A LoyaltyLobby reader sent us an email about an unfortunate situation of missing a long-haul flight when a feeder one on a separate ticket was canceled, and rebooking for the next Alaska fight didn’t work out.
Email From The Reader:
Alaska Airlines- Gate agent promise
I love your article, and respect your level-headed advice you dole out, so I’m asking you if I’m completely in the wrong here with a situation that happened yesterday when attempting to travel on Alaska Airlines.
I’ve tried to reach out to AA, first with the gate agent in question after the incident, then a supervisor but ultimately I was told to call Customer Care (3+ hour wait)
We had a flight from Portland (our home) to Seattle. Once landing in Seattle, we had two hours to get our luggage and check in for an international flight, on another airline (dream vacation to Iceland). We understood that there is always risk when not using one airline on a trip.
Our flight was delayed, then delayed again. Alarmed, I jumped in line with about 20 other people who sought seats on another PDX-SEA flight (there is about one an hour all day back and forth). I asked one of the gate agents if there was a chance with all the people in line ahead of me that we could get rebooked on the next flight still- she said there would be no problem to do so. I asked again, mentioning there were quite a few people in line, and we needed to get to Seattle for a flight to Iceland (not on Alaska Airlines). Again, she said it would be no problem.
The line literally didn’t move for twenty minutes. No-one left the counter. At that point she announced there were QR codes on sines to connect to agents via chat, or we could go to other gates to get help.
Panicking I ran to another gate and (and while waiting in the smaller line, also connected to Alaska Airlines chat) and was told that all that was available now was Standby on the only flight that would get us to Seattle in time. I explained the first gate agent promised we would be able to get on this flight, but they weren’t concerned.
Sure enough, we didn’t get on that flight, and our flight left to Iceland without us. I am in the process of seeing if I can reschedule this vacation package but since I didn’t cancel within their deadlines it doesn’t seem likely at all.
I went back to the original gate agent and told her she had guaranteed we would get on the flight, and, if she hadn’t told me that I would’ve simply called Alaska immediately as soon as I got in the line and gotten seats on the next flight myself before they were all gone. I trusted her and waited line as she had told me to do. She apologized and said that there had been twenty seats when she told me that we could get on the flight but there was nothing she could do. Then she tried to blame the next airline company we were flying to Iceland on (Icelandic) for being difficult to work with when I told her we couldn’t get there until the next day or later. Then she added that since we weren’t flying with Alaska Airlines to Iceland anyway try would’ve taken people with connecting flights ahead of us anyway! She would’ve told us to step aide to pick behind us in line?
The main problem is that you should never book separate tickets without adequate time between them, especially if you are self-connecting to a long-haul flight.
Having two hours between short and long-haul flights with luggage to claim and recheck them leaves absolutely zero buffer for any delays. (Note that the exact time between these two flights is unclear, but the reader referred to two hours.) Nothing generally prevents airlines from checking bags through on separate tickets (many still do) than internal policies.
If I am doing a self-connection to a long-haul flight, I always try to leave 12 to 24 hours between the flights and preferably arrive the previous day.
Depending on the fare, you can sometimes tack in the connecting flight for a reasonable price that then makes the possible misconnection airlines’ headache.
The reader’s question was, is there some responsibility on Alaska’s shoulders due to the gate agent’s misinformation?
Unfortunately, some airline employees tell you what you want to hear to get you off their faces, and there is no recourse. Sometime the misinformation may be intentional.
How many times have you heard announcements in-flight on delayed flights that the connections are held only to find out that all went out on their scheduled departure times or that there will be employees at the arrival gate to handle rebooking/give out hotel vouchers when there aren’t any?
I don’t want to blame anybody here, but I wanted to post this experience to remind readers to be very cautious when buying flights on separate tickets and to understand the consequences.
Airlines have no responsibility if you misconnect on separate tickets, even when they are on the same carrier.
You can often save significantly when choosing an advantageous departure point (don’t we love how airlines price tickets?), but then you may “lose” a day when flying in the day before.