Overbooked first class, need advice

Old May 4, 17, 11:15 pm
  #1  
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Overbooked first class, need advice

Hi everyone,

I wanted to solicit advice regarding an overbooked first class situation for a flight taking place in about 2 weeks. As a side note, I generally maintain Star Alliance Gold with ANA since I usually fly to Japan or Germany for business. This is my first time flying Alaska.

So, I purchased two first class (F) tickets at full price for my wife and I, with in-lap baby (yes, I know.. but the extra room really helps ) for a quick anniversary trip SMF-OGG. We purchased a bit late because my work schedule was a bit uncertain but secured assigned first class seats which were confirmed by email. Everything was fine up until a few days ago when I received a voicemail from Alaska stating that for my OGG-SMF return trip, "first class is overbooked due to our operational needs". Alaska stated my wife and I were the last to purchase they would have to move us if they can't find volunteers.

I called back and asked a few questions along the lines of the following:
Me: When will you know if you have to move us?
Alaska: we will ask for volunteers until 5th May.

Me: Where would you put us if you move us?
Alaska: There are no seats together in Premium but seats available in coach.

Me: Would an entire row in coach be an option? (because baby)
Alaska: We can give you aisle and window but no guarantee on the middle. (only 1 empty row remaining in coach).

Me: Any other flights?
Alaska: There is only 1 flight per day to SMF but we can route you through SEA. It's a red-eye.

Me: I'll wait until Friday but what happens if you move us?
Alaska: We refund the difference in fare.
Was a bit disappointed they were rather apathetic about whole the ordeal, especially because no apology was given, but I didn't pursue further and decided I would wait.

But, I'm at a loss for what to do and stressed at the thought of having to sit in coach separated from my wife with her taking care of the baby (since I can't breastfeed). I just want a trip where we have enough space for all of us. I've flown in-lap economy before and don't want to do that again.

I'll probably try and get 3 contiguous seats in economy (even if I have to buy) if we can't get first class but Alaska didn't seem too interested in the proposition and said they can't block seats while we wait for volunteers.

In any case, I would appreciate any advice you folks may have. I'm not trying to get compensation from Alaska, I just want to figure out the best way to get decent seating with them. Thank you very much for reading.

Mac
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Old May 4, 17, 11:41 pm
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Originally Posted by Mac_Hano View Post
Hi everyone,

I wanted to solicit advice regarding an overbooked first class situation for a flight taking place in about 2 weeks. As a side note, I generally maintain Star Alliance Gold with ANA since I usually fly to Japan or Germany for business. This is my first time flying Alaska.

So, I purchased two first class (F) tickets at full price for my wife and I, with in-lap baby (yes, I know.. but the extra room really helps ) for a quick anniversary trip SMF-OGG. We purchased a bit late because my work schedule was a bit uncertain but secured assigned first class seats which were confirmed by email. Everything was fine up until a few days ago when I received a voicemail from Alaska stating that for my OGG-SMF return trip, "first class is overbooked due to our operational needs". Alaska stated my wife and I were the last to purchase they would have to move us if they can't find volunteers.

I called back and asked a few questions along the lines of the following:
Me: When will you know if you have to move us?
Alaska: we will ask for volunteers until 5th May.

Me: Where would you put us if you move us?
Alaska: There are no seats together in Premium but seats available in coach.

Me: Would an entire row in coach be an option? (because baby)
Alaska: We can give you aisle and window but no guarantee on the middle. (only 1 empty row remaining in coach).

Me: Any other flights?
Alaska: There is only 1 flight per day to SMF but we can route you through SEA. It's a red-eye.

Me: I'll wait until Friday but what happens if you move us?
Alaska: We refund the difference in fare.
Was a bit disappointed they were rather apathetic about whole the ordeal, especially because no apology was given, but I didn't pursue further and decided I would wait.

But, I'm at a loss for what to do and stressed at the thought of having to sit in coach separated from my wife with her taking care of the baby (since I can't breastfeed). I just want a trip where we have enough space for all of us. I've flown in-lap economy before and don't want to do that again.

I'll probably try and get 3 contiguous seats in economy (even if I have to buy) if we can't get first class but Alaska didn't seem too interested in the proposition and said they can't block seats while we wait for volunteers.

In any case, I would appreciate any advice you folks may have. I'm not trying to get compensation from Alaska, I just want to figure out the best way to get decent seating with them. Thank you very much for reading.

Mac
I would take the red-eye as long as it included a $300 travel certificate (for each of you) since that would be what you would get if you were VDB at the gate....you each get to SMF in F (I know, it's a red-eye, bummer), you get more EQMs by going through SEA instead of non-stop, and you each get $300.
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Old May 4, 17, 11:57 pm
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Sounds like a tail swap from 16 seat F to 12 seat F. In the past when they first started, AS was offering the difference between the purchase price and lowest coach plus travel certificates but they seem to be less generous as time went on.

If it were me, I'd check pricing on other carriers first to see if canceling and rebooking would pencil out. If not, ask for cash for the downgrade difference plus a single travel certificate for the inconvenience and use that certificate to purchase the third seat.
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Old May 5, 17, 5:32 am
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Is having AS put you in F on OGG-OAK and then taking the train from Oakland to Sacramento reasonable? Main drawback to that is the daily OGG-OAK nonstop lands at midnight. While not a red eye, that's not exactly pleasant and would necessitate spending the night in Oakland.

AS automatically blocks the seat next to a customer with a lap infant, so the empty seat next to you will be the last one they fill. If the flight is sold out, it will be occupied, but that at least gives you a decent chance. In probably a dozen flights on AS with a lap infant, we got the empty seat next to us more than half the time, including flights with only one or two empty seats on the plane. The way we typically did it (on AS and other airlines) was to get aisle and window seats assigned and then offer to swap the window seat for the middle if someone was assigned the middle. No one ever said no to that offer! So I would expect that you'll be able to sit next to your wife, at least.

The apparent aircraft swap is frustrating, but AS is definitely the airline that treated us the best in coach with a lap infant.
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Old May 5, 17, 8:06 am
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Old May 5, 17, 8:27 am
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Ask AS to put you on Hawaiian OGG-HNL-SMF.
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Old May 5, 17, 8:38 am
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This flight is perpetually full for a few reasons -- 1) it's high demand out of SMF, and 2) it's a through flight from SEA which is the earliest possible OGG arrival daily for passengers originating in SEA.

I would ask for OGG-OAK in F and for an airline ops voucher to cover a rental car one way from OAK to SMF. They should be willing to do this. They've covered hotels for me in SEA before when they've nerfed my reservations with schedule changes or abbreviated connections. (They should also give you a small AS voucher for the inconvenience of changing arrival airports and for their incompetence in overbooking - $100 for each of the two ticketed passengers is about right. They won't volunteer this, you'll have to ask for it.)

There are also other possible AS routings such as OGG-PDX-SMF, OGG-SEA-SMF which they already told you, and OGG-SAN-SMF.

You can ask them for HA as flytoeat mentions above, but they probably won't give it to you. AS is really terrible about creating a problem then refusing to use another airline to bail themselves out.

Finally, if you have miles in other programs such as UA, you could consider asking for a refund from AS for the return segment and booking a ticket with miles. UA usually has business class availability from OGG to the mainland at the last minute. Typically within 3-5 days of the departure. AA often also has short-notice F from OGG to SMF or OAK for under $600...which is probably about the same as you paid for the one way nonstop (and maybe even less).

Since it doesn't sound like you are too interested in collecting AS miles, if they can't keep you on the OGG-SMF nonstop or get you on another nonstop to OAK, you probably are going to be best off asking them to cancel off the return ticket and buying it on another carrier if the cost is at all aligned, which my guess is that it will be. If they're gonna downgrade you, you're entitled to a full refund anyways.

Last edited by PV_Premier; May 5, 17 at 9:19 am
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Old May 5, 17, 8:41 am
  #8  
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First, before you do anything, price out every other option and schedule. Don't worry about the last segment to SMF if it's SFO-SMF because that's a micro-hop and you should not worry about where you sit. If you can purchase that for anywhere close to what you paid AS, just have AS cancel your return (you are entitled to a full refund to your original form of payment without penalty) and purchase the new tickets.

Second, look at options as above. Train OAK-SMF is a pretty horrible option even for two adults. With an infant, forget it. But, other options which seat you in F on the Pacific segment aren't that bad, expecially if AS throws in some kind of a voucher.

Third, don't bother with the blocked seat, on that service the seat will almost certainly be needed and the best you will wind up with is trading with the middle seat guy for the aisle and that's not good. Better to see what AS can do about two adjoining aisles or even aisles which are a row apart (which people often forget about, but are pretty good with an infant).
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Old May 5, 17, 11:09 am
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This really surprises me. It doesn't sound like Alaska at all. I have always had fantastic interactions. I would ask to be routed through PDX, SAN or see if the ticket can be used on AA. I would also ask for a voucher if they do downgrade you in addition to the fare difference.

I'm really sorry this is happening to you
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Old May 5, 17, 11:24 am
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Originally Posted by Often1 View Post
Second, look at options as above. Train OAK-SMF is a pretty horrible option even for two adults. With an infant, forget it.
How do you mean? Schedule or comfort? I've never ridden the Capitol Corridor trains, but I've ridden Amtrak with an infant many, many times on the Empire Builder (a short portion of a long haul train) and on Northeast Corridor/Keystone trains with one or two parents. It's very easy and comfortable, far easier and more comfortable than driving (no need to deal with a car seat, and we can interact with the infant whenever needed) or flying, even in first class (no seat belt signs, get up and walk whenever we want, larger and more comfortable seats than domestic F). So as I noted, the schedule of the OGG-OAK flight is not good with the midnight arrival, but with 8 trains a day from the OAK airport to Sacramento, the Amtrak schedule looks pretty good. Dunno about reliability. I'd certainly do train over renting a car in Oakland, assuming AS will pay for either option.

Third, don't bother with the blocked seat, on that service the seat will almost certainly be needed and the best you will wind up with is trading with the middle seat guy for the aisle and that's not good. Better to see what AS can do about two adjoining aisles or even aisles which are a row apart (which people often forget about, but are pretty good with an infant).
I don't understand the logic behind this suggestion either. You may well be right that the odds of an empty seat sticking around aren't great, but why not try?

You get a blocked seat automatically if there's an empty seat next to you; you don't have to do anything to request it on AS once the lap infant is in the reservation. Swapping an aisle or window for a middle is never a problem, and I don't think it's at all rude to make the request. I've never had a passenger who would prefer to sit in the middle between two parents with a lap infant than in either the aisle or the window; we always give the middle seat passenger the choice of aisle or window, and they always defer to us. And two seats next to each other (middle/window or middle/aisle) is always preferable with a lap infant (to me) to across the aisle or consecutive rows. Yes, 21CD or 21C/22C (for example) will do in a pinch, but I'll always prefer 21BC or 21AB.

Originally Posted by The smallest state View Post
This really surprises me. It doesn't sound like Alaska at all. I have always had fantastic interactions. I would ask to be routed through PDX, SAN or see if the ticket can be used on AA. I would also ask for a voucher if they do downgrade you in addition to the fare difference.

I'm really sorry this is happening to you
+1

No two ways about it; this sucks. I hope there are enough no-shows to accommodate you on the OGG-SMF flight in F, which is obviously the best choice. My second choice, personally, would absolutely be to on that flight in coach, and I'd push them to not sell the extra seat so you have three, even if it means no refund of the fare difference (since you did pay for F, it seems fair). Dunno if they'll agree. But my third choice would probably be nonstop to OAK in coach plus train (with the late arrival being the thing that may make me say otherwise).
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Old May 5, 17, 11:28 am
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It is kind of sad to see AS's service going down. My experience with AS so far is still good but this case was not handled well for sure.

I think money/voucher/certificate is not a strong concern for people who buy F directly. The most important thing to him is the convenience of infant and wife. So redeye might not be an option. I would suggest to force AS to buy HA for them and if AS refuses, just cancel the return trip and buy HA instead. HA has very convinient schedule with HNL connection which is not a problem at all. The experience of interisland flight is amazing and impressive. And the service on HA is comparable or even better than AS from my only once experience. A sample flight is here:

Mon, May 8

11:57 AM – 12:35 PM
Kahului (OGG) – Honolulu (HNL)
Hawaiian 395 First Class Boeing 717
Standard recliner seat
0h 38m
No Wi-Fi
No in-seat power
Layover in Honolulu HNL1h 05m

1:40 PM – 10:00 PM
Honolulu (HNL) – Sacramento (SMF)
Hawaiian 20 First Class Airbus A330
Extra reclining seat
Often delayed by 30+ min


Good luck, wish the baby and wife great trip.
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Old May 5, 17, 12:08 pm
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Have your smartphone ready to film the downgrade

But seriously call AS Customer Relations at 1-800-654-5669 and see what they can do. There may be some other options, like putting you on HA at this point.
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Old May 5, 17, 12:43 pm
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Originally Posted by ashill View Post
How do you mean? Schedule or comfort? I've never ridden the Capitol Corridor trains, but I've ridden Amtrak with an infant many, many times on the Empire Builder (a short portion of a long haul train) and on Northeast Corridor/Keystone trains with one or two parents. It's very easy and comfortable, far easier and more comfortable than driving (no need to deal with a car seat, and we can interact with the infant whenever needed) or flying, even in first class (no seat belt signs, get up and walk whenever we want, larger and more comfortable seats than domestic F). So as I noted, the schedule of the OGG-OAK flight is not good with the midnight arrival, but with 8 trains a day from the OAK airport to Sacramento, the Amtrak schedule looks pretty good. Dunno about reliability. I'd certainly do train over renting a car in Oakland, assuming AS will pay for either option.
Capitol Corridor OAK-SAC is a very enjoyable way to travel, but only if you're not in a rush and don't mind paying a little more. Getting from airport onto the train will take a while even if the timing all works out. If I had a family and just wanted to get home, outside of rush hours and with AS footing the rental car bill, I'd just do that and get home probably two hours quicker.
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Old May 5, 17, 2:54 pm
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OAK is typically cheaper to Maui than SMF. If you choose that as a backup, you should get a partial refund as well as transportation and whatever goodwill voucher they're giving you.

If you're willing to do it, take the money and get AS to book you SFO-OGG RT in F on VX for the same money and the goodwill voucher, then drive to/park at SFO. That's a much better product, which will ease a bit of the sting. If they can include UA flights SMF-SFO to get you there, even better.
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Old May 5, 17, 3:13 pm
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what everyone here is missing is that the OGG-OAK flight arrives in OAK at midnight. the train is just not an option for same night travel at that point. even renting a car in Oakland will take 40 minutes since all the car rentals are at a remote site. however, AS will cover the car in this scenario IME, if the OP presses them to do so and gets the record annotated as such. the voucher would be issued on arrival by an AS agent in OAK.

i wouldn't drive to SFO for the VX flight, but that's just me...for several reasons: (1) the traffic to/from SFO is monumentally worse than one way from OAK (2) the outbound flight arrives in Maui at 9pm versus the noon arrival from SMF (3) the return flight is a redeye versus late afternoon departure from OGG to OAK or a late morning departure from OGG to SMF.

the OGG-SMF flight is sold out in F from 5/17-21 and 23, 24 so we must assume OP is traveling around that time period. on those dates there are non-redeye options on HA, DL, and/or UA every day for under $1000. if it were me and I already paid the going rate for AS nonstop F which is usually around $800 one way, I'd take the refund and buy something else.
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