CT Watchdog: Arrive early for overseas flights

Brittany Caron and her boyfriend, Zachary Ramalho, learned the hard way that cutting it close arriving at the airport for an international flight can have drastic consequences.

Caron of Bristol, and Ramalho, formerly of Bristol now living in Massachusetts, saved for months to be able to travel to Spain during Caronšs college spring break in March.

The flight from JFK to Madrid was uneventful.

But for the return trip, the two decided to take a chance at arriving at the ticket counter less than an hour from when the plane was scheduled to depart. Airlines recommend arriving three hours ahead for international flights.

Instead of taking a bus, the two took the earliest train from Salamanca, where they were staying, which got into Madrid shortly after 3 p.m. They then had to catch a train for the 10-minute ride to the airport.

"I know if was close," said Ramalho, "but there was 45 minutes."

However, the airport was packed.

"Our flight was scheduled to leave the gate at 4:35pm," Caron said. "Once we arrived at the airport, we went directly to the Iberia check-in desks and explained to the other travelers in line that we were somewhat crunched for time and they let us right to the front."

The two said they got to the front of the line at about 3:30 p.m. The Iberia employee who was checking them in consulted with another employee.

"After she sat back down, she told us that we were much too late and that the flight doors were already closed. She stated that it was 'impossible' to get us onto the flight and that we needed to move out of line. She then proceeded to call the next person in line and made us leave the line," Caron said.

"We understand that for international flights, it is recommended by the airline that travelers arrive 3 hours prior to their departing time, but we were unfortunately unable to get there with that amount of time due to our transportation limitations," Caron said.

Then came the real bad news.

All Iberia flights to JFK were booked for the next week.

Thankfully Caron's boss loaned them the money to purchase tickets through American Airlines, but at a cost of $1,1355 each, compared to the original price of $870 round trip through Iberia.

So they slept on the floor and made their way home the following day. Caron said American Airlines staff felt sorry for the two and they upgraded their seats to first class.

Iberia denies that the two showed up at the ticket counter with 45 minutes left until the flight. Spokeswoman Consuelo Arias Hernandez said Iberia's records show that the two arrived at the ticket counter 29 minutes prior to departure.

"Passengers flying from the EU have to go through a security control. If they are leaving the EU, they need to go through a general passport control. Additionally, passengers flying to the US have to be at the boarding gate one hour before flight departure for additional security measures. There was not enough time for Ms. Caron to make it to the aircraft.

"Our flights to New York were full and therefore we couldn't rebook its flight," said Hernandez.

george@ctwatchdog.com; www.ctwatchdog.com


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