Christmas morning was a wonderful morning. The kids opened their gifts and found that they were going to go to San Francisco this winter!
They were thrilled and more than a little nervous when they found they would be flying a plane for the first time.
Two weeks after Christmas and the day arrived that we were leaving for San Francisco.
The fog was extra thick at the little airport we flew out of and I knew that the flight would be delayed. However I never thought that our delay would be handled in this manner...
We chose to fly through Allegiant Airline. A small airline, Allegiant began it's humble roots fifteen years ago. They took over flying out of our small airport when Frontier Airlines stopped flights. I loved that they offered flights to LA and Oakland--both places we fly to often. We had a lot of neighbors who fly them to Los Angeles, Vegas and Mesa and always mentioned how much they love using them. I thought I would give it a try.
When I booked our trip I knew because of my husband's work schedule I would need to fly the kids in and out of the airport by myself. Rather than go north 45 minutes and deal with airport construction at the larger airport and trying to get long term parking, shuttles and luggage all figured out with three kids in tow stressing not only myself but the kids out, I opted to fly out of our smaller airport and fly into Oakland. Better to deal with one larger airport than two. And I knew at Oakland I'd have a driver coming to take us into the city so dealing with a rental car wouldn't be an issue with the kids.
The day of our flight the airplane coming in was delayed for fog. They diverted the flight to Mesa Arizona. The fog burned off but the expected plane that we were told was going to come in later that afternoon did not. They cancelled the flight entirely that day. In an effort to get out of town that day and salvage our weekend I cashed out my husband's Southwest points and got us all tickets out of the larger airport up north. My brother and sister in law were nice enough to drive us up there. Allegiant Airlines offered us a $100 voucher to fly with them again. No hotel, no transfer of flight offer, no transportation offer because of the cancelled flight. But we did get a free water bottle and soda.
Coming home from Oakland the flight was delayed by two hours. And when we landed we had to sit on the runway for twenty minutes while we waited for the other plane to load and take off. And then we had to find a taxi to take us home from the airport. Which is very hard to do when you fly into a small airport.
And after all this, our review of Allegiant was actually pretty POSITIVE!!!
* We love that Allegiant offers flights out of smaller airports. It is a bonus, and had our flight worked out as planned, it would've been very convienent to fly in and out of the airport without having to deal with higher traffic airports.
* We found the on ground staff to be very friendly. We didn't find that they hassled us about our luggage like some reviews you find online have claimed. (Read our tips for an easy trip on Allegiant below) Each of us packed a medium to large sized backpack and it fit comfortably under our seats in front of us. They were great to gate check our stroller and carseat. The staff also did a great job of trying their best to get us seats together (there were four of us) and we got economy seating on the return flight home for no extra cost. We opted to not pay for the seating assignment prices as recommended by others. They also made sure that our littlest one could get a window seat so for her first flight she could look out the window. Both times they waived the fee for the boarding pass when I physically showed them that I couldn't get the boarding passes to print via their app nor their online check in. However, because I hadn't assigned a seat, I did have to pay the $5 boarding pass fee.
* The staff does a great job of updating on flight delays. During our flight delay back here and when the plane was trying to land going out, the staff came on several times (every fifteen minutes to be exact) to let us know where the flight was in the air and how far out the plane was. They did a great job of deboarding the previous plane and boarding us in a timely manner once on the ground in Oakland.
* Prices for on board refreshments are decent. I've heard a lot of complaints about the prices charged for on board refreshments, but we felt that the staff treated us fine when we opted to bring on our own food and drinks. Soda's and water were $2. Not unreasonable. (I spent anywhere from $2.29-2.99 for a bottle of water in the airport). Flight snacks were only $2 and snack packages ranged from $5-10. Not outrageous and similar to prices for Delta extras. Although Delta offers sandwiches, and Allegiant does not.
* The pilots were super nice. We had no issues with the pilots. They loved the kids and did a great job welcoming us and keeping us informed during the flight. They were apologetic about the delays and made sure that they got us in the air as soon as possible.
* The airplanes weren't bad. I had this image of a tiny cramped mustard yellow color interior airplane. The seats were more narrow than other carriers and not as comfortable as other carriers but our flight had leather seats and were just fine for a short flight. The aisles on our plane were wide and the storage underneath was ample for all of our backpacks. We felt the plane was up to the standards of other carriers as far as ammenities went. The plane was a little louder on the inside but that is because it is a smaller plane and older. The decor was fine. Light colored walls and gray leather seats.
* The onboard staff was 50/50. They were very diligent in making sure that everyone had their cell phones and electronics completely turned off and weren't too thrilled when several of us pointed out that our phones were in airplane mode for takeoff. They also thoroughly inspected each aisle, making sure we were all buckled up and our bags were completely stowed underneath the seats. When we landed and sat on the runway, the pilot came on overhead and mentioned that we were sitting until the previous plane took off before we could pull in. He said, "if you look at the right side of our plane, you can see we are just waiting for that plane to move." Of course, my kids were sitting on the LEFT side of the plane and quickly unbuckled and moved to the right side of the plane windows to look. The flight attendants weren't too happy and made an annoucement that the plane wouldn't move until everyone was seat belted in. Of course, THEY weren't the little ones trying to sit still an additional 20 minutes after realizing they had landed and had been told when the plane lands and stops the seat belts can come off.
* The staff was great to mention that if there was room in the overhead compartments we could place our jackets and coats up there. FREE of charge.
* Both times we boarded they gave families and those who were disabled the ability to board first. Our flight on Southwest did not. But Delta always does.
* Allegiant Airlines is considered a budget airline. While I felt I paid comparable to a Southwest or JetBlue flight by booking several months ahead of time, Allegiant Airlines experiences a lot of trouble when they have delays due to weather or one of their planes needs repair. Unfortunately, if that happens they don't have a vast supply of planes and pilots waiting to come to the rescue like the larger airlines. They buy what they use. They are a bare bones operation. So when one plane goes out of commission or has to change schedules due to weather there isn't a replacement plane that can get sent in so your flight can go on as planned or may only experience an hour delay. Therefore, get comfortable with the airport. Delays are more often (and often longer) and cancelled flights are also more frequent.
* The app flat out stinks. During our delay leaving, the Allegiant staff said that a lot of times the app updates before their computer does. But on our flight out my app showed our plane was still scheduled to leave at 8:33 am when it was close to 11:00am. Then suddenly while waiting to see if we were going to leave at noon as promised, my app flashed that the flight was cancelled. Calling into customer service was a 55 minute wait to verify my flight was indeed cancelled. It worked well on the way home with the app updating the time it would leave quite often. But I couldn't change my luggage from the app to pay for a carry on once I booked my flight.
* Customer (phone) service is ridiculous! To ask one question, it took me 40 minutes the first time. 50 minutes the second time. And close to an hour the third time. When the rep at the counter leaving for home told me that if I needed anything or the flight was cancelled I could call customer service for the return time I flat out almost shouted, "NO!" and said THEY needed to inform me. If the flight got rescheduled and my app didn't update, the plane would've left me before I had a chance to get back to the airport if I had to wait for customer service!
* The way they handle cancelled flights is ridiculous. I've had plenty of cancelled flights in my day. So has my husband. But I've never felt that I would have to fend for myself in the manner I did with Allegiant. My husband has always had a hotel room ready. He's even gotten taxi vouchers for a ride home. He's gotten a free meal at the airport from one of the local restaurants. He's even had an offer for one night of his parking to get paid. We got a soda and a bottle of water. We also were told that our cancelled flight costs would be refunded in the form of a voucher good for a future flight. Seriously?? Never mind that I had to PAY an extra $300 and cash out all of our frequent flyer miles to fly out of a different airport later that night, bum a ride to that airport and then try to find a taxi (any taxi) that would come out to that small airport to take us home when we returned home several days later. Never mind that their rescheduled flight out was a day and a half later. Half the weekend...gone. And if I had opted to just bag the entire trip I would've lost out on $200 or more on lost hotel fees and left my husband stranded in the city overnight until he could get a return trip home the next day which would've costed HIM money out of pocket. To me, that alone may never be worth it to fly with them again. If they had stepped up and offered anything more than they did I might have felt better about going back to them and flying with them again.
If you do choose to fly with Allegiant, here are some tricks and tips to help you:
* They are behind the times. Allegiant struggles to keep up with the big carriers as evidenced by the lack of being able to keep my phone in something as simple as airplane mode for takeoff. They are behind the times big time. Their mentality is slower, their apps are slower and their mindset is just slower. While the staff is friendly and professional, two words came to mind to describe Allegiant: "Nineties" and "relaxed." They really are back in the nineties of flying. If you are okay with that, you will do fine. If you are like me and are used to the large airport mentality of "in and out" and "fast, fast, fast" it's not worth your time to fly with them. You can score great deals as we did, but realize you may not end up having a great deal at the end. We paid for convienence of being able to go through a smaller airport, and it didn't pay off.
* Pack light. The best piece of advice we were given is to pack a backpack. I packed a camping sized travel backpack and traveled just fine through security, counter and gate checks. My luggage stored easily under the seat. No issues. If you are going to pay for your luggage, pay for your luggage ahead of time if you can. Like when you book your flight. My husband wanted me to take his carry on home and trying to do that from the app and pay the lesser amount before getting to the airport proved to be ridiculously hard to do. You will pay $50 at the airport. I told him to take his own luggage. Make sure you know what you are going to pack when you book your flight.
* Grab food ahead of time. I grabbed extra snacks, water bottles and lunch at the airport before we got on the plane so we had plenty of options in the air. But realize if you do have to pay on board the prices aren't terrible.
* Don't pay for your seat unless you are on a longer flight. We didn't pay the $9-14 to assign our seats (there were four of us) and waited until we got to the airport. The drawback is they charge you $5 per person to print your boarding pass and you have to check in at the counter before going through security. Still for 4 of us that still saved us $36 by not assigning our seats and by getting there in plenty of time we still all got to sit next to each other (two and two).
* Be flexible. Realize that delays, cancelled flights and flying in and out of a smaller airport may cause you need to be flexible. Warn your rides, warn your dog boarding facility, warn your taxi driver, warn your family and warn your employer that you may not make it back by the dates and times promised.
Who is Allegiant Airline not best for?
* Weekend getaways: If you are looking for a quick weekend getaway, it's probably not best to book it a month or two in advance and pay the low fair price. You may end up having to be very flexible when your flight gets delayed or cancelled. Pay the $60 (and not the blow out special price of $48) and fly out that Friday when you can pin down their travel times and know how delayed a flight might be. You will still get a good deal at the $60 price if you follow the tips above. When the stars align, Allegiant really is a great airline to fly with. But allow those stars to align by waiting until the last minute so you're not stuck.
* Business travelers: Although it's great that Allegiant services smaller airports that may be close to where you do business more than a few people on our flight going out were seasoned Allegiant business flyers and admitted that the perks for business members were few and they felt it ended up costing their business more money in delays and cancelled flights overall. Seasoned business travelers also mentioned that flights were 45 on time, 55 delayed or cancelled and felt that it was frustrating trying to serve these smaller areas they flew to. They were constantly rescheduling and cancelling on clients.
*Until they work out some of the kinks, Allegiant only gets 2.5 out of 5 stars from me. They really need to prove that they are a small airline that WILL take care of you when things DO go wrong. Flying a budget airline I do understand some of the crazy funny charges. I do understand an hour or two delay. But to not take care of it's customers in an appropriate manner or to give a faster way to get a hold of someone in customer service when your flight is delayed or cancelled is just not appropriate. To not have replacement planes and to just cancel flights for a day and a half is not appropriate. The ground crew and pilots do a great job, but can only do so much. The rest of the company needs to step up.
Will I fly with Allegiant again?
My answer is "maybe." The price was great, the service was friendly but the delays there and back were difficult and I felt unnecessary. While the staff tried to blame it on the weather, I felt that my flight out really should not have been delayed as long as it was (a day and a half). I also felt that the airline was always playing "catch up" by trying to shove in flights and rearrange flights when another flight was delayed for plane issues or weather. By doing that, it put EVERY flight that day in delay mode which is just not acceptable.
We were not compensated from Allegiant for our review. (In fact, they owe us a lot of money. Read above). We did feel that our experience and the reviews that we read warranted our own write up of our experience to allow our readers knowledge of the airline.