This Las Vegas trip had been planned for months. As we searched for the best deals, we considered flying Allegiant Air for the first time. After comparing prices, we found that we would save $200 by flyng with Allegiant over Southwest Airlines. We took into consideration the time and inconvenience of the 50 minute drive to Williams-Gateway Airport and decided it was worth a try.
When we arrived at Williams-Gateway Airport in Mesa, we were impressed by the low daily parking cost ($6 a day), as well as the empty security lines. It was a breeze to get through security, especially since there were about 8 TSA agents working. Our flight was on-time, and the boarding went smoothly.
Our return flight to Phoenix was a different story. It was a Sunday morning that we geared up to make it to the airport on time. After standing in long lines, we checked in our baggage and the skycap made sure to inform us that although our flight wasn’t until 2:05pm, our plane would start boarding at 1:20pm. We took our boarding passes and proceeded to the enormous security line. We had some time to grab some snacks, but we made sure to arrive at the gate at exactly 1:20pm.
By 1:45pm there was still no sign of any activity. All of the provided seats at the gate were occupied, and several people spilled out into the walkways, sitting on the floor, waiting for an update. There were several notifications from the check-in crew, but they were very vague. One employee, in particular, was quite timid and may have been afraid of all of us. While we all held her accountable for her updates, she still continued to provide us with false information. Much later in our ordeal, the rep informed us that she did not work directly for Allegiant, but for a contracted company and was just reiterating what Allegiant told her to say. Initially, they had mentioned that the issue was “paperwork.” Before providing us with another update, she knew we would be upset. Therefore, she prefaced it with “I am going to go down and see what is going on. If it’s good news, I’ll come up here with a happy face. If not, it will be a sad face.” Other passengers confirmed the misinformation. One update involved our bags being removed from the original plane and sitting on the tarmac. The employee informed us of the completion of this task in order to provide us with the impression of progress. Over 30 minutes had passed, and one of our passengers confirmed that the bags were now being taken off the plane and set onto a cart.
After at least two hours of waiting, the captain finally told us there was an issue with the logbook and resolving it was taking longer than he had expected. He had to order another plane. That was the plan.
Due to the speculative information we continued to receive, many of us were checking the monitors, as well as the website. The check-in employees had no control over the monitors and with people becoming angry, they had no choice but to tape pieces of paper over the monitors to hide the incorrect information. In addition, Allegiant Air’s website, continued to provide incorrect information. There was one instance where it said that our plane would arrive at the Gateway airport by 6:40pm. That was news to us, and being that it was already 5:30pm and we still didn’t have a plane, we deduced that it was still incorrect.
Out of the 177 tickets booked for the 176 seats on the plane, everyone was uneasy about the situation. Passengers started to become extremely frustrated with the customer service and lack of information being communicated. The airport employees took some time to print and cut out small pieces of paper with the airline’s customer service contact information. As one of my fellow passengers called the phone number, there was a recording, “We are unable to take your call.” This is helpful, I know.
As many of us continued to search for answers, the Allegiant representatives were instructed to provide us with warm soda and water, along with a bag of quickly-melting ice, to tide us over. I believe there were hopes that it would suppress our anger for a while, but that was not the case. Many people did give-in to the free beverages because leaving for even just one second may result in missing the updates from the crew.
One of the passengers was a doctor for the VA hospital who was anxious about her 17-hour shift that began at 5pm. Due to the situation, she was forced to pay an additional $200 to Southwest Airlines on a last-minute flight to Phoenix. She would be two hours late to her shift, which was the maximum time allotted in order for the hospital to avoid not having an internal medicine doctor on duty. At the same time, our passenger count was now down to 176, which gave everyone a seat on the plane.
Five hours had past, and there was still no sign of a plane or any indication that we would be leaving soon. Several people attempted to insist on a refund, but the employees were instructed to deny the request and provide (again) the customer service number. One passenger, in particular, had flown for the very first time on Saturday night (with Allegiant). He was delayed at the Gateway airport for over 10 hours. Allegiant was hesitant to provide him with compensation for his time and troubles, so they presented him with a complementary pizza. According to the passenger, he was so angry that he couldn’t even eat it. He proceeded to voice his concerns, and the airline finally refunded him $49.95 for the flight (only a partial refund with their rate structure). His plan was for a quick trip to Vegas, but he needed it to be even shorter. On Sunday, he arrived at the Las Vegas airport to request a move from his 10:45pm flight to the earlier flight at 2:05pm. Despite his previous issues with the airline, he was forced to pay $49.95 to move up his flight. With his luck, he was stranded for another 8 hours.
When we finally were on our plane, the pilot divulged the truth to us, “Our flight was delayed because of a logbook issue which turned out to be a mechanical issue. The mechanics had to ‘ride the breaks’ in order to move the plane. The delay was mostly due to the time it took to move the plane and the lack of empty gates. Once this gate was clear, the new plane was able to dock. Time was still needed so that the crew could prepare the plane, bags could be moved, and we could all be on our way. We’re very sorry for the inconvenience, and we hope you will fly with us again.”
As a result of our tardiness, the 5:50pm flight to Billings, Montana was delayed at least 6 hours. The passengers were informed that they had to wait for us to be “dropped off in Phoenix” before they could depart to Billings. They were provided with complementary meal vouchers good for $8.00. While these passengers couldn’t even purchase a sandwich or a personal pizza with this, it at least helped mask the pain for a little while.
On a lighter note, during this debacle we had made a few friends. After many laughs about the ridiculousness of the situation, we all decided to have a reunion this time next year, but we’re arranging it with Southwest Airlines.