HTT: How to Alaska

I've been to a lot of places.

Okay . . . maybe not A LOT of places.

But . . .  you know . . . places.

And I've flown on enough airplanes to feel pretty confident in how the whole system works. When to buy tickets, which lines to stand in, how much to pack in my carry on, when the steward is having a bad day, how to keep calm in bumpy weather, how to make a small bag of pretzels last an entire hour, those kinds of things.

But my recent trip with Alaskan Airlines has shown me a whole new level of stuff I'd never even really considered before and, unfortunately, how unprepared a traveler I am.

or was.

I'm better now.

I've learned.

Which is exactly what I thought I might share with you today's How to Tuesday.

Most of you might know some of this stuff. Some of you might know all of this stuff. But the rest of you should probably take notes.

Okay, first things first:

Step One: The Luggage Fee.
Now I haven't been living in a cave the last decade (as I've said . . . I gone places) so I am well aware that some airlines charge a luggage fee. And let me say for the record that I am not wholey against this.

Being an airline is tough. Especially an American one. Not just because we're fat, but because our airlines are not subsidized by the government. Which is the way we like things. But that creates an unfair advantage for our competition. So be it.

So I can see adding a luggage fee to the price of the ticket. Perfectly reasonable.

I can also see an added fee for extra luggage. My opinion being that if you can't travel without your entire wardrobe, you should either stay home or be penalized for being indecisive. I'm really sorry for those of you with young children (in more ways than one, cause I've been there), but I didn't drag my son on a plane until he was 8 years old, for that very reason.

So I can honestly say I was a little shocked that a modest bag for two people for three days, cost an additional $25. Had I seen such a charge when I bought the ticket . . . I would not have thought twice about it. And . . . if the idea is to offer a discount to those who don't require luggage for their trip . . . great . . . I still would have paid the extra $25 because I really hate dealing with unwieldy carry-ons.

But to be surprised at the check-out counter was just mean spirited. And what's worse is the look of shame on the faces of employees, who probably gets yelled at by every third customer who walks up and is blindsided with hidden fees.

Remember . . . I DO NOT MIND paying for what I'm paying for. I'm a firm capitalist, damn it. You got something. I want it. You tell me how much. I pay for it. You give it to me. If you need to charge me a shipping fee . . . fine. Just let me know. How exactly is that confusing?

Speaking of confusing . . .

Step Two: Checking In
Now . . . let us say that you're not bringing any luggage with you. Why should you have to wait in line at the checkout place when you can easily go online and check in and hour or even a day ahead of time? No reason. So now you can do so.

I think that's pretty neat.

But let's say you are bringing luggage. Okay . . . well . . . you're gonna have to wait in line anyway, so why bother checking in ahead of time?

Because . . . and I can't for the life of me understand why this is a thing . . . because the airlines overbook their flights.


Because they have exactly 120 tickets to sell, so they sell 125.

No shit.

Again . . . I don't live in a cave . . . I've heard the word "StandBy" before. But . . . I just kinda logically thought it was one of those things that came with trying to purchase the 121st ticket.

Like . . . we've got no more room . . . but there are always late minute cancelations . . . so you give us money and we'll put you on "StandBy."

This is not the kind of ticket I would purchase because I don't trust my luck with that sort of thing but I can see the allure.

But that's not what that means.

Apparently they sell 125 tickets and the first 120 to "Check In" get seats, and the remaining five are put on "StandBy"

What "StandBy" means is that the airline will do their best to find you an alternate flight . . . or . . . give you a credit for 400% of the price of your ticket (probably to soften the blow that your three day vacation just got ruined and you can't recoup the Hotel room or the new pair of walking shoes.)

But a credit? Not a refund . . . a credit.

Now since I will never be flying Alaskan Airlines again unless my child's life depends on it, WTF am I gonna do with a 400% credit? That's like going to your insurance company after your car was totaled and them sending you a See's Candy Gift Certificate instead of a check.

I mean . . . it's a nice gesture and all . . . but who's gonna use $15,000 worth of mediocre chocolate?

(reading that . . . I take it back . . . I know exactly who)

But still.

So because we didn't check in online, we were put on standby. We were also told that the soonest flight would require a lay-over in Los Angeles and get us to Portland in twelve hours. (More than it would take to drive there), or we could wait until the next morning.

I was a bit torn. My whole vacation was ruined, but I felt such painful empathy for the people who work for a company with such a ridiculously shameful system.

We were told to chill out and cross our fingers.

Which . . . oddly enough . . . worked.

Step Three: Turns out that if there is a mechanical failure in the engine of the plane your were planning on boarding, it's a really good thing, if you've been placed on standby.

I wouldn't have though so either . . . but there it is.

See . . . if a flight is delayed because of mechanical failure then the poor poor staff has to work very diligently to reroute the passengers who have connecting flights elsewhere. Like . . . if your destination is Hawaii and the connecting flight is in Portland, but you're obviously gonna miss it, the staff will find you another way to get to Hawaii on time.

Which is awfully nice of them.

I mean . . . in any other universe . . . it would be a logical expectation . . . but remember . . . we're dealing with the kind of people that would sell 125 tickets for 120 seats.

Asshat douchebags.

Anyway . . . thanks to the fact that the plane, whose seats we had already paid for in full, had engine failure that was going to delay people by at least an hour, space was made for us.

And we only ended up being an hour behind schedule.


Step Four: Finding out why it takes an hour and a half to get to Portland from Sacramento, when it only takes 45 minutes to fly to San Diego.

Because . . . you're not flying on a jet.

Your flying on a propeller plane.

I shit you not.

Indiana Jones style propeller plane.

Dun da Dun Dun

Dun da Dun

Exciting really, but there are a few things you need to know.

Step Five: Things you need to know about flying in a propeller plane.

First it's bumpy. You not flying as high and you're essentially strapped to a tube connected to the engine of a rebuilt Dodge Dart.

Second . . . that shit is loud. Like 'sitting next to the speaker of a Metallica concert' loud.

Thirdly . . . it's small. So that carry-on bag that you thought would fit in the overhead compartment . . . won't. Expect delays, banging, and a flurry of foul language.

Still . . . it's exciting.

Step Six: The return flight.
Okay . . . so you've been through it all before. You did the online check-in the day before so you have an actual seat, you've got the $25 cash for your luggage, and you're emotionally prepared walking out onto the tarmac and stepping into a Volkswagen Bus that is going to somehow be driven at 30,000 feet about the ground . . . you're good to go.

Feel free to enjoy the complimentary five ounce beer.

You've earned it.

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