Here’s why you shouldn’t show up late to the gate

Stephen Oualline and his daughter showed up late to the gate in Kona, Hawaii, for their Alaska Airlines trip to San Diego. How late? The plane had already departed. Now he wants us to help him — but can we?

Oualline’s says they arrived at the airport more than two hours before the flight. They checked in, checked their bags, transited through security and stopped to eat at one of the airport restaurants before proceeding to the gate.

Showing up late to the gate

According to Oualline, they arrived at the gate 15 minutes before the scheduled departure time. He says the gate agent told them the flight had departed 30 minutes prior to departure. And he told our advocacy team that the airline’s representative refused to rebook him at no charge. He then had no other choice but to purchase new tickets for himself and his daughter — with a 13-hour layover in Seattle.

They found the gate assigned to their new flight, but the next flight to board at that gate was to Oakland, not Seattle. Oualline decided to trade in his tickets and go to Oakland instead. Once they arrived in Oakland they were told that no Oakland to San Diego flight existed.

Oualline says, “Alaska Airlines dumped us there. My daughter and I had to spend the night in the Oakland airport with no food, no hotel, no luggage.” They booked flights on Southwest Airlines home to San Diego the next morning.

Showing up late to the gate doesn’t lead to involuntarily denied boarding compensation

With a total of $5,800 in unplanned expenses, Oualline asked Alaska Airlines for a refund. In his complaint, he asserted that Alaskan Airlines had involuntarily denied them boarding. He cited FAA regulations regarding overbooking. Alaska offered him a $150 credit towards his next flight, but he refused. So he filed a complaint with the FAA and never received a response.

That’s when Oualline reached out to our advocacy team. He could have reached out to the executives for Alaska Airlines that we list on our site. But he believes that the airline stonewalled him and showed a “total lack of concern” about his predicament.

Our advocate, Dwayne Coward, agreed to review his case and asked for clarification on his arrival at the gate. Oualline stated that he arrived at the gate 15 minutes prior to the flight’s departure.

Unfortunately for Oualline, Alaska Airlines sets forth rules on when travelers must arrive at the gate. According to his own recollection, he arrived late to the gate. The airline specifies on its Check-in & boarding cut-off times page that all passengers must be at the gate, with a valid boarding pass, no later than 30 minutes prior to the flight’s scheduled departure.

If a guest isn’t present 30 minutes prior to the flight, Alaska may cancel your reserved seats — or your entire reservation.

Dwayne provided all of this information to Oualline. But Oualline continued to insist that he and his daughter were indeed victims of involuntary bumping — and he started arguing with our advocate.

What does The Department of Transportation say about gate arrival times?

Oualline insisted that the FAA dictates that passengers must be at an airline’s departure gate a minimum of 10 minutes prior to a flight’s departure. Since he arrived at his gate 15 minutes prior he was not late to the gate he maintains. But he fails to acknowledge the text on gate arrival times included in the Department of Transportation’s Fly Rights website:

Each airline has a check-in deadline, which is the amount of time before scheduled departure that you must present yourself to the airline at the airport. For domestic flights most carriers require you to be at the departure gate between 10 minutes and 30 minutes before scheduled departure, but some deadlines can be an hour or longer. Check-in deadlines on international flights can be as much as three hours before scheduled departure time. Some airlines may simply require you to be at the ticket/baggage counter by this time; most, however, require that you get all the way to the boarding area. Some may have deadlines at both locations. If you miss the check-in deadline, you may have lost your reservation and your right to compensation if the flight is oversold.

The text clearly indicates that each airline sets its own rules for check-in and gate arrival. Oualline simply didn’t arrive at the gate on time and was unavailable for boarding. So Alaska Airlines either allowed their two seats to fly empty or reassigned them to passengers on stand-by.

Alaska Airlines’ responsibility

Alaska Airlines personnel may or may not have had the authority to rebook his flights at no charge, but they clearly didn’t have to do anything for him. If Oualline argued with them the way he argued with us, and made the threats about FAA complaints that he claimed to us, they may have decided to stick to the rules instead of bending them for him.

We’re not sure why Oualline decided to exchange his newly purchased tickets to go to Oakland. Alaska Airlines doesn’t have a direct flight between Oakland and San Diego — in fact, they would have had to fly from Oakland to Seattle (where he was originally scheduled to go), and then on to San Diego. This may be why, when he arrived in Oakland, the airline couldn’t accommodate them onward to San Diego. The amount they paid for the Seattle to San Diego flight was likely less than the cost of an Oakland-Seattle to San Diego flight.

Since they seem to have arrived in Oakland without onward flights, the airline does not owe them accommodations or meals for their layover. Their bags likely were on the original flights from which they chose to deviate — hopefully, the luggage eventually caught up with them back in San Diego.

The bottom line

Alaska Airlines offered Oualline a $150 credit on a future flight. Had he negotiated rather than flatly refused and moved on to the FAA, he might have been able to get a better deal from Alaska. But the reality is that Oualline made a series of bad decisions that directly resulted in his multi-day flight debacle.

We can’t help Oualline, but we can help other airline passengers by advising you to learn the airline’s rules on flight check-in and gate arrival time — and follow those rules. If you do follow them and still find yourself sitting at the gate after your flight departs, we’ll be glad to help.

Share this story
Share on Twitter Share on LinkedIn Share on Facebook

Underwritten by

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Cavalry Travel Insurance

Cavalry takes the worry of out travel by providing 24/7 access to medical and security professionals combined with the best medical evacuation and security extraction services. Cavalry gets you home safely when you need it most. Learn more at Cavalrytravelinsurance.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Seven Corners

Seven Corners has helped customers all over the world with travel difficulties, big and small. As one of the few remaining privately owned travel insurance companies, Seven Corners provides insurance plans and 24/7 travel assistance services to more than a million people each year. Because we’re privately held, we can focus on the customer without the constraints that larger companies have. Visit Seven Corners to learn more.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Sodexo North America

Sodexo North America Sodexo North America is part of a global, Fortune 500 company with a presence in 80 countries. Sodexo is a leading provider of integrated food, facilities management and other services that enhance organizational performance, contribute to local communities and improve quality of life for millions of customers in corporate, education, healthcare, senior living, sports and leisure, government and other environments daily. Learn more at Sodexoinsights.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travelex Insurance Services

Travelex Insurance Services is a leading travel insurance provider in the United States with over 55 years combined industry expertise of helping people dream, explore and travel with confidence. We offer comprehensive travel insurance plans with optional upgrades allowing travelers to customize the plans to fit their needs. Compare plans, get a quote and buy online at Travelexinsurance.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by AirHelp

AirHelp is the world’s leading flight delays compensation company, helping passengers apply for compensation following a delayed or canceled flight or when boarding has been denied. It is AirHelp’s mission to fight for passenger rights by holding airlines accountable for flights disruptions that are out of passengers’ control. AirHelp has already helped 5 million people, taking the stress out of applying for compensation and making it as hassle-free as possible for travelers around the world.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Allianz Travel Insurance

The Allianz Travel Insurance company has built its reputation on partnering with agents all around the world to provide comprehensive travel insurance for their clients. Contact Allianz Travel Insurance for a comprehensive list of coverage.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Chubb

Chubb is the world’s largest publicly traded property and casualty insurance company, and recognized as the premier provider of insurance for successful individuals and families in the U.S. and selected international markets, offering coverage for high-value automobile, homeowners, recreational marine/aviation, valuables and umbrella liability coverage. As an underwriting company, Chubb assesses, assumes and manages risk with insight and discipline, and combines the precision of craftsmanship with decades of experience to conceive, craft and deliver the best insurance coverage and services to individuals, families and business of all size.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Enterprise Holdings

A family-owned, world-class portfolio of brands. A global network that spans across more than 85 countries. Some 97,000 dedicated team members sharing common values. And more than 1.9 million vehicles taking our customers wherever they need to go.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Fareportal

Fareportal’s portfolio of brands, which include  CheapOair and  OneTravel, are dedicated to helping customers enjoy their trip. Whether you want to call, click, or use one of our travel apps, one thing is clear: We make it easy to take it easy.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Insuremyrentalcar.com

An independent provider of low cost CDW/LDW insurance for use with rental cars. Up to $100,000 cover with no deductible. Policies available on a per day, per trip or per year basis. Also works with overseas rentals. Try  Insuremyrentalcar.comnow.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Mediacom Communications

The nation’s fifth-largest cable operator, serving the smaller cities and towns in the Midwest and Southern regions of the United States. We are a high-performance broadband, entertainment, and communications company that brings the power of modern technology and quality customer experience to life inside the connected home by combining ultra-fast gigabit speeds with personalized local and over-the-top entertainment choices that fit your lifestyle. Details at  Mediacomcable.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Arch RoamRight

Arch RoamRight is one of the fastest growing, most-highly rated travel insurance companies in the United States. Travel advisors love working with us, and travelers feel protected with our trip cancellation and travel medical insurance coverage. We also make it easy to file a claim online with our fast, paperless claims website. Learn more about RoamRight travel insurance.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Virtuoso

The leading global network for luxury and experiential travel. This invitation-only organization comprises over 1,000 travel agency locations with 17,500 advisors in over 45 countries, and holds preferred relationships with 1,700 of the world’s finest travel companies. Virtuoso advisors collaborate with their clients to create personalized itineraries featuring exclusive perks, while also providing advice, access, advocacy, and accountability. For more information, visit  Virtuoso.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by VisitorsCoverage

As a company that is constantly striving to simplify travel insurance, VisitorsCoverage, is on a mission to help travelers make the better decisions about purchasing travel insurance, quickly. VisitorsCoverage has helped millions of travelers globally to buy the suitable travel insurance and explore the world with confidence. Get insurance for your next trip at  VisitorsCoverage. Lowest Price Guaranteed.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by MedjetAssist

Medjet is the premier global air-medical transport, travel security and crisis response membership program for travelers. With a MedjetAssist membership, if you become hospitalized more than 150 miles from home, we will get you from that unfamiliar hospital all the way home to the hospital you trust. All you ever pay is your membership fee. MedjetHorizon members add 24/7 personal security and crisis response benefits. Elliott.org readers enjoy discounted rates. Travel safer with  MedjetAssist.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Southwest Airlines

The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by TravelInsurance.com

TravelInsurance.com makes it fast and easy to compare and buy travel insurance online from top rated providers. Our unbiased comparison engine allows travelers to read reviews, compare pricing and benefits and buy the right policy with a price guarantee, every time. Compare and buy travel insurance now at  TravelInsurance.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Squaremouth

Squaremouth helps travelers easily and instantly compare travel insurance policies from all major providers. Only companies that meet the strict requirements of Squaremouth’s Zero Complaint Guarantee are available on the website. Compare policies on  Squaremouth.com to save over 70 percent on your next purchase.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travel Leaders Group

Travel Leaders Group is transforming travel through its progressive approach toward each unique travel experience. Travel Leaders Group assists millions of travelers through its leisure, business and network travel operations under a variety of diversified divisions and brands including All Aboard Travel, Andrew Harper Travel, Colletts Travel, Corporate Travel Services, CruCon Cruise Outlet, Cruise Specialists, Nexion, Protravel International, SinglesCruise.com, Travel Leaders Corporate, Travel Leaders Network and Tzell Travel Group, and its merger with ALTOUR. With more than 7,000 agency locations and 52,000 travel advisors, Travel Leaders Group ranks as one of the industry’s largest retail travel agency companies.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travelers United

If you’ve been mistreated by the airlines, Travelers United is your voice in Washington. Join the #1 travel advocacy organization working with Congress to improve and protect travelers. Plus, get $400 of annual benefits you can use for travel for only $29/year. Add your voice to ours. Make travel better.  Join today.