If It Sounds Too Good To Be True…

I like a good deal as much as the next gal. While I’m not willing to shop at 5am on the day after Thanksgiving for discount tube socks, I have been known to peruse a sale clothing rack or two. So when Allegiant Air, a small discount airline, announced they would begin flying from my hometown of Medford, Oregon to Oakland, California (the hometown of my parents and sister), my interest was piqued. And when I found out Allegiant would be offering one-way tickets between said cities for just $29 (taxes and fees included!), I actually became excited. But it was when I tried to purchase tickets for my daughters that I remembered the age-old saying, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is”.

I’ve written before about “extra” airline fees, including checked baggage fees, carry-on baggage fees, internet purchase fees, telephone purchase fees, seat assignment fees, and bathroom fees–just kidding, I wanted to make sure my readers, (hi Mom and Dad!) were still paying attention. I was fully prepared to pay the additional $10 each for my girls’ carry-on bags. But by driving out to the airport (30 miles roundtrip and I was headed that way anyway), I thought I’d save on the internet or telephone purchase fees.

Because Allegiant doesn’t fly every day, I checked their website to see when they’d be open and staffed. The only information I could find stated that ticket purchases are available in MOST cities for one hour following a scheduled departure. Some airports had listed hours, Medford did not.

Credit card in hand, I made the 30 mile round trip drive, and entered the airport to find four Allegiant employees at the counter. Three of them were checking in passengers for an upcoming flight. The fourth wasn’t doing anything. The line was long, so before waiting, I approached the fourth Allegiant employee. You know, the one who was not checking in passengers. When I asked if I could buy a ticket for a future flight, she smiled politely and said, “We’ll be selling tickets from 3-4 pm today.” It was 1:30.

There I was, ready to give my money to Allegiant Airlines, and there she was, an Allegiant employee with nothing to do. But alas, I could not buy a ticket. I was not there during their ticket-selling window. Not willing to wait 90 minutes, I turned around and drove home, highly irritated, and feeling like a victim of the old bait and switch. Sure, one can avoid paying the internet or telephone purchase fee with Allegiant Airlines, but in Medford at least, you have to be able to go to the airport during a specific one hour period that occurs just two days a week.

Grudgingly, I bought my tickets on Allegiant’s website, where my $29 one way fare turned into a $49 one way fare. Yes, still a good deal, but not the deal I was expecting. If I added in the cost of gas and my hour of wasted time (worth hundreds and hundreds of dollars), I’m not so sure I came out ahead in the end. And even more than that, the frustration of a poor policy that results in poor customer service is what stands out most.