U.S. Airways Strike
Unless U.S. Airways and its flight attendants reach an agreement by midnight Saturday, the airline may shut down. Where does that leave ticket holders?
What I don't know, of course, is whether this strike will occur. Both sides are huffing and puffing, but will they blow their house down? U.S. Airways, unlike some of its major competitors, hasn't enjoyed the boom times. A strike will hurt badly. The flight attendants say if their demands aren't met, they'll engage in selective walk-outs on routes to and from Boston, Washington, Philadelphia, New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago. But the airline says, 'Homey don't play that game' and promises to shut down completely should its flight attendants walk off the job anywhere. Remember, this includes the U.S. Airways Shuttle on the East Coast as well as the airline's low-fare sister, Metrojet.
So what if the worst happens and you're holding a U.S. Airways ticket for travel beginning this Saturday? First of all, get a paper ticket. They're easier to hand to another airline if switching carriers becomes necessary. If you absolutely, positively have to be somewhere, then protect yourself by buying a ticket on another airline.
U.S. Airways says if you have a ticket for travel between March 25th and April 9th, you can travel earlier or later by changing your ticket right now with no strings attached. In other words, the airline will waive advance-purchase and change fees, minimum and maximum stay requirements and travel date requirements. Or, if you like, U.S. Airways will refund the price of your ticket. Now, if you re-schedule your trip for on or after April 10th, the change fee is waived, but all other rules, such as advance-purchase or minimum/maximum stay requirements must be met. This presumes, of course, you want to risk that a strike will be over by April 10th.
Will other airlines accept a U.S. Airways ticket in the event of a strike? Maybe. If the airline stops operating, it will most likely make fast agreements with rivals to accept its tickets. But keep in mind, you'll fly on a space-available basis. You may also have to go way out of your way to reach your destination, if there's no other carrier with service that matches US Airways. If you have a rock-bottom fare, you might have to pony up some extra cash, as well. And if you're holding an award ticket on U.S. Airways, another airline may not accept it.
Will President Clinton step in and order workers to stay on the job for 60 days while an emergency board tries to broker peace? He did it in 1997 just minutes after American Airlines pilots went on strike. He did it seven years ago, five days into a strike by American flight attendants. But he didn't do it last year when Northwest was struck. And even though U.S. Airways carries about 40 percent of Washington's air traffic, I'm not sure the White House wants to have a dog in this fight.
If you're keeping your fingers crossed that U.S. Airways keeps flying, find out what other airlines fly to your destination. At least then you'll know who to turn to if U.S. Airways is grounded. Don't, don't wait until the last minute, when pandemonium will reign. Call U.S. Airways now or talk to your travel agent about alternatives.
And here's a footnote if you hoped to fly to join a cruise ship. If you made your flight plans through your cruise line, it's their responsibility to get you to the dock on time. If you made your own flight plans, well, the burden is on your shoulders. This time, it may be every passenger for him or herself.
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