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Alaska Air / Hates families

1 United States Review updated:

Alaska Airlines hates families. That's the only reason they'd treat a customer like this:

The weekend of October 11 was one of the most important in my life: my partner Colleen and I packed up our eight-month old son and traveled from our home in Edmonton, Alberta to Las Vegas to get married. It was an intimate ceremony with family and close friends, and a weekend we were prepared to cherish forever.

Unfortunately, our memory of the adventure was tarnished in its final hours, when an impatient and unreasonable Alaska Airlines agent in the Las Vegas airport decided to give away my wife's return ticket home to someone on standby.

The agent showed no sympathy for a new family with a small baby who had just soiled himself prior to boarding. When we complained, Alaska Airlines showed no more understanding than their agent, and we ended up being forced to buy new plane tickets home with another air carrier, spending an extra night in Las Vegas, and having to spend an extra $1, 300 that we really couldn't afford.

Things went from bad to worse shortly after we prepared to board our return flight in the Las Vegas airport. We approached the gate with 20 minutes to spare before the scheduled departure time when we realized our baby Levi had soiled his diaper. My wife took him to the restroom to get him cleaned up, while I approached the gate to inform the agent we would be a few minutes longer before boarding.

I did not expect a problem.

I see dozens of new parents in airports every time I fly. I've been a passenger on dozens of flights where the last people to board were a new family, scrambling to tend to their baby while hoping the other passengers understand the difficulties of traveling with a young child. Surely this has happened before, I thought. Surely the Alaska Airlines agent would understand.

Boy was I wrong.

As I began to tell the Alaska Airlines agent my wife would be along shortly, she interrupted me to say boarding was already complete and she was already planning to give away our tickets to passengers on stand-by.

At first I was worried, but soon became irritated. We had paid good money for these tickets. How could they just give them away because we were a little behind? The plane was right there, wouldn't stand-by passengers be boarding just as late as we would? The Alaska Airlines agent said you have two minutes to get your wife and son here, or else I am giving away your tickets.

I ran to the restroom to find my wife upset knowing we were running late, and frustrated that Levi had urinated on himself while she was changing his soiled diaper. Now she needed to change his entire outfit. I urged my wife to hurry and we rushed back to the Alaska Airlines gate with our son half-dressed. He was crying.

The agent took one look at us and said to me: You are one minute late. I have given your wife's ticket away. You can board alone.

We couldn't believe what we were hearing. The plane clearly hadn't left and someone who didnt have a ticket moments ago was being allowed to board with my wife's ticket! I told the agent I was not about to leave without my family, to which she replied: Fine, I'm giving away your ticket too". We were shocked. Now, my son and my wife were crying. Still, the agent did nothing.

Later, I managed to contact the couple who were on standby and took our seats. They witnessed our entire interaction with the Alaska Airlines agent, and said they were offered my wife's ticket the moment I fled to fetch her in the restroom. It sounds as though the agent lied to us; we didn't even get that 2 minutes she had promised.

After failing to get on our flight, the Alaska Airlines agent told us we had two options: join the existing standby list to get back to Edmonton, or book another flight with Alaska Airlines.

The standby option was out: we had a crying baby, and the waiting list was already 20 people long.

Booking another flight with Alaksa Airlines was out too: they had no seats available for Edmonton flights until several days later.

We were stranded.

We didnt even have our bags which remained on our original flight that had already departed (which, I think, is a violation of the latest air traffic safety standards but thats a blog post for another day). All of the things we needed for our baby were gone, and were left in Las Vegas without no flight home, no hotel, no baby stuff, and not a single person from Alaska Airlines who seemed to care.

Thats when I started thinking that Alaska Airlines hates families. Why else would they do this to us? What kind of airline looks a crying mother in the eyes and says Sorry, too bad so sad.

We ended up getting home by booking two seats on a WestJet flight the next day which cost us $1038.00. Getting our baggage back became a whole other headache that took a few more days.

All this time Id been trying to contact someone at Alaska Air to seek fair compensation but I was rebuffed at every turn.

I want other travelers to know that Alaska Airlines hates families. If they can prove otherwise Ill gladly update this story with a happy ending.

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  • Al
      4th of Nov, 2010
    +2 Votes

    My name is Elliott and I manage the social media here at Alaska Airlines. Please know that I appreciate traveling with an infant is never easy. Many of my colleagues are parents, and they certainly understand and empathize with those of you who fly with small children. It’s also unfortunate you encountered difficulties during a very special trip … congrats, by the way, on your marriage.

    We do appreciate that you and Colleen were handling an unexpected situation with your son, Levi. To compensate you, our Customer Care Department has already offered you 2 $400 discount coupons off a future flight, which you did not accept. We’d be happy to refund your tickets, however, we cannot refund segments that were purchased on other air carriers.

    I’d also like to offer our perspective because I’m disheartened to hear you believe we hate families. We offer many family friendly policies, such as early pre-boarding and reserving a row of seats on many flights until the day of departure to help families with last-minute re-accommodations.

    We’ve also worked very hard to make many improvements over the past few years so that we’re now the No. 1 on-time airline in the continental United States month after month. A few years ago, we consistently ranked dead-last among major airlines. That’s unacceptable. Our customers pay hard-earned money for their tickets … and our fundamental promise in return is to get them to their destination safely and on time.

    You and your fellow passengers play a key role in our performance. We require passengers to be checked in and available for boarding 30 minutes before departure (40 minutes in Las Vegas). That information is on your boarding pass as well as our website ([ ] Reservations are subject to cancellation if customers aren’t ready at the gate within those times because many tasks must be completed before departure. Our operations agents can’t provide the pilots with final paperwork until everyone is onboard. We can’t push the plane back from the gate till everyone is sitting down. And so on. If we accommodate people who arrive late, we risk arriving at the destination late … and that’s not fair to everyone else on the flight who boarded on time.

  • Jo
      8th of Nov, 2010
    +2 Votes

    As someone who frequently flies, I get sick of attending 2 hours pre flight for international flights (as per most airlines request) only to find my flights held up by someone else. That it was your child had little to do with anything. Everyone has their excuse for being late. It's simply not acceptable when it comes to holding up 100's of other people due to your own poor planning.

    Leaving yourself only 20 minutes prior to your flight was your doing. No one elses.

    The fact that you declined $800 in free flight vouchers just shows how far you go to refuse any of the blame, when ALL of the blame sits in your seat. I shake my head at people like you who feel that they are important while everyone else can wait for you.

  • Be
      8th of Nov, 2010
    Best Best Advice +5 Votes

    Some people think the world should revolve around them and their needs. As long as they "explain" why they want what they want, then everyone should comply.

  • Sh
      8th of Nov, 2010
    +5 Votes

    Travelling with children can be a challenge, since your plans were entirely in your own hands, accept the fact that you were late and irresponsible.
    The fact that you had to endure the consequences of your own actions/tardiness, well maybe you have learnt something .
    You cannot expect everyone to revolve around you.
    Who do you think you are asking to hold up a fully loaded plane.
    I don't think the airline should have offered you vouchers.
    I do believe you are just playing out your bad manners and your inconsiderate behavior, trying to seek some public sympathy.
    Who really wants to deal with people like you and your wife.

  • Jo
      8th of Nov, 2010
    -1 Votes

    some thing you can not control like baby's if i was on that fight i would not want to sit beside i kid full of crap i travel alot things do happen i know how airlines tried people we are just cargo I when to Texas one year on Christmas on american airlines because i was traveling alone i was put on standby family's where first 7 hours on standby i was dead tired and nobody cared i paid full price for my ticked also so why i get to go on standby sure they give me a free voucher good for a year i never used the darn thing as far as i concern they can stick the ticket you know where i am human i paid for my flight i have the right to be on time also thats what we pay for give the guy his money he had to put out to get home i dont mind being a little late 30 min or so dont kill anyone not 7 hours or more hours well i guess Alaska airlines loves bad Pr i hear many complanes about Alaska you never get me on there flights go westjet your better off

  • Ll
      8th of Nov, 2010
    -1 Votes

    Ok, so they gave your tickets away, that's too bad, but that's life and that's the rules, things happen in life so get over it and move on.

  • Pu
      8th of Nov, 2010
    -2 Votes

    I cannot believe the rude remarks left on this blog. Airlines are making money hand over fist - giving the ticket away means that the airline makes MORE money. This was an exceptional problem and really wouldn't the people of the plane be just as happy to wait a few minutes rather than sit in a plane with a reeking diaper. You can try as hard as you want to get to the airport on time but it's never that simple especially if you are travelling with an infant. CRAP happens people - where is the empathy in this world? My kids are learning about empathy in their circles of courage at school. Perhaps some of these "frequent fliers" who hate to wait...perhaps you should join our circle of courage and learn some empathy. It saddens me greatly that a family got ditched so that the plane could leave on time...leave on time YA RIGHT! I fly plenty and I rarely leave on time. Heck, my entire family was stranded on a runway for 4hrs on our way to Hawaii a couple years ago. The airline didn't even offer the people on the plane water during our long wait. Airlines don't care about people...they care about $$$$$!!!
    For the family who was stranded - I applaud you for not taking their "crap" and I'm sorry that it happened to you.
    For all those applauding the airline...just you wait and see...the next one being left behind will be YOU!

  • Bi
      8th of Nov, 2010
    -1 Votes

    It could have been handled better by Alaska Airlines. Sure they had the right to give away the tickets and all but the bad publicity they get will cost them a lot of customers. Sometimes you gotta bend the rules and make exceptions. Its what good customer service is about.

  • Sh
      8th of Nov, 2010
    +4 Votes

    The airlines are operating a business, accountable to many people including the passengers on that flight.
    These people have no one to blame but each other.
    They should have acted in a more responsible manor, let see arrive at gate on time etc...

  • As
      8th of Nov, 2010
    0 Votes

    I've also had terrible experiences flying with a family on Alaska Airlines - I've used pretty much every North American airline and they are by far the worst for customer service. They wouldn't let my family do early online check-in, then had us scattered around the plane on an overbooked flight (including initially having my 2 year-old sitting by himself on a 6 hour flight) and refused to make any effort to change the seating (luckily a kind passenger was willing to trade). The flight was about 40 minutes late but they never gave us any updates on when it was going to be boarding - while we were trying to hold off on feeding a crying baby until we could board to avoid a situation similar to the original complaint (but would've had plenty of time if we'd known it would be that late). We had a "diaper emergency" on the plane, but at first they weren't going to let my wife get by the beverage cart to change it (even though it was leaking everywhere). In general all the staff, from the gate agents to the flight attendants, were grumpy and rude (most likely due to working for a poor employer).

  • Ai
      8th of Nov, 2010
    +1 Votes

    I also fly frequently and make every effort to arrive early enough to accomnodate any disruptions or delays, so I understand the airline's policy about being on time. But, PLEEASSE!! This airline has absolutely no concept of customer service or humanity. If your schedule is so important to you that your humanity is thrown out the window, then I will be sure to travel other airlines. If this couple had not appeared at the gate at all and the airline was not even aware that they were there, I would say their actions were justified. I have flown internationally and nationally and have many times heard airlines calling for individuals by name over the intercom system who were late boarding. I have also heard them on the phone asking if the customer's baggage had been checked to see if they were even in the airport. These are airlines who understand customer service. It may be an inconvenience, but IT IS YOUR JOB. Deal with it. But to give away the tickets for 1 minute of lateness when they knew the couple was there and they were making the effort to get to the should be ashamed of yourself. I know we live in a narcissistic world (as evidenced by the comments on this board), but it does not make this behavior acceptable. I teach my 4 year old to have better behavior to others than I see here. What a sad comment on our world.

  • Na
      8th of Nov, 2010
    +2 Votes

    You haven't explained why you were so late arriving to the airport in the first place. Getting through security with only 20 minutes before departure sounds incredibly late. And with an infant, no less! I thought everything took 3x longer with an infant!

    Why should everyone else wait for you because you were late? My husband and I get to the airport early, and I would be pissed if I was late taking off and waiting around for someone who was not prepared for life. Yes, crap happens, but that is why you have to come early. Poor planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on the airline's part. Haven't you ever heard that before?

    And another thing - if you can't afford $1000 from an emergency fund somewhere for a situation like this, you probably shouldn't have been living it up in Vegas in the first place.

  • Jo
      8th of Nov, 2010
    +1 Votes

    I don't have a family, so I'm not bias in that sense. However, I think what the employee at the desk did was pretty inappropriate. Yes they were late, but the situation wasn't handled the best it could've been. I was actually pretty surprised to read that Westjet didn't help out (not their problem to deal with though).
    I have cancelled my flight this spring with Alaska Airlines due to this issue and I will never fly with them again unless they change their policies - what a terrible way to treat people. Westjet will be more fun anyway :-)

  • Ai
      8th of Nov, 2010
    -3 Votes

    We can always, in hindsight, come up with an action that might have been a better choice. But this airline is in the business and should have better policies for dealing with this. Say what you want, this plane was not late for takeoff (in response to such concerns of others' connecting flights) and the company could have handled THIS SITUATION with more professionalism. If other airlines can do it, they should be able to.

  • Da
      8th of Nov, 2010
    +2 Votes

    Though NEVER NEVER LEAVE ONLY 20MIN TO YOUR FLIGHT...WHAT WERE YOU THINKING? The fact that you were there, told the attendant your wife was coming seems that the attendant was unreasonable. Yet on that note, maybe they have been told many "stories" over the years that are untrue and just have a basic line. You would think though that the fact that you did check in with her would give some room for human issues.

    Also; what if this was just a ploy? To get a bag on the flight with goodness knows what in it??? And the plane blew up?

    Good luck, makes me think a lot less of the company, more so wonder about the humanness of the attendant-or maybe they are under so much pressure from above the attendant had no choice but to follow rules no matter what your situation was?


  • Vi
      8th of Nov, 2010
    -3 Votes

    I understand the comments above saying rules are rules, etc, but I cannot believe that these people or the ones at the gate remember what it's like to have a baby or have ever experienced a diaper blow out. I have. As a new mum I can completely relate to the family above and feel so sorry for what happened to them. The bottom line is that I don't think it is about the money. It's about the point.
    Two minutes people? The poor new mum rushed as fast as she could to get back to that gate and obviously the airline knew they were checked in or they couldn't have cleared security. We aren't talking about a "normal" person who should suck it up and buy a new toothbrush, make the best of the situation and catch a later flight. It sucks, but I'd have done it in the past. Do you have any idea how much stuff is required for a baby? (And therefore how much time it takes to get them out the door? This couple likely gave themselves more time than they thought they needed and still ran short - it happens!) Or how stressful it is to not have what you need when taking care of one? The diapers, the wipes, the clothes, the receiving blankets, the socks, the toys... It is hard to believe that something so small needs so much stuff, but they do. I get stressed if I get stuck in traffic with my little one, let alone stuck in an airport with nothing.
    Show some compassion people. Five minutes will not make you miss your connection.
    Alaska Airlines should be ashamed.
    Hearing this story and having a child, I will never fly with them again, and I had one of their frequent flyer credit cards.
    Business gone.
    Thanks AA staff and owners for proving you obviously don't have any children or don't remember what it's like to have a baby.
    I'll stick with West Jet. They are AMAZING.

  • Fl
      8th of Nov, 2010
    +1 Votes

    you were late, and that was your fault and your problem, not the airline's or the other people that were there on time. suck it up. your entitled attitude shows through when you state that you went up to "inform" the gate attendant that you would be late for boarding (so they should hold the plane) and "telling" the AA agent that your wife is coming along so they should wait.

    everyone in the world who has ever been on a plane knows that you're taking a risk if you only arrive at the gate 20 minutes before departure. it's your fault - I am completely behind the airline and the agent on this one.

  • Jj
      8th of Nov, 2010
    0 Votes

    You were late getting to the gate. The boarding time is CLEARLY printed on the ticket and the boarding pass you were holding in your hand. You chose to ignore that boarding time and only go through security 20 minutes AFTER the boarding time.

    And now you are blaming the airline for your own failure to be at the gate on time?

    And I thought that Albertans were big on PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY

    I'm amazed that they offered you anything, the fact that you are refusing the $400 each in credit just displays your self important arrogance to the world. That's a LOT more than Air Canada would have offered you.

    I've travelled HUNDREDS of times via air with 1 or 2 children in diapers with me. Alaska Airlines is THE MOST FAMILY FRIENDLY of any airline I've ever flown on and whenever possible I fly Alaska when travelling with children.

  • Ai
      8th of Nov, 2010
    0 Votes

    Mellen67. Since you are directing comments directly at me...don't tell me what I don't know. When I book with an agent, I take the initiative to double check with the airline to make sure I have enough time. I don't go by the agent's word alone. I have never been late for any flight. I travelled 30 hours overseas with a 9 mo old infant. Dealt with four clothing changes due to explosive diapers, switched terminals in major international airports 2 times (in the middle of the night). And never was late for any flight. I confirmed all my connections before I left and made sure I had time. I have travelled for 3 more years with a child, and again, have never had any problems due my own responsibility. Yes, I am the perfect traveller. And still, I am not sitting in my self-righteous perfection judging someone else who was in a difficult situation. I still believe the response from the airline was over the top. The couple was there and they knew it and was trying to deal with a very difficult situation in the best way they knew how. By the airlines own admission, they have had difficulties and are trying to resolve them. This may have not been the best approach and they would be wise to review their policies. Not everything in life is so black and white as the policy written on a piece of paper.

    I do think the couple should take ownership of the fact they were late and have accepted the vouchers.

    Next time you direct comments at someone, know who you are talking to.

  • Sb
      8th of Nov, 2010
    +1 Votes

    As a father of 4 children, I would advise that you pay your bills, take the voucher to offset them, learn your lesson, don't embarrass yourself any further, and move on. Employ better planning next time! The world does not revolve around you, or anyone else.

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