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Puckinflight

An all things aviation blog

Internet check-in is a huge benefit. People can check-in online and skip some of the lines at the airport. Domestically this works really well, internationally not so much as one passenger found out.

The plan was to go from Puerto Plato, DR to Newark airport on United Airlines. The passenger in Puerto Plato was able to check-in online and print his boarding pass. When he arrived at the airport he was turned away from security for not having the right boarding pass and that he needed to get one from the check-in desk. It is easy to understand why that is. I assume most people traveling out of Puerto Plato are either unable or unwilling to use on-line check-in. So, the passenger went back to the check-in desk which had closed by the time he got there and was directed to the ticketing desk. The ticketing desk said since it was 55 minutes until departure and the cut off time is 60 minutes they were unable to issue a boarding pass. Not being able to get through security, the passenger was forced to purchase a walk-up ticket on another carrier.

After getting home, the passenger contacted United.

Hello friends at 1K Voice!

I just wanted to let you all know about an incident that happened this past Sunday 3 MAR 2013 at POP Puerto Plata airport.

I checked in online and printed my paper boarding pass the night before in anticipation of the flight. I was not checking any bags so since I was able to print a complete boarding pass I deemed it unnecessary to visit the check-in counter one hour prior to the flight.

I arrived at the security queue around 55 minutes before the flight and was told that I needed a card stock boarding pass not one printed off the internet in order to enter the secure area. At this point the UA counter folks I had walked past had closed up the UA counter and I had to get directed to the ticketing office. The two personnel,[Name Redacted] and [Name Redacted], employees of your subcontractor Swissport, indicated that even though I was checked in, I was required to check in again at the counter with more than 60 minutes before the flight. Seeing as though it was only a few minutes after the alleged cut-off, I tried reasoning with the agents since there was only one flight per day and this would mean I would be stuck in POP for another day if I chose not to book on another airline, and would miss my appointment in EWR. Further complicating things, I had another reservation booked for late that night out of EWR to MIA. For your reference, my PNR numbers are below.

What I ended up doing was walking up to the American Airlines counter, shelling out just shy of $500 for a one-way ticket to MIA, and I got a 1K agent to change my second itinerary to just include a one-way from MIA-EWR.

I think this procedure needs to change. If UA needs passengers to check in at the counter at POP, why issue printable boarding passes? The only thing the boarding passes say about checking in at the airport is there is a cutoff for baggage. At most other airports (except airports like TLV, DEL, BOM, etc. where security is really stringent), if you have a boarding pass you are all set to get through the queue. The poor communication of the rules cost me to spend an additional $500 on the one way POP-MIA segment on AA, forfeited the value of my POP-EWR, missed my meeting in EWR, but at least I got a $260 Electronic Travel Certificate for the value of my EWR-MIA.

This was incredibly frustrating as you can imagine…

I look forward to your reply! Thanks :)

United’s response was both canned and didn’t address the substance of the complaint.

Thank you for contacting United Airlines Customer Care.

I am sorry to hear of the problems you experienced with you printed boarding pass in Puerto Plata Dominican Republic. We do our best to provide international travelers with accurate document information required by foreign countries or for traveling through the United States. We include certain information in your reservation record, as required by U.S. Customs and foreign government agencies. Although, you had a printed boarding pass, some countries still require that you check in at the ticket counter so that our agents can validate your documents.
Unfortunately, sometimes there are many required documents, and I understand it can be difficult to cover all the bases. I am sorry for your trouble this time.

For detailed information on recommended check-in times, please visit our
website: http://www.united.com

We appreciate you taking the time from your busy schedule to contact us about your recent experience and on behalf of United Airlines please accept my apology for any inconvenience incurred.

Mr. XXXXXX, as a Premier 1K customer, we appreciate your business and look forward in welcoming you on board a future United Airlines flight.

Regards,

Mrs. [Name Redacted]
United Airlines

Well never one to back off the passenger tried again to get United listen.

Thanks for your extremely prompt reply.

The document information was fine. I had all of the pertinent documentation required to travel. However, nowhere on the United.com site, or on my printed boarding pass, does it stipulate that “check-in”
is at the airport only. In fact, when printing a boarding pass online, the website says “check-in online”, which I’m sure you’d agree with me that printing a boarding pass on your home computer the night before is certainly more than the 60 minute or 2 hour requirement for check-in.
The only other criteria required of passengers is to be in the gate area
30 minutes prior to departure, which I certainly would have been had I been allowed to check in with my printed boarding pass, and even if the local ticket counter agents were accommodating enough to print a boarding pass for me.

If I was re-accommodated on another airline by United out of POP and onto my final destination, that would have been an acceptable way of handling the situation regarding the unclear instructions for POP airport check-in. Telling me that they were unable to do this after consulting a supervisor, leaving me with no choice other than to book a
$465 (plus in-airport ticketing fees of $40 some odd dollars) full-fare economy ticket to MIA on American Airlines is not the way I would have expected the situation to have been handled AFTER denying me the ability to board the flight.

Communicating the policy more directly is a change that needs to be made.

Thanks for your understanding. I know I’m probably preaching to the choir here but a change in the check-in procedure for airports like POP needs to occur so other savvy travelers who “cut it close” don’t end up in the same scenario.

Regards,

United plainly fed up with this line of discussion put an end to communication with this missive.

Thank you for your reply.

We appreciate customers taking the time to share comments and suggestions. Feedback like yours presents opportunities for improvement.
Your comments have not gone unheard and they have been forwarded to appropriate senior management for internal review.

Once again, Mr. XXXXX, as a Premier 1K member, we appreciate your business and look forward to welcoming you on board a future United Airlines flight.

Regard,

Mrs. [Name Redacted]
United Airlines

Corporate Customer Care

I am the first one to blame the passenger when things go wrong. I feel that not enough people take personal responsibility for their actions. At first when I read this story I wanted to do so again. It falls on the passenger to insure they have the correct documents when they go to the airport. However, in this case United allows people to check-in online when airport security does not allow people to clear security with print-at-home boarding passes. United clearly should disable on-line check-in for this airport. In this case providing the passenger with a voucher equal to the cost of his american ticket would be warranted.

Happy Travels!

colpuck.

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