Wednesday, January 25, 2023

In the Weeds with the Airline Contract of Carriage

Just before Christmas we were returning from our ambitious mileage-earning flight to Bangkok.

Once back in New York, we discovered that Alaska had preemptively canceled the long first leg of our JFK-SEA-BLI flight in the middle of the night, due to predicted bad weather, and rerouted us the following day to SEA. An agent mistakenly left off the BLI leg. By the time we got through on the phone, there were no open SEA-BLI flights until after Christmas.

Given the weather, we decided to get to the West Coast as soon as possible and got ourselves rerouted to Seattle via San Diego, with a short overnight stay in San Diego.

For those who don't know the geography, the road distance via I-5 between SEA and BLI is just over 100 miles and anywhere from 1 hour 45 minutes to 2 1/2 hours, depending on conditions. Shuttles take longer. 

We fortunately got a ride home from SEA December 23 with son David, and made it to our family Christmas celebration at our house.

An Alaska phone rep recently did grant us each a customer service voucher while politely telling us there was no refund due. She was right. We learned in the Alaska Airlines Contract of Carriage that SEA and BLI are on a list of 10 co-terminal airports, and that "Alaska will make no refund if transportation is provided from the point of Schedule Irregularity to the ticketed destination or Stopover airport, or a co-terminal as determined by Alaska." 

Examples of co-terminal airports include, but are not limited to:
  1. Burbank/BUR, Long Beach/LGB, Los Angeles/LAX, Ontario/ONT, Orange County/SNA
  2. Orange County/SNA, San Diego/SAN
  3. Houston Bush/IAH, Houston Hobby/HOU
  4. Palm Springs/PSP, Ontario/ONT
  5. Oakland/OAK, San Francisco/SFO, San Jose/SJC
  6. Washington-Reagan/DCA, Washington-Dulles/IAD, Baltimore/BWI
  7. Newark/EWR, New York/JFK, New York/LGA
  8. Seattle/SEA, Bellingham/BLI
  9. Bellingham/BLI, Vancouver/YVR
  10. Seattle/SEA, Everett Paine Field/PAE
In other words, we can pay to fly the 90-some miles from SEA to BLI but, as long as Alaska gets us as far as SEA, they’re off the hook.

Ironically, we spend the sometimes significant additional amount to fly out of Bellingham (BLI) when we think we may be facing bad road conditions. That loophole somewhat defeats the purpose.

Even after several years of flying AS, we're still learning the ropes, and this list was news to us. Ever since airline deregulation occurred, overall a great financial benefit for customers like us, the carriers have had pretty well free rein to make up their own rules.

Your favored airline’s Contract of Carriage is probably worth studying.

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