It was like any other flight. I waited at the gate, got up when my boarding group was called, scanned my boarding pass, the machine beeped, and made my way onto our waiting 737-800. The Alaska Airlines flight pushed back from our gate at SFO and soon we were in the air and on our way to Boston.
The flight attendants came around, starting their service in the economy cabin. This was my first flight in economy as a newly-minted Alaska MVP Gold 75K, a status I obtained by matching my waning Delta Platinum status to Alaska’s elite program. The only reason I wasn’t up front on this flight was because I’d booked a Saver (basic economy) fare. The plane was headed out with at least one empty seat in first class.
The perks of MVP Gold 75K include a complimentary alcoholic beverage and complimentary in-flight entertainment tablet for the trek across the country. I’d expected the attendant to offer me a tablet for free when he arrived, figuring they’d know exactly where all their elite members are seated. Except he didn’t. He asked for the requisite $10 for the tablet rental. I pulled up the Alaska app and showed him my status card. He seemed confused, but left me with the tablet free of charge.
The Flight I Wasn’t Aboard
The same flight attendant returned a little while later and asked me if I’d had any trouble boarding. I told him no, that I just scanned my phone like any other flight. He asked to see my boarding pass. This was easy to fulfill, as I nearly always take a screenshot of my boarding pass on my phone. It showed that I was in seat 11D.
At that point he seemed genuinely confused. Apparently, the app that the flight attendants use didn’t show anyone assigned in seat 11D. He told he he’d looked through the list of people on the flight and couldn’t find me. It was like I’d never boarded the plane! I’m not sure what could possibly cause someone to be missing from a flight manifest.
Yet here I was, sitting in the seat I thought had been assigned to me. The flight attendant wasn’t rude about the situation. He just seemed genuinely confused about the whole thing. My guess is that this is a pretty rare occurrence. When he and the other attendant returned with drinks, he offered me a glass of wine for free, another perk of Alaska MVP Gold 75K in Main Cabin. He even offered me a second later on in the flight.
At the end of the flight, we warmly joked about the whole situation. They weren’t ever able to figure out what went wrong or why I supposedly never made it aboard. But I had a feeling that this would cause some problems with mileage credit for the flight (which turned to be the case).
What I Think Went Wrong (Maybe)
Later, I had one idea why there may have been something off with this particular flight. When I checked in, I’d expected to be able to pick a seat. This was a Saver fare, as I mentioned before, and I’d opted to not select a seat at booking since there weren’t any windows or aisles left at the back of the plane.
But check-in didn’t allow me to pick a seat. This was frustrating, as I wanted to make sure I didn’t get stuck in a middle, and preferably wanted an aisle seat for the cross-country trek. The situation was easily solved by sending Alaska Airlines a direct message on Twitter. That’s how I was assigned seat 11D.
When I got to the gate, my name was on the list of folks awaiting seat assignment, which I thought was odd. But I paid it no mind. I already had an assignment. There was an obvious disconnect between Alaska’s systems, and this is the only thing I can think of that may have affected my “not aboard” “status on the flight.
What If Someone Is Missing From A Flight Manifest Internationally?
I’m happy that this wasn’t an international flight, as not being missing from a flight manifest might have been a much bigger problem. On a domestic flight, it was just a minor oddity. Being missing from a flight manifest on an international flight could cause potential immigration issues and possibly repercussions for the airline.
I’d be interested to know how Alaska would handle things had we been headed to Canada, Mexico, or one of their other limited international destinations. I had a valid ticket in this case, and I had my passport with me. I would have needed it to board. But not having a record of me being on the plane seems like a big problem for them.
What do you think? Have you ever heard of someone being missing from a flight manifest?