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My family flew in Kiev-Paris-Dublin to visit us in Ireland, end-to-end return flights booked with AF-KLM.

Unfortunately, they were stopped at the boarding for the Paris to Dublin flight, due to an Irish visa issue that wasn't spotted by anyone until that point of time. The AF agent in the airport suggested they speak to an Irish embassy and try to rectify the visa.

The visa was fixed and they are in Dublin now, but the KLM customer service says that they will need to pay a large (circa 250 EUR) penalty fee to be allowed to fly back on their return tickets, since they didn't use their journey to Dublin, and that they can only complete a (possible!) check-in for flight in the airport itself.

Is that sort of penalty legal and what can we potentially do to avoid the fee/make sure they can fly tomorrow?

EDIT: Went to the airport, AF/KLM told us to pay 250 EUR per person to fly the original return tickets. Time was unfortunately very tight, so we ended up going with this option.

Also, if we had any idea this was the case even a day or two ago, we would have just flown with Air Moldova flight as suggested in the answers.

Overall, they followed all recommendations of the airline staff, starting from their suggestion to remain in Paris to fix the visa, and still ended up paying a huge fine for no reason at all.

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    How did they fly from Paris to Dublin? Did they change the original Paris-Dublin leg, or did they book new tickets for that? Terms of carriage usually specify that segments must be used in sequence, so one missed segment often means the rest of the trip is cancelled (or the whole sequence needs to be rebooked on a possibly different fare, which explains the fee here). – jcaron Apr 5 at 22:15
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    @jcaron they went to the office of AF after they got the visa, were told they need a new ticket for Paris to Dublin leg, and flew with Ryanair in the end. At no point they were advised that the original return tickets were/could be affected, especially since AF staff were fully aware that they didn't make their original journey – Iarek Kovtunenko Apr 6 at 13:07
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While the other answer is 100% correct you need to consider just tossing that ticket and buying a new one. Very broadly speaking, within Europe, you rarely need to pay 250 EUR per person even last minute. A quick look shows me tickets on Air Moldova and Vueling both for 205 and 208 EUR tomorrow, to save a little money but it's possible more search could find even lower – especially if their visa and circumstances allow staying for 1-2 days more.

  • To me, the original post is unclear whether the €250 penalty is total or per person. – krubo Apr 6 at 7:48
  • Thanks for checking the tickets, appreciate that! :) This seems like the most helpful suggestion to me - if time permitted we would have saved about 100 to 200 EUR by flying alternative airline. – Iarek Kovtunenko Apr 6 at 13:11
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    @DavidRicherby 250 fine is per person as well, and not per booking :( That also wasn't clear from the customer support when I rang them. – Iarek Kovtunenko Apr 6 at 13:13
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You are lucky that the return flights are usable at all.
Often, when you don't fly one leg, all remaining legs of the ticket are forfeited and lost.

The visa issue is exclusively the travellers responsibility, and no airline covers that risk for you. The airline let them board for the first leg, which they probably shouldn't have, but that would have been only the airline's issue if the visa's couldn't be cleared, and they had to fly back immediately (which was not the case).

So the airline allowing you to change the flights back for a relatively small amount, instead of asking you to buy completely new one-way tickets is already accomodating. Take it, and be thankful.

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