What To Do When You've Missed Your Flight

Your Flight is Delayed: What Now?

Most of the time, delays only last for an hour or two at the most. The 16 airlines that report to the Bureau of Transportation reported an on-time arrival at a 77 percent clip in 2014. So three out of every four flights you take won’t experience a delay. When it does happen, the key thing is to just be patient. There are usually a plethora of ways to entertain yourself while waiting for updates on your flight. If the delay is long because of inclement weather or mechanical problems, that’s when airlines will usually help you out beyond sending text updates on your flight.

  • As the delay time gets longer and longer, it’s important to stay by the kiosk at your departure gate. The protocol for what the airline can offer its passengers is usually different depending on the scheduled departure time.
  • If your flight was supposed to be early in the morning, it’s likely that there is another flight you could get on. In this case, an airline may even try to get you onto a competitor’s flight, but that is unlikely.
  • If the flight was at night, it depends on how long it’s delayed. If it’s delayed so long that you won’t leave that night, and you live in that city, going home is an option. If it’s the city in which you were vacationing, an airline may be able to offer hotel accommodations. Check the contract of carriage to see your options.

If there is no other option but to wait, and it’s going to be a delay lasting more than a couple of hours, airlines will sometimes be able to provide a food voucher to one of the restaurant’s in the terminal. Sometimes, all you can do is listen to music and wait. It’s part of traveling.


3. Notify everyone else

When you miss your flight, there can be a chain reaction with your travel plans. You’ll want to contact your hotel right away to let them know you’ll be arriving late. If you’re lucky, they’ll even waive the cancellation fee if you’re arriving a day later. If you’ve booked a car rental or any tours that were set to happen the day you arrive, you’ll also want to reschedule with them. Missed flights happen more often than you realize, by letting people know, they’ll be much more accommodating. People just don’t want to be waiting around when you won’t show.

Tips on how to not miss your flight

  1. Check in online – this saves you from spending time in long queues at the airport and gives you peace of mind that you’re checked in. Bear in mind that once you’ve checked in online, the airline considers you to be on the plane and will not account for you if you are running late for your flight. Once your seat is confirmed, and you miss your flight, that is essentially a wasted seat that could have been given to a standby customer. By checking in online before your flight, all you need to do is proceed straight to the boarding gate with your printed out boarding pass. Online check-in is only available to those within the baggage restrictions who can proceed straight to the bag drop counter (bag drop usually closes 40-60 minutes before departure); or if you’re travelling light with only hand luggage, you can head straight to your boarding gate. See our online check-in guide for all major airlines.
  2. If you have an unexpected emergency, phone the airline or airport and let them know. Although an airline will not delay a flight for a passenger (unless in case of an extreme emergency), a representative can advise you of any information that could potentially help you. Also, by informing the airline that you may potentially miss your flight, they may be able to give your seat to a standby passenger and hold you in good light for doing so.
  3. If you arrive at the airport late, immediately find an airline representative and let them know you are late for your flight. They can direct you to the front of the queues for security checks and passport control so that you can get to the boarding gate as soon as possible.
  4. Pack light to avoid having to check in your baggage – if you’re doing a short trip, pack as light as possible to store all of your belongings as hand luggage that does not need to be checked in. You will immediately save time, which will come in handy if you’re already late.
  5. Plan to get to the airport earlier than need be – this one may seem obvious, but many people enjoy sticking to a strict travel schedule, which may include very precise travel times to and from the airport. By doing this, you may forget to take any roadworks or traffic jams into consideration and arrive at the airport later than expected.

Unfortunately, even with the best of planning, some travellers do miss their flight! What would the next steps be in getting you in the air and off to your desired destination? Well, there are a few options to look at…

What happens to your luggage if you miss your flight?

In the event that you missed a connection, or got held up in security and your checked luggage has gone ahead without you, immediately find an airline representative.

The airline may be able to track your bags and hold them for you until your arrival.

2. What to do: Missed flight connection

It can be very stressful to figure out what to do if you’ve missed a flight connection. If you’ve missed a connecting flight due to circumstances beyond your control, such as heavy air traffic or bad weather, and you’re flying with a major carrier like Singapore Airlines or Qatar Airways, you can expect to be issued a brand new boarding pass and booked on the next available flight for no fee.

Budget airlines, such as Air Asia, will also protect you, provided that your booking is done under one booking number (Fly Through service) rather than two separate bookings.

What Fare Did You Purchase?

When you buy an economy ticket, your terms tend to be very limited. It wouldn’t be a surprise if your terms read something like the following: “If you fail to check in on time or fail to board the aircraft by the time the aircraft departs, the fare you paid will not be refunded to you for any reason whatsoever.” That might cause a mild panic attack, but it’s not as bad as it sounds.

Most airlines have a “flat tire” rule where if you show up for your confirmed flight within 2-hours of departure, you’ll be put on standby for the next available flight. This only works if you have a legit reason for missing your flight.

Note that this is an unofficial rule, but major airlines including American, Delta, Southwest, and United are known to extend this favor to customers. That being said, if you know you’re going to miss your flight, call the airline to let them know as it shows them that you’re essentially giving up your seat.

What if you still can’t catch yourflight?

Depending on the airline, travelers may be charged a rebooking fee to get on another flight. Some airlines may also charge the difference in airfare — meaning a missed flight can be a costly inconvenience.

JetBlue, for one, will try to waive the difference in airfare on confirmed travel (and charge only the applicable change fee) when they’re able to rebook travelers on a later departure.

Southwest, on the other hand, never charges change fees — but travelers may have to shoulder the fare difference.

If you arrive at the airport after your flight has closed or departed, take a minute to assess the flight schedule board. Look for later trips with the same airline, which can help you avoid additional fees (or forfeiting your entire remaining itinerary).

Present these options to a gate or check-in agent, which will help expedite the process.

4. Check out other flights on offer to your destination

Don’t panic! Check out Skyscanner and the airport departure boards and see if there are any other flights heading to your destination. See if you can get the best deals. From Changi there are numerous daily connections to major Asian capitals and if you whip out your phone, you may be able to book yourself on to a flight departing a little later in the day (though you’ll need to pay for it). Maybe you’ll even end up with a better flight!

5. Take it easy

Okay, so we know that missing your flight is stressful, but there’s not much you can do about it now. Follow the tips above and you’ll end up at your final destination eventually. Remember, your attitude can make a huge difference. If you’re courteous to staff, they’re more likely to help you and not charge you a fee. If your flight is scheduled for later in the day or the next morning, you might as well enjoy the airport facilities or have a nice meal. You’ve missed your flight, but that doesn’t mean your vacation is ruined.

Youre Going to Get There Soon!

Okay, we know this is easier said than done, but you’re trying to figure out what happens if you miss your flight, try to be positive. You’ve either missed your flight at your own fault or due to a force of nature it happened and there is a solution. Staying positive (instead of a grump), you’ll likely get staff who are much more willing to help you. Remember, that flat tire rule is up to the discretion of staff, if you’re rude to them, they may not extend it to you. You’ll get your final destination eventually, you might as well make the best of it for now.

We are Celt Kiwi

Also known as Tiernan, Rachel and Wendy! It’s lovely to see you here. At Celt & Kiwi we’re blogging about slow, family travel and sharing our relocation experiences. Read More

How do different causes of missing your flight affect your rights?

Now that you know what to do if you missed your flight, here’s a quick breakdown of what your rights are depending on what caused your missed flight. The reason for missing your flight matters, as it can affect how the airline handles your situation.

Missed flights abroad

International travel has become infinitely more complicated, time-consuming, and stressful during the pandemic—perhaps even more so as many countries start to welcome overseas visitors. To avoid missing a flight, passengers need to make sure they have all required entry documents, COVID test certifications, and other necessary paperwork squared away well in advance.

“We can’t stress this enough: Do your research and prepare your documentation ahead of time,” Orlando says. “In Europe, the reports are coming out fast and furious about confusion and 8-hour wait times, because people are trying to put together multiple forms of documentation and rules are changing every day.”

Air passengers traveling in Europe have the benefit of EC 261, one of the world’s most comprehensive passenger-rights regulations. Anyone traveling out of a European airport is covered, and EC 261 enables passengers to receive compensation between 250 and 600 euros (approximately $300-700) for many types of flight disruptions.

The situation becomes more complex if your missed flight isn’t the airline’s fault, underscoring the importance of arriving early at the airport. (Pro tip: Remember that European airlines mark time with the 24-hour clock, so for a U.S.-based traveler, a departure time of 17:15 is easily—and incorrectly—misread as 7:15 instead of the correct equivalent of 5:15 p.m.)

What happens if the airline cancels your flight?

There may be an unlikely situation where the airline cancels your flight. This could be due to a number of reasons, and remember that the airline always has your best interests at heart. Luckily, an airline flight cancellation is at no fault of the passenger and so it then becomes the responsibility of the airline to fix the situation and make an alternative plan. In the extreme case that your flight is cancelled, you will be put on the next available flight at no additional cost. Alternatively, you may be fully compensated for your lost flight.

Have you ever missed a flight before? How did you handle it? Let us know in the comments section below, and don’t forget to sign up to the Travelstart newsletter for more great travel tips and inspiration.


All information on this blog page was correct at the time of publishing and may change at any time without prior notice. Travelstart will not be held liable for loss or inconvenience resulting from the use of out-dated or incorrectly noted information.


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