Denied boarding for an ariline, best recommendations/experiences to get compensation?
November 27, 2006 4:07 PM   Subscribe

(Denied boarding Airline question) -- I just got back from what was supposed to be a cheap trip to Paris (rtrp $464 after tax) but on the return leg, I missed my Air France flight because NO COMPUTER SCREEN in CDG (Charles de Gaulle airport) had the flight listed. By the time I located the terminal of the flight, it was 45 minutes before take-off and despite not having carry ons and perhaps 5-10 people in the line for tickets, I was told the flight was closed and I was not going to be able to board......

The flight did take off -- about an hour later and I had to get a hotel room and get on another airline at $1200 to get back to the States today. My question is if anyone has been in this situation and for some guidance if I could ever get the money back. Air France was not very helpful when I told them of the situation and the agent practically laughed at what my fare credit would bring for a future, nearby date return flight. Instead of paying $3500 for their flight, I got on the blessed internet and I used American to get back to the states. I appreciate any responses. And, when in Paris, call and definitely get your terminal for your flight before you go to that crazy airport where it takes 30 minutes to go from one terminal to another. Thanks again!
posted by skepticallypleased to Travel & Transportation (31 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Something similar happened to a friend and me in Amsterdam. We were early enough for the flight with no carry-ons but they wouldn't let us on. We ended up getting on a later flight for an extra $150 which turned out to be better because it was a direct flight.

Was there no way to get it straightened out quicker? At least it's over now.
posted by eatcake at 4:15 PM on November 27, 2006

Boo. That sucks. Unfortunately they have a check-in deadline and after that you can't fly. From France to the US it's one hour. It's probably in the fine print on your ticket so I doubt you'll have much luck getting compensation. It never hurts to try though.
posted by loiseau at 4:22 PM on November 27, 2006

This *almost* happened to a friend of mine. As she arrived at the terminal a little over an hour before her flight, she was told that had she arrived 5 minutes later they wouldnt have allowed her on.

Here is a site with relevant information as well as your passenger rights. One hour is the standard for international flights - my guess is you are out of luck.
posted by vacapinta at 4:26 PM on November 27, 2006

From their FAQ: Air France urges passengers to arrive at the airport not more than 3 hours before departure. We recommend arriving between 2 and 3 hours before departure.
The latest check-in time is one hour before departure for long-haul flights and 45 minutes before departure for medium-haul international services.
[emphasis added]

Looks like they were within their rights to refuse you, so don't hold your breath. My suggestion would be to ask on the Air France forum at Flyertalk. I'm guessing they will tell you the same, but for so much money it might be worth it to try.

In my experience, U.S. major airlines are much more forgiving about people not showing up for flights on time.
posted by grouse at 4:27 PM on November 27, 2006

Many airlines have a "flat-tire rule", in which the normal change penalties are waived if one shows up slightly late for a flight. Not familiar with AF, I went in search of their contract of carriage, which appears to be here. Unfortunately, it appears AF does not have this rule. Ouch. At the very least you could try appealing to their customer service folks, but I wouldn't be too optimistic.
posted by blue mustard at 4:31 PM on November 27, 2006

Sorry to vent, but Air France at de Gaulle is the only airline experience I've ever had (I fly a lot) that reduced me to tears, got my boyfriend hustled into the security office for 'speaking too sharply' to the check-in diva, caused me to be segregated with a guard posted, and ultimately had us spend 8 hours getting drunk in a terrible cafe waiting for an American flight. The cause of their ire and our banishment? My assistant had booked the flight and included my middle name on the ticket which was left off the airline's own manifest at check in. Problematically for them, it does not appear on either my passport or US drivers license and so they made a very big huffy act, in that inimitable French fashion -- dismissive, suspicious, officious, clueless -- and refused to let me board.
posted by thinkpiece at 4:48 PM on November 27, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks so much for the compassion and the leads guys/gals!.

And, blue mustard, I was completely thinking that USA planes have a rule like that -- or you'd hear about this stuff happening more and more here. Thanks for putting a much needed phrase into my jet lagged brain and it will completely be going into my "angrily worded letter" to the Air France corporation. Also, thanks for the flyertalk link grouse -- flying advice is all over the internet but that site looks amazing. I

The time rules are depressing though! I can't understand how a passenger really loses all their rights if well, life, legitmately throws a wrench in their plans!

(And, to be fair to Air France, the planes are perfectly well equipped (TVs + lots of near first run movies, a juice/water self serve station in economy. video games, etc. -- stuff my American Airlines flight back lacked). Its just that they are very not understanding to problems like mine. (And, come on, I'm a college educated American -- you'd think I know enough to read departure screens at an airport -- and, well, my flight was simply not listed).

(P.S. I will post the result of my efforts back here whenever that happens. Thanks again and if anyone has more thoughts, please offer them).

Also, I took the subway to the airport to save money......and I try to save $$$$ using coupons + deals when I can....any tips on coping with the "pennywise, dollarfoolish" phenomenon and the subsequent shock dealt when all your corner cutting gets you screwed to that tune of money would be appreciated. (I'm already at rationalization -- and that seems to help -- at least its not a horrible disease or something.....basically it just sucks).
posted by skepticallypleased at 4:50 PM on November 27, 2006

There's nothing wrong with taking public transportation to the airport. You just need to allow enough time.
posted by grouse at 4:55 PM on November 27, 2006

Response by poster: Oh, b1, I treated the gate attendants fine. I mean, I really believe that more flies using honey bit. Its just that I think some French could care less about that.....And, its hard to see if they really care about your situation, their English tends to be sort of rough and they translate too literally using grammatical structuring in French that seems rude to us (or at least I think). It also can make you feel the attitude is so sucky too -- instead of "I'll see what I can do but it does not look good" for helping out on another flight. The answer is simply "It's not possible" to get on another flight. The latter is probably accurate, its their method of phrasing could be softer.

As much as I could have seen the Departed and eaten at a MickeyD's on the Friday night I was in Paris, cultural differences are stingingly present when you actually have to interact with the locals.
posted by skepticallypleased at 4:58 PM on November 27, 2006

Call Air France. Despite what they told you at the airport, it is very likely that when you politely explain the situation and politely explain how frustrating it was, they will politely credit you with substantial travel vouchers.
posted by desuetude at 5:19 PM on November 27, 2006

I can't understand how a passenger really loses all their rights if well, life, legitmately throws a wrench in their plans!

Life sucks: a four-hour Boston traffic jam cost me the only missed flight of my life, and AirTran's agents weren't any more sympathetic for speaking English. (CDG security can be rotten, though: a good friend got the bare room once-over after the goons refused to believe that the metal detector was being set off by her artificial hip.)

Ultimately, if you bump against the airlines' rules, you're at their mercy. Write to the US corporate HQ, and make it sound like you've got plenty of money to spend on future flights.
posted by holgate at 5:35 PM on November 27, 2006

Read the small print and research. It's a decent mantra for all overseas travel, and you will save yourself a lot of hassle. The size of Charles de Gaulle was the first thing I noted when planning my trip to need to do your homework and quit complaining.
posted by fire&wings at 5:37 PM on November 27, 2006

I am really surprsied that they wouldn't just let you change the ticket. Not get a credit and buy a new fare but simply pay a change fee and get on a later flight or go standby.

I've never in all my years of flying (and I have coworkers who have probably never made a flight on time!) heard of anyone having to buy a whole other ticket when they missed a flight. Having said that Air France are total bastards, no doubt about it. Them and Air Canada comprise the very short list of airlines I will NEVER fly on again.
posted by fshgrl at 5:46 PM on November 27, 2006

(And, come on, I'm a college educated American -- you'd think I know enough to read departure screens at an airport -- and, well, my flight was simply not listed)

That sucks -- but those screens in my experience are run by the airport, not the airline. You could try complaining to the airport authority, but in the end, they'll probably rightfully tell you there are a lot of ways to get the information you needed, including calling the airline or asking an agent in the terminal you first found yourself in (they should be able to tell you even if they're not from the same airline.)

I must say, it's pretty unbecoming to complain about the French employees' English-speaking ability.
posted by loiseau at 5:47 PM on November 27, 2006

I've never in all my years of flying (and I have coworkers who have probably never made a flight on time!) heard of anyone having to buy a whole other ticket when they missed a flight.

I have. Many, many times. Of course these all involved European airlines.
posted by grouse at 5:50 PM on November 27, 2006

Response by poster: Um, why in the world is it unbecoming to complain about the English speaking ability of people who work for an international corporation that has offices in the USA and England?

Plus, I was using "my complaint" about their English to assume the best about them as people. Its easier than saying "My god we should have let these assholes get run by the Germans for a couple years before saving their asses and perhaps they'd be a teeny less hypocrtical and snobbish today. Gallic class and perfection meant shit when the Nazis rolled into town and they keeled over waiting for us to bail them out you know."

I was trying to make a point about one thing the Americans simply have over other nations: customer service and the fact that in todays global economy English and being facile in it are truly useful commodities, something we Americans take for granted. If you're going to claim bilingual services -- at least try to get both languages right.
posted by skepticallypleased at 6:16 PM on November 27, 2006

Yeah, CDG is like that.

You're screwed.
posted by flabdablet at 6:59 PM on November 27, 2006

Um, why in the world is it unbecoming to complain about the English speaking ability of people who work for an international corporation that has offices in the USA and England?

So I assume you expect the gate agents at most American airports to speak English, French, German, Indian, Japanese, Spanish and several dialects of Chinese? After all, they work for international corporations with offices in all those countries.

It sucks that your flight wasn't listed, but the information you were seeking is far from secret (you probably could have gotten it with a computer, a cell phone, or by talking to a customer service rep anywhere in the airport.)

As much as this sucks, I would chalk it up as an expensive lesson in the reality of international travel. Also, my experience is that the airlines are particularly hardass about cutoffs on flights into the United States. my assumption is that it's so Homeland Security can see if any of us are scary terrorists.
posted by Tacos Are Pretty Great at 7:56 PM on November 27, 2006

I was trying to make a point about one thing the Americans simply have over other nations: customer service--

Ah. Okay. Unfortunately, the name of the site isn't 'Ask MetaFilter For Sympathy'.

See, the answer you apparently want is 'Those horrible, horrible Frogs! Here's a number you can call that will get you a first class flight back to Paris and the opportunity to slap the chief executive of Air France across the face!' Truth is, you got a cheap fare and learned an expensive lesson, just as I learned that, pre-Big Dig, planning to get to Logan four hours in advance meant missing my flight. Life sucks sometimes.
posted by holgate at 9:37 PM on November 27, 2006

Same thing happened to me at CDG with a different airline. Myself and 5 other people in line were waiting to check in, when suddenly the lights at the window went off and the fellow said "Flight's full. No more."

We all had tickets, but we were still standing in line at the one-hour-before cut-off time. So we were all denied entrance.

Unlike you, I don't have $1,200 so Big Important Me can get back to the dear United States the same day. I went back and forth between Paris and CDG for three days, on a standby list with the 5 other people. After that, I just gave up and lived at CDG for three or four days. Most of the other five people were elderly and had priority over me; even after they went on their ways I was bumped by interim standbys (unaccompanied minors, people in wheelchairs, rich folks who made more of an impression than I). After a week or so I managed to get out of Roissy.

Now I get there very early.
posted by baklavabaklava at 10:12 PM on November 27, 2006

My partner had the same problem with lousy monitors that don't give complete information, at Johanesburg International. Fortuneately, he was just trying to get home (90 minute flight) . But he did have to find a place to stay overnight. Only it was a case of him checked in, waiting for the flight to appear on the board, while sitting at a wi-fi spot in the terminal!
posted by Goofyy at 12:26 AM on November 28, 2006

Normally the Ticket / Eticket will have the terminal on it as part of the flight information. I have an Air France fight confirmation email here and it tells me I'm flying to and from Terminal 2F at CDG.

If your flight confirmation has this then unfortunately the airline may be less willing to sympathise with you be unable to find the right terminal.

And whilst I take the point that Air France staff are not the biggest charmers in the world (whether speaking to them in French or English), it's really neither here nor there that their English is "rough". AF may be an international corporation but you were in France nonetheless.
posted by jontyjago at 1:58 AM on November 28, 2006

Air France suck. I flew London-Paris-Mexico City earlier this year and my luggage got left in Paris on the way there AND on the way back.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 2:06 AM on November 28, 2006

Just as information, I found that the bus drivers between terminals at CDG have a list saying which terminal all flights depart from. (I got there with 2 hours to spare, and checked in at the last minute).

Every airline I've flown, they definitely have hard checkin deadlines - what on earth is a 'flat tire policy?'. I have also missed a flight by only arriving 55 minutes before departure. You'll never do it again (or you have more money than sense).
posted by jacalata at 4:38 AM on November 28, 2006

You've learned a lesson. Unfortunately, it was an expensive one. You may have luck with customer service depts and the airport (who are in charge of the flight info screens).

In future, check-in online. You'll get to pick your seat and get the details of your flight (inc. departure) given with arrival times. Details for Air France here.

If you don't have experience of an airport (and remember arriving is a lot different to departing) go to its website and look for maps & information about departures. IME 30+mins between terminals at a major airport isn't unusual.

Remember: If you are saving money you are not going to get the same treatment & perks as someone who is paying full price, even in economy and that includes being put on an alternative flight.

Also: US ATC/DoHS are a total pain when it comes to entering US air space these days. All flight lists have to be sent in advance and cleared before the flight can take off from its destination so the airline has to close the flight on time. I flew to PHX in September and the plane was kept on the runway for an hour because some 5-year-old kid didn't check out first go.

And people, please stop crying about things being different abroad. It's abroad. That's the whole f***ing point.
posted by i_cola at 5:25 AM on November 28, 2006

Here in the US, we have Ralph Nader (in his 70s-era awesomeness) to thank for not getting bumped.
posted by footnote at 7:18 AM on November 28, 2006

That's incredibly frustrating. And yes, customer service abroad is rarely as good as in the US. I think people are mis-reading your comments as whining.

As a cf., my sister and I missed a United flight from Korea to Boston a few years ago by checking in a few minutes late (after our taxi driver took us to the ferry port, instead of the airport), and United kindly put us on the next day's flight for free, even though their screens showed they had no availability for 1 month. The Korean agents told us for hours that there was nothing that could be done, but when we finally called the US 800#, the agent made the change immediately. So I do think AF was particularly lame about this, or actually, I'm surprised about how accomodating most airlines are about these issues.

When I've had problems with airlines in the past I have (1) tried to exhaust all possible options as far as people who might be able to help; and if I've gotten the "wrong" answer, I've tried again with different people once or twice to some success; (2) I've filed better business bureau complaints and gotten a bit of satisfaction. I don't know if that would work for you, since AF is a French company, but does operate in the US.
posted by Amizu at 9:39 AM on November 28, 2006

Response by poster: Wow -- the reaction from here is rather diverse, and, well, yes I'll admit, I was somewhat at fault. I'll still maintain that if the same thing happened in an American airport or airline, they'd be a lot more forthcoming.

And, bakla, I thought about staying.....but I didn't know anyone to ask about crashing in Paris and hotels were going to be at least $75/night (for a two star).

All of Air France's flights were $3000 the next day and the agent was simply not telling me what my options were. Really, she had this look that I just needed to get out of her life. It was not helpful. The only reason I got the $1200 fare is that I bought a return trip on American that I probably won't use......(another tip that she could have told me instead of some crazy inspiration magically coming to me.....)

Ok, well, this thread looks to have brought out some CDG horror stories and surviving tips, let's hope it helps someone later........

Flying in 2006 can be a wierd experience....
posted by skepticallypleased at 9:40 AM on November 28, 2006

Response by poster: Oh -- I also bought through Orbitz and printed out all my stuff meticulously....ticket number, confirmation, everything -- no's really a perfect storm of events that seems to get people who get TO airport two hours before their flight still miss their flight for arriving late.
posted by skepticallypleased at 9:44 AM on November 28, 2006

I agree with the majority above. If the flight isn't posted, you ask someone. If they don't speak English, you ask someone else.
posted by kdern at 10:02 AM on November 28, 2006

You have my sympathy for the CDG experience. I second jontyjago's comments that the terminal # is usually printed on all my reservations. I reckon your odds on recovering any money are slim, it's the fault of CDG, not AF.
I think CDG is undergoing the pains that Schiphol did during the rebuilding, except that CDG has nowhere to go and all the terminals are horrible. Thankfully AMS seems to be improving the past couple of years and no longer losing my bags.
I've hit the time deadline when delayed by an ice storm, did me no good and I had to buy a new ticket (KLM).
Tip of the week: check-in on the internet if possible. Last week I was delayed getting to an SAS flight and they paged me, even though they'd closed the flight as I was already checked in (even more surprising considering the check-in kisk had put me on the follwoing flight already!), I'd given up hope of making the flight and bought a coffee.
posted by arcticseal at 1:18 PM on November 28, 2006

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