Never yell “Woohoo! Vegas!” before you board an Allegiant flight

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Christopher Elliott

vegas babyIt was supposed to be a special birthday celebration for Samantha O’Rourke and ten of her closest friends. They were flying from Appleton, Wisc., to Las Vegas on Allegiant Air. But it ended up being anything but special.

“We were treated horribly,” she says.

Normally, when people complain about Allegiant, it’s to gripe about the absurd extras, like the “convenience” fee to pay by credit card or lately, its new fee to carry on a bag. But O’Rourke’s case is different, and after her complaint to the airline was ignored, she wants me to get involved.

While she and her husband were waiting for their flight, they each had a drink at the airport bar.

“My husband and I were last to board and while walking down the terminal, I excitedly yelled “Woohoo! Vegas!’” she remembers. “I had never been there before and was just so happy since it was also my birthday.”

That’s when the trouble started.

An older flight attendant named Michelle met me at the plane door and told me I was cut off for the rest of the flight. I was next to sober; I could not believe it.

I was shocked, but I understood she probably deals with a lot of craziness. So I walked quietly to my seat.

The loudspeaker announced two times: “No one appearing to be intoxicated will be served” and Michelle had already informed me I could not drink.

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But Michelle didn’t think she’d made her point. She walked down the aisle yelling, “Where’s the birthday girl?” until she found O’Rourke.

“She insisted on humiliating me and tarnishing my birthday even more with a condescending speech, loud enough for everyone on the plane to hear, about how neither my husband, nor any of my surrounding friends could drink,” she says. “She concluded that the crew had decided to ‘let us’ go to Las Vegas and they were ‘being nice’ letting us stay on the plane.”

O’Rourke says she’s never been treated so rudely. “And on my birthday, no less,” she adds.

I was miserable the entire flight. We had several airline options and chose Allegiant, which was a huge mistake.

I will never get those four hours of my birthday back.

Strangers from the flight came up to me and said they couldn’t believe Michelle had done that to me.

So O’Rourke sent a polite email to Allegiant, letting it know how unhappy she was with Michelle, the flight attendant. I reviewed the missive, and my only criticism is that it didn’t ask for any specific resolution. Not that I think that would have helped.

Here’s the problem: Allegiant fulfilled its contract with O’Rourke, her husband, and 10 friends. It got them safely from Appleton to Vegas.

No warranties are made about the manners of the flight attendants. In fact, a careful observer of the airline industry would almost expect characters like Michelle to be employed by Allegiant. This company is about as no-frills as it gets in the airline biz. It seems to want to be the next Ryanair.

Of course, we don’t have Michelle’s side of the story here. I think if I had to deal with a large group of rowdy passengers, I might also try to read them the riot act. I don’t know how much they’ve had to drink, and hearing someone boarding my flight with a “Woohoo! Vegas!” might be all the indication I need that these travelers are trouble.

Here’s the other issue: Apart from an apology, what could Allegiant do to make this right? I’m not sure if could — or would — do anything different.

Should I mediate Samantha O’Rourke's case?

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter. He is based in Tokyo.

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