I’ll get to the details of the trip next post, but to keep this on point: We scheduled a flight from Central Florida to Indianapolis to visit my dad and step-mom, Marcia, whom we had managed to miss during our mutual RV travels, partially due to our continuous mechanical difficulties. So before continuing our trip towards Maine and, based on their RV plans, probably miss them again until late this year, we did some research, found an affordable though not dirt cheap flight on a discount airline, Allegiant, on which we had never flown. We also paid for it with points from a recent credit card sign up bonus, so it was sort of free.
We probably would have taken a major carrier since the price wasn’t that different, except that the Allegiant flight was out of a Sanford, a satellite regional airport to Orlando International. Located far closer to where we would be keeping the RV, and without the crowded drama that major airports entail, it was the best option, even if it meant getting nickel and dimed for every aspect of a discount airline itinerary. So we paid the extra baggage fees, avoided the extra ticket fee by printing our passes at home, and boarded without drama or complaint.
After we took off and leveled out at cruising altitude, a cameraman stood up and recorded one of the flight attendants as she announced a special surprise: As part of a kind of compensation for tax day, Allegiant would be refunding the entire cost of the itinerary, including the return flight and whatever upgrades and special fees anyone had incurred, for everyone on this flight! Though we had paid for the trip with some flexible travel points, we would get all of those back to use on another trip. Man what a deal. We were encouraged, of course, to share all about it on social media, and were provided with a flier with the details and preferred hashtags to use, so yeah, it was just a publicity stunt, but heck we benefited and were grateful.
So that’s the good side of our Allegiant experience…
For our return flight my Dad drove us the one hour to the Indianapolis airport and dropped us off about 90 minutes before the 5 PM flight. Indy was not at all crowded, giving us plenty of time before needing to go through security, so we headed for the USO club. These places are fantastic benefits for any active or retired military person or family, providing an oasis from the airport hassles, free snacks and (non-alcoholic) drinks, TVs, computers, video games, books, the works. Most of it is donated our purchased with donations, and the club is staffed by volunteers. If you have access and aren’t using them, your missing out, particularly if you don’t have entry to one of the various executive airline lounges.
Just before entering the USO, we checked the flight board and discovered that our plane was already delayed by an hour. Ah well, we settled into the lounge for a slightly longer stay than planned, happy to at least have their amenities. After an hour, we checked in again, and the flight was delayed another hour! And then another hour! Now we were looking at a four hour delay. Finally, around 8:30 PM, they cancelled the flight out right.
Since we were not at the gate when they announced it, we had to hunt for the details of the cancellation, running into one of the passengers at the sparsely manned Allegiant counter. Together with her information, customer service rep on the phone, and that of the person at the employee unofficially providing information at the counter, we pieced together a somewhat confusing picture involving a replacement flight the next morning at 9:30 AM, and that we were to find our own hotel reservation, though two of the sources suggested that Allegiant would refund the cost up to $200 or more bucks, and might also provide a $100 ravel voucher as compenstation.
Back to the USO, and with the help of the on duty volunteer we hunted for a close by hotel with a shuttle service. This was surprisingly hard because the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 was coming up soon, and thus a lot of places were full. Uncertain of the vague information we were giving about the hotel refund, I picked the cheapest option rather than the first, but it still cost us $140 after taxes for a one night stay at the airport Quality Inn. After a half hour wait for the shuttle, we settled into the room and made the best of it: a night cap, some TV, and a marginally usable free wifi connection. The next morning after our complementary breakfast, we took the shuttle to the airport and caught our return flight without further incident.
Since then I have tried to call Allegiant customer service, which after about five minutes of fighting through the phone tree and listening to a detailed list of airline related rules, informs me that I have another 20 minute wait to speak with a representative. So I used the “contact us” form on their website, and now after nearly three full days I am still awaiting a response concerning reimbursement for the hotel and the $100 voucher.