Pick Up The Phone I’m Always Home

by Nancy Bestor

Last month I traveled to Los Angeles on Allegiant Air out of Medford, Oregon. My round trip flight was $130, a bargain in my opinion. I did not choose a seat ahead of time (up to $80), I did not sign up for preboarding ($4 – $12), I did not request a boarding pass ($5), I did not bring a carry-on suitcase ($10-$75) to go in the overhead compartment, and I did not buy any food or water (water costs $2) on the flight. So although Allegiant can add on fees, one does not have to pay them. And when one opts out, the bargain fare really does remain a bargain. I am perfectly willing to bring my own snacks and fill up a water bottle after going through security in the airport. I am also fine with sitting in any seat on the plane, as long as my flight is a short one. I had no complaints about my flight, but I did have one complaint about Allegiant.

I forgot to enter my Global Entry “known traveler id number” when I booked my flight. Once I realized this, I figured I could easily add it to my Allegiant ticket. Well I figured wrong. After some internet research, I determined that the best way to add my id number would be to call Allegiant. Apparently, cheap tickets translate to few customer service representatives, because I waited on the phone for 55 minutes before giving up. Allegiant’s website said you can call their phone number (it didn’t say that someone would answer—ha) or add your id number with an agent at the airport. I figured I could add it in Medford, and although it might not work for my flight down to LA, it would certainly work for the flight back. Once again, I figured wrong. The Allegiant agents at the ticket counter, although very nice, had absolutely NO IDEA what I was talking about. One of them had never even heard of a known traveler id number. I found myself having to explain what the id number is, then having to educate them on what it says on Allegiant’s website about adding it to my ticket. Needless to say, they were not able to help me and I didn’t get TSA precheck in either direction.

It wasn’t the worst thing in the world though. And again, my direct flight was only $130 round trip. I learned my lesson too. From here on out, I will ALWAYS put my known traveler id number in my booking when I make it, and I will not expect a customer service person to answer a phone. Because how ridiculous is that?

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Pay Me My Money Down

by Nancy Bestor

allegiant_airI’m just back from a weekend trip on Allegiant Air, one of the many “discount/no frills” airlines currently in operation in the US. The cost to fly from Medford, Oregon (MFR) to Los Angeles (LAX) was $116 round trip – almost $200 cheaper than any other airline flying the route.

This was my first time using Allegiant, and I was delighted by the low fare. Especially since I was able to keep from paying any “extra” fees too, because I paid for my ticket with a debit card (using a credit card would have cost an additional $7.71), I didn’t have any carry-ons or checked bags (carry-on $30, checked bag $40, round trip), I didn’t assign myself a seat (pre-assigned seats, $31 round trip), I didn’t print a boarding pass at the airport (airport printing, $5 each way), and I didn’t ask to board first (priority board access, $10 each way). I also didn’t ask for water or soda on the plane ($2 soda/water, $7 beer and wine). Wow. The extra fees would have doubled the cost of my ticket. I did not use the bathroom on the plane, so I can neither confirm nor deny the rumors of coin-operated toilets.

A Chart of the Extra Fees I Could Have Paid on My Flight (Round Trip)
Credit Card Ticket Purchase     $7.71 (6% of my ticket price)

Carry-On Bag Fee                        $30.00
Checked Bag Fee                          $40.00
Pre-Assigned Seat Fee                $31.00
Boarding Pass Printing Fee       $10.00
Priority Board Access Fee          $20.00
Water/Soda Purchase                 $4.00

Total Fees I Did Not Pay:           $140.71

I brought one bag with me, which fit under my seat. Allegiant makes a very big deal on their website about the size of a personal item. It MUST, in no uncertain terms, fit completely beneath the seat, and may be verified for size at the airport before boarding. Needless to say, I was careful that the bag I packed would indeed fit underneath my seat. I worried for no reason though, because none of the Allegiant ground crew looked twice at ahandsnyone’s carry-on bags or personal items. And once we were on board, the flight attendants told everyone that they could put their bags into the overhead compartments if they wanted to. To me, this appeared to mean that one could put a bag overhead whether they had paid for a carry-on or not. Our plane wasn’t full, so maybe when Allegiant flights are at capacity, the employees pay closer attention to whether travelers have paid for a carry-on – but it sure didn’t seem to make a difference on this flight.

Allegiant currently flies between Medford and Los Angeles twice a week, on Sundays and Thursdays. Our flight home on Sunday evening was more than two hours delayed, due to a mechanical problem. At one point the gate agent said the flight was cancelled, but later retracted the statement when the minor problem had been fixed. This got me to thinking… what if our flight had been cancelled? I’m pretty sure Allegiant doesn’t have a back up plane in Los Angeles. After searching the web for Allegiant cancellations, I discovered that I was lucky my plane was repaired, since Allegiant doesn’t appear to have an agreement with any other airlines in case of cancellations. Could I have been stuck in Los Angeles until the next day a Medford flight was scheduled, four days later? I think it’s possible.

So here’s what I learned flying a no frills airline. There really are no frills. And the “cheap” fare could have gotten significantly more expensive if I paid some of the extra fees, or if I’d had to book a return ticket home on another airline, because Allegiant couldn’t get me home. I’m open to discount/no frills airlines, but I’ll be selective when I book a ticket on one. Because once again, you get what you pay for.

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.