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Recently I attempted to catch a flight from a London airport on Ryanair.

I arrived at departures reception 25 minutes before the flight, 11.35am - my ticket was scanned. Then I proceeded thru security check-in and quickly ran from the departures lounge to the gate.

Unsurprisingly I missed the flight, arriving at the gate 10 minutes before take-off time, 11.50am - the passengers had boarded and the plane was taxiing to the runway.

I was kept at the gate for an hour before staff finally accompanied me from the departures area to the information desk.

I handed over a transfer fee of hundred and ten pounds to the ticket clerk at the information desk.

This is the crux of my posting:

After the details of my payment were entered into the computer by the ticket clerk, the clerk responded to a phonecall where he claimed "she should pay the fee as she arrived at the gate at 12.10pm".

It seems the caller was disputing the necessity of the payment with the clerk, as I had been registered arriving at the departure reception at 11.35am, where my boarding ticket was scanned.

I got to the gate 10 minutes before midday. There is a 20 minute difference between this time and the 12.10pm claim of the ticket clerk. A sufficient time difference for the budget carrier to charge me the full cost of the transfer.

The budget airline benefited from their mistake of thinking I got to the gate at 12.10pm rather then before 12.00pm.

My question is:

If I find myself in a similar difficulity again, what is the best approach to challenging the budget airline about the disputed time I arrived at the gate? Could I have encouraged the gate staff to support my claim?

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2 Answers

While they shouldn't have lied like that you legitimately missed your flight anyway. Airlines always require you to be at the gate some number of minutes before the flight, usually at least 10.

Departure time is when they plan to actually move the aircraft. They have to get everyone seated and all the luggage stowed, the last possible boarding has to be some minutes before the departure time in order to accomplish this.

Next time you should allow more time!

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With no evidence at hand, I had little grounds to argue my claim for a transfer flight without the expensive fee.

If I am in a similar situation again, a photograph with both the flight information and clock-time displayed at the gate, would be evidence to hedge against claims that I had arrived at the gate sometime after 12.00pm.

A photograph with the gate clock displaying 11.50pm would have curtailed the ticket clerk from citing 12.10pm as the time when the passenger first met the gate staff. The fee requested would not have been incurred if the correct time of 11.50pm was considered by the information desk.

This may seem a pedantic point but for the airline it is not: Ryanair benefited financially from the inability of the passenger to assert the earlier time.

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@Mark Mayo: Newbies are unable to immediately post an answer to a question they have written - an 8 hour time limit applies; only then can a poster can reply to their question as an answer rather then as a comment - a constraint that went unnoticed in the remarks provided. –  skyward Sep 21 '12 at 16:05
    
I promise it wasn't meant to sound patronising, you'd posted it as a comment twice, and rather than accidentally say something that I thought was causing confusion, I tried to be as clear as possible. Thanks - didn't know about the 8 hour timelimit. –  Mark Mayo Sep 21 '12 at 17:53
    
-1 What is this all based on? AFAIK, if you didn't plan enough time and fail to show up at the gate in time, you missed the flight and you are not entitled to anything. This has happened to me before despite the fact that I had planed almost an hour and the airline still declined any responsibility (security personnel was new and started late on that day which created very long cue, handling personnel then directed me to a slower lane based on my destination). If they are indeed bent on conning you, what makes you think they would accept some sort of shaky evidence like a mobile phone photo? –  Annoyed Nov 4 '13 at 10:21
    
Whatever you are claiming or think you can prove, you're still stuck at the airport and in need of a replacement flight to avoid ruining your trip/week/week-end. Even walking out and seeking another airline is likely to cost you a lot, even assuming you could somehow recover these costs later on (which is unlikely in practice). Your only recourse would be to sue them but it does not seem worth the trouble. –  Annoyed Nov 4 '13 at 10:21
    
In the case I mentioned above, an employee of the airline was ready to back my story, gave me her full details and encouraged me to file a complain through the website and yet I did not receive anything in the end. That's the reality of budget airlines, you're deluding yourself if you think that some clever trick would change anything. –  Annoyed Nov 4 '13 at 10:30
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