Why That Airline Didn’t Hold Your Connecting Flight For You

Delta, Operations

My first flight was late, but I thought I could make my connection. I ran up to the gate, the airplane was there, but the door was closed. Why didn’t they hold my connecting flight for me?
-Every person who has ever flown

I believe this question was first asked by Orville Wright who, after piloting the first successful powered flight, missed his connection when Wilbur took off without him. And it’s something that has vexed travelers ever since that day.

Gate Agent Closes the Door

On the surface, it seems so easy. You made it to the gate before departure time, but the airplane pushed back 5 minutes early. Why the f*&@ couldn’t they hold that airplane? There are actually a lot of reasons why. Whether they’re good reasons or not is in the eye of the beholder. (If you’re a traveler who just missed a connection, it’s NEVER a good reason.)

I talked to a Delta spokesperson to get a better sense of how that airline, the on-time king among the big four US airlines, goes about determining whether or not to hold a flight.

At Delta, each hub has its own airport coordination center to make these calls. Non-hub decisions run through Atlanta. And a lot goes into that decision.

Impacting the Fewest People
Let’s say one person is going to miss a connection unless they hold her flight. Is it worth holding the airplane while inconveniencing the 150 people already onboard? In most cases, that would be silly. What if 15 people are going to miss the flight by 5 minutes? That changes things. But even more important may be what options exist for those people.

Are they connecting through LA to get to San Francisco and there’s another flight with plenty of seats a mere 1 hour later? If so, it’s highly unlikely they’ll hold that airplane. Is this the last flight of the night? There’s a better chance they’ll hold it. I mean, if it’s only 5 minutes…

It’s Not a 5 Minute Delay
One of the misconceptions, however, is that it’s just a 5 minute delay when it could very well be more. I asked Delta specifically about Los Angeles, since that’s where a client recently got stuck when her flight from San Jose was late and they didn’t hold the last Honolulu flight of the night. Though I couldn’t get specifics about that particular flight, I was told that gate space is a real issue there and that makes holding even trickier.

Delta is gate-constrained at LAX and it schedules a bunch of airplanes with little slack on each gate every day. That Honolulu flight left 5 minutes early. So let’s say they hold it 10 minutes so it goes 5 minutes late. She gets on board, and it takes a little bit before they’re ready to push. Add 5 minutes more. Now the airline has to get its rampers to come push the airplane back and they may be working another flight. So the Honolulu flight waits another 5 minutes. Now maybe other flights have pushed back and the airplane has to wait for the alley to be cleared before it can go. In the meantime, another airplane could be sitting on the taxiway in the penalty box waiting for that Honolulu flight to get the heck out of there.

Think about the people on that flight that’s waiting for the gate. What if those people are also trying to make their connections? Delta will allow connections as short as 35 minutes at LAX. Even a 20 minute delay could mean those people miss their flights, and those could have been the last flight of the night. All of this has to be balanced when a decision is made on whether or not to hold.

Crew Rules
As if that’s not enough, Delta, like every airline, has to consider what its crews are allowed to do. There are strict rules on how much crews can fly and how long they can be on duty. If those limits are exceeded, flights have to be canceled (unless a reserve crew is available). Again, a 5 minute delay isn’t likely to be a problem, but remember how that other delay ballooned into a 20 minute delay?

Well, what if the airplane then finds itself in the middle of peak departures at the airport? The taxi time could increase a lot because of that. And then the crew may run up against its time limits. Or maybe it’s not enough to ruin this flight for the crew, but they might have another flight right afterwards, and they won’t have enough time available for that one. If their next flight isn’t until morning, it’s possible that they won’t have the minimum required rest between flights. So the morning flight could be delayed.

If this all sounds a little too “slippery slope” to you, that’s not really the point. It would be insane to suggest this happens every single time, but the point is simply to show the complexity involved in such decisions. There is often more behind the scenes that can’t be seen while standing at the gate cursing the bastard who wouldn’t let you onboard.

Does this mean there’s always a good reason when an airline refuses to wait? I doubt it. I’m sure sometimes the pressure of trying to boost on-time numbers creeps in. Sometimes people probably just make poor decisions. That just sucks. But more often than not, it’s likely there really is a reason. At least, let’s hope that’s the case.

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50 comments on “Why That Airline Didn’t Hold Your Connecting Flight For You

  1. I understand the “extended complications,” but the flip side is also true. We were boarded and ready on Monday night at 10:00 for a 10:10 p.m. departure at CLT for a flight to FLL. American can tell you whatever it wants about an inoperable APU, but the reality is they held the flight on a night with lots of bad weather causing misconnects (only 5 additional customers made it, for a total of 75 or so on an A-321). After waiting until 11 p.m. to push back, we de-iced….waited again, and eventually arrived 2 hours late (and at 2 a.m.). The airline botched that one for all those who were on-time and now were arriving at zero-dark-30, so it can work both ways.

    1. I’m not sure what your complaint is. Are you complaining you were inconvenienced by getting deiced? Would you have had the pilots to depart with freezing rain on the wings so you would have been less inconvenienced? You were lucky to have a professional crew that was legal to fly you safely to FLL that night during a major winter weather event.

  2. Another scenario: AMERICAN gave my son and family’s 5 seats away on and oversold flight in SJU Jan 1, 2016. Even though they arrived at the gate 23 minutes before departure, they had already closed the doors and the flight left early. They would have to fly standby on every single flight until Jan 5.. AA did not take their luggage off of the plane which I thought was a security no-no. That meant they they were supposed to hang out for 4 more days without clothing. They stood by on the next flight and that gate agent did not close the gate; rather she allowed late passengers to board 6 minutes before departure.Their policy is inconsistent. It cost $2800+ to fly them home on jet Blue. AA would not offer any type of compensation.

    1. American’s contract of carriage requires you to be at the gate 15 minutes before departure. I’m not a lawyer, but if they closed it 23 minutes before, it would seem like there may be grounds for some sort of lawsuit.

      1. First response;
        On behalf of American Airlines, thank you for contacting us.
        I’m sorry your son and his family were not able to board flight 397. There are many factors taken into consideration including the number of connecting customers, crew scheduling, and additional routing of the aircraft. At the gate, we close our flights beginning 15 minutes prior to departure. Once the Captain is given the paperwork with the weight and balance of the aircraft no other passengers may be boarded. In addition, our pilots have the discretion to depart the gate 10 minutes prior to the scheduled departure time. When this happens, we will book passengers on the next flight with available seating.
        When one of our flights is delayed or cancelled, we expect our personnel to evaluate the available information and determine the best solution for all concerned. We will not hesitate to transfer our customers to another carrier in an attempt to minimize their inconvenience during an excessive delay. Of course, when we expect the problem to be resolved relatively quickly, no alternate arrangements are made, as they would be unnecessary.
        Regrettably, blanket statements regarding available flights on other airlines are not as simple as it may seem. There are times when, while another airline’s flight may show up on a schedule search (using the Internet or a departure board, for example), it is not always the case that the other airline will be willing to accept rerouted customers. They may be holding that space for their own operational needs.
        We can understand why you elected to purchase a ticket on another airline as a result of our flight delay. While we cannot reimburse you for that purchase, we are happy to issue a refund for the unused portion of our ticket.
        Despite what happened on this occasion, we hope you will continue to select American Airlines for your travel needs. We will work hard to ensure that you receive the service you expect and deserve.

        i wrote again because i did not feel that actually read my complaint thoroughly.

        2nd response;
        On behalf of American Airlines, thank you for contacting us.
        I’ve received your email and I realize that you are not happy with our original response. For this reason, I have thoroughly reviewed your case.
        I am sorry that your clients missed their flight. Reserved seats must be claimed at least 30 minutes before the scheduled departure of a flight. This is the time period we need in order to allow seat assignment or reassignment to passengers who arrive at the airport without seat reservations. It also enables us to put back in inventory those desirable seats reserved by customers who then do not show up for the flight. At 30 minutes before departure, unclaimed reserved seats are canceled and are eligible for reassignment to other customers. As we mentioned when a passenger misses their flight we will reaccommodate passengers on the next available flight with open seats. We don’t provide compensation for this type of sitaution.
        Again, we apologize for the difficulties that the passengers encountered. We value your business and are working hard to earn your continued patronage. We hope you will give us the opportunity to do so. (Note that they said my clients not my son- not too thorough if you ask me.)

        i wrote one more time.
        3rd response:
        Thank you for contacting us again and giving us another opportunity to take a look at this situation. We want our customers to have positive experiences when traveling with us, and we are very sorry that this was not your experience.
        We have thoroughly reviewed your perspective concerning this issue, and we can understand your perseverance in this matter.
        We try to avoid disagreements and do our best to clearly explain our position. When applicable, we will offer a gesture of goodwill. Still, we have a responsibility to decline compensation requests when we feel it is not appropriate. I must confirm our position has not changed.
        Let me assure you that our position does not lessen our regard for you as our customer. It is always our pleasure to serve you, and we are eager to do so again soon. Please give us another opportunity to earn your business.

        At that point i gave up. I figured they would probably take away my Executive Platinum status if i kept bugging them. Customer service is a far cry from the good old days.

        1. For flights within and between the U.S., Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands:**

          Minimum check-in is at least 30 minutes before scheduled departure in most locations
          If you’re departing from our hubs or one of the cities listed below you’ll need to check in at least 45 minutes prior to scheduled departure
          Arrive at the gate and be ready to board at least 15 minutes prior to scheduled departure


          Where does the 30 minutes in their reply come from?

          Surprised to see that captains are allowed to depart 10 minutes early. but does that change the *scheduled departure time* that the web page talks about?

          DOT complaint FTW. Obviously, do it in the pax’s names.

        2. SBH – This doesn’t sound right. Were they not checked in at 23 minutes? That’s where I think the 30 minute check-in cutoff is. If they tried to check in 23 minutes before departure then that wouldn’t be allowed. If they were checked in and at the gate 23 minutes before departure ready to board, then that would certainly be outside of policy to deny them boarding.

          That happened to me once when traveling on Delta back in 2005. I was flying out of Vegas and they shut off check-in more than 45 minutes before departure (that’s was the cutoff in Vegas for them). I gave them specifics, they researched it and agreed, giving me the money I was due for being involuntarily denied boarding. That would be pretty despicable if that happened and American wouldn’t acknowledge it.

          1. Hi Cranky, They connected from St. Barth to San Juan and heading to BOS via MIA. the maddening thing is that the flights are so overbooked that if you miss your fight you will not get on another one with available seats for days on end. This is what i wrote to AA. ‘They checked in online in, printed boarding passes, cleared immigration, customs, agriculture, went to a bag scanning kiosk, paid $125, gave their bags to an agent, received new boarding passes, cleared security & went to gate D9. They sat at a food place in eye sight of the gate & were at the gate to board at 1:47 pm-23 minutes BEFORE departure! Gate agent D. XXXXXXXXX told him she “gave” thier seats away to standbys; the door on the plane was closed! My son asked why she closed the door early; she insisted they didn’t (untrue); he was standing in front of her at 1:47pm. His boarding pass said, boarding at 1:40; doors close 10 min before departure (2pm); they weren’t late. She closed it early & deliberately gave away THEIR seats. He requested a supervisor. Joel Ortiz claimed they close doors at the right time; by now it was still 15 minutes prior to 2:10. Their bags weren’t pulled. . I thought that’s a security risk. The flight status of 397 said it departed SJU at 2:00pm-A full 10 minutes early! Why? It’s unfair & unjust on AA’s part. Mr. Ortiz said the 5 of them had to fly standby on both legs on oversold flights. They stood by SJU to PHL. No standbys got on. The flight was scheduled to go at 3:50. At 3:44 the door was still open; the gate agent allowed 3 late arrivals to board. Please explain the incongruity at the gates. I kept calling AA to ask for help. Every flight was overbooked until Jan 05. AA expected them to hang around SJU, camp out at the airport on standby with NO compensation & no bags. I found seats to BOS on Jet Blue. The SJU agent said AA could offer to pay for the tickets. No one I spoke to would even consider it. I spent $2804.50 & want reimbursement. AA created a travel nightmare that was entirely the fault of the gate agent in SJU. Your own rules state: “Arrive at the gate and be ready to board at least 15 minutes prior to scheduled departure” which they did.” Cranky, i forgot to mention that i used “Anytime” awards to get these seats which means I had to use more miles to get the seats. I thought that would protect them from being bumped. Do you think that is the reason they were so anxious to give their seats away? I am sure that someone was standing by was pressuring the gate agent, too.

            1. Just a left field question, were there any airport-specific factors affecting this?
              With American at LAX, they occasionally use the westside stands which are a 20 min drive from the terminal on a good day and as such they close the doors on the flights earlier because if they closed 10 min before departure, the flights would all leave late given the transit time of the buses due to the special circumstances of the bus operation.

            2. Not the pax’s problem. What’s printed on the BP counts. Or should.

              OP, DOT should be able to get the exact time that they were offloaded from AA. I don’t think AA would lie to the DoT.

  3. I do understand that flights are late, connections can’t be held and that airlines must consider all the things you discuss in this article. I get that it’s all a Rubik’s Cube to make things work and I have no quarrel with your explanation or airline policies.

    BUT… Airlines know it happens (every day) and as a rule I don’t think they make any attempt to be pro-active in assisting inconvenienced passengers or planning for their flight needs. If a flight to/from a hub is delayed for whatever reason, the airline should know that a number of passengers are likely to miss connections. The time the delayed flight is in the air would give the airline (or it’s automated systems) time to find alternatives for passengers, have those options waiting for them when the plane arrives, or e-mail them to passengers to read once the plane is on the ground.

    But airlines don’t do that. Instead, after the delayed flight lands, passengers must mob a ticket or customer service counter, frantically looking for help and re-routing. More delays, frustration and anger. Even if a passenger realizes before getting on a delayed plane that they are screwed, trying to find a remedy before take-off is not always possible because gate agents don’t always have time to handle a re-booking problem.

    So, if the airlines want to find a way to make the missed connection problem less chaotic for themselves and their passengers, they should find a way to make the delay domino problem more manageable for the people who buy the tickets.

    1. I’ve had a delayed United flight where on arrival my phone alerted me that they’d already rebooked me for the next morning in case I didn’t make my connection. Not sure if there are restrictions on when/where this feature is deployed, but the flight in question was BTR-IAH-JAC

    2. Isn’t that why there’s Facebook and Twitter (sarcasm) ?? I thought those two things were supposed to be the end-all, be-all for travelers in a pinch. Instead of TRAINING and hiring more employees to handle irregular operations face-to-face for EVERY passenger, they dump them on social media or telephones (which we all know is not going to work in a small amount of time). Not everyone has an iPhone or is capable of knowing what to do (ie., elderly or large families, etc.).

    3. I’ve seen this happen to me — more so on United. If you have their mobile app they have booked me on the next flight while I am still in the air with my connect. So if you make it to the gate with your first flight cool. If not you have options. Doesn’t happen every time, but it seems like tech is catching up with wi-fi on the planes and logic.

    4. On numerous occasions over the years, I’ve been delayed and each and every time, by the time I landed there was a message from AA informing me of how they had proactively rebooked me on the next legal connection (and placed me on standby for short-connections if I could made the transfer)

  4. On the flip side, some passengers are the architects of their own demise. the article states that Delta allows a 35 connection time in LAX. I know one airline that allows 30 minute connection time into a hub, oh like, lets say O’Hare. Lets say you are flying from the East Coast, especially the NY metro area, and you flight takes off from the East Coast at 4,5 or 6 o’clock. Even when things are going smoothly, you probably have a 2 in 5 chance of making it. The traffic at this time is such a fustercluck. I would not buy a ticket like this.

    I have also seen some whacky, crazy routing/connections. Why?? Because they bought it on CheapBastard.com to save a few bucks. They get screwed ad end up paying more in aggravation and, at times, cash out of pocket.

    Well why dont they just increase the connection times?? Duh?? Well that has a cost as well. I think, using the hub and spoke model, the airlines think its cost effective/acceptable to have a certain % of misconnects.

    1. AA did a schedule change on me last year that set up a 46 min connection at ORD from AA Eagle to a mainline, then something close to 4 hrs in MIA for GIG, after I had carefully booked an ITN that was well balanced at abt. 2hrs for each connection.
      46 mins is definitely a legal connection ORD, but I would never book that on an originating international 3-leg. Too stressful. On a return/last leg home, sure.
      (I was able to phone in and find an alternate routing via DFW, but the auto system went for min. legal. No thanks)

  5. This is one of several reasons I fly Southwest. They do hold connecting flights. And if you are ever sitting on a flight wondering why they haven’t closed up yet, they are courteous enough to announce “We are waiting for a few connecting passengers. They will be here in 10 mins…”. And despite not liking to be delayed, you remember that the fact that Southwest holds your connecting flight when you are on the late one is one of your reasons for putting up with all of their other weirdness.

  6. I once read that on-time departure statistics play a big role in the way (some?) companies evaluate and promote gate agents. As a result, agents are personally incentivized to close doors early, thus precluding any possibility that late arrivals might delay a departure. As this story goes, missed connections are not factored in to the gate agent performance equation, so agents naturally optimize those things (on-time departures) which benefit themselves personally, passenger convenience be damned. If all of that is true, blame the company(ies?) for improperly incentivizing their gate agents.

    Can anyone here confirm or refute this apocryphal explanation?

    1. Many airlines want a documented delay code if a passenger ticket is scanned within ten minutes of departure, and another if the plane blocks out late. Depending on the airline there is no code for “doing the right thing when the situation permits”. It’s always an assignment of blame (cough United cough), and at the end of the day the various managers have to account for it. Somewhere a supervisor is being held to task for 18% of flights having a passenger board after cutoff, and that supervisor probably won’t know and won’t get to argue that gate B12 at 832am had a few minutes to spare and the agent saw a family running to make it. There are official channels to get permission, but those aren’t often invoked except in major cases where you have large groups misconnecting or perhaps if it’s the last flight of the day.

    2. fd – I’m with Eric. It’s more the stick than the carrot. Gate agents get in trouble for pushing a flight out late (if it’s their fault). So it’s not people trying to get ahead in their career. It’s people who just don’t want to deal with the crap that comes with intentionally delaying a flight against the will of the higher power.

  7. It’s worse when your bags somehow get loaded onto the plane while you ran 4 concourses at ATL to catch the last flight out to ONT. You and 6 other passengers, all on the same DAY to ATL arrive at the gate at the same time only to see the door closed, the gate agent snarks out “planes departed. Call the 800 number from the kiosk”, and watch the plane with open cargo holds still getting bags loaded. Bags end up in ONT on the flight that had “departed” (which was unknown by DL until the next day).

    I understand some of the reasons why they depart but last flight out should allow a few extra minutes, especially if you arrive at or before the scheduled departure time. Try finding a hotel room at 11pm on a night with weather delays.

  8. I’m amazed how often and how loudly I hear travelers complain about this issue. With their “Mid-Continent” locations, DFW, IAH, HPU, and DAL seem to serve hordes of connecting pax, most of whom seem to get the “megrums” when “Late at the Gate”.

    54 years ago, I joined an aircraft carrier. Among the first lessons I learned up on the Bridge was that if the “Launch” was scheduled for 1100, it couldn’t wait until 1105, ‘cuz out there, waiting to come back to the ship to “Trap” were a bunch of a/c running low on fuel and patience. Carrier avaiation maxim: “Don’t hold the launch, even for the Admiral, lest some poor nugget find himself in the water far astern!”

  9. I once flew from A to B for a funeral. (Hub to hub.) We were delayed leaving A in order to allow a connecting passenger to make the flight as she was also travelling due to a death in the family. Then, we had a gate hold due to traffic. I ended up missing my connection in B and didn’t get out until several hours later. It’s sounds nice to hold flights, but the unintended consequences can be just as bad or worse than what was trying to be avoided.

  10. Cranky, you mention flights leaving early.

    Airlines should not be allowed to close the door and deny boarding to anyone before the documented time. If I have to be at the gate 20 mins before departure time (many boarding passes print the end-of-boarding time), then they should stick to that. They should face the same penalties for doing that as if they denied boarding due to overbooking because to the affected passenger the end result is the same.

    But I Agee that they generally can’t just hold up everything beyond the scheduled departure time to wait for delayed passengers. As a GA on FT often explains, it is difficult to predict how long a delayed passenger will take to arrive at the next gate. They might stop at a bathroom, grab food, dawdle for other reasons (perhaps they don’t expect the flight to be held)… Or maybe they are running.

    I generally schedule generous connections to minimize the risk.

  11. No matter the reasons given, travelers who have never worked in the airline industry having go make those calls, will never understand them.

  12. Upon a delayed landing last week, the flight attendant announced to please let those passengers who had tight connecting flights off the plane first so they could make their connections. With that, 99% of the passengers got up and walked off. We all know that wasn’t the case. How rude is that?

    1. I have heard that announcement many times and it never works. In the days of empty seats I have seen FAs move those pax closer to empty seats near the front, but nowadays that usually is impossible.

      Frankly, if I have a reasonable connection, hear that announcement, and then see a lot of people get up, I don’t want until the plane is empty either. How do I know when the mix-connection-threatened passengers have passed me?

    2. BB welcome to my world. Its all about me, myself and I. On the flip side I have seen it work on occasion…..

    3. I hear that announcement at hubs, where most of the passengers have connections and want to deplane ASAP.

  13. Well I paid $99 for this flight so they need to make sure I am ontime no matter what the weather or circumstances.

    If I show up at the bank, grocery store, mall, etc 5 minutes late whether it’s my fault or some other reason they usually won’t reopen the facility for me.

  14. Just another reason I fly Delta…I mean…direct.

    Seriously though, I get it and is a big reason I book the routes and schedules I do when connecting. While I could often save a few $$$ by going on another carrier through a different hub I know that if I’m connecting in DTW or ATL there are literally dozens of flights to get me home. Other places, not so much. Plan proactively for the worst and then be delighted when it all works out, which is thankfully the majority of time.

  15. It’s the apparent arbitrariness of the door closing time that is infuriating to most people in this situation. Why don’t the airlines just make the departure time the time the door will be closed? Or they could print on the boarding pass “doors close: 7:15” (and stick to it, at least on early side).

    When your commuter flight arrives at 7:10, and you sprint the 1/2 mile to gate 86C for your 7:30 flight, only to see the the door shut and your luggage getting loaded at 7:16, it’s seriously aggravating. It would be considerably less aggravating if you knew to the minute when the door to your connection is going to be closed (barring a delay that would show on the monitor), so you could assess when you get off the first plane whether to (a) haul @ss to the gate or (b) relax, go to the bathroom and wait for the line at customer service to die down. As it is now, the timing is so arbitrary that everyone chooses (a) and then gets mad when it doesn’t pan out.

  16. My rant, as usual, directed toward UA.

    UA is the king of “change-of-gauge” flight marketing (change plane en route, but the flight number ina and out of the stop doesn’t change.

    Lie 1: “You see, dear passenger, this is a “direct flight, so don’t think of this as a “connection-type” flight. You know, nonstop are “direct flights,” so you’ll love our change-of-gauge service.” Oh please!

    Lie 2: “You see, our change-of–gauge flights are not like regular connecting service. We park the inbound and outbound planes close, if not directly next to each other.” Oh please!

    Lie 3: “If you arrive at your intermediate stop a little late, we’ll hold your next flight so you won’t miss your connection.” Oh please!

    Total dishonesty.

    UA has been getting away with this dishonest marketing for years and DOT won’t stop it. No other airline is so bold to foist these lies on their travelers.

  17. In the scenario that you describe, I can -sort of – understand. But it can be much worse. (Call yourself Cranky; I can be far worse…) Some details to consider…
    I usually originate at KEUG and connect via KPDX to reach my destination or yet another connection. KEUG is a quiet, laidback outstation with minimal traffic, zero gate congestion and despite the location, very few weather related issues. I have banned one of the three major branded regional carriers from my list for very similar reasons. Please read on for a typical example, using hypothetical times: The major branded puddle-jumping regional carrier posts a departure time of 0830 for a flight to KPDX that should connect with the major’s principal morning flights from KPDX to wherever. (Please note that I travel light, rarely needing to check a bag.) I arrive plenty early. clear security and hit the gate at 0805, only to find the RJ sealed and pushing, **25 minutes EARLY** and a cheery gate agent, well aware that I have additional connection(s), reminding me that there is another flight to KPDX in about three hours. Wonderful! This is the first outstation stop of the day and the regional carrier is on time or ahead of time, and then seals and pushes **25 minutes EARLY**, leaving me behind. I miss the next two connections, KPDX-KSFO and a my link to a flight to Asia, all because the regional carrier wanted to depart even earlier than my early arrival. NUTS! That airline is OFF my list. If I had arrived at the last instant or been late, I would expect to be left behind. But when those twits dump me by closing the door and pushing **25 Minutes Early**, you can imagine that I’m something south of thrilled. Written comments to the carriers involved generate a generic ‘we’re so sorry’ response and they continue to close and push their morning flights as early as possible, generally leaving 1-2-3 pax wondering what their airplane is. It is already gone! I tried a another, later connector flying directly to KSFO and one to KSEA, but they played the same games with those morning flights, closing and pushing long before the advertised time. That airline and its regional affiliate are OFF my already limited list of choices. I well understand that a bit late can happen. We all do. But leaving early arriving and on-time pax behind by pushing up to 25 minutes early, is darn near criminal. If nothing else, why not simply change the published departure time? As noted, that Major Brand airline is off my list and they know why. If Cranky – or anyone else – has any suggestions, I’d sure like to hear them. Thank you. -CG
    -Sorry, but the slogan, “We fly where we wish, when we wish,” just won’t fly On time or even a little bit late is perfectly OK. Early departures the lock-out otherwise on-time pax are NOT.

      1. Covered in a follow up, but no, I did not. I recognize that I should have, but these events are now far too stale to make that effective. As noted in my follow up, I DID write to the carrier, the major brand and the regional subcontractor, providing a series of dates and precise times. My letters were Business Polite, but strong enough to scorch paint at 250 feet. I’ve never had a reply from the major or the regional brand carrier. As far as I know, they are still doing this, but you can bet that they are NOT doing it to me. One of the other major brand’s regional carriers at KEUG has morning connecting flights to KPDX that are almost as good and the flunked one and, in fact, they also have an RJ run directly to KSFO that is even better those offered by Go *%^& Yourself (GSY) Airlines. If big GSY airlines or their (owned) regional partner had bothered to reply, they might still be contenders at times. They did not. Since the date of my letters, you won’t find their name anywhere in my flight logs and it won’t appear in the future. Frankly, my business and my dollars are the only tools (or weapons?) that I have available. GSY Airlines shot themselves in the foot and they will NEVER see another dime from me. I’ve stuck by that for >18 months and I see no reason to change my policy. The other carriers serving KEUG seem to manage just fine; even if they are a little late once in a while, due to WX or MX problems. I’ve never seen them button up and push so early as to leave properly checked in, waiting pax wondering why the airplane left so early. To heck with GSY! -Cg.

    1. Sorry folks, but I have to say this again.
      Many, perhaps most of the comments here are about flights that close and push LATE. The carriers want to keep their numbers looking good and it is often a very competitive thing. My beef – and the reason that I dropped a particular brand was that they frequently closed and pushed EARLY, sometimes even before the mandatory check in time, denying boarding to some folks who had arrived within the COC check in window. There is NO legitimate reason for that other than the carrier’s own convenience for the first or second leg of the flight day. I did not complain to DOT, but recognize that I should have. When I finally dropped that carrier from my list, I did write to them. The letter was polite, but if anyone at xyz airlines read it with any degree of care, it could have scorched the paint on one of their overly cute airplanes. No reply was ever received, so to *%ll with them; even at a modest outstation, I had and still have, other choices. -Cg

  18. Your illustration showed “I know the departure time is not for another 20 minutes, but the door is closed”, – but your commentary did not address that circumstance.

    I had exactly that circumstance happen to my wife and I at Seattle airport when flying Alaska Airlines to San Francisco to connect to Air New Zealand.
    After arriving at the airport early, but suffering extensive delays checking in due to overwhelmed staff crowding the check in counters, we got to the gate a full 20 minutes before departure time. But we then discovered that Alaskan had only just closed the door early, and they denied us boarding together with another 4 people who had also now arrived for the same flight.
    Then, the plane just sat there for the next 30 minutes before they finally disconnected from the aerobridge and pushed back, etc. Disgusting.

    Their departure lounge people then re-directed us all to a different departure lounge where we were all supposedly going to be accommodated on the next flight to SanFrancisco. Unfortunately, by the time we got there, they told us that this flight was now also “closed” because they had tallied up the weights, meals, etc. and it was too late to change them. This flight then sat there for another 20 minutes before it too took off without us. We were then told we would be put on yet the next flight. Unfortunately, that one turned out to be full and space did not open up. We eventually were put on a fourth flight, had to sit apart from each other. We nearly did not gain access to that 4th flight, because our luggage had gone out with the first flight and it was said to be their policy that we had to fly with our luggage (which was no longer possible). Until somebody authorised us to go, they actually spoke about making us wait until our luggage could be returned to Seattle and then fly with us. Anyway, then, this fourth flight ended up sitting on the tarmac for the next hour and a bit, with all passengers on board, with the Captain telling us that we could not go because the airline required a spare part for a different plane in SanFrancisco that our flight would need to take to them, but first they had to find the part in their maintenance hangar, do the paperwork to get it to our plane, load it into the cargo bay, etc. Needless to say, , we missed our connection in SFO to Melbourne via Auckland.

    While still at Seattle airport, before boarding that 4th flight, we asked Alaskan Air to contact Air New Zealand and to try to arrange that we would instead be put on the next days’ direct NZ flight from Seattle to Auckland.
    We were told NO, that this was not something they would agree to intervene with because to do so would be admitting “fault” by the airline.

    What do you think about this travelling “fun”?


    1. stewart – That sounds like a pretty miserable experience. Though I’m not sure that Air NZ has ever flown to Seattle. If they have, it’s been many years. So that last part doesn’t sound quite right. Still, the bottom line is that travelers should know their rights and then document carefully when those rights are trampled. If you do everything by the book and you’re denied boarding, then they owe you compensation for that. Complain to the airline first. If they don’t do it, then complain to the DOT.

      1. The NZ flights the next day were choices of: (1) a NZ code share to Vancouver and then a genuine NZ flight to Auckland, or, (2) a NZ code share to SFO and then a genuine NZ flight to AKL, or, (3) the same thing via LAX.

        We were lucky that NZ agreed to take us a day late, without penalty, on APEX tickets that were purchased separately from, not in conjunction with, the Alaskan Airlines flights.

        NZ did not, however, give us the UA Mileage Plus points that we expected, saying that we had traveled in a fare class that gives zero miles. Likewise, Alaskan gave us no QF f/f points despite having, at that time, this as a published benefit option for customers, stating (after the event) that we would only get the f/f points if it was a long-haul sector or a code share flight. Considering how very little these points cost the airlines (probably equal to a packet of peanuts + can of coke), I find it short-sighted that they choose to alienate customers by denying points that customers would be expecting. This is the opposite of a customer loyalty program.

        1. Stewart – Ah, I was going off this: “While still at Seattle airport, before boarding that 4th flight, we asked Alaskan Air to contact Air New Zealand and to try to arrange that we would instead be put on the next days’ direct NZ flight from Seattle to Auckland.”

          But yes, there are real hazards to buying separate tickets. It’s always a risk that when things go wrong with one airline, you could have to pay the other airline to get back on track.

  19. It is actually an easy process on whether to hold connecting flights: If I’m scrambling to catch the flight they will not hold the plane. If I’m already on the plane and others are scrambling they will hold.

  20. While it looks like some people have been screwed, I do over 140 segments a year and have yet to be stranded. In 6 years once I could not get out in a storm that was it. Half my flights have been regionals. Be smart, give your self time and don’t take last flight of the day when you can avoid it. Make use of technology to rebook yourself quickly and get GA’s on your side.

  21. Just had the unpleasant experience Sunday in SLC when the LAX flight arrived late. A dozen of us ran from D13 to B14 to catch a connection to STL on SkyWest, arriving at the gate 3 minutes before departure. Door closed, even though the agent at D13 told us to run and that the agent at B14 was aware we were running. Agent told us that once that door was closed, it could not be opened. Suddenly the door DID open! When we pointed this out to the agent, she told us catering was boarding extra sodas. The plane finally pushed 11 minutes after scheduled departure. They took a delay for beverages, but even after the door was opened, refused to board a dozen revenue passengers. On a 70-seat aircraft, that means they intentionally left 17% behind. Agents refused to even make eye contact with passengers. Truly shameful.

  22. On March 24, 2017, I had a confirmed seat on the United Airlines flight from Oklahoma to Houston and Houston to Philadelphia. Flight pushed back on time and immediately after the tug pulled away, the pilot announced that due to the thunder storms in Houston, we will have to wait on tarmac for an ATC clearance which could be 45 minutes. Surely, it left 45 minutes later. However, when I appeared to the gate in Houston at exact departure time for the Philadelphia flight, gates were closed and flight left on time. I was then given the next day flight from Houston to Washington and Washington to Philadelphia. Additionally, airlines are not required to pay for the hotel accommodations due to weather related missed connections which I did not know.

    Question for smarter folks who may know more than me. I assume other flights were impacted due to the wether issues right? Why don’t they wait for all confirmed passengers since they know those flights have departed? It could be more than 10-20-30 passengers! Air lines know that hardly anyone challenges them and most of us do not have time to research the law, policies, and procedures.

    1. Sunil – It’s a complex dance when weather rolls in, so they try to keep as much on time as they can even though they know they can’t do it all. It’s going to mean missed connections for some, but in some cases waiting for connections can snowball into bigger problems.

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