**UPDATE, November 18: Following some investigation and prodding, Allegiant has decided to offer a refund after all.**
Call it a difference in styles. When Southwest booted a mother and her noisy two year-old off a flight earlier this month, the airline softened the blow with a refund and $300 voucher, even as it stood by the controversial decision.
Allegiant Airlines found itself in a similar situation last week when a mother and her two children were removed from a flight heading to Billings, Montana, from Arizona (for the mother’s birthday). Both children were causing a disruption, so the airline asked them to leave. But unlike Southwest, Allegiant offered no refund or voucher. Worse, the next available flight didn’t leave for several days and would have cost an extra $900. The woman can apply the cost of her tickets toward future travel, but this is standard practice for unused, nonrefundable tickets.
“Safety is our number one priority,” Allegiant spokesperson Sabrina Lopiccolo told 3TV in Phoenix. “The little boy would not sit in his seat, so at that point it basically became a security issue.”
Allegiant also said it would FedEx the woman’s luggage back to her (yes, her luggage went to Billings even though she didn’t).
Interestingly, Allegiant’s refusal of a refund seems to contradict its own contract of carriage. Rule 90C clearly states it will refund the unused portion of a ticket for anyone removed from an aircraft for reasons of comfort and safety, including “Persons who are unable to occupy a seat with the seat belt fastened.” I’ve put in an email to Allegiant to get this matter clarified, and will post any response I receive.
Well, leave it to Allegiant to stir the pot, huh? The issue is sensitive enough when you’re just talking about kicking mothers and children off planes, but now we have this question of what the airline owes those inconvenienced passengers.
Here’s the rub: Both airlines chose to remove paying customers from their aircraft. Yes, the children were disruptive and, in both cases, technically created a security/safety issue (though this is debatable), but plenty of planes take off each day with disruptive children aboard. These kids were a huge pain in the neck, but I think it’s fair to say that, in both cases, the aircraft’s crew could have let them stay.
So, having made that choice, what does an airline owe its customers who, despite having purchased airfare, have not been flown anywhere and must now make alternative arrangements?
If you ask Southwest, the airline should mitigate the cost of those alternative arrangements with a flight voucher and a refund.
If you ask Allegiant, the airline should apparently do nothing.
Who do you agree with?
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