Early Departures, Stranded Passengers

Tracy Stewart, July 22, 2008
Fares from Washington DC:

    Q: We checked in for our flight an hour before take off time, got our boarding passes from an automated kiosk, and proceeded through security. When we got to the gate, there were no seats, so we went to a nearby food court area and had a cup of coffee and a bagel. About five minutes before the final boarding time (when they were supposedly going to shut the doors) we presented ourselves for boarding but guess what: they had shut the door, and detached the Jetway. They would not let us on. It seems that everyone was on board (except us) and they decided to close the flight a few minutes early in order to ensure an on time arrival. Is this some new kind of airline policy? Are all airlines doing this?



    A: I have heard of this happening. Airlines do sometimes close flights ahead of schedule if they determine that everyone is on board. They fill seats of the "no shows" with last minute or standby passengers (often those passengers are paying higher last minute fares, so it boosts the airline's bottom line). Something a bit similar happened to me a while back: they said the flight would be delayed for two hours, so I went browsing in the airport shops, and returned to the gate about 45 minutes after the two hour delay was announced. And guess what: no plane. Oh, they said they had paged all the passengers who weren't on board, and explained that they fixed the problem faster than they expected and just took off without me. I guess the lesson here is don't wander far.

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