Help! My Very Direct Flight Added a Stop and So Many More Passengers

Sarah Firshein tries to resolvehow a nonstop with seat selection became a packed “split flight,” with concerns over proper cleaning and an arrival two hours later than expected.

Dear Tripped Up,

I recently bought Allegiant Air tickets from Cleveland to Orlando, Fla., and was told while booking that if the flight was more than 65 percent full, I could request not to board in exchange for a voucher. In Cleveland, as boarding started, we were advised by the gate agent that this would be a “split flight” — no explanation what that meant. The next words were: “Take any open seat.”

The extra-legroom seats we paid for were quickly claimed, and the plane filled well past 65 percent. After the cabin door closed, we were told that we would be stopping in Flint, Mich. In Flint, the plane emptied and filled again. We did not see the cabin cleaned — not even during the 30-minute ground delay. We finally landed in Orlando more than two hours after our scheduled arrival, complete with baggage that had been damaged during an inspection.

I’ve been an airline customer for more than 50 years and I’ve never boarded a plane when I didn’t know where I was going. The airline’s method of communication was appalling and deceitful — to not inform passengers that their nonstop flight was now a one-stop flight was the height of disrespect.

What is a “split flight” and am I eligible for a refund? David

Dear David,

That’s a lot of travel mishaps for what should have been a quick, no-fuss, sub-three-hour flight — even during a pandemic. To see if I can help resolve the issues, let’s break them down:

What is a split flight?

A split flight happens when two lower-load flights — as in, flights with lots of empty seats — are combined into one. In this case, Allegiant merged a flight from Cleveland to Orlando with a flight from Flint to Orlando. Passengers bound for Orlando had to stop first in Flint — hence the flight being “split.”

Split flights accounted for just .3 percent of Allegiant’s flights in August, according to the company, and are a relatively rare occurrence in aviation.

“It is not very common that a nonstop flight will suddenly announce a stopover five minutes before departure,” said Christian Nielsen, the chief legal officer at Airhelp, which helps passengers claim compensation for flight disruptions.

© 2020 Pioneer International Consulting

All Rights Reserved