Allegiant Air Travel Nightmare

September 2, 2016

in Odds & Ends Stories

A year ago, I was traveling from my home in Memphis to my parent’s home just outside of Bangor, Maine. I’d made the journey many times before. Normally, I fly American through Philadelphia or Delta through Detroit. However, going from non-hub to non-hub is always very pricy. This time, I was traveling to Bangor in mid August, and had no option than to come home Labor Day weekend. I checked Delta, but the prices were outrageous because I was returning Labor Day weekend, so I booked the one way trip from Memphis to Bangor for $330, the average price for a one way ticket.

I found a solution for the return trip. A new airline began flying into Bangor just months before the trip, so I checked it out. The airline, Allegiant Air, was a small budget airline with bases in Orlando and Tampa. The airline flies direct from Memphis and Bangor to Orlando. For some reason, they wouldn’t let me book the flight with a connection, so I had to separately book the flight from Bangor to Orlando, and Orlando to Memphis. Somehow, over Labor Day weekend, the combined price for the one way tickets came to $108! It was incredible. For some reason, that didn’t make me suspicious… We got to Bangor smoothly with Delta, and the day came for our departure out of Bangor.

We got to the airport at 10:00 for our 11:45am flight to Orlando. At about 11:15am, a lady came out and told us that our flight had been cancelled because the flight from Orlando was cancelled. We all demanded answers, but the issue was that this lady had none.

Allegiant is such a small airline, and Bangor is such a small airport, there are no Allegiant staff members working in Bangor. The Bangor Airport simply contracts workers from their airport to help board and check in the Allegiant flights. She was very sweet, but she had no answers for us, and told us that she didn’t have the ability to answer questions. The worst part was about to come.

We asked if she at least knew when the next flight to Orlando was. She frowned, and said, “I’m sorry but Allegiant only flies to Orlando twice a week. The next flight out is Thursday.” Today is Monday, and my daughter starts school Wednesday, so we needed to be home. We called Allegiant and told them to put us on a flight with a different airline. They responded with, “We’re not allowed.” We fought it, but there was no chance.

We went to the desks for Delta, American, and United, and flights all the way back to Memphis were an absurd $950 per person, and we are a family of 4. We went back to the Allegiant desk. The nice lady told us that there was a flight to Tampa that departs tomorrow at 1PM. She said that there were no flights to Memphis leaving Tampa for three days, but they did have one into Knoxville. She rebooked us.

The next day, we came back. At 12:30, the same lady as yesterday came out and said that the flight had been cancelled because it was cancelled leaving Tampa. We were in shock. We talked to the lady and she said, “To be honest, the Allegiant flights are cancelled more than half the time out of here. I don’t know how they’re still in business.” Me neither.

I called Allegiant and they said they had no other flights in or out of Bangor until Thursday. They said my options were to wait until Thursday, or drive four hours to Portsmouth, New Hampshire and fly out to Orlando tomorrow, and connect to Knoxville. We chose the latter.

We arrived in Portsmouth, two days after we were originally supposed to depart from Maine, and the scene is a nightmare. Seventy-five minutes before departure, a line at check-in was out the doors of the tiny airport. Allegiant is the only airline that flies into Portsmouth. The situation is similar to Bangor, where the employees don’t actually work for Allegiant. We wait ten minutes and the line hasn’t moved. I look inside to see what the holdup is, and I’m shocked to see that there are no staff members at the check-in desk. The only good news is that the plane is actually there (surprising at this point).

We waited ten more minutes until a sweaty man in an orange vest began checking people in. By the time we got to the front of the line it was already ten minutes past the scheduled departure time, yet the board still read “On time.” While being checked in, we asked what the delay was about. He responded with, “My coworker called in sick, so I’m alone here, checking bags, loading the bags on the plane, assisting with boarding, and guiding the aircraft in and out of the gate.” I couldn’t believe that this one man was being asked to solely depart the plane.

When we got through the line, we went through security (ironically there were at least seven TSA officers), and got to the gate. There was nobody to update us, because our gate agent was still checking in more passengers. Eventually they began the boarding process an hour and twenty minutes after the scheduled departure time. I was getting worried because I only had two and a half hours connection time in Orlando.

We boarded the plane and they shut the boarding door, 1 hour 50 minutes late. I assumed we were ready to depart. Wrong. Shortly after, we saw the same man in the yellow vest walk down a set of stairs to the tarmac where he brought out three carts filled with baggage, which he then started loading. Normally, this is done during boarding, but since he was doing both, this was impossible. He finished and guided us out of the gate. We departed three hours late.

Somehow, we lost time in the air even though no announcements were made, and landed 3 hours 45 minutes late. The plane was uncomfortable and INSANELY OLD. Everything was dirty, rusty, and noisy.

We landed to find out that the flight to Knoxville had departed on time (of course, the only flight that departs on time with this damn airline is the one that we need to be late). The next flight to Knoxville wasn’t for four more days. The flight from Orlando to Memphis on Thursday (tomorrow) is now sold out. Now, we are told that the best option is to drive 90 minutes to the Tampa Airport and depart tomorrow afternoon. They gave us no printed reservation, and told us to print the boarding pass in Tampa. At this point, my daughter had missed her first day of school, and was about to miss her second. We were all beyond pissed, but there was nothing that could be done except wait.

We drove to Tampa, and got to the Tampa International Airport 90 minutes before our departure. What we learned next was astonishing. Allegiant doesn’t fly to Tampa. They only fly to the Tampa/Clearwater Regional Airport, 45 minutes down the coast. In disbelief at the ignorance of the Allegiant representative who gave us no clear documents stating which airport to go to, and thinking that we would assume to go to the regional airport, we called Allegiant back and furiously demanded that they put us on a different airline. They had the audacity to hang up on me.

We drove back to Orlando where we could actually speak with real-life Allegiant representatives, and they told us that they had a flight out tomorrow (Friday) to Chattanooga, Tennessee. We said whatever. We got back to the airport the next day to find that the flight was surprisingly boarding on time. We were on the plane at 7:50PM for an 8:10PM departure. We took off early at 8:00.

Finally expecting the journey to be over, I sat up (not back because the plane’s old seats don’t recline), relaxed, and attempted unsuccessfully to enjoy the flight through the obnoxiously loud sound of the old engines. However, an hour into the flight, the loud noise to my left started to become less noisy. It got more and more quiet until it came to a stop. The pilot comes on and says, “Ladies and gentlemen we are having an engine flame-out and will be diverting to Atlanta. Don’t worry, we can fly with one engine, but we want to be safe.” I knew it. Something would happen. This on-time flight was too good to be true.

We got to Atlanta at 9:30PM, and I expected to go to a gate and sit down in some comfortable airport chairs, but no. Allegiant doesn’t fly to Atlanta, so they don’t have a gate for us. They also don’t have any airline partnerships (makes sense, who would want to be their partners), so that’s negative as well. Instead, we waited on the plane for not one, not two, not three, but FOUR HOURS. At that point, the pilots told us that they were now over their allotted hours. They taxied the plane to the regional jet section of the airport (even though we were a full-sized jet) where they unloaded us on the tarmac and had us walk in the airport.

There was an Allegiant employee at the desk in the airport (okay Allegiant, so you can have employees at airports that you don’t fly to, but not at the ones that you do fly to???). The Allegiant rep told us that the crew will be able to fly again in thirteen hours, so that’s when we will continue to Chattanooga. I went to the desk and demanded that they pay for a rental car so I can drive home to Memphis. She told us that this was not allowed because we are already ticketed. I told him to shove the ticket up his flamed-out engine, and my family left to the rental car place.

We drove six hours to Memphis and got home at 11am SUNDAY. We were supposed to be home by 8pm the PREVIOUS MONDAY. ALMOST A WEEK LATE. I looked up Allegiant stories online. Cancellations and diversions happen frequently. The problem with this airline – correction – the main problem of the many, many problems that this airline has, is that they are small and don’t fly daily flights. When they cancel you, which is very often, you’re stranded. The customer service is also dreadful, their planes are older than my grandmother’s grandmother, and I’d be shocked if they were still in business a few years from now. Through the experience, we were placed in the cheapest one star hotels.

After six letters to the Allegiant front office, they finally responded by apologizing for the inconvenience, and generously giving back half of our airfare ($54/person), and an incredible coupon titled “15% off Allegiant purchase of $400 or more.” That coupon is now in my trash can. I wouldn’t fly Allegiant again if they paid me.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Jennifer September 3, 2016 at 7:24 am

Red flag #1: Owned by the same guy as ValuJet.

Red flag…do I need any more? Did some research on this airline and OMG.

Compared to a real airline, specifically Delta, and comparing like plane to like plane:

Allegiant: 5 unscheduled landings, 2 aborted takeoffs and 1 unscheduled descent from 30 planes.
Delta: 1 unscheduled landing, 0 aborted takeoffs and 0 unscheduled descents from 126 planes.

Anecdotes include an unscheduled landing because the a/c failed, multiple stories similar to this one (people being rescheduled for subsequent days and missing school, work, or having to drive long distances.

And they're expanding.

Don't fly these people. Ultra low cost can be done right. I once flew EasyJet from East Midlands to Prague for less than the taxi from Prague airport to our hotel and the plane was on time, clean and quiet, the only downside was the repeated abjurements to buy crappy plane food.

But…yeah. Besides.



Cottontails September 10, 2016 at 6:51 am

I would have just gone on Priceline bid on tickets (they don't do Allegiant) or rented a car. That's a nightmare though.


Adam September 19, 2016 at 7:56 pm

Allegiant is a small airline that focuses on point to point vacation destinations. They don't offer connections. And don't interline with other carriers. You tried to save money by flying them, but lost, because they don't fly MEM to BGR, so you had to purchase to separate trips where there was no leeway for delays or mechanical.


thriftyisthenewrich September 23, 2016 at 12:07 pm

I would have just rented a car in the first place. I won't fly on an airline that only flies somewhere twice a week. Now that I know they are old planes, I'll tell everyone I know not to fly Allegiant.


Nunya Business January 6, 2017 at 10:19 am

I'm still trying to figure out why he wanted to leave Maine in the first place. I spent a week there a few years ago & had to be driven home kicking & screaming. Beautiful state. I swore the next time I go it'll be one way.


Andrew Beagle January 8, 2017 at 11:27 am

That's what you get for being cheap!


we@sel January 28, 2017 at 9:09 am

Sadly this is the business model that legacies want to start emulating (Allegiant and Spirit). Allegiant’s safety culture is terrible, and most of those in the AV industry wonder when a major accident will occur. It’s not a what if but rather a when.


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