The “Operated by” Scam

I just got back from a trip to Colorado, and everything was great save for the air travel. If you’re considering a flight from Seattle to Denver, or vice-versa, here’s a tip: don’t get suckered into the “operated by” scam.

I bought my tickets from American, only to later discover that the flight was actually operated by Alaska Airlines. This is because American doesn’t actually fly between Seattle and Denver. Instead, they sub contract to Alaska to fill the otherwise gaping hole in their coverage.

In my capacity as glorified cargo, I didn’t figure such a detail should matter to me. I don’t really care if the flight is operated by Santa Claus, just so long as he gets me where I want to go. Boy, was I mistaken.

I won’t bore you with all the details, but I had troubles on both my departing and returning flights, and in both cases I found that American blamed Alaska and Alaska blamed American. Each time one airline pointed the finger, I was forced to get in line and wait at the other airline’s counter.

In one instance, an Alaska representitive expressed worry that American would not pay them because of what he had done to help me. Talk about a lack of encapsulation. A passenger should simply not be exposed to this level of detail. I don’t care of American pays Alaska in greasy expired Chucky Cheese tokens, I bought a damn ticket and now I should be able to get on the plane!

So my advice to everyone is to avoid these “operated by” flights. If you have any suggestions on how to detect these things before the fact, I’d love to hear about them.


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