ORLANDO, Fla. – An executive at US Airlines compared consumers baffled by his company's name to "confused" homeless people. John McGrath's comments came after Local 6 investigated a free airline ticket offer circulating throughout Central Florida.
Arthur Biringer, of Orlando, received the offer in the mail under the letterhead "US Airlines," and described why consumers are confused.
"People right away think US Airways, they exist. American Airlines, they exist," Biringer said.
To receive the free tickets, consumers, like Biringer, are asked to attend a travel agency presentation. Telemarketers for US Airlines explained the presentation was to introduce a new travel agency in town and share information about travel products. Consumers who went to the presentation, however, told Local 6 it was actually a sales pitch for a so-called travel club.
"Basically, you join a club. It costs you $12,900," said William Grobasky, a consumer who attended the pitch.
Local 6 has confirmed that US Airlines is not an airline. The company is a marketing firm contracted by Global Vacation Network, a vacation ownership seller. A telemarketer for US Airlines conceded there's confusion about his company's name.
"People constantly think we mean US Airways which isn't the same thing," he said. "All we mean is that the vouchers are good for any U.S.-based company."
Local 6 tracked US Airlines to Wyoming, and asked John McGrath, the company's Director of Customer Service, about the name confusion.
"Look, there's plenty of people wandering around Southern California, homeless people, and they're pretty confused as well," he quipped. "We have never, ever represented ourselves as an airline. Never, ever."
McGrath claimed his company has hundreds of thousands of satisfied customers.
"The truth is it's a legitimate offer that's been legitimately fulfilled for a product that's been around for almost 30 years," he said. "I know that you'll never report that because people won't watch your news story. I get that."
When asked to further authenticate the letter his company is sending to consumers in Central Florida, McGrath could not identify the signatures.
The letters are signed by Lisa King and Grace Pell, both identified as vice-presidents of US Airlines.
"We have over 400 employees. I don't know every employee," McGrath said.
Consumers continue to contact Local 6 about the free ticket offer. Many say they have not been able to redeem the vouchers they received at the travel club presentation for actual airline tickets. The Local 6 investigation will focus on that issue next.