Is this too much compensation? “This was some of worst service I’ve received in years”

Nathan Segal was certain his Alaska Airlines flight from San Jose del Cabo to Victoria, B.C., Canada, didn’t make a stop. He’d double-checked the itinerary when he booked it. The email said it was a “direct” flight.

He was wrong.

“It wasn’t until a few days later, when I went to upgrade my seat that I found out that my flight wasn’t direct after all, that it contained a stop in San Diego on the way to Seattle,” he says. “I was furious because I carefully checked the Alaska site to make sure that wasn’t the case.”

(For the record, there’s a difference between a “direct” and a “non-stop” flight. A direct flight is any flight between two points by an airline with no change in flight numbers, and it may include a stop. A non-stop flights is a direct flight without landing. Pretty tricky, huh?)

Segal feels duped by Alaska Airlines.

“The information about the stop was on the page that I was looking at, but it was hidden from plain view and you had to know where to look for it,” he says. “Worse, there was no obvious indicator that the information was there.”

And that’s not all. A reservation agent assured Segal the single stop would be brief. It wasn’t.

The flight stopped in San Diego. We had to disembark and go through customs, claim our baggage, then recheck it in the same terminal. Then we had to leave terminal two and walk all the way over to terminal one, walk all the way through the airport, go through security all over again (during which time I nearly lost my iphone in the confusion), and enter a new waiting area to reboard our flight which, coincidentally, had the same flight number as the aircraft we had just left, but was a different jet in a different airport.

Segal had phoned Alaska and spoken with a supervisor before the flight, and had been upgraded on the flight as a courtesy. But he was still upset. It wasn’t the flight he though he’d purchased.

This was some of worst service I’ve received in years. There wasn’t a single thing about this flight that was direct, with the exception of the name. This was flat-out deception, misrepresentation and fraud. It’s very clear that I didn’t get what I paid for and I was subjected to a lot of unnecessary stress.

He contacted me to find out if I could help with is grievance. I passed along the names of some supervisors at Alaska Air, and suggested he send a brief, polite email, describing what happened. The least Alaska should do, I felt, was apologize for the direct/non-stop confusion.

As a sidenote, I think the “direct” euphemism needs to be scrapped by the airline industry. Segal isn’t the first person who’s been fooled by the description, and I’m sure he won’t be the last.

Alaska responded with an email that explained the difference between “direct” and “non-stop” and claimed it has received few complaints about the issue. It added,

I am truly sorry to hear that our reservations agents provided conflicting information regarding the customs process for this flight.

Flight 233 stops in San Diego after coming from a foreign country, as such, we are required to have our customers go through customs prior to continuing on to Seattle. This requires customers to deplane, go through customs, and then route to our domestic terminal to re-board the same aircraft that has been moved from the international terminal to the domestic terminal. I have forwarded your letter to our reservations Training Manager so that she can review the information that we have available to our agents regarding situations such as these.

Mr. Segal, I apologize for any inconvenience you experienced and that you felt the information available on our website was not clear. As a customer service gesture, I am including a Discount Code in the amount of $50.

Segal was unhappy with that response and asked me what to do next.

I felt that Alaska’s efforts to fix this had been reasonably sincere. An upgrade, an apology and a $50 voucher suggested to me that they took his grievance seriously.

Segal asked if I thought he should dispute the flight on his credit card. I wasn’t sure that would be successful, since it had in fact flown him between San Jose del Cabo to Victoria. I told him I didn’t think a dispute was the best way forward.

He disputed part of his plane tickets. And he won.

Because of my approach (good documentation) and also asking for a portion of the funds back, rather than the whole thing, I’m quite likely to succeed. That and the misrepresentation. The agent told me that it’s highly unlikely that the airline will dispute it, given that they were in the wrong to begin with and also pooh-poohed what I’d written with an unacceptable offer.

The agent told me that if need be, the bank will use their influence to stop Alaska from coming back at me for the chargeback.

A key to the whole thing is that I didn’t try to get the entire fare back, but only a portion, roughly 60 percent of the flight. Because of that approach, according to the agent, I gave them more leverage.

He also told me that few people were as thorough as me, all of which is in my favor. He also told me that the chargeback cycle is based on two billing periods, so I caught that in time. Also, when I sent in my complaint, I wrote to customer service and the executive as well, mostly because I was aware of that billing cycle and I didn’t want to take the chance of getting stuck.

That’s an interesting resolution. While I agree that Alaska shouldn’t have offered a flight that appeared to make no stops, I’m not entirely sure if the punishment fits the crime.

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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  • johnb78

    I do think the compo was excessive – $50 and an upgrade seems fairer. However, I genuinely don’t understand what Alaskan thinks it’s playing at in having a single flight number, if Nathan is correct to say that this isn’t just a stopover but also a change of aircraft.

  • nogod

    If he had just looked at the departure and arrival times on his itinerary he would have seen a 8 to 9 hour travel time.  Seems to be quite an excessive time to go non-stop.  It wasn’t. 

  • sirwired

     If you keep reading, you’ll see that in addition to the $50 and an upgrade, he also filed a credit card chargeback (against Chris’s advice) and has at least temporarily recovered 60% of the ticket price.

  • sirwired

    Really, Alaska should not do this… I could see maybe not changing the flight number if there was a pause for fuel on some kind of super-long-haul flight (JFK->Taipei I was on once made a 1 1/2 hour stop in Anchorage) but on a flight with an extensive customs delay?  No way.  I was on Delta from Sydney -> LAX -> ATL, and even though it was the same plane used for LAX -> ATL, they changed the flight number.  (But strangely, Delta also sent me from DEN -> RDU on a “direct” flight, but we not only stopped in Atlanta, we even had to change planes!  All on the same flight number.  Go figure.)

    I asked another travel columnist about this once (Ask the Pilot’s Patrick Smith) and he said that single flight numbers mean nothing.  They are a marketing construct, nothing more.  They do this because if a flight only has a single number, it is displayed before “non-direct” flights in GDS’s.  You can change crews, gates, and planes, and still be on the same “flight.”

  • Ray

    I thought everybody in the world knew the difference between direct and non-stop. Its been in use forever. In my opinion, there is nothing to complain about here and Mr. Segal was lucky to have even gotten a credit.

  • johnb78

    Yes, I know – hence why I *do* think the compo he received in total was excessive.

  • Littlemiranda

    Poor me!  I had to get off the plane and walk.  Poor me!  I nearly lost my iPhone (translation:  I didn’t lose my iPhone).  On a long flight like this one, the upgrade is quite valuable.  Add the $50 credit and that is plenty.  More than enough.  The airline delivered Mr. Segal as promised.  The escalation and chargeback are over the top. 

  • Jason

    Another reason they do this is so they don’t run out of flight numbers. With so many different flight including those operated by connection carriers and partners, you can’t always have a different flight number for every segment.

  • Kevin Mathews

    I’m really not sure what the complaint is about here.  He had to go through security an extra time?
    Let’s look at what happened vs what could’ve happened.
    What happened:
        Flight stopped in San Diego
        Passengers disembarked, went through Customs, Rechecked Baggage, went through security
        Passengers got back on the same plane in a different terminal and completed the rest of their flight.

    What Could’ve happened (according to the agent)
        Flight stopped in San Diego briefly for refueling and such
        Passengers continue on to their destination
        Upon arriving at Destination, they go through Customer and collect their bags.

    So the only real difference between the two itineraries was that they had to walk a little extra, go through security a second time, and recheck bags?  If that’s the worst that happens to you during the course of flying now-a-days, you’ve done well.

  • Arizona Road Warrior

    “I was furious because I carefully checked the Alaska site to make sure that wasn’t the case.”
    – – – – – – – – – — – –
    I disagree…I went to the Alaska airline website…there is a STOP FILTER…it clearly shows “Non-Stop”, “Stops (no plane change)”, “1 Stop (change plane)” and “2+ Stops (change planes).  There are no non-stop flights from YYJ to SJD. 

    When I entered SEA to SJD on the Alaska Airline website, it shows that there are no direct flights looking at the STOP FILTER…it shows “1 Stop”.

    Also, if a person click on DETAILS, it shows that the flight wasn’t direct.

    Since he was flying from YYJ to SEA, he had to go through customs in SEA.  I have taken several flights from YYJ to SEA…you land at the south terminal…you walk up to the jetway from the tarmac since the commuter plane doesn’t reach the jetway….then a long way to customs….claim your checked luggage…then go through security…then catch the train to the main terminal…etc.  I have never been through customs at SAN but it is hard to imagine that it is more ‘difficult’ than SEA.

    When I went to check out, it shows that the flight from SEA to SJD had ‘1 Stop’ on the page.  Also, a person could click on DETAILS to show information about the stop.

    I have used the Alaska Airline website over 100 times to purchase tickets for Alaska and Horizon flights from PDX, SEA and ANC to cities in Alaska, Oregon, Washington and British Columbia.  I have found their website to be very clear as well as one of the best airline websites.

    I think that the OP is wrong and is unrealistic.

  • Allan Jayne

    You do have to go through customs somewhere. In this case customs was somewhere in the middle of the itinerary as opposed to at the origin or at the destination.

    I would say the compensation was excessive except if he had missed the “connecting” flight and incurred expenses due to some problem at customs or (given that the flight was misrepresented) due to weather.

  • Raven

    Couldn’t have said it better myself! :D

  • Bill

    I don’t know what the big deal is.   “direct” is not the same as “non stop”.  Why would anyone expect an American based airline to make a “non stop” flight from San Jose del Cabo to Victoria BC?  There needs to be a little common sense applied here.

    As for going through customs, that means that you have to get EVERYTHING out of the plane, go through customs, get back on the plane.  Should they change planes on a “direct flight”?  Probably no.  Does it really matter when you have to go through customs?  NO.

    If everyone were whiners like this and travelled like him, the airlines would all go bankrupt.   I don’t see anything seriously wrong here except a decided lack of common sense on the part of the traveller.

    When I fly through Vancouver to the USA, I have to go through security before I go through customs.  To me, it is an extra step through airline security and I hate it.  Do I dispute with the airline and try get the ticket money back?  No.

    How many passengers were inconvenienced with geniuine concerns while Mr. Segal repeatedly tied up customer service personnel over a non issue?

    I’m just shaking my head here….it is preposterous.

  • Absherlock

    It wasn’t that he didn’t get what he paid for, it’s that he didn’t get what he THOUGHT he paid for. Big difference.

    I know it’s an awful thing to say (especially here), but it would definitely be an “oh well” moment if I found out this guy accidentally landed on a no-fly list.

  • Raven

    “And I almost lost my iphone in the confusion!”

    I really think the OP needs a life if he’s disputing a credit card charge about whether or not he a direct or non-stop flight. Not to mention, he received an upgrade and a $50 goodwill.


  • Jonathan

    Raises a question I’ve never heard an explanation on.  Why DO the airlines have continuous flight numbers when they use multiple planes?  Last year, we flew from PHL to MEL.  Because we had had problems with a VERY short layover in LAX on previous flights, we decided to fly PHL -> ORD and then board UA Flight 839 – the flight that went from LAX to SYD.  Needless to say, we were a bit surprised when we saw that our ORD -> LAX plane WASN’T a Boeing 747 like we’d be taking to SYD/MEL, but instead was an A321.  This wasn’t a big deal in the course of our travels, but it continues to perplex me – if it is a completely different airplane such that you (and your luggage) need to get off the plane and possibly even go to another terminal to reboard a different plane, why do airlines list it as the same flight?  Surely it can’t simply be to be able to say that Flight 839 goes from ORD to MEL!  Would love to hear any theories or even explanations any of you have heard!

  • Arizona Road Warrior

    “For the record, there’s a difference between a “direct” and a “non-stop” flight. A direct flight is any flight between two points by an airline with no change in flight numbers, and it may include a stop. A non-stop flights is a direct flight without landing. Pretty tricky, huh?”
    – – – – – – – – – – – – –
    This isn’t tricky if a person is educated about traveling if they make their own airline reservations or uses the services of a b&M travel agent.

    Since Southwest Airlines uses a point-to-point model instead of a hub and spoke model, several of their flights are ‘direct’ flights with stops along the way.  Are you calling Southwest ‘tricky’?

  • David

    He received an upgrade, an apology, and a credit.  Anything more is just pure greed and entitlement.  These are the kinds of incidents that help creep ticket prices higher.

  • DavidS

    The OP stated: “enter a new waiting area to reboard our flight which, coincidentally, had the same flight number as the aircraft we had just left, but was a different jet in a different airport.”

    Different airport? He complains because he doesn’t understand the difference between “direct” and “nonstop”, or the customs process, and also thinks terminal changes constitute airport changes?? Please.

  • Sherrie

    This guy needs a good travel agent who would have known that if you are flying from Mexico to the U.S. and then on to Canada, you obviously would have to clear immigration.  I agree that this “direct” flight stuff should be taken off the airlines’ websites.  However, again, had he used a travel agent, we can see that this flight made a stop and where and could hav explained the immigration process.

  • Guest

    “There needs to be a little common sense applied here.”

    If only common sense is that common…

  • pizo

    Thing is going through US immigration can be a pain in the butt for US citizens let alone non US citizens.  He’s in transit yet he still had to get fingerprinted, photographed, etc when he thought the ticket he bought wasn’t stopping anywhere. 

    I have friends who have stopped flying via the US because of the hassle they receive at immigration even though they are just in transit

  • pizo

    I fly fairly regularly and I had no idea there was a difference, although to be fair I don’t look for non stop flights.  I think it’s one of those things that, “everyone in the world” knows when “everyone” you’re dealing with is a regular flier

  • Babutterfield

    Anyone who compares various flights can see the duration and figure out that there is a difference between direct and non-stop. I think this guy lucked out and Alaska did more than I would have expected. If you want a non-stop flight, choose a non-stop.

  • Wrona

    If you read carefully he was still going to have to go through US immigration.  His itinerary was Cabo to Seattle (with the stop in San Diego) to Victoria.  So no matter what he was going to have to deal with the hassle, the only difference is where.

  • Wrona

    ARW, I believe the problem was on the return flight – hence why he had to go through immigration at San Diego instead of Seattle.

  • Wrona

    Except in his case, his final destination wasn’t Seattle so he was still going to have to go through US immigration mid-itinerary. 

  • Phil

    Non stop means non stop, direct means with stops anyone who fly’s should know this, there are ways to check to see what stops the aircraft will make prior to its arriving in the destination city. If anyone in their right mind would think that an aircraft would go non stop from just about anywhere to Victoria BC should have their head examined. UA has a two non stops from SFO one in the morning and one at night, also branded as an AC codeshare, there are some from Seattle of course, and AC and WS of course have some within Canada. Alaska should not have given him one dime.

  • Arizona Road Warrior

    He went through customs at SEA on his flight from YYJ to SEA.  Where was his beef about going through customs at SEA?  He went through customs when he landed at SJD.   

    On his return flight, he went through customs at SAN since the flight was coming in from Mexico to the USA…then he went through customs at YYJ since it was an international flight coming into Canada.

    The reality is that he had to go through US customs if the plane stop in the US on his return flight from Mexico…in this case, SAN.  I have been through customs at SEA several times…besides the time it takes you to get to the main terminal from the South Terminal, it has been hit or miss for me in regards to staffing…sometimes, we had to wait for the customs agents to show up or there were several inbound international flights and limited numbers of custom agents. 

  • Monica

    I have observed the same things when booking a flight regarding the difference between 1-stop (no plane change) and non-stop. If the OP bothered to READ the details, he’d see that he had the same plane with one stop. If nothing else, the length of the flight should have tipped him off that something was weird.

  • Chris

    Yes, but do you really need to add US customs to Canadian and Mexican ones ?

  • Asiansm Dan

    It’s a DIRECT flight not Non-Stop. Wake up. Direct Flight can stop many time as the airlines want with the same Flight number. For example, direct flights on United/Continental Airlines in the Pacific around the islands stops almost 10 times. It’s like that since the creation of commercial airlines. There is fly from London City to New York which make a stop in Shannon for US Custom clearance
    So dont blame the airlines for your ignorance.
    In the 70’s the direct flight Saigon-Paris stop in Bangkok, New Delhi, Teheran, Athens.

  • Erica Richardson

    I don’t see a legitimate problem here. People go to Chris Elliott for help with real problems… I think the OP feels a sense of entitlement, and did not pay good attention when he booked his ticket.

    I went to the Alaska Airlines website, it wasn’t “hidden from plain view” and since I saw it right away I don’t feel that “you had to know where to look for
    it.” The OP made a mistake, Alaska Airlines gave him $50 and and upgrade – which in my opinion was above and beyond what was deserved.

  • Wandering Educators

    i think that the upgrade should have been enough. nothing changed in the timeline – i assume he got to the final destination at the same time that his ticket said. the only problem i can foresee was if he had disabilities and had a difficult time with that, or if he was traveling with young children and had to wrangle them through the extra steps. i’ve had way worse service – for instance, when i asked for handicap seating and assistance on a flight from BTW to shannon, ireland – and got stuck in a tiny window seat (foot swelling in a cast for hours, without a place to raise it up? not a good thing) – and Nothing from Aer Lingus.

  • Bill

    David,  you’re right.  However, I’m seeing a change over time in this column from the majority of people being seriously wronged to the majority of people who are whiners that should get their butts kicked.

    I flew over 55,000 miles last year and have flown over 26,000 so far this year.  There were some incidents.  I didn’t ask any airline or hotel for a single cent.   Sure, I let them know when I was unhappy, but that was it.

  • Ed Greenberg

    I’ve always known that “direct” doesn’t mean “non-stop” but I also “assumed” that it meant that I didn’t have to get off the aircraft, no less deal with baggage, security, etc.  Alaska seems disingenuous over this. 

  • Walt Blackadar

    The guy is a whiner and that’s far too much compensation.  The guy doesn’t understand the terminology and there’s no way his chargeback should stick.  The upgrade and $50 should have been fine. 


    That wasn’t a direct flight either.  A direct flight means you land and take off on the same plane…not that you disembark, go through customs, go to a different terminal and get on a different plane. 

  • Arizona Road Warrior

    I understood that his issue was going through customs at SAN.  Unless there is a US Custom checkpoint at the foreign airport, you must go through customs at the first stop (in this case, SAN) when arriving back on an commerical  plane that departed from a foreign country.

    My point is that I have went through customs several times (50+) at SEA and it is no cake in regards to time (waiting in lines, walking, train, etc.), etc.  Since SEA has more long-haul international flights across the Pacific and Atlantic than SAN, going through customs at SAN can’t be worse than SEA.

  • Beachglassandseastars

    I believe any flight landing at any airport in the USA after originating in a foreign country requires that all passengers disembark, take their stuff through customs and then either get back on the/a plane for the next leg as a domestic flight (assuming travel within the US). 

  • cjr001

    “Also, if a person click on DETAILS, it shows that the flight wasn’t direct.”

    Why should one even have to make extra clicks for such important information?

    It sounds like the Alaska Airlines website is flawed (if not intentionally misleading) in how information is presented and should be fixed.

  • cjr001

    Yes, it is tricky. It’s a direct flight, or not it’s not.

    If you have to make several stops along the way, then it flat out is NOT direct.

  • badbadwebbis

    I also think that the word ‘direct’ needs to be altered, because I would have assumed that it meant the same thing as ‘non-stop’. However, I think that the airline has provided adequate compensation for a misunderstanding that didn’t actually mess up any of the OP’s plans — did he miss a connecting flight? No. A meeting? No. A family event? No. Was he late to anything whatsoever? Did he have to pay for a hotel room at his own expense? No. So yes, he got enough compensation.

    (Am I secretly pleased that an airline might get screwed because they used deceptive wording? Hell yes.)

  • Guest

    The difference between direct and non-stop is pretty clear, and I’m not in the travel industry.  Sounds like this entitled whiner is just that.

  • Julie

    Some people’s sense of entitlement are gigantic.

  • Mlozio

    Ok, so….he gets his money back because he is just so thorough…and arrogant! I’m no fan of bad customer service, but its because of whiners like this that airline staff are often in bad moods :p

  • AirlineEmployee

    What a jerk…..Even when he “realized” it was not a direct (or nonstop) flight – why didn’t he just rebook on a “non-stop” flight –
    People like this make me sick, they just love to bash and hate the airlines and use their hatred to glom and get something “free”.  Alaska Airlines gave him too much and they also should not have said that their airline reservationist gave “conflicting” information.  I’m sure they did this, though, just to shut him up.  He didn’t pay attention when he booked his reservation (himself) and this is a major problem – when people go online and book things that they do not read properly.    LOOK BEFORE YOU LEAP, MR. SEGAL, instead of blaming the airline for YOUR OWN MISTAKE. !!!

  • pipicucu

    Well, I am in the minority here.  I am not an extensive traveler, and only fly a handful of times per year, and I always have thought that “direct” and “non-stop” were the same thing.  For those of you who think that everyone knows the difference, I can assure you that they do not.  Airlines need to stop using the word “direct”.   What is the appeal of a “direct” flight that they mention it as such — do people really care whether or not their flights have the same flight numbers or not???  What value does the word add to the flight description?  
    When I travel abroad I strongly prefer to clear customs at my home airport, so I can understand the OP’s irritation.  I don’t really know whether or not he got too much compensation.  But if more people disputed charges in cases like this, the airlines would have real incentive to clean up their terminology and make greater efforts to avoid customer confusion and disappointment.  I’m all for that.

  • Julie Northrop2009

    I normally will side with the OP on things, but this guy is just so over the top that he makes it difficult for me to feel any sympathy for him.  He got an upgrade for his trouble and a $50 credit.  Other than getting the refund, I don’t think that there is anything that would have satisfied him.  I will say that I also would have thought a direct flight was straight through with no stops.  I do think that he was rightfully confused, but his attitude is just wrong. He’s gotten more than enough compensation IMHO.

  • Middle-aged-diva

    I’ve seen more credible disputes not get anything. I understand that people who are not paying attention would mistake “direct”for “nonstop,” although people who do a lot of travel understand the difference. I’m left asking what his gripe was–the airline didn’t misrepresent–he misunderstood and didn’t do sufficient research. I think the $50 was more than adequate and I do not think it was a customer service issue at all. If anything, Alaska showed excellent customer service…frankly, I think he got the  money just so he’d shut up.

  • Michelle B.

    Given that his complaints were “almost losing the iPhone” and other trivial items, I would think if he had a more legitimate issue like the ones you state, he would have mentioned them.

  • Charliebgood

    I don’t normally support the airlines positions, but in this case I want to scold Alaska Air for doing way too much.  I’m sure there were another 100+ people on that flight.  Did they all get upgraded and a discount on a future flight?  Me thinks not.  Rewarding cry baby behavior only makes it more difficult for people with truly legitimate airline problems to receive compensation.

  • LeeAnneClark

    I believe you’ve missed his point.  He was under the impression that the flight didn’t stop in San Diego AT ALL.  And therefore, what he thought was going to happen was that he boarded the plane once, and got off it at his destination, going through customs when the trip was over, rather than in the middle.

  • LeeAnneClark

    I agree with you on all counts.  While I feel that the airline IS being tricky calling this a “direct” flight, I also feel the OP is a whiner of the highest order.  (When I read about him “almost” losing his phone, my eyeballs rolled up so fast they almost hit the ceiling.  Yeah, blame the airline on your discombobulation, dude.)

    But the “direct” vs “non-stop” thing is, as Christopher states, a marketing scheme.  If you have to get off, and get back on, at a mid-way point, it’s NOT direct!  End of story.  Yes, it’s true that if you land on US soil from a foreign destination, you have to go through customs…nobody is disputing that.  The point is that there is ZERO justification for calling that flight “direct”.  Keeping the same flight number means nothing – how does that make the flight in any way “direct”?

    Yes, most frequent travelers know that “direct” is not akin to “non-stop” – but not everyone is a frequent traveler, and airline websites should be designed so ANYONE can use them correctly, not just frequent travelers who know the secret codes and handshakes.  It should be understandable to anyone with a normal level of intelligence. 

    And the word “direct” should have some MEANING, shouldn’t it?  If the passenger has to do everything exactly the same on this flight as he would on a 1-stop flight, then it’s a 1-stop flight, NOT a direct flight.

    As for the compensation question, I think the guy pushed to too far.  On the other hand, I’m kinda glad he did – maybe it will send a message that this whole “direct” nonsense needs to stop.

  • Carver

    I’m half with you.  The airline’s terminology is disingenious at best.  Direct and non-stop are known to frequent travelers, but airline travel shouldn’t require a PhD in linguistics.

    But on the the other hand, in this specific case, no harm no foul should prevail.  The OP lost nothing as a result. So why shouldn’t United get paid?

  • jeffcarlin

    This guy ought to take the train from now on. Alaska is not alone in calling flights “direct”; all the airlines do it. As you’ve said many times, Chris, an educated consumer makes all the difference.

  • Nancy Marine Dickinson

    I’m with JulieNorthrop here in thinking the guy went too far.  He seems to like the “sound of his own voice” and tends to pat himself on the back a great deal.  I’m all for a strong sense of ego but I’m not sure there isn’t a little narcissism here.

    I also don’t believe the airline messed up.  Pretty much the same thing happened to me on the way back from Europe.  It was supposed to be a direct flight but it made a stop in NYC where we had to go thru customs and security again.  As tired as I was, I was really okay with it.

    I generally side with the OPs here and it galls me I can’t do that this time.  I rue the day something else doesn’t go his way and he starts demanding someone remove the pea from his mattress.  After the success of this one, there’ll be no living with him.

  • TZ

    What a LOSER!

  • Amy Bradley-Hole

    This particular airline did not use deceptive wording. The term “direct” is used across the board in the industry to define a flight with one or more stops but no change of plane. If there is to be a complaint about the implication of the term, it should not rest solely on Alaska Airlines.

  • PabloCruise

    I think the gentleman protests much too strongly.  The distance from the international arrivals and ICE area to Alaska’s ticket lobby at San Diego International Airport is, at most, about 100 yards.  From there to the security lanes is another 75 yards, a five minute walk, at most (I was employed at SDIA for over eight years, and walked this area many, many times – It’s not like it’s JFK!). 

    While he is correct that the use of “direct” is misleading, I have been far more inconvenienced by airlines and not been given an upgrade and a discount code.  For him to protest 60% of his fare is ridiculous.

  • Wrona

    Even if the flight had been a non-stop from Cabo to Seattle, since his final destination was Victoria BC, he still would’ve been going through US immigration at a mid-point rather than his destination. 

  • Crissy

    I think the upgrade and the $50 was fair.  While the terminology is confusing and I agree that the airlines should get rid of it, it is the terminlogy and it applies to specific offerings.

    From the post it sounds like the CC awarded the money back, but it sounded like the investigation might not be complete, in which case they could still side with the airline.

  • Nancy Marine Dickinson

    Common sense is so flippin’ rare it should be a super power.

  • Joe F

    So HIS ignorance of terms in the travel industry is Alaska’s problem.  sorry, but this morning, he is an idiot.  If a flight is nonstop, its nonstop.  How the did GET to Mexico?  A simple check of Alaska’s route chart reveals that it does not fly from Mexico to Canada nonstop.  A simple check of the flight itinerary on a flight tracking website shows it stops twice.

    Does Mr. Segal really expect us to believe that in this day that if a flight stops in the US they are going to let him go to Canada without be screened by Customs and Immigration?   I don;t CARE how many times he talked to Alaska Airlines- they told him it was direct-  they should have told him it was direct with a change of plane – but – so what? A nonstop flight from MExico to Canada should take 3 hours.  This trip was WAAAAAY more than that – right there that should tell him that something is going on.  Flight 233 takes 6 hours and 15 min to go from SLD to SEA – hey – genius – its a 3 hour trip nonstop – remember- the LAW requires that if you depart from south of the 34th parallel you have to land at the first available airport of entry – airlines can get waivers so long as they operate scheduled trips in accordance with TSA Part 121 rules. 

    There was plenty of warning here – did you look at a Canadian carrier to see if they operated nonstop?  Or did Alaska have the cheaper fare by $10?

  • MikeZ

    What the airline gave him was not excessive. What the CC company gave him in the form of a credit dispute win was excessive.

    OK so he was at the airport for maybe 2 hours tops? I have to assume that since he isn’ty saying that it was an 8 hour layover or anything. The $50 voucher is crap though, unless he can use it toward any fare he finds, and not just some full price one with all sorts of exclusions.

  • ChelseaGirl98

    Good lord, what will we hear next? I am truly disgusted by this! He was not duped. When you book a flight online and you click on the itinerary details, it clearly tells you where and when the stop will be. I can’t imagine how he missed it. If the itinerary didn’t state it, that would be deceptive, but we don’t know if it was left out. Anyway, I think most people know the difference between direct and nonstop. He sounds like a major whiner, going on and on about how difficult it was to change flights. Boo hoo. I suppose it’s also the airline’s fault that he almost lost his cell phone? How can he possibly justify a chargeback when he paid for a flight and he received it? Did he miss his connecting flight? No. Did he get to his destination on time? Yes. Then what is the fuss about? He seriously needs to grow up.

  • Steve Koenigsberg

    It’s people like this who cause people with legitimate complaints hassle.

  • Linda

    even if you don’t understand the terms, the length or duration of the trip is a dead giveaway…if you are flying somewhere 2 hours away, but the website says it will take 5..then you, sir,  just might be stopping along the way!

  • Sarah H

    I have to say that I have also been very pissed off at the San Diego airport.  I wasn’t coming off an international flight but, I, too, had to exit the secure area and stand in the 45-min long security line to get to my connecting flight 2 gate numbers away.  Of course, this ate up almost all the layover time I had been hoping to spend getting some food after a 7+ hour flight from Boston (with a stop in Phoenix) with just a little bag of cookies.  It’s a dumb way to set up an airport.

    That being said…this guy didn’t give any real concrete reason why he preferred a non-stop flight, beyond the inconveniences of having to get off the plane and go through security an extra time (he would’ve had to go through customs in Seattle, anyway). 
    If he’d been flying with small children or had some kind of health condition, I might be more sympathetic, but as is he comes off as an entitled whiner.

  • Sarah H

    Most “direct” flights I’ve been on that had stops didn’t require me to exit the plane and go to a different gate at the stops…I think it’s usually all one plane.  So this was a weird flight, since he had to get off and he claims he changed planes.
    Stops on a “direct” flight and staying on the same plane is, to me, a definite advantage over a connection which requires you to board a different plane/flight/whatever.  You don’t have to wait around the boarding area or worry about making a close connection.

  • Juan

    He should have been able to see that the actual time required from departure to arrival was longer than he expected.
    Also he should know the difference between “direct” and non-stop.

  • Geographer

    This kind of stuff leaves one bemused:  Until a few years ago United had a non-stop SFO to Paris CDG, but after they dropped it, they offered a “direct” flight, via IAD, with a change of plane at IAD.   That is frankly absurd, but it no doubt fooled a number of people into thinking they would stay on the same plane;  which they no doubt considered a plus.   

    As to the need to go through customs/immigration on arriving at the first point of landing in the US coming from abroad – well it can be both time consuming and exhausting.   We used to use Air Canada from SFO to CDG or LHR because the Canadians kept you segregated from passengers staying in Canada, and then you had the US customs/immigration inspection before boarding the US flight (easier to do that way, and on arriving in SFO you just walked off the plane).   The last time we went via Montreal, you now have to enter Canada, a long wait and then the full interrogation (How long do you plan to stay in Canada?  My answer:  about 30 minutes probably), and then this was immediately followed by the long waits for the US security and customs/immigration inspection.

    Never again!  Going via Canada was once more than OK, and now it is a real pain … I sympathize with Mr. Segal at having to deal with US customs and immigration at San Diego only to continue on to Seattle and eventually to Victoria BC – it would be better to fly over the US, but unfortunately it is not possible.

    It seems to me that neither the US or Canada is now easy to transit coming from one international location and going on to another international one.  Who is to blame for this … no prizes for identifying the culprits, but it seems to me that both Canada and the US could provide a locked and segregated space for in-transit passengerts – the US has never done so in my experience;  looking back over the years I can recall passengers going from France to Tahiti who used Air France or Club Med flights via Los Angeles being required to be processed by immigration only to reboard the same plane and continue on to Papeete – absurd, and this was the practise long before 9/11 and heightened security.   I think the Canadians were pressured by the US government to do the same for those transiting Canada.  Or perhaps the Canadians did it as a reprisal, but in that case they harmed themselves;  there may be others out there like me who no longer opt to go via Canada.

  • AKRaven

    As someone who hit Alaska MVP Gold within the first 3 months of the year (yes, I fly ALOT) I can honestly say they are the best airline I’ve ever dealt with.  Are they perfect?  No.  Have I had some bad flights? Sure.  But I consider that just the law of averages.  The fact that they compensated the OP for something like this clearly shows how far they will go for customer service.  Kinda like Nordstroms accepting tire returns although they don’t sell tires. 

  • DLH

    I do think 60% back is excessive and I also agree that the “direct” routing is confusing. 

  • Motyl29

    I think that
    the airline is not going to change their terminology unless they have strong
    incentive to, and incentive unfortunately only comes in the form of hurting
    their pocketbook.   If you point out that their website is not clear you get a reply like this one — “we are sorry that you find the website not clear” (i.e. “we are sorry that you aren’t bright enough to have figured it out correctly”).  The full flight information, including times, stops, layovers, etc. should be clearly and unambiguously displayed on a confirmation page prior to purchase, and it appears that it was not, as the OP describes it as “hidden.”  If it isn’t clear, then I do believe that the airline deserves this slap on the wrist. 

  • Mike

    This is where your bag fees are going. Pretty soon there will be an “entitled whiner revenue recovery fee.”

  • acproductions

    Alaska showed good faith with the upgrade + $50 voucher.  The CC company used bad judgment in refunding 60%.  I agree with many that had he looked, or compared with any other possible flights, the flight time would have been an obvious clue there was a stop.  Customs – hum.  Happens whenever you go from country to country.  San Diego airport changing terminals – welcome to the real world.  Changing terminals is a fact of life of travel – even when it’s “local”.  This guy is a drama queen.  He’s embarrassed himself, and doesn’t even have the common sense to realize it.  And “furious” at Alaska’s website – he obviously doesn’t deal with the stressors the majority of us do on a daily basis!  Travel has become increasingly complicated and time-consuming, but that’s what happens when you want or need to jaunt!  Bet it ruined his joy in a trip to one of my favorite places in North America…lol

  • Cozdesigner-sample

    Is this the first time the guy flew on a plane? Everybody who flies at all knows that there is a difference between non-stop and direct. You can always search non-stop flights if that is what you need. Regarding the stop for customs, of course once he knew they landed in San Diego, he should have realized a customs stop would occur. That is no fault of the airlines.  

  • Dave

    Sounds to me like he’s just a whiner.  The term “direct” has been used in this context for well over 50 years, and it’s not going to change anytime in the future.  As far as changing physical aircraft, so what?  You have to get off anyway to clear Customs, taking absolutely everything with you.  Granted, the change to another terminal is a nuisance, but that’s no different from arriving on an international flight at ORD, LAX, JFK, or just about anywhere else.  I don’t say this very often, but he should have just been told to go pound sand.

  • Dave

    Sorry — meant to say it’s not going to change anytime in the NEAR future!

  • Jonwoodman

    Any reasonably competent flier knows the difference between “non-stop” and “direct”. Had this not been an international flight, he likely would have just remained on the airplane for a brief stopover. Also, take note that he doesn’t say the plane arrived later than scheduled at his destination. Didn’t he wonder why a plane flight would take so long if it was non-stop, as he claims he believed? I think this person got way more compensation than he was entitled to.

  • Charlie_PHX_AZ

    Of all the statements made by Mr. Segal, this one gives me the feeling that he is truly over exaggerating the entire issue:

    “A key to the whole thing is that I didn’t try to get the entire fare back, but only a portion, roughly 60 percent of the flight.”

    Seriosly? More than half the entire ticket price? How did he arrive at that figure? I believe for a minor inconvenience this guy is either on a money grab, tryuing to “punish” Alaska Airlines for an industry-wide accepted practice, or both.  As many have pointed out had the flight been non-stop from SJD to SEA he would have needed to clear customs and border patrol in SEA anyway.  I have been to both airports many times and the distance between the international arrival gates at Sea-Tac and Alaska’s departure gates are just as far if not further than the walk between terminals at San Diego.  There was no real inconvenience here. 

    Also Mr Segal sounds like a fairly frequent traveler.  He was, after all, asking about an upgrade when he learned about the stop in SAN.  I believe he should have been aware of the difference between a direct and non-stop flight.  I hope Alaska fights the chargeback.  60% of the total ticket price alone is excessive but when added to the $50 compensation already received it’s ridiculous.

  • Don Brown

    Travel is not for amateurs. International travel is definitely not for those who think everything is an inconvenience.  I think AS went over the top to appease him.

  • LFH

    “Direct” is a very convenient word to use, especially in the context of rail and bus service. There may be a “direct” bus that goes from New York to Chicago (i.e., not change of bus), but does anyone actually expect that bus will not stop enroute? Another term with the same meaning is that a particular schedule is a “thru bus.” Airlines are simply borrowing the term from bus lines and railroads, but perhaps with the proliferation of some many non-stop flights between various city-pairs, maybe the industry should try to use the term “thru flight” rather than “direct flight.”

    In this particular circumstance, however, it is misleading to characterize the flight as being “direct” or “thru” since the service required changing to a different aircraft. That two different aircraft use the same flight number is irrelevant (in modern aviation flight “numbers” are almost always entirely arbitrary). Using one flight number for two different flights is misleading, and airlines do so for the sole reason of misleading consumers that only a single aircraft is used. If I recall correctly, it was Pan American World Airways that started that tactic for the purpose of misleading people into believing that the airline had “direct” service between so many places in the United States and overseas points.

  • Julie Northrop2009

    Actually Jon, I consider myself to be fairly competent.  However, I do not fly enough to really understand the difference between direct and non-stop.  The only thing I know for sure is that non-stop flights take you directly to your destination without stopping.  I thought direct flights did the same.  I have only flown maybe 10 times in my entire life and I am going to be 41 this month.  However, if the OP would have read his itinerary I am sure he would have seen something letting him know that there were stops.

  • Aniltrivedi

    When you change the plane, go through another security, and change to a new aircraft, that is not a direct flight. I agree that this was deception, and penalty should be even more severe.

  • Ray

    He didn’t change aircraft. It was the same plane, it just had transited from the International to Domestic terminal…

  • Rosered7033

    Oh PLEASE.  “This was some of worst service I’ve received in years”.  If this is the worst it gets, I’d take it any day over some of the nightmare trips I’ve heard about.  This was petty.  Chris, your time & column have more worthy things to address than this “problem”.

  • D. Cherone

    Any frequent flyer knows that a direct flight stops somewhere. Maybe five times. Just fly Southworst. That is an education on direct flights and wasted time. Anyway Segal probably cries about everything claiming not to know what simple terms mean. Alaska got hosed.

  • Carl Sabatini

    If Non Stop and Direct meant the same thing there wouldn’t be two descriptors.  I don’t fly a lot and even I know the difference.  I assume Mr. Segal never took a “non-stop” flight in his life,  A little confusing, perhaps. but not misrepresentation IMHO.

  • Carl Sabatini

    Also Note that the Airline response said they moved the same aircraft over to the non international side while passengers were going through customs.  same plane same flight number same flight.

  • badbadwebbis

    Airlines in general are not particularly interested in revealing all of the particulars to their passengers — multiple posters note that language used by the airlines on their sites seems designed to deceive or conceal, so Alaskan may end up paying for the general sense of deception that a lot of passengers feel these days. The OP is overreacting for sure, but I am still snerkling to myself that an airline may end up on the ‘sucks to be you’ end of the airline-customer equation.

    Childish, I know….

  • Sadie Cee

    Times have certainly changed.  Your in-transit experiences in Canada brought the following to mind.  An elderly gentleman I once knew used to lie prone on the tarmac every time his plane landed in Canada, kiss the ground and chant some prayers in gratitude for his safe return.  A picture of him doing this once appeared on the front page of our top daily paper!  He passed away many years ago and I am positive he would have been astounded to know that air travel has become the hassle that we experience nowadays.

    More and more of us are driving our own cars to cities along the border such as Detroit, Rochester and Buffalo, using long-term parking and flying to U.S. destinations from there.  Non-stop or even direct flights from YYZ are few and far between.  Some routings can take as many as 20 hours to get from Toronto to say Orlando.

    BTW do you remember the time when most (perhaps all) flights from Europe to N.A. had to land in Gander, NF for refuelling?  Sailing by steamship (which took two weeks) from the Caribbean to Europe was once the only way to make the journey.  After sailing became unpopular, flights had to land first in New York for the same reason.  These sorts of memories help me to be more patient when all does not go as expected. 

    I do not consider myself a total Neanderthal, however, because while  I miss the convenience of those in-transit lounges, non-stop flights to Europe and the comforts of first-class travel more than compensate. 

    With an ever-increasing number of pax, aircraft, routes, destinations,  rules and regs. and all the attendant personnel involved, I truly wonder for how much longer this method of travel will be even sustainable.


  • Sadie Cee

    On reflection, I believe that the OP received more compensation than he deserved.  All I will say is more power to him.  He asked and he received.  All the same it is our responsibility to inform ourselves about every aspect of our journeys ahead of time and to accept the blame if we overlooked something.  Better yet, if we have never travelled to a particular destination before, it would be wise to use a travel agent.

  • Sales

    This is typical of travelers who think that they are smarter than anyone else in the world.  An USA Flaged airline has to make a stop and go through customs regardless where you fly from.  For example, if you were flying from a South American Country on Continental, American, etc to Europe, you would have to first fly to the USA and go through Customs before catching your next flight to Europe even if it is the same plane which is what a direct flight is.  This sounds like the typical person who always know more than a travel agent.

  • Ray

    It turns out that Segal has – get this – a travel blog!
    “Hi, my name is Nathan. I created this site because of my love of travel. It’s here that I’ll be sharing my adventures and discoveries as I travel. You’ll learn about the different communities I’ve visited and what to do if you decide to travel to these areas. You’ll learn about hidden treasures, great deals, learn what to avoid and how to get the most for your marketing dollar.”
    I am leaning towards him being a total idiot, but there is a chance this is all just to get his name out there…

  • Joe Ford

    In my experience “direct” or “through” flights are rarely that. They are supposed to be the same aircraft with one, or more, intermediate stops but they regularly tend to be aircraft changes. Sometimes the gates are at opposite ends of the terminal and when you arrive at the “continuation” portion of your flight the gate agents act as if you’ve carelessly arrived late. Code sharing and “direct flights” should be prohibited by the D.O.T.

  • Sarah Prata

    Based on these comments here, I think that OP both should have been able to tell that the flight did stop in SAN, and even still, it wasn’t much of an inconvenience – lots of drama in OP’s story makes it hard to take him seriously.
    I would say that he either is a bonehead or a candy-ass in the end.

  • BrianInPVD

    If you connect anywhere in the US, yes you do.  Most US airports are not set up to have international to international connections without going through customs first.

  • Calgary Condos

    Most likely this level of poor service has already cost the airline millions of dollars. Be thankful they are not a national carrier, otherwise they might be deemed “too big to fail” and receive bailout money! Steve

  • cjr001

    Just because all the airlines use it doesn’t mean it’s still not a deceptive term.

  • Jason

    Alaska Airlines is one of the most profitable airlines in the US. This ‘poor service’ is nothing more than drama, and although people can have bad experiences on any airline at random, AS also ranks at or near the top in pretty much every aspect of customer service.

  • Jason

    I don’t think he’s an idiot – he’s just a entitled whiny b*tch. A real idiot wouldn’t be able to get this sort of compensation in the first place :)

  • Julie Northrop2009

    I wouldn’t consider OP to be competent though.

  • Rachel

    Yes – it is actually US law that airside transfers are not allowed.

  • cjr001

    “As far as changing physical aircraft, so what?”

    Nice to see you miss the point. In this case, because he had to change to a different plane, the airline’s own terminology – that he was flying a ‘direct’ flight, one that doesn’t change planes – isn’t even accurate.

    But hey, let’s let the airlines do whatever they want, because it’s always been that way! That’ll make things better for everyone!

  • cjr001

    An airplane is not a bus or a train.

  • guest

    Intersting reading on his June 6th blog, titled “When Direct Isn’t Direct: Here We Go Again” which starts “I’d never intended to write another post on this subject”
    In it, he writes “My girlfriend had taken one several weeks previously on Alaska and I felt confident I could find one. Looking on the Alaska site I found a one-stop flight that filled the bill and booked my ticket.

    On May 26th, I called an agent to upgrade my seat …” 

    He ends his blog with “I want compensation in the form of a voucher for another trip”

    Sounds like he knew exactly what he was getting and is just trying to get a free trip

  • Cgchu

    I agree with you Ray.  The OP could have run into this same issue on any airline.  He seems like a bit of a drama queen to me.  It’s not AS fault that he had to go through customs just as it isn’t AS fault that he doesn’t know what a direct flight was.  I’m all for people being treated fairly and get getting what they contracted for but guy must not travel much if he thinks this trip was anything but normal. 

  • Cgchu

    That’s interesting.  Every time I’ve flown direct, it’s been on the same plane.  I mostly fly Delta and Alaska so it might be different with other airlines.  I could see an operational issue forcing an equipment change but that’s about it. 

  • Cgchu

    That’s correct.  This has nothing with to do with AS but with the USA.

  • Drjeff

    Guy is nuts.  Everybody knows you have to clear customs, his gripe is with our lovely Homeland Security not Alaska Airlines.  And any flyer knows a Direct flight is not a nonstop.  Maybe Air Mexico flies nonstop.  I hope Alaska zings him for his credit card dispute and charges it back.

  • Rebecca

    The $50 credit is referred to as a discount code, so I assume you enter at checkout and can use it on any flight.

  • Amy Bradley-Hole

    I did not say that it wasn’t a deceptive term. I simply said that it is not a term used by this airline alone, and that if anyone is to “get screwed” over deceptive terminology, then the entire industry is responsible.

  • Rebecca

    How did he not notice the length of the trip? It very clearly shows departure and arrival times when you book any flight. He got there when promised; I’m sure he would be complaining if the plane arrived in Seattle even 5 minutes late. As others have noted, he would have had to go through customs in Seattle if they hadn’t stopped in San Diego, so what does it matter.

    I have family in San Diego and fly there a few times a year. It isn’t that far from Terminal 2 to Terminal 1. It’s not a huge walk, like it could be in some other airports. What a whiner!

  • flutiefan

    no, then it’s NOT non-stop.

  • cybersal

    To me a direct flight is “take off from A, land at your destination.  I accept the difference between direct and non-stop, however, when you must deplane, go through customs, go to another terminal and onto a different plane it is misleading to call it direct. Some travelers have a difficult time doing this – or just don’t want the bother. They should know what to expect when they purchase tickets.  

  • joshua82

    How is it possible to run out of numbers? Is there a regulation that all flight numbers must be no more than 4 digits long?

  • djp

    I commend him from being able to get Aslaska to compensate him…without knowing exacly wht he saw I dont think he has much of a case.

    I looked on Alaska’s siteght comes off as appears to be a non plane transfer flight but on the side the nonstop piece is not highlighted.

    Also in looking at flight times someone who knows flight length will see there must be a stop over some place.

    On the West coast routes both southwest and alaska do this quite frequently where you havect flights but you land somewhere (usually in one of the california airports).

    the other issue is alaska even does this knowing full well that they need to deplane nd go throgh customs aat the first spot of landing in the US. 

    This seems more of a flyer playing dumb with the airline and try to get compensation.

    The fault is on Alaska if they advertised nonstop service from Seattle to Cabo.  

    The way airlines work are flight numbers are not unique to the planes…they are the route.   You could be on a plan that is not technically a direct flight but you are on the same plane.  Thus you still have to get off and reboard due to a flight crew change.

    Alaska really should not even call this flight a direct flight and just split this flight using two different flight numbers.

    The r issue is routing this through San Diego airport and where they decide to land the plane.  

    There is a problem in the system if the have to deplane, go through customs, and then have to go through security again on to reboard.

    This can potentially be a disater for the travelers continuing on to seattle where they think its a direct flight,,they dont need their boarding pass anymore …get rid of it…then not have the boarding pass to reboard the plane.

    I think it isnt rocket science for customs to split the passangers into who is continuing service on this flight vs those that sre changing planes in San Diego and put them through two separate lines because the continuing passangers dont need to go through security again….the flight needs to continue its service up to seattle.


  • Carver

    I have to disagree with the first part.  Its not his ignorance of travel industry terminology that make him an idiot.  The travel industry chooses to use misleading terminology for just this very reason.   However, the rest of his rant is silly.

  • Guest

    “Why should one even have to make extra clicks for such important information?”

    Avoid clutter, maybe?

  • SJR

    This is silly.   He should have known that he would have to clear customs in the US because of the stop, and he should have known about the stop because of the “direct” flight designation.  I think he got more than was appropriate in return. 

  • Eric

    I think his filing the dispute was excessive.  I think Alaska did right by him with their offer.  I am puzzled by one thing, though.  It appears they took everyone off the plane in San Diego, ran them thru customs, and then put them back on a plane to Seattle.  What was the point of this?  It’s a pretty safe bet the airport in Seattle has an international terminal.  So why not fly them directly there?

  • Teresa

    Maybe – even if it isn’t it’s certainly a convention.

  • Teresa

    “I require all my flights to stop, preferably at my destination.” – George Carlin

  • Rachel

    Continuing passengers do need to go through security again because they have access to their checked bags at customs (which is US customs law).

  • Gregg

    OP must be a roody-poo. No other explanation.

  • Tony A.

    Is this guy telling the truth????

    He conveniently misinterprets the meaning of DIRECT flight.
    But Alaska Air’s website clearly states there is a STOP in San Diego to the AS223/AS2380 flights from SJD to YYJ.

    Alaska Airlines     Alaska Airlines     233     Depart Cabo San Lucas/Los Cabos (SJD)    
    2:10 pm, Wed, Jul 20
            Stop in San Diego (SAN)        
            Arrive Seattle, WA (SEA)    
    7:25 pm, Wed, Jul 20
    Duration: 6h 15m

          Change planes in Seattle, WA (SEA) with a 3h 35m layover
    Alaska Airlines     Alaska Airlines     2380     Depart Seattle, WA (SEA)    
    11:00 pm, Wed, Jul 20
    Operated By Horizon Air         Arrive Victoria, BC (YYJ)    
    11:43 pm, Wed, Jul 20
    Duration: 0h 43m

    Total Duration: 10h 33m

    So where is the fraud? Where is the misrepresentation?
    Alaska never offered him a NON-STOP flight, so Alaska told him the truth.
    Although Alaska Air did not even mention the term DIRECT FLIGHT in their website, AS223 is legally a direct flight with a stop in SAN.

    IMO Alaska Air did nothing wrong. IMO Nathan Segal is the one who is wrong. Perhaps he qualifies as a CUSTOMER FROM HELL.

    Incidentally, Mr Segal did not have a NON STOP option from SJD to YYJ. So what is he whining about? His other options were quicker but they still had a STOP before YYJ:

    WS2291   SJDYYC- 345P 803P   0
    WS 701        YYJ-1000P1026P   0  7h41m
    UA 868   SJDSFO- 230P 435P   0
    UA6494        YYJ- 722P 938P   0  8h08m

    Why he chose a 10 hour 33 minute trip when he could have taken a shorter one?
    Maybe he was cheap and wanted to save money.

    Finally, What is Elliott’s Agenda?

    Does he want the whole airline industry to scrap the term DIRECT Flight and  make it synonymous to a NON-STOP flight.

    I say that there is a reason to distinguish between a NON-STOP vs. DIRECT vs. CONNECTING flights. Nowadays, my reservation system (GDS) distinguishes between flights with the SAME FLIGHT number that has a change (CHG) in equipment (aircraft) and no longer indicates it as a DIRECT flight. That is good because luggage can be lost between aircraft changes. A typical technical stop (i.e. to refuel) takes about 1h15min to 1h30min. A stop required for US Immigration and Customs may take a little longer. DIRECT flights with stops are not that bad at all. The aircraft does not have to load up too much on fuel – it is GREENER (better for the environment) and the savings (from not carrying more fuel) may be passed on to consumers. Take a look a China and EVA Airlines cheap fares (that refuel in Anchorage) between the USA and Asia.

    Sometimes we have to think through issues more before we start whining.

  • Zankl

    Greedy – pure and simple

  • Arizona Road Warrior

    The plane stops in SAN to pick up passengers.  It is understanding that when a plane that departs from a foreign country (where there is no US Customs) when the plane lands at the first airport in the US, the passengers must go through customs.  Over the years, we have read articles about international planes that are diverted to airports without customs due to weather, etc. where the passengers couldn’t deplaned, etc.

  • Tony A.


    Please read the US Department of Transportation website on “Fly-Rights – A Consumer Guide to Air Travel” here (

    Notice clearly how the DOT explains the meaning of DIRECT flights –

    * A “direct” (or “through”) flight with a
    single flight number can have one or more intermediate stops. A connection
    (change of planes) nearly always has a separate flight number for each flight,
    but sometimes the two flights are listed on the same line in schedules.  Look
    carefully at the “Stops” column and the departure and arrival times to
    determine whether the flight suits your needs.

    The regulations favors the airline industry definition of DIRECT flights.

    Okay, so please stop whining and complaining.

  • Bill

    I flew Air Canada from London Heathrow to Houston via Toronto in January 2011, and didn’t have to go through Canadian customs, just US customs.  However, on the way back, I had to go through Canadian customs then go to the UK.   Maybe Montreal isn’t the same way.

    As far as this Alaska Airlines story, Alaska did nothing wrong.  Whether you know what a direct flight is or not, who cares?  Just follow the itinerary.

  • MC

    And in this case, at least on the website, the term “direct” is not used at all. They use only the following four designations (reproduced exactly as they are listed on the left-hand navigation pane of the website): 
    nonstopstops (no plane change)1 stop (change planes)2 stops (change planes)So, if the dude had spent even five minutes looking at what he was doing, he would have seen that his flight from Cabo to Seattle was listed as having 1 stop, while the flight from Seattle to Victoria was listed as nonstop. 

    Alaska also has a spot to click for “details” on the flight if you want to know more, so there was a second place he could have looked to find out what was going on with that flight segment. 

    I didn’t actually buy the ticket to see if the email confirmation used the word direct. However, as avoids that word entirely, I’d imagine that’s a corporate policy that extends to confirmation emails. 

    Having said that, the airline industry does get away with a form of slight of hand trickery in these cases. As Alaska Airlines uses the same flight number for the Cabo to San Diego and the San Diego to Seattle segments, they don’t list how long they are on the ground in SD, nor do they explain the customs process. So, for that, the dude had a valid argument. An upgrade and a voucher was fair compensation for it.

    Further, he complains that this was the “worst” customer service he’d ever had — really? A flight that he didn’t actually research, yet complains about, results in polite and apologetic responses from customer service representatives where he gets compensation both for that particular flight (in the form of a free upgrade) and for future flights (with a $50 voucher) is the “worst” experience he’s had with customer service? Wow.

  • Guest

    If anything, perhaps the airlines ought to finally say there’s one stopover instead of calling it a direct flight. Something like one stopover but use same flight number, same type of plane, whatever.

    But I agree there isn’t necessarily anything misleading, especially if it was as specifically detailed as possible. Misleading then pretty much becomes a subjective opinion.

  • Guest

    Time to lobby DOT or whoever to change that then. Heh.

  • Rosered7033

    All the more power to him, except he took up Chris’ time, effort and column to complain about something he should have known (and, after reading his blog excerpt, probably did know.)  So in my book he not only is a whiner, he is deceitful.  I know Chris doesn’t have the time to completely research every complaint – I think his readers did an awesome job of filling in the blanks.  He’s crying wolf and got AS to buy into his idiocy and claim to entitlement.

  • Clancyj

    I think one needs to be an informed consumer and not whine so much.

  • Guest

    Yeah, well…sometimes you learn things the hard way. Sheesh.

  • Wrona

    Except that if you read further, it was the same plane – while everyone was going through immigration, they towed it from the international gate to the domestic gate.

  • cjr001

    Your definition of ‘clutter’ is an extreme one then.

    But then, the airlines would like to consider fees, taxes, and so on as ‘clutter’ as well. Who cares what you’re paying or how many stops you’ll be making as long as you get to where you’re going, right?

    Maybe they can hide what time the flight departs and arrives, too. Just more clutter that just gets in the way of common sense.

  • cjr001

    It’s NOT non-stop AND it’s NOT direct. Simple.

  • cjr001

    “This particular airline did not use deceptive wording.”

    Yes, you did say it wasn’t deceptive. Yes, the entire industry is responsible, and unlike many of the rest of you, I refuse to absolve them of said responsibility.

  • cjr001

    My apologies then. It appears I mixed up the OP’s story with some of the others made here by people who have had to change planes on a ‘direct’ flight.

  • MikeZ

    If you go directly somewhere, it means you don’t make stops along the way for other reasons. It doesn’t mean that you make a stop at the mechanics, pick up a different car and then continue on. Direct means point A to point B. The fact that they actually call a flight that makes stops direct, doesn’t make it right.

  • Brooklyn

    Vouchers aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on. The OP made every attempt to get the information he wanted and he was deceived by the airline.  We all need to learn from his approach: the only two things the airlines understand are losing money and gaining bad publicity and he managed both!

  • Stacey_schram

    As a Canadian he is not required by US Immigration to be finger printed and photographed – only complete the immigration form and present his passport!  Even though he is in transit he is entering a non-secure area so must go through the immigration process as he was coming from a foreign country into the US.

  • Ray

    I think one of his earlier travel blog entries speaks volumes about his modus operandi and character. Air Canada offered him nothing…

    November 2, 2009
    Air Canada
    Re: Ticket Number: xxxxxxxxxx
    Booking Reference: xxxxx
    To Whom It May Concern:
    Congratulations, Air Canada. In over 30 years of airline travel (and 400+ flights), I just experienced the worst service ever with your airline!!
    When I went to check in online, I was given the option of Economy Plus for both the flight to Los Angeles and the flight from there to Maui. I chose both, since I’m 6’4” and need the extra legroom. The first flight (AC4142) was a small jet. When I got to my seat, I couldn’t see any difference between it and the seats around it and it was obvious that I didn’t get what I paid for. Fortunately, I was able to negotiate a bulkhead seat, for free. Still, it was far from ideal. I wound up next to an obese woman whose bulk overflowed the seat and I wound up spending much of the flight leaning away from her. It was extremely uncomfortable.
    On the second flight (AC5243), the Economy Plus service lived up to its advertising and I had a good flight.
    Coming back from Maui, (AC058), I used your online check in service, booked seat 19F and checked a bag, but there was a blank spot in front of my seat in the seat diagram and I was unsure of what it was. When I called in to ask about it, I wound up with an agent who was quite angry with me for getting that seat, telling me that they shouldn’t have been available and that all bulkhead seats were reserved for babies, bassinets and people with disabilities. Yet, the seating area was clearly available online. I asked her about getting a first class seat, but she quoted me another $1,500.00 on top of what I’d already paid. That was outrageously expensive, and I turned it down. Next, I asked her about making a change to an exit seat. She told me that I’d have to wait until I got to the airport for that seat assignment and I decided to do so. Also, she rebuked me for my request about legroom and she started comparing me to her husband, who, she said, was even taller than me. That really irked me. This was about meeting my request, not diluting it with her personal issues!
    When I got to the airport, I was greeted with a long lineup and no Air Canada personnel in sight. I wanted to find out where the express lineup was to drop off my checked bag, and I walked to the counter next to the Air Canada lineup. I spoke with a Hawaiian Airlines ticket agent who informed me that there was no express check in and that I’d have to wait in the regular lineup (roughly an hour long) to check my bag.
    I was furious! What’s the point of offering an express online checking service if you still have to check in with everyone else?
    Fortunately, the agent noted that I only had carry-on luggage and she told me that I could bypass the check-in and go directly to the gate. Kudos to Hawaiian Airlines.
    As a side note, my girlfriend was traveling on WestJet, and she chose the same advanced check-in option as me. She breezed right up to the front of the designated line and her bag was checked in within a minute.
    When I got to the gate, there were no Air Canada personnel to speak with. They only showed up 15 minutes before the flight. When I went to change my seat, I met the same Hawaiian Airlines agent who informed me that (Air Canada) sub-contracts, but these agents weren’t wearing Air Canada uniforms, so I had no idea who they were. Again, I tried for an exit seat but was told that none were available. I spoke of my issues with the online agent, and the Hawaiian Airlines agent backed me up, saying that my choice was OK.
    When I arrived at my seat, I found a woman sitting there with a baby, waiting for her husband. She informed me that while their seat assignment was some rows back, they had really wanted this seat and moved there, despite the fact that I had a reserved seat. Further, the she told me that when they got the bassinet, it would encroach on my seat space and I wouldn’t be able to stretch out. To claim my seat would have meant an argument with these people, who clearly made it known that their needs were more important than my own. This angered me immensely. No one told me this up front and it was obvious I was being bumped.
    I made my way to the front of the aircraft to get a new seat assignment, but quickly discovered the flight was nearly full and few seats were available. I was told by the flight attendants to go up the ramp and talk to the ticket agents. I did and met them coming down. They then directed me back to the flight attendants. I was getting pretty flustered by this time since it seemed that no one wanted to help me. Finally, the ticket agents took charge and found me a seat at the back of the aircraft, but then I had no room for my carry-on luggage. It was sheer luck that the seat beside me was empty and I could stow my laptop. Not so with my other bag, which was moved ten rows further up.
    My new seat was too small and when the passenger in front put his seat back, I had no room for my knees and I was jammed in tight. I was able to turn sideways but I had no way of sitting forward without being pinned in my seat. It was extremely cramped and uncomfortable!
    Kudos to the flight attendant who finally helped me find a seat and also encouraged me to file a complaint with Air Canada.
    In summary, the online check-in was worthless since it wasn’t backed up by personnel on-site to check the express bags.
    Then there’s the bulkheads Issue. If they were only available for babies, bassinets and people with disabilities, they should have been blocked off. Not doing so caused me a lot of unnecessary stress and grief. Further, I was being held responsible for what was clearly an issue on your end, which I find unacceptable. When I got back home, I wound up with severe headache and nausea. I was sick for the better part of a day, no doubt caused partly by the stress I encountered as a result of your “service.”
    In view of this disastrous and appalling service, I will accept nothing less than a full refund, of both the flight and the Economy Plus service, which I feel was very misleading. The full airfare cost was $550.30USD and the Economy Plus upgrade cost was $96.00USD for a total of $646.30USD.
    To give you an indication of just how serious and upset I am about this, I’ve posted this story to my blog (, I’ve sent out a tweet to my list of 419 followers (with the header: “Worst Airline Experience Ever”) and I’ve also made a posting to my Facebook account of over 100 friends.
    Nathan Segal

  • Amy Bradley-Hole

    I said that this PARTICULAR AIRLINE didn’t use deceptive wording — rather, the industry as a whole does. Perhaps you should brush up on your reading comprehension skills. Or if you’re that good at taking one sentence out of context, and warping it to suit your needs, regardless of what the rest of my comment said, then perhaps you should seek out an internship with Andrew Breitbart or James O’Keefe, as they would appreciate your skills.

    Whatever your problem with me is, know that this is my last comment in response to you, so if you want to keep attacking me, feel free, but just know that I couldn’t care less what you think.

  • Rosered7033

    Copied from OP blog – “To give you an indication of just how serious and upset I am about this, I’ve posted this story to my blog (, I’ve sent out a tweet to my list of 419 followers (with the header: “Worst Airline Experience Ever”) and I’ve also made a posting to my Facebook account of over 100 friends.”  Ask yourself – who sends a letter like this?  And his original letter, so kindly posted by Ray, outs the OP as someone you’d shudder to share a flight with, particularly if he was sitting next to you.  God forbid you sneeze, drop something on the floor, or have to wake him to get to the restroom.  You’d then be responsible for yet another one of his “worst airline experience(s) ever”!

  • Sershev

    Watch for another story in a couple of months when Alaska
    Airline will turn reversed credit card charge to collections. We are paying for
    transportation from point A to point B within reasonable time estimates. It is industry
    wide practice to market some flights as direct even though the flight makes
    stops and equipment change occurs. Companies often do it for competitive
    purposes and they are not breaking any government’s rule. Just pay attention to
    the total travel time if it is a concern to you. Direct flight actually will
    cost you a few dollars less because you are not paying airport fees at the stop
    point, but also it is considered as one flight segment for frequent flyer
    mileage earnings: you will not receive credit for the actual miles flown, but
    only between origin and destination as it is nonstop flight.

    And yes, if you visit and click on the details link for flights 232 and 233 it shows the stop in SAN.

  • kenish

    Yes.  It’s defined by ICAO and IATA, and even ATC computers are programmed to accept the 3-letter airline code + up to 4 digits.  Also, there are numbering agreements…8xxx is a “special” or “extra” section of a regular flight, 9xxx are maintenance and ferry flights, etc.

    That said…it’s all marketing.  “Fly our direct service to Mexico’s resorts” sounds quick and easy, but hardly deceptive.  The travel press should help educate on the difference between “nonstop” and “direct”.

  • Jimmy
  • Tony A.

    Hi DavidZ,
    There is a good reason to keep the DIRECT flight label. Bear with me for my own explanation (with examples).

    There is a NONSTOP flight from Manila to Los Angeles on Philippine Airlines (PR). Because of the tail-winds from West to East, the aircraft can make the journey without refueling.

    However, on the EASTWARD direction, the flight from Los Angeles to Manila on the same airline is only a DIRECT flight since the aircraft needs to make a technical stop in Guam to refuel.

    Note that the flight from Los Angeles to Manila is clearly labelled as making one stop and it is the same aircraft that will continue on to Manila after it is refueled in Guam. Since the flight had a stop then it could not be labelled NON-STOP. On the other hand, passengers DID NOT have to make a connection (they did not have to change planes) so it was NOT a CONNECTING flight. Therefore, it makes sense that there should be a label that falls between a NON-STOP and CONNECTING flight. This is where the DIRECT flight label fits.

    Further note, that if a flight with the same flight number makes a stop and a change of gauge (change of aircraft) is involved then -14 C.F.R. PART 258—DISCLOSURE OF CHANGE-OF-GAUGE SERVICES (
    requires that the airline and/or agent MUST disclose it BEFORE sale.

    Delta has a JFK to Manila flight that stops in Narita Japan (DL173) and has the disclosure – PLANE CHANGE ENROUTE.  The flight actually makes a change of aircraft in Tokyo (allbeit the same type of aircraft B-744). However, in the reverse direction, (DL 172) from Manila to JFK also stops in Narita, Japan but does NOT change aircraft.

    Both DL172 and DL173 use only one flight number but have a stop (and both disclose this one stop). Using the industry definition, they are both DIRECT flights. But, under US Law, DL173 must disclose that a change of aircraft (change of gauge) is required.
    (Please note however, that my airline reservation system [GDS] does not consider DL173 as a direct flight since it has a change of gauge.)

    I would agree with people that the SEMANTICS used in Airline Terminology may be a bit whacky. But anyone who actually reads the itinerary they are about to purchase or the display of the flights on the screen can discern the meaning of a STOP on a direct flight. For as long as there is full disclose of the stop and where the stop is, there is no reason to lose sleep over the term DIRECT flight.

  • Tony A.

    Hi DavidZ,
    The airline cannot use the term STOPOVER because stopover means the passenger will break the journey  – meaning it will not a be a *through* fare.

    For a stopover to take place, Mr. Segal will deplane in San Diego and end the flight segment there. He will stay in San Diego for some time (beyond the maximum required for a through flight). Then he will check-in and board a new flight to resume the rest of his journey. Airlines usually levy some fees to make a stopover. Also when an international flight involves a stopover inside the USA, then a portion of the fare will included a domestic US travel tax.

    One way to make sense of this is  – the airplane or flight makes a STOP, while it is the passenger who makes a STOPOVER.

    This is exactly the reason why there is a huge difference between a STOP and a STOPOVER.

  • Rob D

    It certainly is sustainable. Whether you want to fly or not is a different issue. My personal hope is that you, OP, and people who whine a lot fly less and less to make it easier for me when I do fly.

  • Pauletteb

    When people who think they’re entitled to something they’re not and receive compensation they don’t deserve, the rest of us end up paying for it. I only fly a couple times a year, but I know the difference between “direct” and “non-stop” flights. The error was 100 percent on OP and not the airline. Rewarding just plain stupid is not the way to go. What a schmuck!

  • Asiansm Dan

    With the huge Airport Fees today, it can save more a few bucks. CDG and LHR transit charge around 80$USD.

  • Asiansm Dan

    There isn’t Economy Plus on Air Canada. This guy try to scam out of the Airlines in several way. He claims traveling a lot but don’t have any Elite Status to get to Priority Line, what’s a lie.

  • flutiefan

    ugh, i already hate this guy.

  • Asiansm Dan

    ” blank spot in front of my seat in the seat diagram” : with 400+ flights this scammer know what he did and did it on purpose. The “obese woman” and “woman sitting there with a baby” happened  like in a fairy tale, she that , she this… only “she” are his problems. What’s a misogynist.

  • Guest

    are you always so long winded?

  • Rosered7033

    You are always welcome to put it more succinctly.

  • Joseph Walters

    I think that we should all start posting on his blog about how he is the one with problems, not Alaska Airlines.

  • Rosered7033

    Oh, and just one more thing…I hope AS has a “no-fly” list and this guy is on there, and I hope they share their experience with other airlines.  Time to scam the scammer.

  • Gromit801

    @rosered.  Believe me, everything this guy did was documented and is contained in his passenger file.

  • Dana Scheider

    I think he did get too much compensation–except that he couldn’t have availed himself of the concessions Alaska offered without flying Alaska again. Since he was obviously dissatisfied with their service and felt duped, he shouldn’t have to fly with them again to get the compensation they offered, even though the monetary value of that compensation was reasonable.

  • Dana Scheider

    Also, don’t get me wrong – I love this blog and am all about consumer advocacy – but, major first-world problem.