Travel Torture: "We Don't Care" Airlines

The idea of travel for special life events and the holidays should bring forth thoughts of happy celebrations. For some, air travel is an almost unaffordable luxury even in times of emergency or celebration. Enter airlines touting to get you there on a budget enters aka discount tickets. I recently became that consumer.

My eldest son was graduating from college 1800 miles away. My young daughter and I would not miss the event for anything. Tickets were purchased well in advance from Allegiant Air because they fly direct from San Diego to Bellingham, Washington. Someone I know raved about how much they loved Allegiant and how the prices were amazingly low. We went all in.

Our travel day arrived. We were packed, we were excited, we were ready to go. Our paid in full hotel room was awaiting us on the other end and we would have a relaxing weekend celebrating a once in a lifetime per child proud parent and sibling moment. I heard my phone text message ding. A courtesy text from Allegiant letting me know my flight was delayed by an hour. Having flown all over the world on a variety of airlines, I thought, “that’s weird, how do they know they are delayed by an hour when our flight isn’t scheduled to leave for another five hour?”. So I called what turned out to be the customer “don’t care” number and waited on hold for 25 minutes. After her avoidance dance I finally dug the truth out of the agent to learn the inbound flight is late due to a mechanical issue which is why our flight will be delayed. This is also why they knew five hours in advance. Thanks for the text but modern technology doesn’t make being late or having mechanical issues cool. It’s also not cool to have the “don’t care” agent admit mechanical delays are a daily thing at Allegiant Air. Wish I had researched and seen this article in the Tampa Bay Times before buying our tickets. I repeat to myself, calm down, the delay is only an hour. Breathe, the graduation is tomorrow in the afternoon. So what if we get to our hotel an hour later. No big deal.

We arrive at the airport and the monitor shows boarding. What?! The “don’t care” ticket counter agent shares the news of an additional hour delay with a very nonchalant, parking meter maid, can’t be bothered to even look up tone and attitude. My stress meter begins to rise and my concerns increase.

It’s getting later, the temperature up north is dropping. We will be fine. We wait. It’s time. Boarding. We get in line to board. Two minutes later boarding is called off. We are told to go back to the waiting area. There may be a delay. Blood pressure continues to rise. Five minutes later, let’s go! We board. We are on the plane. Everyone is on the plane. The overheads are checked. What a relief, we will make it to our child/brothers graduation. We wait. On the plane. At the gate. And wait. The announcement comes. We are told we will be deplaning.

This flight is further delayed due to weather. Everyone needs to get off of the plane. Hold up one second. Weather delay to blame? If this plane had arrived on time without the mechanical issues which admittedly happen with this company daily the weather issues would have been avoided. The possibility of missing my sons college graduation becomes very real.

Everyone deplanes. Flight is canceled. Elderly people in wheel chairs, a mom with a special needs baby strapped to her, families with small children, everyone, we are handed a scrap of paper one inch by two inch with Allegiant Airline Customer “Don’t Care” phone number while the “Don’t Care Gate Agents” repeat “there is nothing we can do and because it is a weather delay we will not be compensating anyone or providing you with anything to make your airport overnight comfortable” but they will all go home and sleep in their bed.

Let us not forget, this weather delay was a result of a mechanically caused delay. This is Allegiant Airlines fault for which they will not take responsibility but they will answer a tweet complaint with “we are doing the best to get you on your way!”. No, no you are not. Even as my 8 year old daughter stands in tears saying to the “Don’t Care Gate Agent” “I am not going to miss my brothers graduation. I am going to get to Bellingham some how someway”. I am sure they have become hardened to the fact that this level of disappointment is part of their daily job.

It is finally announced they will see us in the morning for our new departure time of 10am. The first graduation ceremony begins at 9am. For many of the travelers, the 9am or the noon ceremony for their child or sibling will be missed.

That precious life moment just lost thanks to Allegiant Airlines mechanical delay. Not the weather. God is not responsible for this one. Allegiant Airlines is.

Oh, and as for refunds on a ticket that will not get you where you purchased it for on time, too bad. According to the “don’t care” agent, the process for a refund is submit a letter in writing (not an email) and they will consider it after a review which will take months but since it was canceled because of the “weather ;)” not likely. Absolutely no guarantees. And no, they will not help you try to find another flight to get your where you need to be. Good this is only a graduation and not a loved ones funeral or your wedding.

In hindsight, checking out reviews prior to booking and paying would have been a good idea. However one believes, at least this one, when you operate an airline and sell tickets you will provide safe, reasonably on time, consistently reliable delivered with a smile even when things go awry service. It is expected things like mechanical issues causing delays are not the norm and don’t happen on the daily. As the airline who has been paid in advance you will deliver what you sold. It’s an airline, not a used car lot. Lemon laws do not apply.

It was too late when I learned this airline is based out of Las Vegas according to the “DontCare” phone number and someone replying to my infuriated Facebook post says “betting on Allegiant Air is never a good idea”. I disagree, bet on them being delayed and you will win every time!

The rescheduled flight for 10am the next day finally departs late at 11am. Upon arrival, thanks to quick moving taxis and shuttles we arrive as the megaphone is blasting “doors will be closing in five minutes”. FIVE MINUTES! Not the day before as planned. It was a miracle for us and a huge loss for some families.

A 72 hour visit has been chiseled down to a 48 hour visit and celebration courtesy of Allegiant. Precious memories and time lost not to mention money for the hotel room at our destination and the extra airport transportation expense to get back home and to the airport again. Allegiant reinforces my new motto for them, “Nope, we don’t care”. In fact, they are going to charge you two bucks for a cup of water when you do get up in the air. Another of my made up mottos “We charge you for everything, don’t be fooled by the low fare”. Somewhere in the small print I am sure it says “BYOTP”. You know, toilet paper.

Without torturing you about the return flight details, know this, the flight was late. There was nothing free, including water. Want water, that’s two bucks. And before we took off the pilot made a genius announcement “Be prepared, we are about to go really, really fast”. Is there another way to take off and fly?

The lesson learned here is “discount airfare comes at a much higher price than regular priced airlines”. This story is one of thousands from airlines like Allegiant Air (here’s some other reviews) who offer discounts to fly on tincans. There is absolutely one guarantee they can offer “you will likely be delayed, your flight canceled, nickeled and dimed to death or probably disappointed”. If you are among the few who have had a good experience, don’t bother buying a lottery ticket because your experience was equal to the odds of winning numbers.

I did reach out to Allegiant Air via email, phone and twitter to give them the opportunity to respond to this story in and their history of poor customer experiences in advance of publishing. They responded via twitter, “Hi Chris, emails may take from 4-6 weeks for a response. We appreciate your patience ^KL” My response, “my post won’t wait that long to publish”.

For the record, I was never asking for any compensation from Allegiant Air other than to get to my destination on time as scheduled safely. A friend has $1100 in vouchers for similar experiences with Allegiant which will go unused because her family doesn’t trust their service, understandably. I wouldn’t give a voucher to anyone except Donald Trump but I am sure they aren’t transferable anyway.

A final thought, what other significant financial purchase do we make in advance based solely on a promise to deliver? Is buying a plane ticket with an expectation like believing in Santa and presents or the Easter Bunny and baskets? If you ever have a need to be somewhere on time for a once in a lifetime event don’t put your trust in the hands of an Allegiant Air fake Santa.

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