What to do if you miss your flight or connection?


Young woman with luggage at airport who is late for her flight

Missing a flight is right at the top of ‘The Most Stressful Situations in Life’ along with car accidents and final exams. It is hard on you, especially when you really have no idea what to do about it.

If you googled ‘What to do if I missed my flight’, you are probably sitting in an airport all hot and bothered because you just saw the plane take-off without you.

First of all, try to stay calm. You will be able to catch another flight.

Now, read all these four steps carefully and follow them to the T. We promise you, your problem will not take more than an hour to solve if you are cool and level-headed.

Step 1: Contact the Airline Immediately

You need to let someone know that you got left behind or the gate closed or whatever happened. But don’t waste your time talking to the airport security guard or a random flight attendant. Every airline has its own booth at the airport. Just ask the people at the help-desk to direct you. And make sure you mention the name of the airline while asking.

Once you have found the right people, don’t make up a long and teary story. They have dealt with a lot of those in the past. Just make it as easy for them as possible to get you on the next flight.

Step 2: Know Your Options

In the best-case scenario, you are less than two hours late. This means you are eligible to be considered under the unpublished ‘flat-tire rule’ or ‘2-hour rule’. So you can be re-booked as a standby on another flight the same day – in some cases for free, although this is again at the discretion of the airline. Of course, this is not applicable if you missed the last flight that day, in which case you need to book another ticket.

In the worst-case scenario, you have to book a different flight and the airline is not liable to pay for any hotel charges either. If you are polite, the airline may give you a break on the cost of a new ticket.

In either scenario, once you deal with the initial flight, be sure to address any connecting flights and hotel reservations that need changing as well.

Step 3: If it is a Connecting Flight

In this scenario, you have even better protection providing your itinerary is under one booking with a single confirmation number. If the proceeding flight is late and the connection time is too short, the airline should automatically book you on the next flight available at no additional cost.

This will apply even if more than one airline is involved, however, it is easier to deal with one airline than two, so booking all the connections on the same airline, or with airlines in the same alliance is the ideal situation in the event of a missed connection.

It also eliminates the need to claim your baggage and then check in again which takes even more time and effort.

Try to book itineraries without tight connections. Having a little more time between flights to relax, stretch your legs, and get a snack or drink, is better than ending up stuck in the terminal waiting for a later flight or running frantically from one gate to another trying to make your connecting flight on time.

The caveat with missed connections is if you built your own multi-ticket itinerary and booked each flight separately. In that case your options are limited, even when it is the airline’s fault that the flight is late, you may still have to rebook all your connecting flights at your expense. Needless to say, this is less than ideal, so if you do try to build your own itinerary with separate tickets (usually to save money) be sure to allow a longer than usual time between connections.

Step 4: Always Be Polite

I know this is a bad situation and you want to pull everyone’s hair out as well as yours, but you really need to be on your best behaviour with the airline’s agent. After all, they can be helpful or unhelpful depending on how nice you are to them.

Also, remember that the ‘flat-tire rule’ or ‘2-hour rule’ is not necessarily written in the airline’s policy. You need to be strategic about asking for it unless you want the agent just looking up at you blankly.

Step 5: Check Your Travel Insurance

You can get away with booking a new flight for free. IF you can show the insurance company evidence that you were absolutely not at fault.

Just take a few minutes to read your insurance company’s policy on reimbursing flight tickets and how they would like to be contacted. One phone conversation after that should be enough to make sure that you do not have to pay even a cent.

Your credit card company might even provide some insurance if you purchased your tickets on the card.

That is all! We hope you could make it to your destination without emptying your wallet.

Have a safe flight!