Sudden Itinerary Change
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Q. I bought a roundtrip ticket on Alaska Air from Oakland to Kona, Hawaii. Soon after, I received an email from Alaska stating that the return flight is going to the San Jose airport and not Oakland. The two airports are 50 miles apart. Alaska is giving us $200 voucher for this inconvenience and a voucher for a bus to get us back to Oakland Airport. This is not a minor change. Do I have any recourse? I feel like I should be asking for a $400 voucher, since this is half the ticket price.
A. We wish we understood why Alaska is doing this, since as near as we can tell they are still flying Oakland-Kona roundtrip, although on the Kona-Oakland return leg they are no longer flying nonstop (connections through Seattle only). There are two ways of looking at this. Some airlines would just return your money and make you buy a fare on another airline, perhaps at the last minute and at a much higher price, or offer no compensation. Unfortunately, we see this sort of thing all the time. It's really unfair, in our opinion. So one could argue that Alaska is actually treating you much better than another airline might in such a situation. You probably still have the option of getting a full refund and trying to book on another airline. But what Alaska should do in this case, if it cannot accommodate you on the return, is put you on another airline that flies Kona-Oakland, at their expense. And yes, you're in your rights to ask for higher compensation. It couldn't hurt to do so. Also, your letter implies that the fare is $800 round-trip, which seems quite high for that route. Make sure the fare hasn't gone down and if it has, request a fare-drop refund. Alaska is one of the few airlines that provides a full refund, also in the form of a voucher, if the fare goes down between the time you buy it and the time you depart.