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Northwest Gets Tough on Those Late at Gate

August 20, 2000

With record passenger loads putting pressure on airlines to keep on schedule, Northwest Airlines has tightened its rules for customers who arrive late at the gate for domestic flights.

Northwest now requires passengers to check in 20 minutes before flight time if they want to get their assigned seat; the previous cutoff was 15 minutes. Latecomers can still get on the plane up to 10 minutes before takeoff, taking whatever seat may still be available, spokeswoman Kathy Peach explained; later than 10 minutes, and there's no guarantee they'll even get on the plane.

Northwest's new policy aims "to help the boarding process and give agents time to deal with standbys," according to Peach. Continental Airlines has followed an identical policy for "several years," and Delta Airlines also releases unclaimed seats at the 20-minute mark, spokeswomen said. Trans World Airlines and American Airlines, for instance, generally will hold your seat and your reservation up to 10 minutes before departure, officials said.

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