Friday, February 13, 2009

Traveler rips Friedman, Horizon

Complaints: no carts, no plane mechanic, poor service

Express Staff Writer

A prominent California orthopedic surgeon who's also a longtime skiing visitor to Sun Valley has blistered Friedman Memorial Airport and Horizon Air with withering letters of criticism about terminal and flight services he encountered while recovering from an injured ankle.

Writing on the letter head of the UCLA/David Geffen School of Medicine in Los Angeles where he is chief of orthopedic trauma service, Dr. Eric Johnson condemned Friedman Memorial as "user unfriendly" and traveling on Horizon as "miserable." He expressed hope that Horizon would "continue to experience decreasing passengers, revenues and ... will lose any market share it has."

Johnson's letters were sent to Friedman Manager Rick Baird and Horizon President Jeff Pinneo, with copies to the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, U.S. Department of Transportation, Sun Valley resort General Manager Wally Huffman, resort Night Manager Rick Hickman, the mayors of Hailey, Ketchum and Sun Valley and the Idaho Mountain Express.

Each letter was more than 800 words with some variations in phrasing.

Summarizing Johnson's list of major complaints, he said he endured a "hassle" by TSA security personnel for briefly leaving luggage unattended; the airport has no skycap luggage service or luggage carts; his Horizon Air flight was ultimately canceled after a long delay; Horizon has no mechanics at Friedman; Horizon counter personnel weren't quickly available.

Johnson also said in his letter to Baird that he had been visiting Sun Valley for 35 years, but now wonders "why anyone in their right mind come (sic) to Sun Valley and have to deal with traveling through (Friedman Memorial), when Park City and Deer Valley are 30 minutes from the Salt Lake City airport where one is not subjected to experiencing your level of services."

Planning to depart from Friedman on Jan. 29, Johnson complained that his problems began when he had to park a rental car, leave his luggage at the terminal entrance, then take luggage inside while returning keys to the rental agency. During that time no one offered to assist him, despite his having an injured ankle, and when he left his luggage unattended at the Horizon counter, TSA agents "are first in line to hassle you." He also noted the absence of carts available for moving luggage.

After complaining about Horizon's counter personnel and lack of on-site mechanics, Johnson wrote, "I will never fly Horizon again."

Horizon has only one Los Angeles-to-Friedman roundtrip daily.

A spokesman at Horizon's Seattle headquarters wasn't familiar with Johnson's letter.

Airport manager Baird said he would provide a written reply to Johnson after returning from meetings in Washington, D.C. Meanwhile, he noted that if Johnson had been flying into Friedman all those years he would know the terminal has no luggage carts or skycap service. Moreover, Baird said, if Johnson had asked any Friedman personnel for assistance, "they would have beaten themselves to death to help." He disputed any notion that Friedman is unfriendly.

Baird said the staff long ago investigated providing luggage carts, but that the relatively few enplanements at a small airport and lack of space obviated their need.

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