Today our Compensation Clinic is about a case I opened with Alaska Airlines as I had an award ticket with them and the last segment following a long stopover suddenly got canceled, with the airline refusing to rebook on another carrier.
Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan is one of the very few programs that still allow members to book award tickets with a stopover and I usually take advantage of this feature whenever possible.
My most recent redemption was Bangkok-Tokyo-Los Angeles (Stopover)-Fort Lauderdale in First Class for 75,000 Mileage Plan miles and I added the LAX-FLL segment to pick up a cruise in late October.
Apparently sometime since last December when this was ticketed and now there was a schedule change for the last segment and the flight was no longer available on that particular date.
I always arrive a day before my cruise if at all possible to not stress out and rather start my trip relaxed.
This was the original last segment of my ticket (the other two were flown in December 2021):
Alaska, Flight 559
Departing Los Angeles (LAX)
Sunday, October 29, 03:35 am
Arriving Fort Lauderdale (FLL)
Sunday, October 29, 11:32 pm
A very easy, same day non-stop from LAX to FLL in First Class that would have gotten me into Fort Lauderdale around midnight where I usually stay at the Hyatt House or Le Meridien.
However, when I looked at the online check in for that particular flight I almost got a heart attack. Here is what it showed:
Updated flight information for confirmation code xxxxx:
Alaska, Flight 432
Departing Los Angeles, CA (LAX)
Saturday, October 29, 07:55 pm
Arriving Seattle (SEA)
Saturday, October 29, 10:55 pm
Alaska, Flight 122
Departing Seattle (SEA)
Sunday, October 30, 08:20 am
Arriving Fort Lauderdale (FLL)
Sunday, October 30, 05:07 pm
That obviously wasn’t going to work. Not sure what happened to that LAX-FLL flight but Alaska decided that they just rebook me via Seattle with a forced overnight (horrible), arriving at FLL the next day at 5:10pm by which the cruise ship would have already left.
Obviously, that’s not only unacceptable but also unworkable due to the flight times. Let alone the overnight in Seattle and associated expenses for that.
I contacted Alaska Airlines and asked them to rebook me to the only other option, the nonstop LAX-FLL on American Airlines which still offered First Class. Despite AA being Alaska’s alliance and codeshare partner, they refused. I told them I’d then purchase it myself at $1,182 and deal with the rest later.
Not sure why on earth Alaska Airlines wouldn’t rebook a passenger affected by their own cancellations to another carrier of the same alliance, let alone given that Alaska and American have a tight cooperation to begin with.
Either way, I forwarded the case to Alaska Airlines Customer Relations and this was their reply:
… Unfortunately, schedule changes are a common occurrence in the airline industry, as airlines alter their schedules every few months to accommodate seasonal changes in demand. When a schedule change happens, we attempt to find the best alternative arrangements for your itinerary. …
I also regret to learn that our agent in Los Angeles was unhelpful. Alaska strives to provide exceptional service to our customers. From what you have shared, it is apparent that we have failed. You should expect nothing less than being treated with the utmost respect, compassion and care. We assure you that we have shared your concerns with the customer service manager.
I am sorry that you had to purchase a new ticket with another airline. However, due to the very nature and many safety factors involved with the airline industry, we are unable to guarantee flight schedules or assume responsibility for the variety of personal or business consequences, which may result when a flight is delayed or canceled. This is why we offer trip insurance with every purchase to protect the value of your trip including any plans beyond your air travel. However, since you did not travel, I will refund the 75,000 miles you used to purchase the original fare. This has already been processed back to your Mileage Plan Account. Please accept our apology for any inconvenience this caused you. …
While the new ticket incurred additional cost, receiving the full 75,000 miles back is definitely of much greater value. Especially in light of BKK-NRT-LAX already being flown on Japan Airlines C/F class.
The Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan award chart is still very lucrative and the miles will definitely be used for another worthwhile redemption, likely on the identical route with FLL as the final destination for my Panama Canal cruise in April.
Alaska Airlines has canceled the last segment of my ticket that originated in Bangkok back in December of 2021 and which had a tail end LAX-FLL following a very long stopover. The flight was subject to an irregularity and the customer service agent refused to rebook me to another airline (AA) that would have gotten me into Fort Lauderdale timely.
After forwarding the matter to Alaska Airlines Customer Care they refunded the full amount of miles I paid for this ticket. I can now use these miles to book an identical itinerary for April 2024. It’s likely cheaper for Alaska Airlines to just credit back all the miles and make the customer happy than to reimburse a customer ~ $1200 in cash spent on alternate transportation.
I’m extremely satisfied with this outcome. Pretty much any other airline would have either fluffed me off or offered minimal compensation in miles or vouchers. Alaska Airlines was very generous here.