BECAUSE of heavy traffic, I reached Dublin airport 17 minutes before my Ryanair flight to Stansted was due to leave. I was not very anxious, because my outbound trip had been delayed by a passenger who chose not to wander on board until five minutes after the scheduled departure. I tried to check in; but the aircraft sitting on the tarmac had, according to a particularly imaginative Ryanair agent, already departed. Someone else agreed with me that the aircraft was still there, but the flight to Stansted had closed. (If any of this seems familiar, it may be because you have already read the late Stan Gebler Davies on page 40.)

Highly convenient for the airline, which charged pounds 25 for amending the ticket to a later flight - a task completed while the plane was sitting on the tarmac. Ryanair was perfectly within its rights, since the timetable says passengers must check in half an hour before departure. But some airlines show considerable flexibility in letting late arrivals on board. I once turned up at Gatwick 17 minutes before a flight to Naples, without so much as a ticket, and British Airways rushed me through the formalities and on to the plane.

At least I ended up only marginally delayed and in the right country. Felicity Walker writes from Reading about a flight on the Venezuelan airline, Viasa, due to fly non-stop from Caracas to London, then on to Paris. The airline spent eight hours offering various explanations for the delay; in the end the flight stopped in Frankfurt on its way to London, and never made it to Paris.

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