Friday, July 22, 2011

Today, I sent a letter to KTVU--the local news station

Dear KTVU,

Nearly a month ago, I purchased a plane ticket to visit my family and friends in Kentucky. Because I am a recent college graduate from SSU, it was difficult for me to even consider purchasing a ticket—especially with the cost of $823.00.  I even had to split the cost between two credit cards—bringing both of them to their limit.

In the 6 years that I’ve lived in California, I have only been able to return once to see my family. So, understandably, I would be excited to visit my mother (who has only become recently sober in the last 2 years), my grandparents, and my brothers who are now beginning to plan what colleges they wish to attend. To top it off, I was planning to attend the wedding of a good friend—the kind of friend that you would never intentionally miss the most important day of her life.  Needless to say, I was looking forward to my trip home. 

I booked the airline ticket to leave from STS (Sonoma County Airport) at 12:30pm on Friday the 22nd.  Because I only live 10 minutes away, I thought it would be a no-brainer. I arrived to the airport at 1205pm with my flight delayed to 12:40pm. The ticket counter displayed a small sign saying that the desk attendants leave the desk 30minutes before the flights departure. By my calculations, that would mean that an attendant should remain at the desk until 1210pm. Am I right? So, like any logical person, I kept my cool and went over to one of 10 Alaskan Air computers to check in.  I paid 20$ to check my bag in with Alaskan Air flight 2473 and I received my receipt with my baggage information as well as what connections I would be making.

So, I went to the small airport security checkpoint (which is only 2 doors away from my destination) and the gentleman told me that I needed to return to the Kiosk to retrieve my boarding pass—BUT I DIDN’T GET ONE. So, I then asked if he could locate someone to meet me at the counter.  He told me No.  NO? Really? I was the only customer in line. There were 6-7 security Employees there (TO ONE PERSON….MAN, I MUST BE A THREAT). He told me I should go outside to the arrival gate and flag someone down.  So, I turned around and walked through the arrival gate.  It was now 12:15 and I could see the bags being wheeled out to the plane.  I tried yelling…no one heard me. I tried yelling again. No one heard me.

So I turned around and went inside to the counter. Still, no one was there. I had checked my bags and I had checked myself in. But there was NO ONE that could give me the $823.00 ticket. I even started to wander around—by this point I had begun to cry.  I asked a gentleman with an airport tag around his neck if he could contact someone to help me at the desk. His response was “I’m sorry, I can’t leave this door open.” What? You can’t close your door to help me?  What?

I then went back through the small door into the security check-point to ask if one of the 7 employees can help me by contacting someone to go to the desk.  Again, I was turned away—I needed to go outside.
The plane still sat right outside the gate. People were just now filing out of the waiting room to enter the flight.  I yelled. I yelled again. Finally! Someone in a blue shirt came up to me—but he didn’t work with the airline company.  He went and got a guy in an Alaskan airlines shirt. He then said, “I can see what I can do.”

With that hopeful answer, I travelled inside to wait, again, by an empty counter.  At this point, there was another gentleman waiting to get on the same flight with Alaskan Air.
Then, it seemed like—all at once—there were people behind the counter.    Wow.
I was hopeful though. I could see the plane from where I was standing. I had already paid for my bags. The plane hadn’t started yet.  I could make my flight. I could make it.

With out even an effort, the Alaskan employees began the process of trying to find me another flight. They didn't even consider putting me on the flight I was assigned. Why couldn’t I get on the flight I paid for? It was sitting right there.  By that point, it was 12:40pm and the plane still sat in its original spot. By that time, my boyfriend had returned from out apartment in Santa Rosa and stood with me for 9 minutes (plane still intact) while the people in front of me continued to say, on the phone, she missed her flight. But, how can I miss my flight, when it’s sitting right there?

Finally, the Alaskan crew got off the little black reservations phone to inform me that I would have to pay the difference of $1,100.00 to make it to Kentucky. WHAT? $1,100.00? You think I can pay that? And, so much for the convenience too. They then told me I would have to drive to SFO. WOW. 

So, the ticket I purchased was placed on my shoulders because the employees of Alaskan Air couldn’t get me on the plane that sat there for 40minutes (20 minutes past original departure). Congratulations Alaskan AIR—you have earned $843.00 (this includes the baggage fees) from a college graduate that can’t afford to pay her own bills. Thanks.

To top it off—I didn’t get the money back for my luggage…

STS should consider reworking their system--especially, if the computers won’t give me the ticket I purchased.

So, please, KTVU, if you can share my story of frustration I would be grateful. I believe many people could benefit from it.  Flying to and from the Sonoma County Airport should be considered an enjoyable experience (It’s not everyday that you can fly out of wine country). My hope is that one day, STS will be able to cover their bases and make their company known for customer service.  Unfortunately, today wasn’t that day.


Karlee Tucker

PS. I want to apologize to all of those flyers that saw me crying. I hope that my poor experience didn’t distress their travels. 

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