I recently flew on US Airways from Portland, Maine to Los Angeles to attend the 2008 Aussie Specialist Corroboree (annual meeting), sponsored by Tourism Australia. When I searched for the ticket, I first tried for a flight on Jet Blue – my ultimate favorite domestic airline, and Southwest – typically a viable alternative for low cost airfare from northern New England. Both, unfortunately, did not have the schedule I needed and/or the lowest cost airfare. US Airways had a one-way ticket with the best price that would transport me to the west coast by noon.
Knowing that I would now have to pay an exorbitant price for coffee or water once on-board, I purchased a bottle of water and cup of coffee before boarding the plane. This was a good move as there was little time to make the connection for the west coast upon landing in Philadelphia and absolutely no time to find something to drink and stand in a long line.
Everything was proceeding smoothly – the plane to Los Angeles departed on time, the flight attendants were personable and even offered passengers glasses of cold water (no charge!), and the pilot announced our expected time of arrival in Los Angeles was on schedule – until THE announcement: “If there are any doctors or medical personnel on-board, please notify the flight attendants.”
The next voice announced our emergency landing in Phoenix, and 2 hours later we were back in the air headed to Los Angeles. The passenger who left the airplane in Phoenix had an anxiety attack; US Airways’ personnel determined it was best to be safe and get her to immediate medical attention on the ground.
The plane was full, but most of the passengers were not distressed when their flight arrived almost 3 hours late. Each of us could imagine that in a different situation, we might have required the emergency landing.
As of the June,2008 DOT Air Travel Consumer Report, US Airways ranked among the top 3 major airlines for on-time flights for the past 7 months – a significant improvement over their past record. Unfortunately, my flight certainly did not help them maintain their record for August.
It’s reassuring to know that although this airline – now charging for excess baggage, refreshments, snacks and ceasing on-board entertainment (movies) in November – is taking extreme measures to offset rising fuel costs, it does not hesitate to make emergency landings (and no doubt incur unanticipated additional costs) when passengers are in need of medical attention.
Choose your carrier carefully – attention to passenger well-being can still be found with low cost airfare.