Returning from the stress of her mother's funeral and frustrated by being directed to the wrong departure gate, the pressure told and a Canberra woman was kicked off a Virgin Australia flight.
The Melba grandmother said the boarding pass issued by Virgin staff at Sydney Airport had directed her about as far away as possible from the actual departure point.
"I was quite shaken up; I could have easily missed my flight," she said.
She had raised her concern with staff at the departure gate and was asked to wait for a supervisor while other passengers boarded.
"I told the attendant not to worry about my complaint. I'll just get on board the plane and we could forget all about it," she said.
But the woman had been directed to sit and wait. Finally a supervisor had said the error with the boarding pass was not Virgin's fault as the passes were issued by a separate organisation. It seemed other passengers had been subject to the same error.
"I did notice as I was talking to the supervisor other Virgin staff were herding other passengers onto the plane."
She had recognised them as having also been at the wrong departure gate.
"The supervisor ended the conversation by walking away. It was an incredibly frustrating situation to be in. In addition, I was exhausted; I'd travelled many kilometres in two days to bury my mother. I was distraught and tired. No allowances had been made for extenuating circumstances like this."
The upshot was that the grandmother uttered "bitch" as the supervisor walked away.
"It was speculation on her part that I was addressing her at all."
After boarding the plane she had been approached by the supervisor who had asked her to leave.
"She told me that if I wouldn't leave voluntarily the police would be called."
So the disabled pensioner, with only $10 and a hastily borrowed credit card from her daughter, had to spend a night in Sydney.
"I will not be flying Virgin again – ever," she said.
An airline spokeswoman said a passenger had been offloaded from the flight in question because of disruptive behaviour.
"In the interest of the safety of our guests, Virgin Australia has strict policies related to guests causing disruption. In this case, the behaviour of the guest did not comply with our conditions of carriage and was accordingly offloaded from the flight."
She said for operational reasons, occasionally departure gates had to be changed. These changes were notified by public announcements, updates to the flight departure screens and staff were stationed at departure gates to inform passengers.
The woman insists there were no staff at the wrong gate while she was there. Since being contacted by the Canberra Times, Virgin Australia has refunded the woman the cost of the flight but no compensation has been paid for her overnight stay in Sydney. She insists she was not being disruptive and had been of no threat to anyone.
In a letter to the woman, Virgin Australia says under its conditions of carriage, it reserves the right to refuse a guest's uplift or may request a guest to leave an aircraft.
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