Questions of Cash: I checked in with Air France in time and still missed the plane

 

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The Independent Online

Q. I bought a ticket online from Air France to travel from Birmingham to Paris for a business meeting. I could not check in online because the website was not offering that option.

I arrived at the airport 10 minutes before the check-in desk closed – and 50 minutes before departure. I was redirected to a different desk and had to queue behind another traveller; when I got to the front, the agent said the flight was now closed – even though he'd seen me in the queue. The desk was closed 40 minutes before the flight was to depart.

Air France was unable to offer another flight for 24 hours, so I had to arrange a car to drive to Manchester and take a flight from there. I also incurred a "no show" charge for my hotel in Paris. Air France denies responsibility.

My ticket cost £403.03 and my travel agent obtained a refund of £250, but that leaves me about £250 out of pocket. GB, Coventry.

A. Air France says you arrived at the check-in desk – operated for Air France by Flybe – five minutes before it closed. But because your ticket was issued by Air France, you were redirected to the Air France desk. Only one agent was still there at this point, close to departure, and as you say, the desk closed when you reached the head of the queue.

The agent phoned through to the gate to request you be processed despite this, but he was told it was now too late.

An Air France spokeswoman says: "In order to provide the service expected by our passengers, we aim for an on-time departure of our flights. This requires that all passengers present themselves for check-in by the stipulated time. The latest check-in time is the time by which all formalities must be completed. At that point the flight is closed ... and air traffic control is advised that the aircraft is ready to leave. If these tasks are not completed in time, the flight could lose its air traffic control slot."

But while the company denies all liability in your case, the spokeswoman adds: "A partial refund was offered following the fare conditions of the purchased ticket – £297.53 was refunded via [the reader's] travel agency. We also offered 8,000 air miles as a gesture of goodwill."

The key point here is that Air France accepts you arrived for check-in prior to the closure time, but apparently this is not sufficient.

The Civil Aviation Authority appears to share our surprise. A spokesman says: "Airlines, and their handling agents, should make every effort to process passengers already queuing at the correct check-in desk, and that includes making additional staff available."

You can take matters further by emailing passengercomplaints@caa.co.uk. At our suggestion, you have now done this.

Q. I am a member of CSMA, which offers discounts on financial products. I received a letter saying that my buildings and content insurance with LV= was up for renewal at a premium of £276, and that I did not need to do anything to renew the policy.

At the bottom of the letter, it said there were new products available, one of which cost £129. When I complained, I was told I was on an old product and I had to request a transfer to a new one.

The new product seems the same as the old product to me. Jo, Essex.

A. A spokeswoman for LV= says: "After [the reader] received his home insurance renewal invite, he called us to discuss his cover and we offered him a quote for a new policy. The premium is cheaper as the cover included is different. For example, the new policy offers [the reader] up to £50,000 worth of contents insurance cover, whereas his old policy offered up to £125,000."

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