Before I get started on this rant, and yes, it is going to be a rant, let me first point out that I was in the wrong. I take full responsibility for my actions. I arrived at the Jetstar counter two minutes after the check in for my flight had closed.
I spent the weekend visiting my family in Christchurch. Mum booked my flights for me, arriving on Thursday night with Pacific Blue, leaving on Sunday afternoon with Jetstar. We stayed in Diamond Harbour on Saturday night and drove back at lunchtime, stopping only once along the way to speak with a police officer who had cordoned off the road due to the Tsunami warnings.
While driving to the airport, Mum turned to me and said that she couldn't remember which airline she'd booked me back on. She said it was definitely Air New Zealand or Jetstar, but she'd forgotten which one. All we knew for certain was that my flight left at 3:05pm.
I arrived at the airport at approximately 2:27pm, grabbed a trundler, put my bags on, then walked into the terminal, heading straight for the Air New Zealand check in machines. After swiping my credit card and typing my name in about three times, it started to look like I wasn't booked with Air New Zealand.
It was now 2:35pm.
I made my way to the Jetstar counter, arriving at approximately 2:37pm. The terminal was empty besides three passengers behind one counter on the far left talking to a Jetstar employee, and two other check in staff sitting idle at their posts. The closest lady to me hardly looked up as I approached her and told her I was on the 3:05pm flight to Auckland.
"You'll have to go and see that lady down there," she said, pointing at the one staff member who was already dealing with three passengers.
"I'm a little bit late," I replied, "Can't you just help me?" She shook her head, said, "Check in's closed, go see that lady down there," then went back to her important task at hand, which, at that moment, appeared to be inspecting her fingernails.
"Do you know if I can still make the flight?" I asked. Now she started to look annoyed. "I said: go. see. that. lady. down. there." Like she was talking to a five year old.
So I did. I went and waited behind the two remaining passengers who were organising something for a Wellington flight the next day. While waiting, a middle aged man from my flight came and stood behind me, having been told by the same lady the same thing.
It was now 2:40pm.
When it was my turn to speak with the lady, I explained that I was on the 3:05pm flight to Auckland and that I had arrived two minutes late but the ladies over there wouldn't check me on.
"Check in's closed," she - very helpfully - told me.
I tried to stay as calm and polite as possible. "Yes, I can see that, but we're (pointing to the guy behind me) only a couple of minutes late, the flight isn't leaving for 25 minutes and neither of us have check on luggage."
"Company policy sorry," she replied.
Still attempting politeness. "Yes I understand that, but we're just a couple of minutes late and the ladies over there could have checked us in but they refused. We've been waiting behind those other passengers. All we need is a piece of paper and we'll walk upstairs and get on the plane. It's only just started boarding."
At this point the lady who had (not) assisted me in the first place, came and told the man standing behind me that if he wasn't travelling with me, he'd have to wait behind the designated line.
"Yes, I know, but it's company policy sorry," she replied. "You can book on the next flight for 70 dollars."
Anger crept in. "But all I need to do is take a piece of paper and go upstairs! This is crazy. Can I speak with your supervisor?"
"Sure. But she's going to say the same thing," she replied. "Sheryl, can you come here for a second?"
Sheryl walked over. My heart sank. Sheryl was the lady who had refused to talk to me in the first place.
"Yes?" She asked me.
"Hi. Like I said to you before, I'm booked on the 3:05pm flight. I really need to get that flight. I was two minutes late. You saw me arrive. There's nobody else here in the terminal. Can you please let me get on the flight?" I pleaded.
"Sorry sir, company policy. We can't just let people check in after check in has closed." Then she went on to a 30 second explanation about something to do with weight restrictions and pilot's calculations.
"Okay. I understand that," I said. "But this is just a simple human error. I take responsibility for being late. My mother bought my flight but she told me that I was booked on Air New Zealand. So I went over there, couldn't find my flight, and that's why I turned up here late. Is there no chance of leniency?"
"When you book your flight, you agree to the terms and conditions. You've broken the terms and conditions. You can't just turn up late and get on the flight," she replied.
There was no getting past it. I paid my 70 dollars and accepted my fate.
When I went to check in later, the staff had changed. I made an enquiry about the law, and was told that in extreme circumstances the crew could use their own discretion and put somebody on board even if they were late. The lady also told me that passengers "frequently miss flights," due to the 30 minute prior law.
I ran into a friend of mine on the flight who, coincidentally, works at Jetstar. She told me that the 30 minute law causes huge problems and that the ground staff are "notoriously rude".
Like I said at the beginning, I understand that I was in the wrong. I arrived two minutes after their designated check in time. I get that. I don't care about having to pay an extra 70 dollars. It's annoying, but it's not the end of the world.
What I don't like is being talked to like an idiot by rude and unreasonable staff. Yes I was in the wrong, but the staff could have looked at the situation, seen that the terminal was virtually empty, used their discretion and put me (and that other guy) on the flight.
The lady I first talked to was a supervisor. My mate Sheryl. Instead of using an iota of customer services skills and just helping out a paying passenger, she refused to assist, instead, sending me down to talk to another lady who was already dealing with other passengers.
It would have been the easiest thing in the world for her to assess the situation as a minor human mistake and put me on the flight. But no. That would have been too simple. The easier option was obviously to refuse to help.
My sister had a similar experience last year. The only difference being that she was seven months pregnant at the time.
Jetstar's attitude to customer services is ridiculous. Forget the customer is always right. The ground staff are always right.
The craziest thing is that their own slogan is "We'll look after you".
Take my advice. Don't fly with them.