here of the OP’s flight choices without any criticism of USAirways for offering this itinerary on its own website as its “best match” for this route.Does anyone really believe it’s reasonable for USAirways to: (a) sell this itinerary as it’s best match for this route and (b) not hold the connecting passengers seats for the full 61 minutes of connection time and (c) not offer the OPs either a re-routing or expense reimbursement for 24 hours?

      1. Micheal – welcome to AZ Road Warrior’s world.  He professes he flies over 100,000 miles a year but he’s always posting on here rather than traveling.  He always has a better way, he has never missed a connecting flight, even in emergencies (such as the death of a loved one) he’s been prepared because he’s able to anticipate every single travel snag that comes his way, if they do come because to hear him tell it every time he travels, his planning has been so flawless nothing EVER goes wrong.  

        This guy is Superman when it comes to travel and has even tried to insinuate in his postings that it’s HIS postings that are more important than even Chris’s.  I recall one posting of his last week where he stated, “I’ve been posting on this blog for years about this…” I had to read it several times to make sure it wasn’t Chris.AZ Road Warrior (and I say this only because that’s his login, not because he actually is) will post many, many times a day about how HE would have done it better, faster, more efficiently, etc.  Given his love of Chris’s column, I don’t know where he has time to travel.

        (Stepping off my soapbox and apologizing to Chris.  Sometimes, it just gets to be too much.)

  33. Both parties are at fault – the experienced flier for leaving an hour between connecting flights to board an overseas flight, and US for providing extremely poor customer service. If you mediate, Chris, it should be in the light of
    US providing consistent application of rules and good customer service.

  34. ATC came up only as an after-thought excuse…never mentioned at the airport originally.  Take them to Small Claims Court…99.99% chance they won’t bother to send anybody (who will they send in SAN….the Station Manager?)…win by default and then collect.  Plus, IF it was really ATC, then they will have to present that documentation as evidence….won’t be worth the investigative time and lost employee productivity, so they will settle out of court once you serve notice papers to General Counsel in PHX.

    1. You have to go to go to where USAIR’s headquarters are to file a small claims, and it isn’t in SAN. BTW, if you win in small claims, you have to get them to pay and the courts are of little help with this.  Been there.

      1. Not necessarily.  There are three places where you can sue a corporation, the defendant’s headquarters, the defendant’s main operations, and where the transaction took place.

        I once sued a corporation in Santa Clara county, State of California, because the transaction was conducted via Paypal which is located in Santa Clara County.  And about 5 miles from my office making it particularly convenient for me.

        1. Several years ago I was thinking of taking Hawaiian Airlines to small claims court.  I was told by our county judical department that I had to file in Hawaii where their corporate offices are located even though the ticket was purchased in CA and they had a sales office at SFO.  This is where I based my comment from.  I have heard others have been told the same. 

  35. US Airways has a history of bad service (remember the baggage handlers massively calling in sick on a Christmas Day?).  This is why US Airways has degraded from an international airline to an almost regional carrier.  They still believe “exceptional customer service” is exemplified by no longer charging $2 for an in-flight, non-alcoholic beverage.  This carrier is simply waiting to be bought out by a larger airline.  I can’t wait for them to go away.

  36. Just wanted to point out an interesting coincidence: the day before the OP’s travelled (May 15), by my count 18 US Airways flights that were scheduled to arrive at PHL between 6:50pm and 7:45pm were either cancelled or delayed beyond the departure of the PHL->LIS flight at 8:35pm (source:

    So there must have been plenty of LIS passengers stranded in PHL from the day before.  Which would be consistent with the hypothesis that the OP’s were turned away at the gate not because of any strict policy about not re-opening the doors within 10 minutes of departure but because their seats were given away to other unhappy passengers who were stranded the previous day.

  37. Since the entire journey was on US Airways, it was US Airways’ responsibility to find them a hotel due to lost connection.

  38. I don’t think that you should mediate because everyone should agree with this person’s conclusion: never ever fly US Airways, among all these horrible American airlines, they are the worst.

  39. I had almost the same thing happen to me on US Airways in Philly.  My flight into Philly was delayed due to fog in Philly, we arrived at the gate for our 2nd flight to Mexico right on time, but they had closed to gate early.  Behind us turned up 30 more people for the same flight, all late getting in from different airports.  After 15 minutes the plane moved 10 feet from the gate and sat there for another 30 minutes, but we were not allowed to board.  Every one was told a different story.  US Airways staff in Philly could not have been more rude or unhelpful!!!!!!  Got a very generic reply from airline when I complained.

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