Dad heartbroken as he misses son's graduation after pilot refuses to let him board plane

David Podger missed his flight at Southampton Airport last Thursday because a pilot needed more fuel for the plane.
David Podger missed his flight at Southampton Airport last Thursday because a pilot needed more fuel for the plane.

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A DAD was left ‘heartbroken’ after missing his son’s graduation because a pilot refused to allow him to board the plane to increase the amount of fuel needed for the flight.

Part-time actor David Podger was due to fly from Southampton Airport to see his son graduate at Leeds Trinity University on Thursday.

Following his role in a performance of William Shakespeare’s As You Like It on the Wednesday night in Petersfield, he had booked a morning flight from the airport that would get him over to Leeds for the 10am showing to watch his son Tommy graduate.

However, upon his arrival at the airport, the 58-year-old was denied boarding after the plane’s pilot ruled that two passengers could not fly as the plane required additional fuel due to a forecasted thunderstorm en route.

Mr Podger said: ‘I was distraught. Attending my son’s graduation as an event you can only attend once as it is an non-repeatable family event. So, I thought to myself, I am going to make a big scene here.’

Despite his attempts to remonstrate with the airport staff to let him on the plane due to it being the only flight he could catch to make the ceremony, its attempts were unsuccessful.

However, a plea was issued to other passengers by the pilot, explaining the situation, yet none volunteered to give up their seat.

‘I continued to protest about it and I could feel myself getting more distressed. I knew how disappointed Tommy would be.’

He was offered an alternative flight to get him into Leeds later that morning, but Mr Podger would have still missed the ceremony.

Since the incident, Mr Podger, from Petersfield, has sought to get an explanation from the airline, Eastern Airways, as to why he was unable to board.

He added: ‘It’s just disgraceful. I was truly heartbroken that I was not there for him.

‘Tommy was of course upset when he rang him to tell him I was not going to be there. I still can’t believe that they had not even apologised to me yet.’

Tommy Podger and his dad, David

Tommy Podger and his dad, David

A spokeswoman for Eastern Airways said: 'The captain made a decision to increase the fuel load due to forecasted en route thunderstorm activity.

'The additional fuel was necessary for any diversionary requirements during the flight, resulting in the need to offload two passengers to allow the flight to depart safely.

'Eastern Airways does not operate an overbooking policy and the decision to reduce the number of passengers was based on the safety of our passengers and crew, which is our priority.

'Staff did explain the situation to passengers prior to boarding and asked for volunteers to be transferred to a later flight.

'We sincerely regret this resulted in Mr Podger missing a special occasion. Our staff did offer to accommodate him on the next flight ti Leeds and a meet and greet service at the airport with ongoing transport to Leeds, which was declined.'

The spokeswoman added he is entitled to a full refund.