Chalks Airlines Self-Destructs

I received an email from a friend regarding his terrible experience flying Chalks Airlines on his one-year anniversary. Quite frankly, I had never heard of this airline before. I haven’t traveled much since getting married. Most of the airlines I flew no longer even exist: Piedmont, Eastern, TWA, and PanAm. In fact, after reading this man’s tale of woe, I really begin to hope that he would get his wish and find Chalks Airlines on Wikipedia’s List of Defunct Airlines someday - because nothing else would do this tale justice. Turns out that Chalks Airlines is supposedly this country’s oldest operating airline. After reading my friend’s email, I began to think that it might be a bit too old for its own good. We’ve had a few improvements in America since 1919, but I’m not sure Chalks Airlines got the memos.

To give this some context, I need to point out that the person who wrote this is probably one of the most level-headed, easy-going people I know. He holds a very responsible job in government, and has never been the type to complain when faced with poor service. In fact, like me, he knows that people in service jobs aren’t there to wait on us hand-and-foot and they have their own lives and problems. They are there to get a paycheck, not server burgers and fries. So, he’s never been the type to complain to waiters, demand things in stores, or ask to speak to managers. He’s much more the type that would just quietly never come back and maybe tell a few friends. In other words, he isn’t a whiner.

What I tend to dwell on when I read something like this is how far we are as a country from progressing more. We can’t have airlines doing this kind of stuff if we ever want to cure cancer. Now, you might think the two are unrelated. But I see it on a measure of Efficiency and Competence. If we can’t, as a nation, efficiently fly simple routes down to the Bahamas, how in the world are we going to get man on Mars, cure cancer, defeat terrorism, or build a better widget? Rooting out the sort of evil nonsense I read about in his email is as much a prerequisite to progress as is technological advancement. If we can’t, as Americans, refuse to tolerate this sort of ridiculous service from companies within our country, we might find ourselves sliding toward a third-world culture in the midst of superpower technology.

I don’t know if he sent this to the FAA, but I’d highly recommend he do so. Some of these issues are beyond just poor business practices and terrible customer service. There are safety and security issues here as well. Incompetence and tomfoolery may be the status quo at your local fast food restaurant, but in the skies, people’s lives could be at stake. Read his account and see what you think.

Palm Beach to Marsh Harbor, 6/30/07

The first day of my trip, I spent 6 hours in a Palm Beach Airport. Our morning flight was “delayed” due to “operational” issues. Which means this: Chalks books three flights a day and cancels the first two as to make sure they have one full flight. Which means they conspire to defraud customers and deceive them into booking flights which Chalks at no time intends to honor. So, thanks to Chalks, a full afternoon which should have been spent in the Bahamas was spent in a small airport.

PBI Desk workers acted surprised that “operational” issues should arise, saying it was a rare thing. After meeting with other passengers in the Bahamas, I realized these desk workers were in fact lying, and this was a very common occurrence at Chalks.

Marsh Harbor to Palm Beach, 7/7/07

The last day of my trip, I spent 7 hours in Marsh Harbor Airport. Our morning flight was “delayed” due to “operational” issues. (Sound familiar? We called the previous night and in the morning 2 hours prior to arriving at the airport so that we didn’t have to spend all day in the airport. Desk workers ensured us the flights were on time. As with all Chalks International Airline workers, they lack that vital quality known as “honor”, and thus they lied.

So, thanks again to Chalks, a full afternoon which should have been spent on a bay in the Bahamas was spent in a small humid, sweltering hot airport. It gets better. Then, after boarding the flight to Palm Beach, the pilot informed passengers that they would not be going to Palm Beach but to Fort Lauderdale. After an unannounced stop in Treasure Cay in the Bahamas and a half hour wait on a hot tarmac, we were dropped off in the middle of a lobby to fight our way backwards
through a customs line to try to find the end so we could have the honor of waiting 2-3 hours to get through customs.

After this Chalks graciously had arranged for ground transportation for stranded passengers. Unfortunately, Chalks refused to offer reasonable accomodation, and they wanted to fill up a shuttle bus, requiring all passengers who were sent to the wrong airport to report and be accounted for before continuing on. Having found our baggage, we paid the $120 for a one way shuttle to our car at PBI and considered ourselves lucky to get away with our lives from Chalks. We had arrived at our cars over 7 hours late and out $120 and were truly thankful just to be away from Chalks forever. Total losses: 13 hours of daylight, $130 in out-of-pocket expenses.

Other features: A series of quirky lies about where the plane that is going to pick up passengers might be. The first two “fake flights” of the day (which are automatically cancelled) they either tell you you are bumped or the flight has been delayed. I stood near the counter so I actually was enjoying hearing the series of lies and how they contradicted each other; how can one be bumped from a flight that has been cancelled? How can one delay a flight that has been cancelled? Where are these planes that are grounded due to mechanical difficulties?

Passports? None required by Chalks to enter the country.

Liquids? Carry on as much as you want. Chalks doesn’t worry about that TSA stuff. At least for us they didn’t care.

Spinning propellers? Don’t worry about that open door, the left side prop was left spinning.

Landings? It’s nice to see a set of pilots that doesn’t like to use much of the runway. Something like an aircraft carrier landing, maybe 100 yards of slam down, brakes screeching - this followed by sharp banks almost at the end of the runway to get on line anyhow.

All in all, unless you like spending literally days of your vacations or trips in airports, and unless you want to suddenly develop irrational fears of flying, steer clear of Chalks.

Do you think he is alone in his experience? Or is this sort of thing becoming commonplace among airlines these days?

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As a party to the investigation of the Chalk’s December 2005 Accident, I would like to know when this passenger’s experience occurred, what type of aircraft was being flown, and whether the aircraft was in Chalk’s livery or that of another operator. A telephone call from the person who wrote the blog would be most appreciated.

Thank you

Loel Fenwick (208)443 9011 or loel@tanglefoot.org

Had a similiar experience this summer with Chalk’s . There were 13 of us flying to Treasure Cay from Fort Lauderdale over the summer at various times and I booked all the flight on Chalks in May as well as bought the Island Pass. Out of the 5 different itinaries over the past 2 months all had a problem, 8 hour wait times in FLL, no plane showing up, the plane is not big enough to fly the 18 passengers that are booked that day. Get to the airpost in Treasure and told no Chalk’s plane will be here today you better get another flight, try Twin Air. You flight is moved you need to be here now. Connecting flight were missed because of the scheduling problems or planes not showing up. Now unable to even use Island Pass because Chalk’s is not flying anymore .
Very disappointed in the whole thing here we were trying to support a local business and a business and right now we are out several thousand dollars because of the mismanagment of this arlines.

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