Alaska Airlines Employee Pays a Woman’s Airfare After Delta Strands Her

This is the story of one airline’s generous employee that many have used to try to draw a stark contrast between carriers — the hometown here in Seattle Alaska Airlines and the Darth Vader Death Star Evil Scary interloper Delta.

And though it’s a heartwarming story, the larger life lesson about airlines doesn’t actually work.

A Vancouver woman is publicly thanking an Alaska Airlines employee for an act of kindness.

The employee paid out of pocket for Miriam Thomas to get home after being given the runaround by Delta Airlines.

On the outbound the woman had a heck of a time making it to her destination, but that’s not really all that relevant to the story. She was flying Delta from Vancouver to Ontario, California via Seattle. There was a late arriving aircraft and a mechanical delay and then a flight diversion to Portland because of weather in Seattle. Then they flew to Seattle and Delta covered a hotel night. Unfortunate, but these things happen with any airline.

On the return though a couple of things happened.

She says she went to the airport to fly back to Seattle and there was some confusion with her return ticket. “They said ‘Don’t worry. We’ll assign you a seat once you get to the gate, just go because they’re already boarding.’ So, I am rushing through security, I am begging people in the security lineup to let me go ahead of them because the flight is going to take off without me.”

It sounds as though she was late to the airport. And that meant there wasn’t time to sort out that her rebooking after the forced overnight was apparently done incorrectly, using her remaining flight coupons for the return on the final leg of her outbound ticket.

(She must have been issued a gate pass of standby coupon to get through security.)

She was dealing with Alaska Airlines agents at this point on her return, so it seems as though she was flying on a Delta ticket but traveling on Delta only for her outbound and Alaska for her return.

Delta got involved and offered her a flight home the next day but without overnight accommodations.

And an Alaska Airlines agent pulled out her own credit card and bought the woman a ticket home so she could fly that day.

Great story and somehow there must be Alaska Airlines PR people behind it because it’s getting quite a bit of play. Here’s the thing:

I love this story and I’m glad the woman made it home safely. Alaska and their employees were very generous. But that doesn’t mean that Delta is somehow Alaska’s polar opposite.

And codeshares, multiple airlines on a ticket, and irregular operations cause problems. Regardless of the airlines involved.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Great story, but assuming the AS agent fronted the money knowing that she’d be able to push it back through and recoup the cost.

    Was she using an AS credit card? Maybe she did it for the miles…

  2. Wow, what a heartwarming story, and the PR angle is palpable. Sets some pretty high expectations, though – and it makes me wonder why AS was so comparatively nasty to me. They didn’t do ANYTHING for me during a recent IROP (other than put me on the next available flight 4 hours later…). Not sure I want to deal a company with such capricious employees!

    The explanation the woman gave/was given sounds pretty weird – IROPs don’t generally “use up” value on a return segment.

  3. I agree with CW that the AS agent had to know she’d get reimbursed. No sane person would do what she did otherwise.

    I also agree with Gary that codeshares & multiple airlines one 1 ticket increase the risk for problems, which is one reason I try to avoid doing either if I can. That’s not always going to be possible, but I do want to minimize the risks of things getting effed up.

  4. “No sane person would do what she did otherwise.”

    Believe it or not, there are “insane” people in this world who put others before themselves.

  5. OK, after reading the article again, her flight was on DELTA. She flew Delta from Ontario CA to Portland, stayed on the plane (got the hotel voucher at this time?), and then got through to Seattle like she was supposed to.

    Here’s where the screwup happened. It sounds like Delta rescheduled the return flight using the original plane that was under repair – meaning it didnt have a regular scheduled flight time. They assigned her ticket to that flight only, since she was already ‘checked in’ for the flight. At that point, her return ticket/boarding pass in hand is no longer valid for any other flight. How Alaska got involved, I’m not sure about, since Alaska and Delta are not located near each other at the ticket counters or boarding gates that I am aware of.

  6. “No sane person would do what she did otherwise.”

    “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Some people have passion on one another.

  7. The agent did take the risk of not getting reimbursed. So I have to give it to her for shelling out her credit card. You also have to give it to Alaska for having a policy where agents don’t need to get supervisory approval. Brilliant company and great people.

  8. Last week we had the Darth Vader American Airlines refuse to refund a ticket of a girl that died to the family. You can google that one. United, Delta, American, all Darth Vaders. And since Southwest is evern getting some similar stories add them to the list.

  9. CW & Brian L. Clearly you have never flown, far less on Alaska Airlines. The staff on Alaska are far and away the best in North America. This woman deserves nothing but praise for showing class neither of you could probably spell.
    Wouls I expect this from every agent? No. But this selfless action deserves the highest praise available. The agent is pure class, and frankly, what most people who travel Alaska have come to know about their staff. They are North America’s finest. Congratulations to the agent. You are why I choose to fly Alaska whenever possible, normally over 50,000 miles each year.

  10. @JEM: They “didn’t do ANYTHING for you …except PUT YOU ON THE NEXT AVAILABLE FLIGHT”??? A tremendous level of over-entitlement much? The Alaska employees are absolutely fantastic; as are Southwest’s…although I have noticed a recent decrease in the latter.

  11. Btw, thinking how good Alaska is: in contrast, Emirates is pathetic, both hard and soft products (excluding first). Consistently some of the worst service I experience in aviation, and I fly them A LOT, including last week for 27 hours total in the air.

  12. Sometimes the obvious answer is the correct one. Maybe it was the generosity of Alaska employee and nothing else. Is this game starting to turn us all into sceptics?
    DELTA, (& your advance warnings) you have succeeded

  13. Just to clarify so that the panting, red-faced ranters can calm down before they have an aneurysm, I was simply making a miles & points joke.

    Not sure how that allows you to conclude that I “have never flown”. You can go back to watching the sunrise light up Russia from your porches now.

  14. “And Delta agents have historically been very good during irregular operations.”
    I beg to differ, and too bad they can’t be good all the time. pretty much the worst customer service ever, and no compassion whats so ever.

  15. Who takes a business trip with no plan for irrops. It’s not like the company wouldn’t reimburse her for travel expenses if they had not purchased any type of trip interruption insurance for her. Good on the agent from AS. They truly are a great airline. I miss living on the West Coast.

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