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Look, I know that title is sensationalist. But I’m sitting here in the Timberline restaurant at Denver for the third time today (thanks, Priority Pass!), having just returned from a botched attempt at boarding my Boutique Air flight to Alliance, Nebraska.

I’ve only ever heard good things about Boutique Air, so I was really happy to try them out on a decently priced $59 flight that lasted just over an hour. This, combined with my other option of paying a cool $400 for a ticket from Denver to Rapid City, meant that I felt extraordinarily lucky to be flying a semi-private plane to my destination.

(Narrator: It did not go well.)

Strike One

My problems began pre-flight, when I attempted to add my service dog to my reservation and I was told, baldly, that she could’t come. That’s it, no conversation, no dialogue, no attempting to work anything out. This woman’s response was to stonewall me for a full forty minutes before I tried the age-old HUCA, only to find out that Boutique Air is small enough that they employ a single call operator.

The conversation ended when I furiously hung up the phone for a second time, after her insistence that there was absolutely no one anywhere who I could escalate this to. So, I researched the laws and realized I didn’t actually have to provide notice about my dog. I could just bring her. Strike one, Boutique Air.

(On a positive note, when I arrived into Denver the agent at the check-in desk was perfectly lovely and even offered to give my dog her own seat, noting that I could purchase one for her in the future if I had any concerns about her fitting).

Strike Two

Strikes two and three came at boarding, when I arrived to my gate (five minutes after boarding had started), to be told that the entire flight had been canceled. Yeah, that’s it. They waited until everyone showed up to board to tell us there was no flight. At this point I had been at the airport for five hours, and a dozen flights to my destination (or the general area) had already come and gone.

The best part? This was their last flight ever to Alliance. As in, never again could Boutique Air take me to where I needed to go. They offered very helpfully to put me up for a night in a hotel in Denver so that I could board the next available flight (27 hours later) by the airline taking over the route.

Strike Three

Barring that, they also mentioned that they could reimburse me up to $150 for a flight I booked myself to my destination. Remember how I mentioned that United flies to Rapid City? And how the flight was $400? Yeah, that was literally my only option if I wanted to fly same-day. Unfortunately that would mean I’d be out of pocket $250 for a ticket I didn’t even want in the first place.

But my trip is really time-sensitive, and I didn’t have much choice.

So, I’m sitting here, having redeemed some United miles (they dropped the rate to 12.5k miles from 32.5k miles for the flight since it was so last minute), waiting two more hours for United to pick up Boutique Air’s slack.

Just before I booked, the Boutique Air gate agent *super swore* to me that I’d get the value of my miles back in cash. I’m not holding my breath.

In total, I’m out an entire day of travel, thousands of United Miles, and several hours of agony arguing with ignorance. All for a flight I never flew.

Thanks a lot, Boutique Air.

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