This is a follow-up post to getting home: horrific customer service from pacific coastal airlines.
Tl;dr: Those are the rules. Too bad for you. Next time buy travel insurance.
Good afternoon, Laura
I wanted to write today to let you know your letters to [company's principals] were all received and forwarded to me so I could respond and address your concerns.
When I look at your letter and how your travel day unfolded, I can certainly appreciate that it must have been incredibly stressful, starting with checking in, in SFO, only to find your terminal had been changed. I’m happy to see that United was able to find you another flight at 1130, but this certainly put a strain on your ability to make the flight out of the South Terminal. Waiting for an hour for your baggage also didn’t help, and I’m sorry to see you had to wait that long to get your luggage.
As a traveller on 2 separate tickets (United and Pacific Coastal), unfortunately, neither airline is aware of the other booking and in each respective case, even though to you your itinerary has you going from San Francisco to Port Hardy, United sees you going from SFO to YVR and we see you as going from YVR to YZT. Unfortunately, if one causes you to miss the other flight (even if the situation was reversed), the circumstances you were under, do not factor into the cancellation or check-in policy of the airline.
Attached is our rules around check-in close times (the same that were presented to you). The reason we close check-in at 40 minutes, is so we can ensure an on-time departure. It is at this time, that our pilots begin to finalize the flight details, looking at the number of passengers checked in, the checked bags and their weight, as well as any cargo and its weight. Based on calculations they make, they then order fuel, the fuel truck comes (while bags are loaded) and then we board and depart.
Accepting new check-ins after the flight closes, would require them to start again and this would ultimately cause a delay. If we miss our take-off slot at YVR, we could be waiting another 20-25 minutes on the ground, waiting for an opening, from Air Traffic Control. This would burn fuel and also delay everyone on the plane into their final destination and could have a domino effect of people missing ferries or perhaps now a rental car office is closed etc. As you can see, there are a lot of factors at play and we have to draw the line somewhere. The line is 40 minutes and yes, we have denied someone check-in because they missed it by 1 minute. As you were 10-minutes after flight-close time, while it may not seem like much, in the context of preparing the aircraft for departure, it is VERY late.
I certainly sympathize and understand that why you arrived late was not your own fault, but rather that of the circumstances of your earlier travel in the day. That, however, does not play a role in how our agents will (and did, in this case) handle your reservation. For them to rebook you and collect the reservation reactivation fee is correct. The alternative would have been a full forteiture of the ticket. So that fee is actually a service to prevent that from happening.
What we have here is what travel insurance is for. Specifically trip interruption insurance. This is for when a passenger has unforeseen expenses as a result of certain travel being disrupted (Cruise, train, ferry, airline) whereby the reason of the disruption is not attributable to the transportation provider but rather simply ‘circumstance’ – you having to take a later flight, bags taking 1 hour to come out etc.
Again, I’m sorry that we were not able to transport you to Port Hardy on June 12th. Unfortunately, I am not able to oblige your request for a refund of the reactivation fee or reimburse you for your accommodation.
I give them points for writing a personal letter that clearly shows that someone read my complaint, rather than a form letter, and for explaining why the rules exist, rather than just repeating the rule.
The worst part of this is that I have to continue to fly on this airline, as they're the only one with service to Port Hardy. I'll be using them again in October, and it's going to hurt!