Alaska Airlines has stumbled into a customer service disaster gone viral.The incident occurred last week when a young couple missed their flight because of a diaper emergency, and were forced to pay thousands of dollars in rebooking fees. The couple, Colleen Roberge and Dan Blais, promptly started a blog, Alaska Airlines Hates Families.
Here’s an excerpt from Dan’s dramatic account:
I ran to the restroom to find my wife upset – knowing we were running late, and frustrated that Levi had urinated on himself while she was changing his soiled diaper. Now she needed to change his entire outfit. I urged my wife to hurry and we rushed back to the Alaska Airlines gate with our son half-dressed. He was crying.
The agent took one look at us and said to me: “You are one minute late. I’ve given your wife’s ticket away. You can board alone.”
We couldn’t believe what we were hearing. The plane clearly hadn’t left and someone who didn’t have a ticket moments ago was being allowed to board with my wife’s ticket! I told the agent I wasn’t about to leave without my family, to which she replied: “Fine, I’m giving away your ticket too”. We were shocked. Now, my son and my wife were crying. Still, the agent did nothing.
Later, I managed to contact the couple who were on standby and took our seats. They witnessed our entire interaction with the Alaska Airlines agent, and said they were offered my wife’s ticket the moment I fld to fetch her in the restroom. It sounds as though the agent lied to us; we didn’t even get that 2 minutes she had promised.
It took only a day before an Alaska Airlines social media manager, Elliott Pesut, defended the airline’s actions in a comment on the blog:
Reservations are subject to cancellation if customers aren’t ready at the gate within those times because many tasks must be completed before departure. Our operations agents can’t provide the pilots with final paperwork until everyone is onboard. We can’t push the plane back from the gate till everyone is sitting down. And so on. If we accommodate people who arrive late, we risk arriving at the destination late … and that’s not fair to everyone else on the flight who boarded on time.
His apology was shredded by other commenters on the site: “Dear Elliot Pissant, You ought to spend as much time coaching your team members on courtesy as you do defending yourself, and then send the young couple the money that your company cost them.”
A few days later the story was on the front page of The Vancouver Sun.
Ironically, Alaska Airlines has the highest rating for customer service on JD Power. But all anyone will remember is: Alaska Airlines Hates Families.
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