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It pays to read the rules

The Baltimore Sun

The Q:

Flying can be stressful enough, but it is even worse when you get to the airport and they won't let you on the plane.

That happened to reader Jeff Rogers on Nov. 30 when he was supposed to board US Airways Flight 755 for a 1:15 p.m. flight from Paris to Philadelphia.

"I got to the check-in 45 minutes before the flight, and the agent told me that the check-in closed one hour prior to takeoff," Rogers said. "I was furious. I argued with her about having carry-on luggage and I had plenty of time to make the flight. She denied me a boarding pass."

When Rogers asked to see something in writing that spelled out the one-hour requirement, he said the agent provided him nothing concrete. Rogers then escalated his complaint by asking to speak with a supervisor, but he, too, denied Rogers any resolution over the phone.

"At that time, I paid $200 [and] fees to be booked on Flight No. 755 on Dec. 1," Rogers said. "When I received the boarding pass for this flight, I read the departure requirements, which clearly state that a boarding pass must be obtained 45 minutes before scheduled departure. I need to be reimbursed for this huge inconvenience."

US Airways denied his request by e-mail, Rogers said.

The A:

Since we didn't witness the sequence of events, we can only pass on US Airways' rules for check-in. They urge customers to give themselves time to check in, get boarding passes, clear security and get to the gate.

The airline closes passenger and baggage check-in 30 minutes before departure for domestic travel and 60 minutes before departure for international travel. After check-in, if passengers are not waiting in the boarding area at least 15 minutes before the scheduled departure time, the airline's Web site says your reservation may be canceled and you won't be eligible for denied-boarding compensation.

"Based on the information he gave us, he showed up for check-in 45 minutes before the flight was leaving," said Derek Hanna, a US Airways spokesman. "He had not checked in, he was not through security, he probably hadn't cleared customs yet either, and so he was not at the gate. He had to be at the gate at least 15 minutes prior to takeoff."

In other words, giving yourself 45 minutes to check in and board an international flight is just asking for trouble.

US Airways recommends that passengers check in online for domestic and international flights starting at 24 hours and up to 90 minutes before the scheduled departure time. That way, if you're running short on time and have no bags to check, you just have to make it through security.

"We recommend that customers please allow additional time for parking and security lines due to heavy summer and holiday airport traffic," Hanna said. "This is especially true at busy international airports such as Paris-Charles de Gaulle."

As for the boarding passes, Hanna says that check-in rules are not printed on boarding passes. However, ticket jackets do state that customers need to be at the boarding gate 45 minutes before departure for international flights and 30 minutes before departure for domestic flights.

"Mr. Rogers purchased his ticket online, so these terms and conditions were given to him before he purchased his ticket," Hanna said. "Furthermore, he was sent an e-mail which confirmed his purchase and further outlined our check-in procedures."

As a gesture of goodwill, Hanna said, US Airways will offer Rogers a $100 electronic voucher.

As of press time, Rogers had not responded.

Reach Consuming Interests by e-mail at consuming interests@baltsun .com or by phone at 410-332-6151. Find an archive of Consuming Interest columns at baltimoresun.com/consuming

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