Are our airline subsidies working against us?


This is our experience-you decide.

Flying home to Mammoth from our vacation, we over-nighted in Dallas.  The next morning, Dec. 19 , we got up at 2:30 a.m. to catch the early flight to LAX in order to make the morning flight on Alaska/Horizon Air to Mammoth.   We purposely had booked that flight so we could get back to work that afternoon during this busy holiday period.

When boarding time came we were told our flight had been cancelled.  Since all of the passengers on the morning flight could fit on the afternoon flight, they were using “our” plane to fly to Sun Valley and other destinations.  We were told “a judgment call had been made for the good of the larger number of people.”

The time for the afternoon flight came and went.  An hour later a plane arrived at our gate and we boarded.  We taxied out with a full plane and got on the tarmac.  After 10 minutes the pilot announced he had a “secondary hydraulic pump” warning light and we would be returning to the gate for a mechanic to check it out.  We never saw a mechanic but about 20 minutes later the pilot said “this is a bad day for aviation and we will not be flying to Mammoth”.  One of the passengers yelled, “not the secondary hydraulic pump story again!  This is the 3rd time I have been given this excuse and have yet to actually fly from LAX to Mammoth on 3 attempts!”

A very angry crowd of passengers deplaned and lined up at the counter.  Alaska/Horizon Air supplied only 2 people to cope with the task of dealing with all these disgruntled customers.  Finally a supervisor came in to help but it was a very slow process.

When we talked to the supervisor we asked if she could arrange another plane in the morning for this full flight of passengers.  She said she could call her supervisor but “it wouldn’t do any good-they just don’t care.” 

After the 2 remaining seats on the next day’s flight were given out, the rest of us were told we would be given a refund.  No effort was made to rebook us on any other flight.  No effort was made to get anyone ground transportation.  We were given a hotel voucher for the night and told we were “on our own” to get to Mammoth.  The lack of concern from the Alaska/Horizon staff was incredible. 

We had spent the entire day at LAX with these people who were trying to get to Mammoth.  Most were tourists, from all over the country and the world-Brazil, Australia, Germany, Spain just to mention the ones we had spoken to, flying to Mammoth for their Christmas vacation.  To tell these people who had been travelling, some of them for days, to our resort, that they need to find their own way to Mammoth is unbelievable!  It is one thing for residents of Mammoth to make their way home but for tourists who have no idea where they are in relation to Mammoth to rent a car and drive 6 hours to our resort is ridiculous. 

Every resident and business owner needs to be aware that this is the way our guests, who we have spent so many marketing dollars wooing to come here, are being treated.  It was just too easy for the airline personnel to give us a refund and hotel voucher and tell us “you are ON OUR OWN” to get to Mammoth.  They have obviously done this far too many times.

Cancellations and delays happen when one travels.  What matters is how the people in charge handle the problems.  The ground crew at Alaska/Horizon Air completely failed.  They did not care or try to accommodate their clients.

It appears to us the subsidies the county, town and MMSA are providing may have a negative effect in that the airline is getting paid whether they fly or not.  There is no incentive for them to try to help our visitors get here.

How we actually got home is another story for another time.  In an effort to be brief we have omitted many details, which we would be happy to share with any concerned party.

This was an eye-opening ordeal which we hope no tourist ever has to experience to get to spend their vacation dollars here in our town.  We must provide better service to be the destination resort we are trying to become.

Jeff and Denise Boucher

Mammoth Lakes