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Missed Your Flight? Here’s How to Minimize the Damage

Miss Flight

Welcome to FlyerTalk 101, a guide to traveling like an expert from the experts. For more guides like this, check out our FlyerTalk 101 tag or head to the forum links in this article to have any of your questions answered.

Travel plans don’t always go as planned. Unfortunately, you may find yourself in a situation where you’ve missed your flight. This is definitely one of the more unpleasant things travelers have to deal with, and can even happen to people who plan wisely. What should you do if you’re either about to miss your flight or you’re throwing your hands in the air because it just took off without you? Let’s break down the missed-flight protocol.

Let the Airline Know ASAP

If you are about to miss your flight, you should try and contact the airline immediately. You should start by placing a call to the airline and see if they can get you on a subsequent flight. Some airlines may even make the change for you without a fee. Most airlines will charge a fee, especially if you don’t have any status with them, but it’s going to be cheaper than rebooking your entire flight.

Ask About the Flat-Tire Rule

You’re not necessarily out of luck if you miss your flight because of technical difficulties you’ve encountered on the way to the airport. Most passengers aren’t aware of the fact that airlines have “flat-tire” policies that provide a little bit of a cushion for passengers who miss flights. These policies are in place because airlines understand that situations that are out of your control sometimes occur on the way to catching a flight. Flat-tire policies provide customers with options for getting on replacement flights. American Airlines probably has the most generous flat-tire policy around. Passengers who qualify get placed on standby for the next available flight if they show up at the wrong airport, don’t have all of their travel documents or arrive within two hours of a flight’s posted departure time. Other airlines have flat-tire policies that are a little more “shadowy” by comparison. However, United and Delta will generally allow you to book on the next flight without any hassles if you miss a flight. In fact, one Flyertalk forum member who wasn’t even physically at the airport was able to get rebooked on a later Delta flight without paying a fee. Remember, you just have to ask about the informal flat-tire policy!

Check. You May Have Travel Insurance You Don’t Know About

You may not be totally on your own even if your airline decides to shut you out from the flat-tire policy. If you took out travel insurance, your policy might actually cover all or some of the costs you’re incurring from your missed flight. Your credit card may automatically apply travel coverage if you have a card that offers this perk. Many people don’t even realize that they have credit cards that have built-in travel insurance. Look through your policy or the terms of agreement to see what you might be able to pull off. If you travel frequently, you should always use a credit card that offers travel insurance. Some credit cards can even compensate you well if your bag is late to your destination.

Don’t Forget About Your Connections

Missing a flight with a connection can be especially frustrating. Missing your first flight means you’re almost guaranteed to miss your subsequent connecting flight. Don’t assume that it’s all going to work out once you arrive at your connecting airport. Of course, the airline will take care of you if your flight gets canceled or delayed due to weather or mechanical issues. You’re on your own if you’ve missed a flight with a connection on your own. Make sure you’re addressing potential connecting flights when you book your replacement flight.

Let Your Hotel Know

Make sure you let your hotel know that you’ll be checking in late due to a missed flight. Some hotels may have someone available to help you get signed in after-hours if you’ll be arriving late. It’s important to call the hotel because if you don’t show up at all for your first night, you could put your entire reservation in jeopardy. The same goes for contacting the company you’re using for a rental car.

Try to Get Your Taxes Back

You may ultimately have to throw your hands up in the air over the fact that nobody is going to help cover the cost of missing your flight. However, there is one last resort that can soften the blow of losing money from a missed flight just a little bit. Passengers in some countries who aren’t entitled to compensation after missing a flight are still entitled to have the taxes they paid refunded. That’s because the airline actually doesn’t have to pay any passenger-bound taxes to the airport if you’re not on the plane when it leaves. That means you could actually get back something, though it may not amount to a lot.

Chill Out

Take a minute to shake your fists in the air if you’ve missed your flight. It’s only natural! However, don’t forget that reaching out to communicate with your airline as quickly as possible is the best strategy for trying to fix as much of the situation as you can. You never know how far an airline is willing to go for you if you’re running late. Your carrier might even hold your flight until you can get there!

KRSW February 20, 2020

Probably one of the better / more relevant articles published on the FT home page in awhile.

mbgaskins February 20, 2020

And they constantly lie about mechanical delays and claim them to be weather. I have had flights delayed due to weather that I still would have made my connection. Then due to a mechanical issue I missed my connection. They still claimed this was a weather issue when it clearly was a mechanical issue.

charliebrav0 February 20, 2020

"...if your flight gets canceled or delayed due to weather.." Most airlines will not compensate you for weather disruptions since they didnt cause it. They'll barely take ownership of mechanical delays.

Loren Pechtel February 20, 2020

Add to this list Hainan. We almost missed a flight due to a date confusion about it leaving just after midnight. When we mentioned it during check-in we were told they would have put us on the next plane--but that was a few days later.

LukeO9 February 19, 2020

"...but it’s going to be cheaper than rebooking your entire flight." Not necessarily.