America West Letter

Marc J. Zeitlin
P.O. Box 1103
Mojave, CA 93502
January 3, 2006

 Mr. W. Douglas Parker
Chairman, President and CEO
US Airways Group, Inc.
111 West Rio Salado Parkway
Tempe, AZ 85281

Re: America West Airlines Flight 821 - terrible airline performance on January 2, 2006

Dear Mr. Parker:

While I do not have particularly high expectations of airlines in general, the exceedingly poor performance of America West Airlines on a flight from Boston to Phoenix impels me to contact you. Approximately two hours into flight 821, a passenger became ill. The captain decided to divert to Kansas City International Airport to ensure prompt medical attention. This was all well and good; it was a safe course of action, and one for which no complaint could possibly be lodged.  The medical team was waiting and removed the passenger promptly to attend to her.

Due to the diversion, extra fuel was required, and due to the usage of two oxygen bottles for the ill passenger, replacement oxygen was required prior to takeoff to make the aircraft legal once more. A new instrument flight plan had to be filed, but having done this numerous times myself, I know that this could not take more than 15-20 minutes. The fuel truck finished fueling the aircraft within approximately 20 minutes of our stopping at the gate – no problems there.

Mr. Parker, it took the ground crew over 1 hour and 45 minutes to either find replacement oxygen bottles or to refill the existing ones. This, my friend, is patently absurd. I am a pilot who uses oxygen aboard my aircraft on a regular basis. It has never taken me more than 15 minutes to get my oxygen bottle refilled anywhere I have stopped. I could have taken the oxygen bottles, walked over to the FBO at Kansas City International Airport (Executive Beechcraft), had them refilled, walked back to the gate and gone through the TSA security check in less time than America West Airlines took to perform the same task.

Since the air crew KNEW that they had used two bottles, and KNEW that they needed to refill them and have the appropriate paperwork done prior to departing, there is no excuse whatsoever for the delay on the ground – either the aircrew did not communicate their needs, or the ground crew did not respond to the request. Either way, the delay was inexcusable. It reeks of sheer incompetence that the plane was not turned around in Kansas City in less than ½ hour.

Of course, due to this delay, many of the passengers on this flight missed their connecting flights in Phoenix. My wife and I missed our connection to Bakersfield, CA, and were forced to wait around Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport for the better part of the day until the next flight. Our plans for the day were disrupted, our schedules had to be completely rearranged, and we did not arrive home until 6.5 hours past the expected time. Other passengers, of course, had even worse delays, depending upon their destination.

While I commend America West Airlines for making the right decision in attending to the needs of an ill passenger, the rest of America West’s performance with respect to flight 821 was abysmal. This was not an act of God; this was not a weather delay; this was not an ATC delay – it was not even an unexpected equipment failure - there is nowhere else to point the finger. There is no excuse for forcing passengers to wait for almost two hours at an almost empty airport for want of portable oxygen bottles.

Compounding this issue, the later flight to Bakersfield (flight 6332) was not only overbooked, but after being delayed 20 minutes to start boarding, the crew discovered that the aircraft was overweight and seven paying passengers would have to be put off the flight, along with their luggage. During the process of getting volunteers, the crew had the passengers wait in an un-airconditioned aircraft, with NO airflow, for 30 minutes. I thank my lucky stars that we were not two of the passengers put off that flight, else this letter would be substantially more strident.

Mr. Parker, Monday was a work day for me – I charge $125/hr. for my time as a Mechanical Engineering Consultant. Along with the previous comments, you may consider this letter an invoice for 6.5 hours of my time at the aforementioned rate, for a total of $812.50. My terms are Net 30 – please remit this amount to the address noted above prior to February 3rd, 2006.

Thank you.


Marc J. Zeitlin

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Last Updated: January 04, 2006