Are “No Frills” Airlines Really Worth The Savings?

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Just about anyone who has flown has some horror story about a specific flight, airport or airline that would send your mind into a tail spin.  Fortunately for Q and I, we have never had a “bad” experience.  That is until recently.

This past November Q and I visited family in Colorado for the American Thanksgiving.  Thinking we were ultra brilliant we booked our flights with a no frills carrier where everything is à la carte.  As the airline states – fly for less money and more go!!  And thankfully our flight to Colorado was uneventful.

At vacations end we left our packed bags at the front door while we made one final shopping trip.  Upon our return to my in-law’s house to pick up our luggage before leaving for the airport is where things started to get crazy.  In retrospect it may have been an omen of the hell we were about to be placed through.  Entering the house we were greeted by a very naughty, guilt laden, 80 lb chocolate lab who had eaten our boarding passes and chewed up my passport.

Ok so the boarding pass could be reprinted…. but what about my passport?  Holy hell, how was I going to get home?  I was gobsmacked!  My sister in-law attempted to sooth my frenzy with confirmation I would make it home without it.  I’ll be honest I had my doubts and envisioned myself sitting in a Canadian consular waiting endlessly for a new passport to arrive!

When finally at the security clearance in the airport I smiled nervously when asked for my passport…. “Well its a funny story”, I started to explain as I produced the bits and pieces of what remained of the document.  Luckily the rest of my Canadian identification sufficed and with a scan and pat down I was allowed through.  Ok, I thought, things are looking up.  Sure I’m out $150 but at least I’m going to make it home today.  Little did I know the torn up passport was going to be the least of my problems.

After shopping for a couple of hours we headed to our gate to board the plane only to find our flight had been delayed for 3 hours.  No problem.  The Denver airport is huge and filled with many shopping outlets, so we set off again to spend more money.  After the 3 hour wait and a much lighter wallet we walked back down to the gate this time to find that our flight had been cancelled.  We were instructed to head back to the Check In area to rebook.

Still optimistic we left the security area and marched way back across the airport.  Optimistic that is until we saw the lineup.  Holy crap we waited for 1 1/2 hours in line before standing in front of the agent.  The next flight didn’t leave until early the next morning so we were offered a voucher for a specific hotel and a food voucher for any vendor in the airport.  We were given a whopping $14 in total or $7 each for breakfast.  I don’t know where the hell this airline eats but apparently it has not been in the Denver airport.  Whatever!  The agent informed us to go back downstairs to the baggage claim and wait at carousel 5 to retrieve our luggage.

Did I mention how big this airport is?  Quickly tiring, we dragged our sorry butts downstairs and waited.  And we waited.  Then… we waited some more.  Other passengers began waiting with us.  After 40 minutes we finally stopped an airport employee and asked them when our baggage was coming down on the carousel.  “Never,” he replied after finding out what flight we were from, then instructed we call our airline.  Wait, what?  Our airline sent us down here.  As luck would have it the airport employee found a representative from our airline as he passed by to ask where our bags were.  Apparently our luggage was now back up at the Check In counter.

airplane flying

Before I went Super Saiyan on this kid’s ass, I sternly told him I wasn’t waiting in that line again.  No problem – he offered to grab our bags if we followed him back up to the counter.  Back across the airport, the kid handed us our bags and informed us our free shuttle to the hotel would be located downstairs at exit 505.  Perfect.  We hauled our tired butts back downstairs and across the airport again… which by the way seemed to be adding more square footage by the moment.

With no sign for our shuttle/hotel, we huddled with the few passengers we recognized from our flight.  We waited.  Then…. we waited some more.  After an hour and constant redialing to a busy phone line, Q reached the hotel and asked where the hell the shuttle was?  It was at this point I almost lost my shit.  The hotel’s exit was 512 on the other side of the airport from where we were at, exit 505.  You have got to be kidding me!  With the other tired, lazy passengers we lugged our arses and bags back across the airport only to be greeted with the fact we were now at the back of the shuttle line.  With the realization we would wait hours we reluctantly hailed and paid the $60 for a taxi to take us to the hotel.  After 9 hours since we entered the airport I couldn’t take any more physically or mentally.  I needed to rest, sleep and maybe pee…. and possibly get a bite to eat as I was starving.

Another lineup at the hotel for an hour and as we neared the counter heard that our airline had given many of us two food vouchers instead of one food and one hotel.  The hotel, afraid they wouldn’t recoup their costs, were refusing to accept the passengers the mistake had been made with.  Holy shit… didn’t we have two food vouchers.  No No No!  I explained to the clerk I was about to lose it and he was now the unfortunate person standing in front of me.  Looking to his manager for help, they called the airline, who unbelievably gave them a hard time.  Seeing the anger build within me the manager offered us a room, asked for my visa in the event the airline wouldn’t honour the voucher and promised to have everything fixed when I woke in the morning.  Fine!  Fantastic!  It was 11:30 pm and I was tired.  He could take my visa.  He could take my cash.  Hell he could take Q and have his way with him if he wanted for all I cared, I just needed to get off my feet.

Up at 3:30 am to catch the shuttle  back to the airport to ensure we made our early flight (yes the hotel insisted we had to begin our shuttles this early to get us all there on time), only to have to wait at the Check In desk where no one from the airline would arrive until 6 am.  Great, glad we got up so early to get here.  I also had the pleasure of going through security for a second time with a tore up passport and explanation.  Another scan, pat down and this time a swipe to look for drug residue and I was on my way.

We went to an airport vendor for breakfast who refused the voucher.  Thankfully we hadn’t ordered so we got up and went to another.  The second vendor not only refused the voucher but explained that no vendor in the airport would honour these food vouchers and couldn’t understand why the airline was handing them out!  Whatever!  We paid for the overly priced coffee and stale muffins ourselves and headed to the gate to catch the plane.

We walked what seemed to be the entire distance of the airport and were once again greeted at the gate with the announcement that the plane was delayed again for another 3 hours.  Apparently the plane had a mechanical issue (same plane from the night before) and the  mechanics wouldn’t be in until 7 am to assess and fix the issue.  Hold up… What?  Wouldn’t be in until 7 am?  Our flight was booked for 7 am?  So when our flight was rebooked the previous evening this airline knew our flight would be delayed again and yet booked us all any way.  They had the hotel shuttle us back to the airport in the wee hours of the morning to catch a flight they knew wouldn’t leave at its scheduled departure time! Mother F@#$^%$!!!!

airplane flying

So it got me thinking – are we at the mercy of these crazy airlines?  What could we have done differently.  Here are a few things that came to mind.

  1. When the flight was first delayed the message was posted on the board.  But for those passengers who actually asked the agents if the flight would be cancelled, they were told that it would be – three hours before it actually was!  This put them at the front of all the lines we had to endure!
  2. When given vouchers check to see if there is a specific one for food and one for accommodation.  Who knew there would be more than one type but apparently there is.  Ask for a phone number should an issue arise regarding the vouchers.
  3. If you are instructed to retrieve your luggage from any where other than their counter ask them about TSA rules regarding flights that never departed.  There are very strict and precise rules regarding where your baggage can be retrieved from.
  4. Honestly, rethink this whole “No Frill” airline business model.  These cheap carriers do not go far out of their pocket to accommodate you even when its their fault.  By the time it was all said and done the difference in ticket cost was negligible compared to their full frills competition.  Sure the seat was only $80 but once you add your luggage (which we only took one set to keep costs low), airport fees, airport taxes, governmental fees, other fees and taxes, seat selection etc. etc. etc… our ticket price was within a hundred dollars of our preferred airline!
  5. If your boarding pass gets eaten and passport torn to bits immediately preceding your flight reconsider whether you fly – maybe, just maybe someone or something is telling you not to get on that plane!

How does this story end?  We demanded a refund and didn’t get on that plane, or any plane for that matter.  We took our own advice from bullet 5 above and believe it or not we rented a car and drove all the way home!  Yes we drove from Denver, Colorado to Ontario, Canada and it was one of the best road trips of our lives!!!

So you tell me… What, if anything could we have done different?  How have you handled a similar situation?  Tell us what worked and what didn’t!

~True North Nomad

“Surely there must be something you can do?  I’m doing everything I can… and stop calling me Shirley!” – enter your email address top left, bottom right or bottom centre of this post and click “Follow” and never miss an impassioned tale again!

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9 responses to “Are “No Frills” Airlines Really Worth The Savings?

  1. Wow that’s a hell of a story. I got more and more angry as the story went on > and the frigging vouchers aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaagh! Awesome and thanks for sharing > have a brilliant week 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What a story. You stayed quite calm, you did not try to kill anybody, did not shout…That was really terrible, to wait hours and hours and nothing happens, tired and angry. We have a saying that when something starts to go wrong, it goes wrong till the end. I hope you understand what I mean.

    Like

    • Well I gave you a hint in the article so if anyone wanted to find out who the airline was – you could. I also try to drive everywhere and now after this ordeal it makes me want to skip flying altogether!

      Like

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