PASCO -- Five Eastern Washington University students learned the hard way Monday to always read the fine print.
If they had, the young women would have been walking in Las Vegas for their spring break instead of spending about five hours at the Tri-City Airport in Pasco after missing their 10:30 a.m. Allegiant Air flight.
"People assume because this is a small airport they can show up anytime before the flight and get on. But that's a misconception," said Tonya Kosk, a customer service representative and a ground crew member for Allegiant.
"We all wear two hats here, and when I'm out making sure the plane is secure for flight and the baggage loaded, I can't be out front waiting for late passengers," she said.
The five admit they misread their itinerary.
"We thought we only had to be at the airport 45 minutes before the flight. Not two hours before," said Calie DeLaRosa, 24, of Federal Way.
It was Bianca Lara of Othello who spotted the two-hour requirement.
"As soon as I saw it, we jumped up and ran for the car," said Lara, 21.
On the drive, Lara called the airport to say they were on the way.
"But Allegiant doesn't even have a phone at the front desk," she said.
Then she tried checking in online, but she said all she got was a message saying they were unable to take online check-ins and to see the front desk.
The students say they arrived at the Allegiant desk around 9:30 a.m., only to find it closed.
"We kept pushing the call button, but no one showed up for 45 minutes," said Melia Thomas, 22, of Kennewick.
They weren't the only ones to miss the flight.
"There was a couple already there, a man and a woman. They were getting pretty upset," said Kathrina Mencias, 21, of Monroe, Wash.
Two men from Umatilla joined them minutes later.
"So they were missing almost 10 people from their flight and no one came to see if we were here?" DeLaRosa said.
After the plane took off, Allegiant employees reopened the front counter and offered to help the group left behind find another flight. But Allegiant has only a few flights a week.
"They did offer to put us on an Allegiant plane going to Los Angeles, but then it would be up to us to find a way from there to Las Vegas," said Jenifer Ishigami, 22, of Kobe, Japan.
Or the young women could have driven to Bellingham for a direct Allegiant flight to Vegas.
Neither option appealed to them. And they weren't happy Allegiant was not offering ticket refunds or a transfer.
"They said it was our fault we missed the plane, and if we wanted to fly, we would have to buy new tickets," Lara said.
There was more heated discussion and phone calls to Allegiant customer service. Before long, security officers were urging the group away from the Allegiant counter.
"We were told to stay away," Thomas said.
In the meantime, her father, Greg Thomas, had talked to the agents at the Alaska counter. He was able to negotiate one-way tickets for the women from $520 to $375 each.
At 3 p.m., they boarded an Alaska flight for Seattle, where they had a five-hour layover before boarding a plane for Vegas. This meant instead of arriving in Vegas at noon, they were to arrive closer to midnight.
"We lost an entire day of our vacation," DeLaRosa said.
On Friday, the young women fly out of Las Vegas -- on Allegiant.
-- Loretto J. Hulse: 582-1513; firstname.lastname@example.org