To make a long story short I had an international flight this morning (Toronto -> Newark -> Caribbean). I had no checked bags so I arrived 2 hours before the flight. The kiosks could not complete the check-in, so I was told I need to wait in line. I waited for 2 hours to reach the front. The agent said they were short on staff because their employees typically call in sick on Sunday mornings (I heard this repeated multiple times). It was basically chaos as everyone was missing their flights. They gave me the option of putting me on a flight 24 hours later, or on a flight this evening with an overnight stop in Chicago. They said because I was not in line 3 hours before the flight I was at fault and not entitled to any compensation. For example, they wouldn't be able to pay for a hotel in Chicago, a taxi, etc. So, they put me on the flight tomorrow and gave me a meal voucher.
Is this right? If I don't arrive 3 hours before an international flight in Canada I'm automatically at fault?
Edit: My booking confirmation email says check-in times vary per airport and to view the guidelines on their website. These guidelines say to ensure I check-in at least one hour before the flight. When I attempted to check-in the night before United Airlines sent this email. It said my passport information needed to be verified, and if I don't have checked bags I should use a kiosk to print my boarding pass at least one hour prior to the flight. I was standing at that kiosk 2 hours before the flight.
The only reference I see to 3 hours is a brief mention to the TSA advising passengers at US airports to arrive 3 hours before international flights. This wasn't a US airport, and this wasn't any type of agreement between myself and United Airlines.
Does the general TSA advisory absolve all US airlines from any responsibility to check-in passengers that do not arrive 3 hours before an international flight?
Or United Airlines can simply ask passengers to leave themselves enough time to check-in, and that means they are never at fault for not checking in passengers regardless of when they arrive at the airport?