Every now and then we experience excellent customer service from a local business and we give them a plug on the radio. So it only seems fair that we share our bad experiences too - right? I don't want to "bash" Allegiant Air. They offer a very low price for airline travel and for those times when you need to get somewhere cheap they are very useful. But I found out today that there are some things about them that you should know before you buy your tickets. These are things that I didn't know and they burned me badly today...
First, let me share my experience with you and then I'll tell you what I learned. It might matter to you as well if you are thinking of flying Allegiant Air.
I was booked to leave Greenville at 2:05pm today (Saturday January 23rd, 2010) and arrive in Orlando at around 3:30pm. I planned to visit my brand new niece that afternoon and then drive my family back to Greenville on Sunday morning. I checked online shortly before leaving the house and my flight (706) showed "no information available." This wasn't unusual because neither of my flights on Allegiant ever showed any information available. I assumed this meant that everything was good. Upon arrival, I stood in a long line of people who each looked surprised and irritated when they got to the gate agent. I was about to find out why.
Our flight had been delayed from 2:05 pm until 6:00pm. For me, that was a huge inconvenience. In different circumstances it might have been only a minor inconvenience, but this time it was a bigger deal.
I asked the gate agent if there were any other flights he could put me on and he told me there were no other flights to Orland0. I politely thanked him and sat down to call my wife. I got to looking at the departure board and realized that Delta and US Air had flights going to Charlotte and Atlanta in about an hour. I'm not a "seasoned" air traveler but I know enough to realize that Atlanta and Charlotte are major hubs and probably have flights to Orlando. So I had my wife look them up and sure enough, both Delta and US Airways had flights that would get me to Orlando around 6:15pm. Much better since I might have time to get over to see my niece.
I went back to the ticket agent and waited in line. When I got to the counter I explained that I would like to be moved to one of those flights instead of waiting. The agent told me that Allegiant is a charter airline and they cannot put you on another flight. He gave me the customer service phone number and told me that they were not "empowered" to do anything about situations like this. I thanked him and sat down to call the customer service number.
It is not a toll-free number (702–505–8888) but no big deal. I get it, they are a "cheap" airline and they are trying to save money. I called the number and got a recording. Worse than that, the recording said that "They were unable to take my call at this time, but I could e-mail them and they would get back to me in 24-48 hours.) THAT irritated me. I couldn't even talk to someone in customer "service" to try and resolve my problem.So, I drove back to my house and decided to write this blog while I wait to return to the airport at 4:30pm and HOPEFULLY fly out then.Please don't misunderstand my blog. I'm not screaming or crying because my flight got delayed. It is very inconvenient for me and I had really looked forward to seeing my niece for the first time, but I understand that these things happen. What I am upset about is the lack of customer service and options that were available to me when something did happen. I just want to make sure that you know what you are getting when you save a few dollars on that flight next time you book with Allegiant. It may still be worth it to you. There are times when it may be worth it to me. But in times where your arrival or departure times are important, you should know some of these things and decide whether the cost savings is worth it or not.
I could have book for about $150 more through a "real" airline and that would have been well worth it in hindsight. If I had known what I know now, that is what I would have done for this trip.
1. Allegiant Air is a "charter airline." According to the gate agent (who was explaining why they couldn't put me on a Delta or US Airways flight instead) that means that Allegiant cannot move you to a different flight if your flight is delayed or cancelled.
2. Allegiant Air does not empower its ticket agents to do anything to help you if you are in a special situation.
3. Allegiant Air does not have a reliable customer service phone number you can call to get in touch with someone who does have that power.
4. Allegiant Air does not offer compensation for delayed flights. I was told that I would get free baggage check-in but I didn't have any checked baggage, so I got nothing. They did offer to "feed us some stuff" (no, I am not making that up) but I did not care to risk it and chose to go home and eat instead.
5. Allegiant Air is really not as cheap as I thought it was if you need to travel at conventional times. If you can fly everywhere on WEDNESDAY then yes, they are cheap. But if you have to fly on Monday or Saturday then they aren't as much less expensive than the real airlines as I thought they would be. I saved about $150 or so and experience a much worse schedule and no customer service as a result. I would spend the $15o in a second right now to get to Orlando on time.
In the end, if price is your most important factor, then Allegiant Air has the goods. They are cheaper than anyone else and if you can fly their off-beat schedule then go for it. But just know that they will not fix things if they go wrong and make sure you have FLEXIBLE plans or you might end up disappointed.