This Airline Policy Is Just PLANE Stupid!

by Shelli Stein

There are some policies, whether for hotels or airlines, that we might not agree with. Then there are some that seem downright ridiculously stupid. Unfortunately, recently I came across one of those ridiculous ones. This Alaska Airlines policy is ridiculous. Hear me out, and then correct me if I’m wrong!

The Backstory With An Alaska Airlines Flight

I was in my Alaska Airlines account looking at some dates and flights when I noticed something seemed off. One of the trips I already booked had a notice attached to it. Alaska Airlines was asking me to contact them because my flight had been canceled.

My first thought was could it be possible that I missed an email or some sort of alert from Alaska Airlines informing me of the canceled flight?

After all, a cancelled flight is a big deal.

Was it possible that Alaska Airlines doesn’t send out alerts when they cancel flights? I do know that other airlines send out alerts when flights are cancelled.

Why not Alaska Airlines, then?

I checked the schedule and sure enough my flight was no longer listed on my day of travel. It was still a route they flew on other days.

I decided this was worth a call. Hold time wasn’t terribly long at thirty four minutes, though I’m not at all a fan of Alaska’s on-hold music.

When speaking with an agent it wasn’t so much choosing an alternative flight that concerned me, but why I wasn’t informed. The agent told me that Alaska Airlines did send out emails when flights are canceled.

I asked her to check further because I insisted I never received notice.

Here comes the stupid Alaska Airlines policy.

Because my flight was in a few month’s time, Alaska doesn’t send out canceled flight notifications until closer to the travel date. She wouldn’t, or couldn’t, tell me exactly when I would have been alerted. And she herself did seem surprised by this policy.

They did, however, choose to book me on another flight which in no way, except that it eventually got me to my destination, resembled my original flight choice.

Yet Alaska Airlines didn’t inform me about swapping out flights either.

All this was found coincidentally by ME.

While I totally understand that as travelers it’s our responsibility to monitor and groom reservations, this “We’ll inform you when WE think it’s the right time” policy from Alaska is PLANE stupid.

Cancel a flight, let me know.

Change my flight itinerary AWAY from the one I’ve chosen, let me know.

And let me know as soon as you make the change.

Come on Alaska Airlines, you can do better!!

Have you come across policies you think need fixing? Let us know!

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Jimmy June 29, 2021 - 2:35 pm

I’m not excusing Alaska’s lack of communication, but I’d say it’s more IT limitation than policy. Regular Alaska flyers know to check their reservations every Sunday morning. It is nice that, as you noted, Alaska is super flexible about rebooking, once you figure out that your flight changed 🙂

Shelli June 29, 2021 - 2:38 pm

Wow, Jimmy, this is a great data point. I am a regular AS flyer, even had status back in the day, and never knew the Sunday morning trick. Thanks so much for sharing this and also for understanding my frustration 🙂

fred dilligaf July 8, 2021 - 11:13 am

I have had the same issue with AS many times. They are always very accommodating when this happens, but sometimes the best options are gone by the time I find out. Sorry Jimmy, I shouldn’t have to look every Sunday.

Shelli July 8, 2021 - 1:16 pm

That’s the exact point, Fred. Time is of the essence when we, the customers, need to make changes. Whether for business or for leisure travel, lots of other plans get upended when flights get canceled/rebooked etc.

huey judy July 8, 2021 - 11:41 am

Totally agree with Jimmy. Air reservations need to be checked once a month, once a week the month before departure and once a day the week before. What takes 3 minutes now could save you hours of anguish trying to arrange to fly somewhere. Depending on email notices is what’s stupid.

Lara S. June 29, 2021 - 3:40 pm

That is a ridiculous policy. Who has time to check this. It is absolutely incumbent on the service provider to inform a purchaser of changes including cancellation. How is this okay? As soon as a flight is cancelled it is super simple IT to send out an email immediately to all passengers on that flight. How is this an IT limitation??

Shelli June 29, 2021 - 3:46 pm

I wish you were running the show over at AS, Lara! I’m no IT expert, but as you say, how hard can it be to set this up. And anyone who travels has seen notices from other airlines coming through in a timely fashion, so that makes this even worse. Thanks for reading!

KEITH P July 8, 2021 - 9:36 am

American does the same thing. Very frustrating to have hotel, car and destination plans set and then the flight is canceled for no other reason than airline convenience.

Warren June 30, 2021 - 1:50 am

Aren’t they legally obligated to notify you?

Shelli June 30, 2021 - 8:30 am

Good question, Warren. I guess they would say they do notify customers in a timely fashion according to THEIR AS calculations.

A July 6, 2021 - 11:20 am

This is really stupid. It happened to me 4 times during the pandemic. Last summer they canceled our flight to Phoenix the day of and didn’t even bother to tell us!! Got to the airport and they were like ohhhh your flight is canceled … want to wait 6 hours here or take a connection. It happened to two of our friends too. It’s so stupid. I love Alaska, but they need to contact people when flights are rescheduled or cancelled.

Shelli July 6, 2021 - 11:24 am

Yikes, A, your AS experiences sounds awful. No argument from me that AS needs to reboot their notification systems/policies. Thanks for reading and hope your AS flights next time go more smoothly.

Dan Pearson July 8, 2021 - 7:36 am

United did the same thing to me. I’ve got flights to Cabo booked for January 2022 and just happened to check my booking a coupe of weeks ago, The return flight was changed from a one-stop leaving at 1:30 PM to a two-stop leaving at 9:30 AM. No notification from United at all. Maybe I’ll get an email in a few months?

Shelli July 8, 2021 - 7:40 am

Yikes, Dan. After hearing from readers that they’ve had similar experiences, I’m now thinking it’s become PLANE stupid with multiple airlines. I wonder if it’s just US airlines.

Dave Alderson July 8, 2021 - 7:37 am

AS is not alone. AA rescheduled my flight from Phoenix in September from 1:00pm to 7:00 am. No email notification and the only way I found it was on my AA Phone APP while on a recent trip with a little note to check back later to see what the change was. When I called I was told that they would not notify me until closer to the flight as there will likely be more changes by then.

Shelli July 8, 2021 - 7:42 am

Thanks for letting readers know, Dave. You would have been a no-show on that flight by many hours. Crazy policies right now regarding when and if customers will be notified of changes.

W Knodt July 8, 2021 - 7:58 am

Had the same on UA! Wanted to send the itinerary and discovered the return flight was changed from a nonstop to a change in Chicago!!! Not a bit happy as I booked the flights because they were nonstop from Baltimore to Denver! Where a wheelchair is required … just adds to the irritation!

Shelli July 8, 2021 - 8:57 am

Makes no sense that WE should come upon these changes when doing ordinary tasks such as sending the itinerary. Hope you get the flights and wheelchair needs sorted out to your satisfaction!

Bob Dashman July 8, 2021 - 8:12 am

I had a similar situation with American Airlines several years ago. Flying back to Texas from Bali, trip began with Qatar to Singapore, then connect with Cathay to HKG. I had used miles to pay for this business class trip.

One day I logged onto and found a message that I should contact AA. I did and they told me that my Qatar flight had been cancelled two months earlier: they could not even explain why they had not notified me at that time. They were eventually able to rebuild my itinerary by sending me Bali to Jakarta to Singapore with an 8 hr layover in Jakarta.

Letters of complaint after this were ignored, no reply until two months after I wrote to them. Was told they had no idea why the flight was cancelled but weather and ATC delays are the most common reasons. Really, weather and ATC delays two months before the flight? They then gave me 7,500 miles, but I never got an apology. They did tell me though that my note had been circulated through the company.

Lesson learned, I now go online multiple times a week to track my flights now that I know the airline cannot be trusted.

Shelli July 8, 2021 - 9:00 am

Bob, Such a pity that the trust level between customers and airlines has sunk so low. The excuses they gave you are ridiculous. Thanks for sharing your experience!

Perry July 8, 2021 - 8:14 am

Could it be they on purpose send the email out closer to your flight for the sole purpose to get more money out of you since flights are way more expensive closer the the actual departure date ?

Shelli July 8, 2021 - 9:01 am

Never thought of it from this angle, Perry. Who knows, right?

TMIK July 8, 2021 - 8:29 am

There should be IMMEDIATE notification of cancelled or changed flights, blaming it on IT restrictions is ridiculous, it takes the same amount of time to send it now or send it later and it should be easy enough to program IMMEDIATE notifications once any flight has been cancelled or changed. Make it Mandatory

Shelli July 8, 2021 - 9:02 am

For sure, TMIK. From a flyers perspective, immediate change should mean immediate notification.

Mike July 8, 2021 - 8:35 am

American just did the same to me yesterday. The flight I had booked for August in first class was cancelled so they rebooked me in coach on an earlier flight with no notice. Shameful.

Shelli July 8, 2021 - 9:05 am

Rebooked in coach… This seems like the worst scenario: a class of service change and a flight time change. From the comments, the no-notice-policies seem to be an issue with all the airlines. Thanks for the warning. Time to check my upcoming flights on all airlines!

David Turk July 8, 2021 - 8:37 am

Something similar with Delta. Prior to COVID, we were traveling internationally five -six times per year. During the last year or so, we’d get notices of schedule changes. I immediately go to the Delta website to check on the changes and to select new seats. On occasion, it was a wholesale change (all flights on one leg). It wasn’t uncommon to see the new booking was physically impossible to execute (connections that didn’t make sense); e.g., departing one airport before arriving from another airport. The first time I called Delta about it, I was directed to contact tthe cruise line (Viking) since the ticket was purchased via them. In later issues, I went direct to the ticket purchaser after that.
So I’d advise any Delta flier to immediately check all of your flights if you’ve been notified of a schedule change.

Shelli July 8, 2021 - 9:07 am

Thanks for the Delta alert, David. I hope DL is paying you for alerting DL flyers and doing the job they should be doing!

Phil July 8, 2021 - 8:38 am

Noticed in the bio something about all things Southwest. I realize there are some people (my boss included) who love Southwest, but I will not book on SW until I can reserve a specific seat. Until then – no way.
To the point of this article all airlines should notify a passenger when a flight is changed, cancelled, etc.
And changing the itinerary? Don’t mess with mine unless I give permission first. If I’m traveling then I made the reservation that way for a reason. Traveling out: I need to be there for a specific reason at a determined time. Don’t mess with it. There could business consequences.
Optimist see the cup as half full, pessimist see it as half empty, engineers see it as twice the size it needs to be. 😉 😉

Shelli July 8, 2021 - 9:09 am

True enough, Phil. Flyers are either in LUV with SWA or never fly them 🙂 Your points are well said regarding airlines messing with our flights. And thanks for the laugh on the optimists/pessimists/engineers. I am an optimist with engineer leanings!

Christopher SW July 8, 2021 - 8:51 am

Happened to me on a “great airline” – DELTA!
Probably due to last-minute Plandemic restrictions. International Flight! (You could still enter the country through another gateway city, a mega inconvenience, and that flight actually operated.)
Checked the rotation of the same flight number of my flight 3 days before departure on flightaware – flight that date was on-time, then “delayed”, eventually cancelled. All within a few hours.
Needless to say – my flight was cancelled too and the agent could not find the reservation at first moment. She could only trace it based on the ticket number, an e-voucher for the return portion of an international flight would be pending…
Planning on taking that flight later this year, September or so…
The airlines know more about you than you can imagine.
They are able to text you schedule changes, hell, even gate changes on the day of your flight to your cellphone.
With all the cross-data feeding, why cannot a cancellation be communicated to the customer as a routine autoresponder message? Probably 2 or more systems and the lowest denominator one controls. Hard to understand when they even identify you by your facial features, nowadays…

Shelli July 8, 2021 - 9:12 am

Wow, Christopher, all VERY good points. So true what you say about the airlines and all they know about us. Yet what should be a simple notification goes missing! Hope going forward your DL flights go smoothly.

Jeri Gonwa July 8, 2021 - 9:01 am

We had the same thing happen on Southwest Airlines. I found out it was cancelled by doubling checking. They rebooked it themselves with a connection that left before the first flight arrived. I’m also tired of having to travel to one coast, we live in the mid-west, just to fly south or north so we end up backtracking and travel time doubling. We seriously can drive in less time.

Shelli July 8, 2021 - 9:15 am

Ok, well that completes almost all the US airlines being in on the no notification policy. I understand why no LUV for SWA in your comment, Jeri.

Sharyn July 8, 2021 - 10:01 am

Yep! I had the same issue with Delta a month ago. Changed once and notified with an email, but then they changed the flight again (and added an 8 hour layover) and I only figured it out during the check in process. Wasn’t a big deal to change it, but I was on hold for close to two hours before I could speak with a rep. Not cool.

Shelli July 8, 2021 - 1:05 pm

Not cool at all, Sharyn. I think we’d all agree. And only to be informed during the check in process in unnerving. Thanks for sharing your DL experience.

Steve Gosset July 8, 2021 - 10:04 am

I had a similar AS experience. My JNU-JFK flight disappeared. I only found out about this by checking the app, as I casually do from time to time. AS had rebooked me on an itinerary I would not have been able to make and needed a couple of phone calls to get it straightened out. Beyond the bummer of no longer being able to make it back to New York from Juneau in under nine hours (now 14.5 and an extra flight), I never received an email or text, as Delta and American routinely do. Suffice to say, I now check the app almost every day, but if I wind up on yet another itinerary, I won’t be surprised.

Shelli July 8, 2021 - 1:10 pm

It’s the not knowing what’s happening behind the scenes that’s most unacceptable. We all travel enough to know that changes to itineraries happen. But taking the power away from the customer to then work with the change because we’re not informed in a timely manner, is doubly irritating. I hope AS, and all the other airlines as well, reads the comments on this post. At the very least the IT teams at the airlines need to take action 🙂

JLK July 8, 2021 - 10:32 am

I have had the exact opposite experience with Air Canada! I booked an international flight originating in Denver back at the beginning of January with travel at the beginning of August. I cannot count how many emails I have received about flight changes, I was even getting irritated (more with the number of changes vs. the emails) I guess I should be thankful for the number of notifications I have received.

Clearly, Air Canada’s IT Department has figured out how to manage notifications – not sure why other companies can’t!

Shelli July 8, 2021 - 1:12 pm

Ok, then, since Air Canada’s IT team is on the ball, we’re putting out a call to Air Canada to relay a message to their colleagues in IT at these US airlines to get with the IT program! Thanks for the AC info, JLK!

SAW July 8, 2021 - 11:36 am

This heads up is much appreciated and I am presently chatting with an Alaska Airlines rep, expressing my disbelief and grief at this STUPID, inconsiderate and wrong policy.

Shelli July 8, 2021 - 1:19 pm

Thanks for reading, SAW. Good luck with whatever flight changes you’re working on!

Lee @ Bald Thoughts July 8, 2021 - 11:54 am

Alaska Airlines normally has excellent service and friendly agents. It’s so odd that they have this completely unfriendly policy. It doesn’t matter how far out a flight is, they should notify the traveler immediately of the change/cancellation. You might be requesting specific days off from work, trying to attend an event on a specific day, or traveling for a special occasion. No matter what your reason is, you need to make changes right away so that you don’t miss out on available flights or attractive fares that won’t be available if you tried rebooking closer to your departure date.

Shelli July 8, 2021 - 1:22 pm

All good points, Lee. Thanks! For sure, lots of plans get upended when flights are changed/canceled etc. I think the airlines count on our goodwill towards their “issues”. But as we’ve seen from the comments across airlines, the airlines really have no excuse for IT not be to aware of how consumer unfriendly their policies are. Easy change for IT to make in the timing of alerts.

Ken July 8, 2021 - 11:55 am

Here we go again! I’ve been a Gold level MVP flyer since the early 2000’s. Back in the late 2000’s, on several flights, my seats, reserved well in advance, were unassigned. I found out about the change only when checking in for my flights. No emails or texts from Alaska. On at least 2 of the occasions, when boarding, I found someone else sitting in what was supposed to be my seat. When I asked them when they booked their seat, each person told me that they made their reservations 2-3 weeks prior. Neither was a frequent flyer. I had booked my tickets at least 1-2 months in advance. In another instance, on a flight out of Palm Springs to Seattle, I was assigned the last seat available on the plane (center seat in row 28, rather than the aisle seat I booked in row 7. None of the seats that I was booted out of were earmarked for handicapped flyers. No explanation was ever given me, other than when I complained to customer service, I was given miles.

I know that the airlines are facing some severe challenges right now, but I hope that such problems will be resolved soon.

On a more positive note, it was nice to see that Alaska’s CEO is asking management-level (including senior managers) to help with loading and unloading luggage until there are enough baggage handlers to deal with the load. Management by walking around in action.

Shelli July 8, 2021 - 1:26 pm

Thanks for sharing your historical data, Ken. Frustrating! I’m with you on the sooner the problems get resolved the better, and sooner can’t come soon enough. Interesting what you shared about management and luggage. Hope the management-level staff is in good shape. That’s a tough job!

David O July 8, 2021 - 12:48 pm

@Shelli, doesn’t look like anybody has commented on why they do this yet, but it’s because things may change again, and they don’t want to overload the average traveller with change notification after change notification.

I once had a case on United where a flight I was on was cancelled, so they rebooked me on a connection, that connection had a schedule change, and then that connection cancelled and they reinstated a flight very close to my original one. By not worrying about it, I saved a ton of time calling, and ended up basically on the same flight that I’d booked.

With the exception of partner award travel, airlines will generally offer last-seat availability for rebooking, so you’re unlikely to not be able to get on the most optimal remaining flight. The only downside is more limited seat selection, but if you’re looking a month or so out (when schedules are near-final), you’ll usually still have plenty of choices.

I actually like to ‘preserve’ schedule changes, and not rebook right away, because it means I can figure out *my* plans in more detail, and then get the flight I want for no fare increase..

Shelli July 8, 2021 - 1:28 pm

Good points as you shed light on potential ways to handle changes/cancelations. Thanks David. I actually do have another flight that got canceled and I am preserving that one until I figure out what I want to do. It’s tricky either way.

DaviatorSF July 8, 2021 - 12:49 pm

Yes, I ran into this problem too. We booked tickets on Alaska to travel to Maui during the pandemic, on a non-stop flight, which was very important to us. Flying to Hawaii required negative Covid tests right before travel, and so the non-stop flight gave us a little safer feeling since everyone on board would have tested negative right before the flight. The virus was still prevalent enough that we didn’t want to be in a tin can for hours with untested people.

Alaska cancelled our nonstop flight, rebooked us on connecting flights through Seattle, AND DIDN’T TELL US! Luckily I randomly checked the reservation a few weeks ahead of the trip and discovered what they had done and there was still time to cancel and rebook on a nonstop with a different carrier.

There was no way we were going to double the length of our trip, take multiple flights, etc. and Alaska’s failure to notify was unforgivable. I think they intentionally wait – who knows how long? – to notify of cancelled flights, in the hopes that it will be too late for passengers to rebook on another airline.

I am done flying Alaska after that experience, I feel their policy is absolutely unforgivable.

Shelli July 8, 2021 - 1:31 pm

What a mess, DSF. I would have reacted the same way. Glad you were able to rebook and get a non-stop on another carrier.

Roy F. July 8, 2021 - 1:11 pm

They seem to have no problem removing it from their flight lists, yet can’t find a way to send an automatic email to all the passengers already booked on the canceled flight? That just seems wrong because it gives maximum amount of time for passengers to rebook a new flight and that also benefits the airline itself because it cuts down on customer issues. People that book well ahead of time DO NOT like to be surprised at the last minute.

Shelli July 8, 2021 - 1:35 pm

Exactly, Roy. For some tasks their IT works well 🙂 But not for the ones that benefit the passengers!

Francis July 8, 2021 - 1:13 pm

I totally agree with you. Airlines should inform passengers as soon as flight schedules changed or flights cancelled. In that regard, AA seems to be doing a better job in that department. The worse experience I ever had was years ago with Delta. My brother flew to Dallas from Toronto Canada to attend my son’s wedding. I checked on gate assignment before his return flight. Surprisingly I found out that his flight was cancelled & rebooked the following day without sending him an email or a phone call. Luckily enough his flight was changed to a later day. I seldom fly Delta & I don’t know if they have improved on this policy.

Shelli July 8, 2021 - 1:34 pm

From many of the comments it sounds like the lack of notification policies have been in place for years already. Frustrating! Thanks for reading, Francis, and taking the time to share your story.

Thomas Batth July 10, 2021 - 7:18 am

I am sure not notifying the passengers immediately reduces the amount of customer service calls. I expect many passengers see the cancellation/rebooking and go about their day. Every passenger who receives an immediate cancellation notice would be calling customer service immediately. That’s what I would do. Sending an email with the rebooking would be appropriate.

Never Use This Sly Company! | Wandur Lusts August 1, 2021 - 2:42 pm

[…] know it seems like I’m on a rant bender since a short while ago I ranted about an Alaska Airlines policy. Now, though, it’s what happened when I rented a car that’s got my knickers in a twist. Or what […]

Bob November 11, 2021 - 7:05 pm

Last month I flew American for the first time in at least 10 years. As a heavy traveler otherwise, I expected a certain level of “standard” communications, and I’m pleased to say they met that goal. In fact, twice I received an alert that my seats had changed (same flights, just a seat change). When I checked the emails—both times—the new seat numbers were the same as the previous ones. Hmmm.

Throwback: It’s 1999 or 2000, and I’m flying on USAirways from Orlando to San Francisco via Charlotte on a Sunday. To my surprise, they CALLED me (on my home phone) on Friday to ask if I could take an earlier flight as the original plane from Orlando was not going to be available, and they wanted to get me there earlier rather than later… which is what would happen if I showed up at my original time at the airport.

It was my lucky day. My wife was actually working at a conference in Charlotte, so I asked the rep if I could catch a plane on Saturday morning instead of Sunday morning, then catch my original (non-problem) flight to San Fran. Of course this was an impossible flight for me to book ($$$$), but in this case I got it, unplanned, for free.

With Orlando being a Delta town (at the time), I rarely flew USAirways, but let’s just say that was a home run in my book.

Shelli November 12, 2021 - 12:17 pm

Great throwback story, Bob! And a “home” run for sure. Thanks for reading and taking the time to share your stories.

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[…] This Airline Policy Is Just PLANE Stupid! – Alaska Airlines normally has excellent service and friendly agents. It’s so odd that they have this completely unfriendly policy. It doesn’t matter how far out a flight is, they should notify the traveler immediately of the change/cancellation. You might be requesting specific days off from work, trying to attend an event on a specific day, or traveling for a special occasion. No matter what your reason is, you need to make changes right away so that you don’t miss out on available flights or attractive fares that won’t be available if you tried rebooking closer to your departure date. […]


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