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Airline closed gate early, denied boarding and replacement flight

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After being warned that representatives from the airlines troll these boards, I have decided not to use the name of the airline I am in a dispute with. Sorry if this seems evasive, but I don't want to inadvertantly give them cause for any action. Needless to say it is a popular low cost airline.

 

The short story is that the airline's check-in desk was closed when I arrived at the airport for a flight back from holiday. The airline did not have employees at the airport, but contracted with a ticketing agent to run the desk. The ticketing agent advised me to call the airline. The airline stated that I had to buy a new ticket (reasons detailed below). Unfortunately the next flight to my home city was two days later; so I had to buy tickets from a different airline for a flight leaving that evening. Although it left the same day, it went to a city 4 hours away from my home.

 

That's the condensed story of what happened on the day I was supposed to fly back home. My main argument is:

 

  1. My booking confirmation states "check in will close 30 minutes before the scheduled departure time",
  2. When I tried to use web checkin on the day of my flight, the following error message was displayed, " We’re sorry that we can’t process your web check-in request. Please arrive at the airport (no later than 30 minutes prior to departure) where our staff will be happy to check you in."
  3. I arrived at the checkin desk more than 40 minutes before departure (I have proof kindly supplied by a competing airline at an adjacent desk).
  4. Given 1-3 above, the airline screwed up and should reimburse the cost of my replacement tickets, additional travel expenses and costs.

The airlines argument is:

  1. The desk at this particular airport closes 45 minutes before checkin.
  2. They recommend (on website and booking form) that passengers arrive 2 hours before departure. Had I taken their advice, this would not have happened.
  3. Given 1-2 above, the airline did not screw up and is not liable.

Is my reasoning flawed? They explicitly state that the checkin desk will close 30 minutes prior to departure. They also recommend that passengers arrive 2 hours before departure. Which one rules the day?

 

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

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If it's on your booking form then I guess that does.

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