This Company Can't be Trusted
OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA -- In June 2007, I decided to go to Hawaii on vacation with my family. I searched Hotwire, which I had used before to get tickets at a good price, and found 4 reasonably-priced tickets on Aloha Airlines, which were for flights that left from Oakland, stopped at Kona-Kailua, where I planned to stay, and then continued on to Honolulu. The return flight started in Honolulu, stopped at Kona-Kailua, and proceeded on to Oakland. Since I'd heard that airlines sometimes objected to passengers using only a portion of the flight they'd booked, I took the trouble to call Aloha Airlines and ask if there was any problem with my avoiding Honolulu and just using the Oakland/Kona and Kona/Oakland portion of the itinerary. I was assured by the person answering the phone at Aloha that this wouldn't be a problem at all, so I proceeded to book the flights.
Trusting in what I'd been told by the Aloha representative, I was shocked to be told by gate agent Mae Fihiki, upon checking in with our baggage, that to do what I had been told was "no problem" would now cost us an extra $125 per ticket in "change fees", which I was forced to pay on the spot with my credit card.
To me, this seemed like a major problem, but since I'd made no alternate arrangements (like purchasing much less expensive Honolulu-Kona tickets from Go Airlines) and since our flight was about to leave, I had no alternative but to pay up. (Needless to say, the unanticipated extra $500 put a major dent in our carefully-planned vacation budget, forcing us to economize on our activities on the Island).
Looking online, I found two numbers for Aloha's "customer service" department, but was disappointed when nobody answered (although the call was well within the airline's stated business hours) , and the machine wouldn't even take a message. But with persistence, after numerous attempts, I finally reached Aloha representative "Terri Ann" (who wouldn't give her last name) . I found her attitude to be far from the "aloha spirit" that advertising had led me to expect. She seemed to have no interest in the fact that I had been misled by her company's employee, and concentrated on browbeating me, asking rhetorically why anyone would book a ticket written for an ultimate destination that they didn't intend to visit. When I explained that this was a Hotwire ticket, and that I didn't see any tickets offered there that were just Oakland-to-Kona and back, she said that I could have bought a ticket from Aloha like that. Yes, I replied, but that would have cost a lot more money. At this point she pounced, as if she had scored some sort of victory in our debate, and accused me of trying to "manipulate" their system. When I asked what was wrong with trying to save a little money, she began abusing me further, and it became evident that she had little interest in preserving Aloha's reputation as far as I was concerned. (So much for the "customer first" policy Aloha brags about on their site.)
Possibly these last-minute "change fees" make an important contribution to the airline's bottom line, offsetting the income that they lose by selling off tickets to discounters, and what happened to me was all according to plan. Otherwise, it's hard to account for this airline's behavior in this instance. Really, I'm hard pressed to think of any transaction outside of the airline industry in which one is charged more for consuming less of a company's products or services. If a restaurant charged you extra for not finishing your meal, or a car rental company imposed extra fees for not driving a specified number of miles each day, you would think it absurd, but this is exactly what the airline is doing in this case. Presumably, they could have sold the seats for the unused portion of my flights and made more money - actually, since airlines routinely "overbook" their flights, it's likely that they will be doing this anyway, making money coming and going, as it were. But absurd or not, the fact that I was told by a company representative that my proposed itinerary was acceptable would negate any "change fee" imposed by a company that wished to retain a reputation for fairness to its customers.
Since I'm sure my call was recorded "in order to better serve you", I wonder why, if my account of it was in doubt, the "customer service" agent didn't offer to retrieve the tape, instead of berating me for attempting to save a few bucks. Evidently, this is a company that is purely focused on short-term profit, that cares little about its customers or what they think of it. I'm sorry I didn't know this before dealing with them, or I would have flown on a competing airline and saved a lot of money as well as considerable aggravation.