What to do if you miss your flight: passenger rights, airline policies and tips on what to do in different situations

By Tetiana PavlichenkoMay 15, 2024 22:59 PMBlog
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What to do if you miss your flight: passenger rights, airline policies and tips on what to do in different situations
Missing your flight is an unpleasant but manageable situation. Source: Image Joshua Woroniecki/Pixabay

Even the most experienced travelers are not immune to missing a flight. If you get caught in a big traffic jam or miss your flight because of a slow-moving queue at a checkpoint, this unpleasant situation can be really stressful, especially if it happens to you in a foreign country.

So what can you do if it does happen? First of all, don't panic! There is always a way out of any situation that will help you get to your destination on another nearby flight. These tips will tell you what to do if you miss your flight and what rights passengers have in a variety of situations.

What should you do if you miss my flight?

What to do if you miss your flight: passenger rights, airline policies and tips on what to do in different situations
Contact the airline if you miss your flight. Source: Image Jan Vašek/Pixabay

If you miss a flight, the first thing you should do is call the airline. Otherwise, you will be given a "no-show" status, which will cancel your entire itinerary, including any return and connecting flights that may be scheduled next. If you see that your tardiness is becoming catastrophic and you're likely to miss your flight, you can also contact the airline ahead of time to start working out possible solutions together.

MattressNextDay CEO and avid traveler Martin Seeley says that the earlier you report your late flight, the more likely it is that the airline will be able to help you quickly and, if possible, book you on the next one.

If you're already at the airport but don't make it through security and check-in in time, ask at the reception desk near the gate to find out how to rebook your missed flight. Money Saved is Money Earned blogger Tanya Redding shared her experience as a traveler dealing with a missed flight. Having missed several flights for various reasons, both those beyond her control and those she had to control, in each of these cases she immediately contacted the front desk. There she was immediately provided with all the necessary information about available flights and possible options to still make the flight. In one case, she was able to reschedule and fly an hour later without hassle. On another occasion, she was directed to a major airline's help center where she was assisted in rescheduling her flight and finding overnight accommodations.

How do you rebook a missed flight?

Ask the airline receptionist for help and remember to be courteous, and it is likely that he or she will be able to find you a ticket on the nearest available flight to your destination.

Many air carriers are sympathetic to situations like this, especially if it was not your fault. Martin Soto, founder of the adventure blog Travel Explorator, said that some airlines, such as American Airlines, have a so-called "flat tire rule." This means that if a passenger is late for a flight for reasons beyond their control, such as a flat tire, they can board another plane the same day at no extra charge. While some companies may ask you for proof of reasons, others are more lenient.

If you are trying to rebook a missed flight, you should be aware that some airlines charge a fee for such a service. This is more common on low cost carriers or if you have booked a cheaper ticket with a number of change restrictions. You may also have to pay the difference in ticket price if the "new" one is more expensive.

Also pay attention to how long the airline will offer to reschedule your flight. It is likely that they will try to choose a later date. Check for yourself to see if there are any seats left on any of the nearby flights that suit you, and try to negotiate a convenient rebooking. Remember to keep a friendly demeanor and a calm demeanor, but don't lose your firmness.

Kara Harms, author of the travel blog Whimsy Soul, cites this situation from her experience. One day, Southwest canceled her flight entirely and offered to reschedule her flight for six days. In doing so, the agent notified Harms that the company would not pay for her hotel for that period of time or refund her money. While she was talking to the agent, Kara's husband checked the availability of tickets on other flights and found free ones with same-day departures. She insisted that the flight had to be rebooked at a time that was convenient for her, and the company still had to accommodate her.

How do you get a refund for a missed flight?

If you missed your flight and now you do not plan to fly at all, you will not be able to get your ticket refunded, even though you did not use it. The only exception is when the airline has canceled the flight - then the money for the ticket is refunded to the passenger. This is the general rule of most air carriers.

But there are some companies that have a slightly different policy. Surfhungry.com travel and surf author Joshua Francia says some companies may refund a passenger for a missed flight, but they don't necessarily do so. To do so, the passenger should immediately contact their agent or flight management and explain the situation that is causing them to be unable to get on the flight on time. If they confirm the reason and it is acceptable in their opinion, they can refund the money for the ticket.

So when planning a flight, research the airline's policy on contingencies and passenger rights in case of missing a flight before booking.

Does travel insurance cover a missed flight?

Indeed, travel insurance can cover a missed flight, but only if this situation is included in its package. Shylar Bredevold of Odyssean Travel advises to research the terms and conditions carefully when choosing a travel insurance provider. Firstly, you should not go on a trip without such insurance at all. Secondly, scrutinize inclusions and exclusions, rather than just signing wherever they tell you to.

If your policy covers missed flights, you will need to provide the insurance company with proof that the reason for the delay was valid. You will also need to prove that you had enough time to get to the airport, as the insurance does not cover flights that you could not miss.

What happens to your luggage if you miss your flight?

If you didn't get on the plane but your luggage is already on board (this situation can occur, for example, during a missed connection), call your airline immediately and let them know. It will open a baggage claim ticket to track your luggage and return it to the owner. You can also make arrangements with the airline where you can pick up your luggage after rebooking on a new flight. In another case, the airline may send it to the address you have provided.

How can the reason for being late affect a passenger's rights?

What to do if you miss your flight: passenger rights, airline policies and tips on what to do in different situations
Not all reasons for being late for a flight involve compensation. Source: Image Jan Vašek/Pixabay

So, with what to do in case of being late for the plane, you are already familiarized. Now it is worth finding out what consequences can have the reasons for missing the flight. On them depend on your rights as a passenger and how the airline will solve the situation that has arisen with you.

Missing a flight due to traffic jams

If you miss your flight because you are stuck in traffic, the company can cancel your entire itinerary due to a no-show. That's why it's so important to alert your agent ahead of time, find out how to arrange to rebook your ticket, and likely pay a fee for this service.

Unfortunately, traffic jams are one of the most common circumstances for missing a flight, but most airlines don't consider them a good enough reason to miss a flight. To avoid getting into this situation, it's worth checking in advance how long it takes you to get to the airport and leave with enough time to avoid being late.

Missing a flight due to illness or medical emergency

If you find yourself in a situation where you have to seek emergency medical treatment or are unexpectedly ill, you should get a letter from your doctor confirming that you are unable to fly due to injury or illness. Airline procedures may vary under this circumstance, but in most cases you can get a refund or at least be spared a cancellation fee if you do it in advance. Research your carrier's policies to see if a documented medical emergency is a sufficient reason not to pay a cancellation fee.

Missing a flight because of a security check

If the reason you missed your flight was a delay during security screening, there's not much you can do about it. It is within the purview of airports and airlines to thoroughly screen passengers, as overall safety depends on it. In such a case, you can arrange to rebook your ticket for a later flight, but you will most likely have to pay extra for this service.

This is another reason to leave for the airport in advance. Then not only will you minimize the risks of being late due to traffic jams, but you will also have enough time to get through security. Plan to arrive at the airport at least an hour and a half in advance for a domestic flight and 2 hours for an international flight.

Also pay attention to your luggage: make sure it does not exceed the weight limit and does not contain anything that will cause extra attention at the checkpoint. Check that your passport, ticket and any other documents you may need, such as proof of vaccination or a negative test for Covid-19, are up to date.

What if you checked in but missed your flight?

What to do if you miss your flight: passenger rights, airline policies and tips on what to do in different situations
Try to rebook your ticket for a time that works best for you. Source: Image Yong Wang/Pixabay

If you miss your flight after you have already checked in, the first thing the airline will do is try to locate you by phone call or the airport's hands-free system. You will be asked to go to the gate, and you must do so as quickly as possible in order to board the flight.

If you cannot get to the gate on time, the plane will leave without you and you will be marked in the system as a no-show. Then you will have to decide how to rebook the flight after the missed flight, and there will be no question of any compensation.

If there is no connecting flight

There are situations when you arrive at the flight on time, but you miss the connecting flight. In this case, in addition to rebooking you are entitled to compensation, unless it is proved that this happened due to reasons beyond the control of the airline. For example, if the flight was delayed due to bad weather.

If you miss your connection, you can follow the same steps: contact the airline, notify them of your late connection and find out how you can rebook your ticket on the next available flight.

More often than not, the airline will be obliged to move you to another flight without charging you a re-booking fee. But this doesn't apply if you missed the connection through no fault of your own, such as not making enough time. Let's take a look at some of the ways you can miss a connection.

Missing a flight due to bad weather

If the reason for missing your connection is weather that is dangerous for flying, the airline must book you on the next possible flight. Since it cannot be held responsible for bad weather, no compensation will be paid to passengers. But if your connection is listed on the same reservation, then you can demand from the carrier the amenities for the duration of the wait: food, drinks and, if necessary, accommodation.

But if the connection doesn't apply to the reservation on your ticket, you'll have to negotiate a rebooking on the new flight yourself.

Missing a flight due to a short layover

In this case, the airline has to rebook the next flight for free if the connection is included in your ticket. And since the carrier didn't give you enough time to board the connecting flight, you can claim compensation if you miss it.

This does not apply if the connection is on a separate ticket: then you will most likely need to deal with the new ticket yourself and pay the fee.

Missing a flight due to flight delays or cancelations

This is the case where you're certain to be booked on the next flight, and on top of that the airline is obliged to provide food, drinks and access to communications. A hotel and round-trip transfers can be added as needed.

If the disruption to your itinerary is the fault of the airline, you may be entitled to compensation for missing your flight, the amount of which depends on the distance and duration of the flight.

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