Alaska to compensate fliers caught in computer outage
Ellensburg resident Jim Rowe and his family had hoped to fly home Saturday after vacationing in Disneyland for spring break. Instead, they've spent several...
Seattle Times travel writer
What to doAlaska Airlines and Horizon Air are advising passengers affected by the flight delays and cancellations to contact the airlines' customer-service department with flight details and information on how their travel was disrupted. Go to www.alaskaair.com, click on "Travel Advisory," scroll to the bottom and click on "Customer Care Team."
Passengers with reservations this week are advised to check their flight status at www.alaskaair.com.
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Ellensburg resident Jim Rowe and his family had hoped to fly home Saturday after vacationing in Disneyland for spring break. Instead, they've spent several nights in a Los Angeles airport hotel, racking up big bills and missing school and work.
The family is among at least 12,000 Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air passengers whose travel was disrupted by a computer-system outage that caused the airlines to cancel 150 flights over the weekend.
Some, such as Rowe, his wife, Shannon, and their children, ages 2 and 7, are still waiting to fly home.
"This has cost us more than our vacation," Rowe said from Los Angeles, where the $110 nightly rate he had been paying for a room over the weekend jumped to $280 Monday.
Alaska Airlines spokeswoman Bobbie Egan said the airlines are working out a plan to compensate affected passengers.
"We're going to make it right for our customers, no matter what," she said. But the first priority, she said, is to get everyone to their destinations.
With most planes flying at or near capacity, "there are some instances of people still waiting for flights out on Tuesday," Egan said, or in the Rowe family's case, Wednesday.
Over the weekend, Alaska and Horizon offered either refunds or the chance to rebook with no penalty on their flights or those of other airlines. But Rowe and others who posted comments on Alaska's Facebook page complained about not being offered more.
"My family has not been offered any help at all other than finding us a later flight at no extra charge," Rowe wrote.
"So my kids miss school, I miss work and lose income and (all) they do on YouTube video is say they are doing everything possible. "
In a letter of apology emailed to customers Monday, Alaska and Horizon executives asked passengers to fill out a form on www.alaskair.com with details of how their travel was disrupted. They promised a follow-up within two weeks.
"We don't yet have specifics on what will be involved," Egan said. "It will vary based on the length of the delay or cancellation and how quickly we could get them on another flight."
Contrary to popular belief, airlines are not required by federal law to compensate passengers whose flights are delayed or canceled, according to the Department of Transportation. Airlines have differing policies.
Beyond offering refunds for canceled flights, or rebooking without penalties, Alaska and Horizon, its sister airline, say they are working on a plan to compensate passengers whose flights were affected by the computer breakdown.
Compensation most likely will come in the form of certificates good for future travel, fare discounts or reimbursements for expenses such as meals and lodging.
Egan said the outage occurred when a transformer blew and knocked out the company's computer system for creating flight plans. Technicians had been trying to install a backup power supply for the system.
About 18 percent of Horizon and Alaska schedules for Saturday were affected.
Brett Snyder, author of the Cranky Flier blog, gave Alaska and Horizon credit for communicating well with passengers via Facebook and Twitter.
He said it's not unusual for airlines to sort out compensation after the fact.
"When something like this happens, it's awful," he said. "You have cancellations, people missing connections. What you have to do is get people where they need to go. The customer, of course, wants something done right away, but the reality is that there are 100 people waiting in line behind that passenger who want to get somewhere."
Carol Pucci: 206-464-3701
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