Alaska Airlines (Austin – Seattle) experience

My wife and I took a whirlwind trip to Seattle over the second week of Sept (Sept 10-14) 2010.  We departed Austin Friday evening and returned Tuesday Afternoon, both trips were on Alaska Airlines nonstop from Austin-Seattle and Seattle-Austin.  The flights were pretty standard, except for a few issues I will discuss below.

Since my wife and I wanted the LEAST hassle on our trip, we decided to go ahead and check our bag so we didn’t have to fight for room (larger end of the carry-on size since it had BOTH our clothes), and since we had a rental car/parked our car, it wasn’t a big rush to get moving once the plane landed.  Also, Alaska promises 20 minute delivery from the plane landing.  So, that was acceptable.

First, they charge $20 bucks for each checked bag up to 3.  Well, ok, we just paid even though that seems…well, you know how it seems.  For that we got the 20 minute guarantee.

So, here’s the scam/uber-lame part of it.  We paid online and took care of our bag upon arriving at the airport.  But we didn’t know how the scam works…

Say I’m a jerk traveler.  I bring my super stuffed bag as a carry-on, along with my oversized laptop bag.  Oh, but when I try to stuff it in to the overhead it won’t fit, or maybe the airline personnel see it before I even get on.  Hold on, here’s the lame part.  They offer to check it for FREE.  Yep, Free.  FREE.  I paid $20 and was trying to be considerate/less hassled.  Oh my, you mean we could have skipped the check-in line (since we already had our boarding passes from the previous evening)?  Ok, Alaska.  I’m calling you out on that.  That doesn’t seem to be too friendly to passengers who pay the fee.  I saw at least 4 on the outbound leg, and 3 before the plane was half loaded on the return trip that “used” this scam.

Not only that, but when we were in the Seattle airport, the line was pretty large (there were lots of small lines, with 10 or so people in each line (broken into 2 lines of 5 so the lines looked shorter?).  We got in line, and waited, and waited.  Remember, this is to pay our $20 and get our larger bag checked (should have taken it as carry-on as wife suggested after witnessing first flight, but I was determined to do the right thing).  So, after we wait a bit, our turn is next.  But oh wait, the printer broke/jammed.  So the counter attendant closes her line and tells us we have to get in another  line.  Of course this happens after a new influx of people had just arrived and all the lines we could see were fully stacked.  I go wait in another line while the wife stares down the attendant.  After I move forward a few people (12-13 minutes), the attendant has found someone to fix her printer.  She doesn’t reopen her line, and continues to try and act as if she isn’t going to, but apparently my wife staring her down guilts her into at least helping us, which she does, slowly.  Alaska, another call out for crummy customer service.  (and then of course we see the same bag scam when we get on the plane…ARRGH)

Finally we get home and the final insult occurs.  Yeah, remember that 20 minute guarantee?  HAHAHAHA.  Yeah, it was more than 20 minutes after the wife and I got off the plane.  We were behind the wing, so at least half the plane got off before us.  I’m thinking it was 30-35 minutes total, but since I didn’t keep an accurate log, I couldn’t really say.  I know we had time for the plan to unload at least halfway, then we went to the bathroom, 1 at a time while the other watched the purse/ipad bag.  Then we leisurely strolled to the baggage claim, expecting our bag to already be there.  But no, we had an additional 10-15 minutes wait there.  Not nice Alaska.

Now, just to be clear, it wasn’t all suck.  The plane was clean, the air staff friendly, if a bit impersonal (as all airline staff seem to be recently), and the planes were on time.  And, since I really, really dislike Delta/Continental/United, I suppose I will need to fly Alaska again if I want to go back to Seattle.  But I’m probably not going to like it.

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