they didn't buy the insurance, would that have made a difference?
Buying insurance may well have helped, depending on the type of insurance, and what it covered. If the insurance covered "missed connections," it may have paid for them to be flown to the ship's first port of call. Many insurance companies sell a pricey rider called something like "cancel for any reason" insurance. If they missed their cruise because they couldn't get to the ship, that rider would have paid them back up to 100% of their non-refundable costs, again depending on the type of insurance purchased with that rider.
Thanks for explaining the ticketing and seat assignments. That puzzled me about this as well. I've always had my seat assignment on my ticket well in advance like Sonny noted. I'll not be buying any tickets without a seat designation.
I'll not be buying any tickets without a seat designation.
That's not necessarily a good idea. As I mentioned, only about half the seats on any plane are available for pre-assignment. The airline holds onto a bunch of seats for those who didn't choose seats in advance, and just do it when they check in at the airport. There are several other reasons one may not be able to get a seat assignment in advance, particularly when dealing with international travel. If you are buying a ticket and the seat assignment area, or airline agent, says you'll get your seat assignment at the airport, it is not necessarily because the flight is oversold.
I flew Southwest to Philly last month. They have the craziest check-in process. You have to check in on-line and get a boarding 'zone'.
This is easy on your way to your destination, but not so easy on your way home.
I ended up waiting in the airport longer than it would have taken to drive home.
My company made my travel arrangements, so I had little say in the matter. But it wasn't my idea of convienence.
Actually, the current system Southwest uses is a huge improvement over their prior system. In years past, you checked in online and received just a letter A, B or C. Then, at boarding time, it was "first come, first served" within those letters. People would line up at the gates a couple of hours before boarding time, to try to get their preferred type of seat once they boarded the plane. The "A" folks were guaranteed to find a window or aisle, and if you in the front of the line, maybe even an exit row. But the "B" and "C" folks literally stood in line as soon as the previous flight left that gate.
At least now, when you check in online, you're given a specific place in line, so you don't have to line up until they start the boarding process.
You're right that the new boarding process doesn't address the folks away from a computer, who can't check in 24 hours prior to the flight. Southwest considered, on several occasions, going the pre-assigned seats route, and has rejected that idea each time, so far.