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Alexandra Swafford Das Headshot

An Air Travel Nightmare

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Today, I am sharing my story about how a simple trip home from visiting my children literally could have ended my life thanks to the negligence of US Airlines in the hope that this will cause them to change the way they do business so no one else suffers the same indignities. I am passionate about my foremost desire to prevent this from happening to other travelers. Particularly, to the elderly, disabled, and those who do not have the opportunity to pursue it further. When I discussed my scenario with others, many relate similar experiences so my situation was not unique.

I am a 75-year-old female with medical problems and I have gone to the emergency room at least seven times in the past few years. On April 5, 2011 I was attempting to return to Charlotte, NC from Los Angeles on US Airways flight 1687. My daughter, Alisha Hayes, accompanied me to the ticket counter at LAX. As there were only two other customers ahead of me, we saw no reason for her to stay. At the US Airways check in counter, I was brusquely instructed to lift my heavy bag onto the scale. I told the young ticket agent "I cannot lift the bag because I am 75-years-old, have a pace maker, kidney cancer and other medical problems". He raised his voice and again ordered me to put the bag on the scale. I informed him I could not lift the bag and he said "Well, I'm not going to do it". I complied with his order, and after the bag was weighed he said "Give me $90 or put 9 pounds in your carry-on bag" to reach the 50 pound limit. He left me with a tag on the counter and disappeared. I asked the ticket agent at the next counter, "What do I do with this tag?" He was helpful and said he'd put it on the bag. He asked if I was OK and I replied "Please let me hold on to the counter a few minutes". He came around the counter as I was collapsing. The next thing I knew, the paramedic had his arms under my back and he said "She's having back muscle spasms" and my body was jerking. I was taken by ambulance to the hospital where I remained for four days enduring endless invasive tests.

My daughter called to book a flight back to North Carolina and experienced great difficulty as they wanted to charge a change of flight fee even though the change was necessitated by their own employee's actions. She was informed many times that they COULD NOT reissue the ticket without the fee since we didn't cancel the flight ahead of time. She explained that it would have been difficult to predict that their agents actions would have sent me to the hospital. She informed them she was recording the conversation. Alisha had to talk with seven or eight US Airway personnel before they finally agreed to issue a replacement ticket. While explaining the problem to them, they did not have the common courtesy to ask her even ONCE, "How is your mother doing?" or any inquiry into my health. When she pointed that out on one of the calls to a woman named Cynthia, Cynthia asked how I was. Alisha said, "Oh she's in critical care, thanks" and the agent did not even comment, as she apparently couldn't care less. They had requested and reviewed the security tape of the airport incident and since I had fainted six minutes after lifting the bag, they were not concerned since apparently if one doesn't keel over immediately it's not their problem.

On April 25th I was returning to North Carolina from Los Angeles. After boarding the plane for the flight, the stewardess insisted that I place my heavy carry-on bag in the above-seat bin. I explained to her I could not do this because I was 75-years-old with a pacemaker, kidney cancer, and other medical problems. She reluctantly did so and with a loud voice instructed that in the future "I bring a man with you or get a male passenger to put the bag in the bin." My seat mates, a scientist and his wife, from Australia who were on their way to Florida to see the space launch. They said they had never encountered such a rude stewardess, whose job was to assist passengers, as well as other duties. They gave me their personal information and said if I needed their assistance to verify the event, I had it.

I sent a letter on May 24th to the President and CEO of US Airways to advise them of the problem and see what solutions they proposed to insure that these problems would be addressed. Enclosed with the letter was a DVD that discussed the problem for them to receive the full impact of the event. I received a letter from customer relations dated June 14. It contains a brief apology, but no change in their procedures was indicated. The letter promised a phone call from their Risk Management Division. To date, no phone call has been received.

I really think others need to know that US Airways apparently just doesn't care how their staff are treating others or that they are putting LIVES IN DANGER due to their own lack of caring. Truly, can we not hope for better from a company that takes all of our lives in its hands daily?