By Jim Donovan

By Jim Donovan

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – How early do you get to the airport when you’re catching a flight?

Are you an early bird or a last minute type of traveler?  Well as 3 On Your Side consumer reporter Jim Donovan warns, arriving even a few minutes late, could cost you.   That’s because more and more airlines are cracking down on tardy travelers.

In April, Bill Hicks and his girlfriend, Kristen, planned to surprise his dad for his 70th birthday in Honolulu.

“It was trip of a lifetime, took eight-to-nine months of planning, all this covert operation so he wouldn’t find out,” said Hicks.

But they say a stop at the airport restroom before the morning flight caused them to check in at the airline ticket counter 42 minutes before departure time.

Hawaiian Airlines canceled their reservation saying the cutoff to check bags was 45 minutes.

“Really, you’re just splitting hairs over three minutes?,” said Hicks.

Hawaiian says the couple showed up 40 minutes before the flight, not 42.  A  company statement said, “we’re sticklers about these times because accepting customers later than this invariably causes flight delays.”

“If you want to play in their play pen, you got to play by their rules,” said CBS travel editor, Peter Greenberg.

Greenberg says airlines cracking down on the 45 minute rule is just one of the many ways they’re maximizing profits.

“All the airlines are doing is filling the seats they want to fill the seats,” said Greenberg.

The couple could have flown standby the next day but would’ve missed the surprise. Instead they paid about $800 more flying on another airline.  A tough lesson but they’re glad it didn’t ruin dad’s 70th birthday.

As a courtesy, Hawaiian credited the couple nearly $390 for their tickets.

While that doesn’t cover all the money they’re but it will likely assure that they’ll check-in on time from here on out.  Check-in times vary depending on the airline and where you’re flying.

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