“I would really appreciate it if I could get my tickets reimbursed”

Jennifer Shin is mad at US Airways — so mad that she’s created a Facebook page urging others to boycott the airline and launched a social media campaign to bring attention to her cause. Actually, it’s her father’s cause.

Late last year she contacted me asking for help. I gave her documentation a quick look and sent her a list of executive contacts. But when US Airways turned down her father’s request, she asked me to mediate the case.

And that’s where I could use a little help.

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Last fall, her father, Han Gon Shin, was flying from Barcelona to Philadelphia with his wife.

We were about to board the plane and were already halfway down the escalator when I heard a loud uproar. I look behind to see what was going on when another employee who scanned my ticket, gave me the finger to come back up to see her.

Confused, I ask how she expected me to come up when the escalator was going down, yet, she ignored my comment and demanded me to come up.

“Come up NOW! UP, UP, UP! NOW!”

I felt as if I was some suspect getting interrogated by an authority figure. I came up the down going escalator, tripped forward, and hurt my knee.

That’s something of an understatement. It was a deep gash that needed to be treated by a doctor, and the Shins missed their flight home.

Here’s a photo of the injury. If you are squeamish, you might want to skip it.

Shin continues,

The manager not once did she apologize. What do you expect me to do? Had I not followed the directions of an airport authority, I would’ve been arrested.

In addition, had I not gone UP on a DOWN going escalator following the direction, this would’ve not happened.

It’s unclear why the US Airways staff insisted the Shins make a U-turn on an escalator. Maybe they’d failed to scan one of their boarding passes and needed to check them again. At any rate, says Shin, the airline staff was less than sympathetic. They didn’t apologize. And then they refused to offer the couple any consideration on their return flights. (Given the discomfort of his injury, Shin thought an upgrade to business class would have been appropriate.)

To add insult to injury, US Airways lost his luggage for five days.

“This was definitely a painful experience for me, and I would really appreciate it if I could get my tickets reimbursed,” he says.

Shin took up her father’s cause after US Airways turned down his request for a refund. It offered two $200 vouchers for the trouble, which wasn’t enough. She tried posting her experience to the US Airways Facebook page, but the company quickly deleted her posts. That’s when she started her campaign encouraging others to boycott US Airways and contacted me.

“Help me get the word out,” she asked me. “Because this is absolutely ridiculous.”

I have a few issues with this one. First, I think the refund and the incident are two separate issues. US Airways was responsible for getting the Shins from Barcelona to Philadelphia, in the class of service they paid for. And it did.

Yes, it would have been a nice gesture to upgrade them to business class. But it didn’t have to.

The second incident is the ticket scan problem. If it happened the way Shin described it — and I don’t have access to US Airways’ incident report — then the airlines staff in Barcelona really screwed up. I mean, asking a passenger to walk up the wrong way on an escalator? That’s just stupid.

When Shin tripped, fell and hurt himself, the correct procedure would have been to call paramedics, get his injuries treated, and rebook him on the next flight at no additional expense.

Employees are often trained to not apologize because it can be considered an admission of liability, which could be problematic if there’s a lawsuit. I want to believe the US Airways staff in Barcelona didn’t apologize because of their training, and not because they didn’t feel bad about what happened.

I don’t know if there’s anything I can do with this case. I’m not convinced that a full refund is in order. It appears Shin’s medical expenses and the rebooking were covered by US Airways. The vouchers were a nice gesture. If he wanted additional compensation, he would have to file a claim with the airline’s insurance company.

I’m also a little troubled by some of the differences between Shin’s account on his Facebook page, and the one presented to me by his daughter. Although the details match up, the tone of the first account is far more confrontational, which leads me to believe Shin’s initial approach may have been counter-productive, in terms of his attitude.

I certainly don’t mind helping to get the word out about this incident, but I’m just not sure to what end.