On Saturday, Alaska flight 1367 from Boston Logan to Los Angeles International Airport was scheduled to depart at 6:00 p.m. This time came and went, with the plane still parked on the ground, while passengers waited in a hot cabin. They were finally in the air about two hours after scheduled departure.
But that was just the beginning of the misadventure. Just an hour and a half into the flight, the scent of burning electronics in the cabin forced the plane to divert. It landed in Buffalo, NY where Alaska Airlines doesn’t have any ground staff. Passengers were given few updates through the night as they waited and waited with little food and little to no sleep. Eventually, Alaska Airlines flew them all back to Boston, where they arrived before 6:00 a.m.
It bad enough to have an all-night diversion and delay, but Alaska wasn’t through with them. The passengers were all re-booked to fly to Los Angeles, but on a 4:30 p.m. departure, over ten hours after they’d returned to Logan Airport! Some irate passengers demanded vouchers for a hotel during the day, and Alaska staff in Boston relented. There was no general offer made, however. Fortunately for everyone, the new flight to Los Angeles departed and arrived without incident. Well…as long as you consider completing the journey without any of the passengers’ checked luggage “without incident”. All said and done, passengers arrived over 30 hours after original scheduled departure.
A series of unfortunate events
So many things went wrong here. This is not a travel experience I would wish on anyone. I’ve had a few unfortunate incidents, including one where united canceled our flight out or our tiny airport the night before, and my wife and I found ourselves driving through the night to SFO. It was rough, but we were even able to get some sleep that night. This would have been way more miserable.
It seems like Alaska doesn’t have much of a contingency plan for landing at an airport where they have zero ground operations. The cabin crew and pilots did their best to update passengers, but as they aren’t gate staff, this had to be out of their comfort zone. Plus, they had to get some sleep. Passengers stated they felt that the crew “abandoned” them during the night, but I have to sympathize a bit with the pilots and flight attendants here. They are required to get rest.
But someone with Alaska should have been working late that night to make sure the 140 passengers in Buffalo were appropriately accommodated, at least with food and blankets and other necessities. It is also unacceptable to me that Alaska did little to try to get passengers to LA in a more timely manner. Making them wait at Boston for an additional 10 hours seems unreasonable after the already extended delay. This is where Alaska’s limited presence on the East Coast comes back to bite them.
A bright side to all this?
The good thing is that it sounds like Alaska Airlines is completely owning the debacle. A spokesperson for the airline has stated that Alaska is “deeply sorry” for the incident and is looking into how to “make this right for our guests”. Compensation of up to $1,000 per passenger is on the table, in the form of either a refund or a voucher for a future flight. Given the fact that the passengers didn’t arrive until late the following night after their scheduled arrival, a full refund plus a large voucher does not seem unreasonable at all to help make things right. It seems like that still won’t be enough to prevent some passengers from swearing never to fly Alaska again.
My own experience with Alaska Airlines during a mechanical issue was a good one. We were given vouchers in excess of the cost of our flights, plus meal vouchers, for a mere 3-hour delay. All of this was automated and offered. We didn’t have to fight for any of it.
What do you think of this unfortunate incident?