I witnessed something yesterday that was both sad and instructive: you need to monitor boarding closely for your flight, especially in a crowded gate area. A group of passengers missed their flight to Las Vegas when their flight left early, but I am not certain all blame falls upon Spirit Airlines.
Spirit Airlines Passengers Miss Las Vegas Flight After Boarding Door Closes Early…Do They Have A Right To Be Angry?
Last night I flew out of Burbank-Hollywood Airport, a lovely alternative to Los Angeles International that makes it possible to arrive just 25-30 minutes before your flight departs and comfortably make it through security and onboard.
Unless your flight departs ahead of schedule…
I reached the gate area at exactly 5:51 pm and witnessed a pair of passengers yelling at a Spirit Airlines gate agent. The doors had closed on a flight to Las Vegas (6:05 pm departure) and these passengers had missed it.
You can picture the conversation: they insisted they had been waiting for two hours and never heard the boarding call while the gate agent insisted multiple boarding calls had been made.
This was in Terminal B, a small terminal shared by Alaska, American, Avelo, Spirit, and United. The gate area was fairly full, with three flights (an Alaska flight to Seattle, the Spirit flight to Las Vegas, and my United flight to San Francisco) departing at roughly the same time.
One passenger became irate and began raising his voice, which prompted the frazzled gate agent to raise his voice. A key admission was made by the gate agent when the passenger insisted he had been standing at the gate 15 minutes prior to departure.
“Sometimes we leave 20 minutes early. We leave as early as possible. You should have been near the gate.”
This made the passenger even angrier. He insisted that it was not right to close the boarding door early when the departure board said that the boarding cut off was 15 minutes prior to departure.
Another group of passengers showed walked up and inquired when the Spirit flight was boarding. They too claimed they had been in the gate area since 4:00 pm and had not heard any boarding announcement.
But the gate agent just shrugged and began to walk away.
At this point, I was on the side of the passengers, but the story took a turn.
The angry passenger demanded to speak to a supervisor. First, the gate agent said there was no supervisor and suggested the man call the toll-free customer service number.
But he pushed back and insisted there had to be a supervisor. The gate agent relented and said they would have to wait to speak to her.
Eventually, she showed up (she had been outside prepping the flight for departure).
Immediately, the angry passenger demanded assistance. But the supervior held up her hand and said he had to wait. This made him even angrier.
A few minutes later, the supervisor walked over to a different desk and signaled for the passengers who had missed their flight to approach her.
The angry man briskly walked over and demanded to be rebooked. The supervisor claimed she had no obligation to rebook anyone and that the doors actually closed one minute late. This prompted a chorus of angry denials from the stranded passengers.
Next, the supervisor offered to rebook them…but on a flight the next day. This prompted the angry fellow to totally lose his temper:
“I can’t f*cking do this tomorrow. I have a conference!”
The supervisor told him very matter-of-factly that she would not help him if he was going to curse. He added:
“At least my luggage will get there without me.
“Last time I’m flying Spirit!”
Famous last words…
The passengers exchanged contact info and walked out. One had a plastic cup from the bar, suggesting she had been drinking and may have been in the bar during boarding.
The bad language and the liquor suddenly made me much more uncertain about who was at fault.
Ultimately, this “kerfuffle” did cause the flight to depart one minute late.
I wonder if the flight was oversold? The passengers had bags checked and the walk from the gate to the plane is only a few paces at BUR Airport. They could have easily been accommodated without compromising the on-time departure of the flight.
Who Is At Fault When A Flight Leaves Early?
Assigning blame is not always all that helpful, but the blame is context-dependent and I was unable to clearly establish blame here.
Based upon the admission of the first gate agent, it does appear that the doors closed five minutes early (even though the supervisor insisted they closed one minute late).
I realize this sort of thing happens all the time and while I cannot condone a flight closing early when not all passengers are accounted for (that is ridiculous), you need to be aware of when boarding starts.
Yes, the terminal was loud, but I cannot believe that several boarding announcements were too quiet for all the other 120+ people onboard to hear.
Keep an eye on your boarding time and especially in a crowded terminal, make sure that you do not forget to board your flight in a timely manner.
Closing the doors five minutes early is not cool, but a little situational awareness always helps.