University of California Berkley
Berkeley Seismology Laboratory

Ronni Grapenthin -- Notes

Open Letter to Allegiant Air

Published: 2012/12/25

Dear Allegiant Management,

I am writing this sitting on Allegiant Air 1015 leaving from Oakland, CA to Billings, MT; scheduled to leave at 2:15 PM. It's 3:30 PM. The reason for sitting on a plane that hasn't moved for a little more than an hour? Ice on the wings! In California - the irony! What looks like a de-icing machine sits next to the wing. The last thing we heard was that Allegiant has to sign some paperwork with SouthWest Air, to ensure the costs are covered. Oh wait, the flight deck is calling: One wing is ice free and we've gotta wait for the ice on the other one to melt naturally. Looks like some-one didn't wanna pay after all. Good thing we're not in Alaska anymore.

Did I mention it's Christmas Day and this very flight was canceled yesterday? The official reason was that a pilot fell ill and his replacement was too fatigued to fly us to Billings safely. While that's OK, we learned about it only after about 5 hours of waiting at the gate (on top of the 2 hours we arrived before the scheduled departure). We were repeatedly assured that the flight is not being canceled. The flight was scheduled to leave at 1:15 PM; we left the airport with vouchers for a hotel around 8:30 PM. Rumors have it our original crew took over the Phoenix Mesa flight which was scheduled hours ahead of us and our second crew took the Idaho Falls flight which was schedules hours after us. I guess pissing off one set of customers is better than three slightly pissed off sets of customers? I fail to see the logic in this, but surely someone in business school taught you this. I don't regret dropping out of business school for them teaching this kind of thinking.

Anway, thanks for screwing up my Christmas Eve, Allegiant!

During this mess, I was impressed by the many families, individual parents with kids of all ages, and actually every passenger! People kept their act together even though you, the management, really fucked up! Although we have to spend our entire Christmas in airports and on planes rather than with our families, there are many smiles, there is lots of patience, mutual encouragement and help. There were tears too. Not being a parent myself, I can only imagine how hard it is to keep one to three children from tearing up the entire airport. Those tears came from exhaustion and frustration after realizing how much you did not care about us and had others lie for you. They may also have felt slightly intimidated by the three armed law enforcement officers that came in before your gate agents made the announcement that you canceled the flight. Really? Don't you think that if you need to keep your customers in check by armed sheriffs you may have done something wrong? I guess you wouldn't quite know; sitting under a tree humming Christmas carols inbetween slices of pie.

The irony of me calling Allegiant's hot line last night and hearing, while on hold, "You just sit back and relax and leave the flying to us" is only surpassed by the fact that now we're in Oakland, California, waiting for ice to melt. Turns out, it takes an hour and 30 minutes. You saved how many thousand dollars by keeping about 120 people waiting for that long? Remember this for the future and monitor your business in the coming months. I hope you'll see some negative effects!

The pilot told us the reason for having to wait instead of being de-iced was because de-icing equipment is hard to come by on Oakland Airport. While I would generally agree, what was the story about SouthWest and what was that thing next to our plane? Questions! I understand you're not in the mood to answer. I wouldn't want to face a crowd of legitimately outraged passengers, that's what gate agents and flight attendants get their pay check for ... and the sheriffs to keep us in check.

Anyway, thanks for screwing up my Christmas Day, Allegiant!

But hey, we're in the air now! I hope my future in-laws are going to be at the airport to pick us up when we come in late (by almost 2 hours). Once we get in the car, it's about two hours to drive to their house. A drive they made yesterday, too. In a snow storm. 92 miles one way. It's not like we could have told them to stay home had you filled us in right away, or - heaven forbid - we could have driven home with them had we taken a flight on a different airline paid for by you. As I learned from the customer service lady Kiia, you guys don't partner with any other airlines though, so it would probably have been rather expensive to get us to our Christmas destinations? In all honesty I hope that your royal screw-up is going to cost you at least two kingdoms! Much more than hiring another pilot would have cost; much less than you would have gained in respect and good propaganda from your customers by clearly outlining the issues and communicating your hard work and honest attempts to fix things. I would have enjoyed waiting another day had I known you were on our side.

Instead, I'll have to send you a bill with our incidentals over the last days and hope they get covered (wasn't quite clear). I also put this on the Internet so that potential customers can make informed decisions about whether or not they want to do business with you. To be fair, other airlines screw up just like you, but you messed up my Christmas and made me feel not valued as a customer. Since it's pointless to yell at customer service or gate agents who didn't make any of these decisions, I hope you'll end up reading this and you will feel properly yelled at, 'cause you actually deserve it!


R. Grapenthin

ronni <at> gi <dot> alaska <dot> edu | Created: 2012/01/28 | Last modified: December 26 2012 16:40.