I am huge fan of Virgin America, and my friends in the Pacific Northwest uniformly won’t stop talking about how amazing Alaska Airlines is.
So, when the Alaska/Virgin America merger was announced, I decided then and there that I was going to go for status on the airline, and possibly make it my domestic airline of choice.
But as I sit in the Puerto Vallarta airport waiting for my Alaska flight, which has been delayed “at least 1.5 hours,” I’ve realized this has been my third bad experience in a row, and have decided to no longer try for status on the airline.
Somewhat ironically, the reason I’m flying on Alaska right now because this summer, a flight I was on from SFO to Portland was delayed almost 3 hours, and I was given a voucher for $125 towards another flight. Delays, in general, are frustrating, but for that flight, I was heading to Portland for a dear friend’s wedding and missed her rehearsal dinner as a result. For that flight, I told them of my urgent need to get to Portland for the dinner, but the gate agents made no effort to rebook me. This was strike one.
Then, in January, again thinking I would go for status on the airline, I decided to book a Delta flight to LAX from SFO, taking advantage of the Delta/Alaska partnership which is ending in May.
Days after my flight, I didn’t have my miles posted onto my Alaska account, which I blogged about. A month later, 3-4 calls (average wait time over 1 hour), and 5 e-mails later, and my miles still had not posted. Delta and Alaska both confirmed the problem was on Alaska’s end, so about 6 weeks after the flight, I called Alaska and told the agent (again after waiting an hour to speak to her) that I wasn’t getting off of the phone until the miles were posted to my account.
Although the woman was nice enough, it took over an hour for the problem to be resolved. She said the airline was having difficulty handling the volume of new Virgin America customers, but when I asked why my previous 5 e-mails had been ignored, she merely apologized and said this wasn’t the service Alaska usually gave customers. I politely disagreed, letting her know this was the quality of service I was used to receiving from the airline.
Nevertheless, when my friends decided to go on a trip to Puerto Vallarta, I decided it would be the perfect time to use my voucher, and to continue my quest for Alaska status. What a mistake! While my friends, flying on United, took off on time and had their upgrades confirmed, I was standing in line waiting to board when, 10 minutes after boarding was supposed to start, they announced that there are “maintenance issues,” that the flight will be delayed at least an hour and a half, and that they will tell us more information in an hour.
Maybe it is just my luck, but I had wanted to try Alaska to experience the service my friends in Portland rave about. Because my experience has been the opposite, I’m going to stick with United and American (where I already have status on both) for my domestic trips.
UPDATE: They delay ultimately got us to the ground 2 hours late in SFO. Those on the flight with connections were told upon landing in SF that they would need to be rebooked for the morning and given a hotel room for the night. It was apparently caused by a flat tire. This morning, Alaska sent me a $75 voucher to use on a future flight, even though I was specifically told I would not be receiving a voucher from a gate agent.