Travelers Given No Slack for Slight Tardiness

March 3, 2013

in Airport Stories

I am an American expat now living with my family in Barcelona. We moved from Seattle to become “global citizens.” Now we’ve begun exploring Spain and Europe by air and it has been both a positive and horrible experience.
We had been warned about Ryanair, cheap flights but absolute Nazi’s about rules, and trying to charge you for everything extra. So we packed very light, didn’t pay for special seats, checked in really early and got our passports checked. Whew. EasyJet was much easier and a warmer welcome. I thought Vueling, being Spanish, would be more welcoming than the other two. Guess what? They were worse.

Here’s the story. I arranged to fly Vueling BCN-Granada (a small airport) and then back after a few days. I printed out the confirmations and then printed out the outbound boarding passes from an automated machine at the BCN airport. We had no luggage to check. The flight to Granada was fine.

Coming home on the last flight on a Sunday night we got to the Granada airport two hours early and sat in the small café working on our computers. Then there was an announcement for our flight. It hit me I still needed the boarding passes. There are no machines there. I ran to the Vueling ticket counter. Sorry, they said, you are two minutes late. Thirty-eight minutes before the flight. The flight is closed. And it is the last flight today. But we can sell you tickets for tomorrow for 200 euros more. I was enraged! They almost arrested me. There were no crowds, just people sitting around. They could have easily accommodated me. But they said Iberia controlled the boarding process and they said no. Closed. There was no manager to complain to. Even the cop who watched all this and other passengers were sympathetic. The Vueling people said we should have known and why did we get to the airport so late. I said we didn’t but overlooked the rule as we were new to Spain and this bureaucracy.

Anyway, we had to take a taxi to a hotel, stay overnight, and then taxi back on the additional 200 euro flight the next day. At the hotel that intervening night I wrote Vueling and Iberia on their websites and Facebook pages. All I got was a blogger who represents Vueling telling me I was wrong and didn’t follow the rules and should have known better. Since I am a journalist I wrote on other sites and told Vueling I would do so. Their PR department never responded even though I wanted to hear their side of the story.

So now I am writing to you. Here’s the point. Americans have some expectation of customer service. It is NON EXISTENT here. NO slack, no forgiveness. The customer is wrong.

You are welcome to write about this, quote me, whatever. I would dream the Vueling execs would see it. My neighbors here in BCN all think Iberia is going down the tubes, and maybe Vueling with it. For me, I am happy to fly easyJet or Ryanair now. At least they’ve never sent me all sorts of sweet and wonderful emails and marketing and then, when I needed understanding, spit in my face.

– Andrew Schorr

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Substantial March 4, 2013 at 7:02 am

LCCs are the same the world over – you pay peanuts, but if you ignore their rules you are screwed. No sympathy for you, yours was a typical noob error.


James March 4, 2013 at 7:44 am

Guess what? Different places have different rules, to expect them to conform to your rules at home is the epitome of the Ugly American.

But even with that, what makes you think checking in 38 minutes before departure in the United States would be a breeze? That is naive!


mrsjamiecbaker March 4, 2013 at 3:24 pm

I was unfortunately less than five minutes late for one of my check-ins due to traffic and other things beyond my control. I received no assistance other than direction to pay an extra $50 for a later flight out of Florida back to Georgia. They were apologetic, but there was nothing they could do because they have a schedule and I didn't respect it (even though I felt it wasn't my fault).
While they could have been nicer about your situation, it's quite possible that their hands were tied and there was honestly no way they could bend the rules to allow you to board. Perhaps their system locks after the cutoff and doesn't allow the boarding passes to be issued?
I think the difference between there and America is that here in the states, a big mouth can go a long way and you may have been compensated for your time with vouchers or fees waived. But, not to be rude, I don't think your particular situation warranted any special treatment. It stinks, but the responsibility lay on you to get checked in on time.


Weetniet March 10, 2013 at 3:22 pm

This story is indeed not about a flight from hell but about making stupid decisions. It is ridiculous to expect that you can print your boarding pass and still make it to the airplane 38 mins. before departure! Passengers are supposed to arrive 2 hours before departure! Since airlines operate the same everywhere, this must apply to USA as well!

Of course, getting agressive in Europe won't get the OP anywhere. You are correct about the system simply not allowing a passenger to check-in after a certain time.

To OP: Pay for flexible tickets or get used to strict regulations! Also, don't make lame jokes about Nazis, it is sickening! Millions of people were killed by this regime.

Regards from Holland


latj2000 March 5, 2013 at 8:01 am

Have you posted on the Poor Vueling Customer Service Facebook page?


tylerzmum March 18, 2013 at 7:47 am

So, you didn't think to check in and print off boarding passes in time for your flight, instead wasting two hours in an airport cafe on a computer, but somehow this wasn't your fault? There are policies and procedures in place for a reason, and by not following the rules, then admittedly becoming enraged and almost arrested, you go crying to anyone who will listen about how someone didn't bend the rules for precious you? As a "global citizen" maybe you need to learn that stomping your feet like a baby does not get you your way in other parts of the world, it just makes you look like an idiot.


Mike March 21, 2013 at 3:11 pm



Notspanish March 25, 2013 at 9:56 am

You stupid American. You made yourself looked like an idiot. Well done. Global citizen seriously? Hahahaha!


not stupid March 25, 2013 at 2:20 pm

exactly. Global citizen ? haa i have travelled and lived in north africa and have visited several european countries including spain, i act like im in the soup nazi kitchen , i shut up follow the rules and always have no problems it seems you should take note global citizen.


Mike March 25, 2013 at 4:32 pm

What is sad is that the standard of service is non existence. The OP went back to settling with RYAN air and EasyJet because of this experience with Vueling . The way these budget companies operate I would not fly them at all. If they cut cost with customer service… just imagine they might also cut cost with airplane maintenance.

I would expect to see more irate customers in the future for all the ridiculous fees these airline companies think up of. You get your customers to pay more and yet there is no enhanced service, no nothing. Zilch.


Kate April 9, 2013 at 12:04 pm

When it comes to airlines, tardy is tardy. They have to set a deadline and stick to it, both for operational/security reasons and because they have to. So you were two minutes late, so they decide to let you go. Another person comes along, and is two minutes later. Do they get to go through? If they start bending the rules, where's the cutoff? Doesn't matter if you were two or twenty-five minutes late, you missed the cutoff. If you were unsure of the bureaucracy, perhaps you should have investigated this before flying.


greuben April 11, 2013 at 1:24 pm

… they wouldn't bend the rules. These comments come from the same people who complain of late flights. Passengers onboard are making connections and have their own priorities. Airlines have stopped accomodating one pax to provide the masses with on time service. I would also add that if the airline was operating as codeshare it is possible that the parent airline removes control of ticketing at a certain point. The airline where I work removes control of flights at approximately 40 minutes before flight and only the computer at the
gate has access.


emilieeee May 16, 2013 at 2:32 pm

I fly to and from the US to Europe twice a year, and the cultural difference is amazing. One of the main cultural difference is customer service, and you learned that the hard way. Your last sentence in your story is almost right, yes, the customer is normally wrong, but that is true of many airports worldwide. They have strict rules in place and they have to follow them, even if it makes no sense to the passengers. My advice would be that as soon as you get to the airport, no matter where you are, check in and get boarding passes first.


Pmulia March 3, 2014 at 8:44 pm

It sounds like the airline did nothing wrong. I lived in NYC and BCN, and took many flights on Vueling, Iberia, EasyJet. The rules are the same. If you come to the airport early, then do the checkin early before working on a computer in a cafe.


Lucy March 14, 2014 at 2:47 pm

I'm confused how you got to the airport 2 hours early and FORGOT your boarding passes? How is this not the first thing you think to get when showing up to an airport???


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