Missed Your Flight? Here Are the Steps You Should Take Next
Your Options for Catching Another Flight
Even as a well-prepared traveler, at some point in your travels you may come upon a time when you miss your flight. Whether it was your fault, the airline’s fault, or an act of God wholly out of your control, you’ll need to know what to do next. So, what happens if you miss your flight?
If It’s Your Fault
Flat tire on the way to the airport? Couldn’t get a ride? Didn’t give yourself enough time to get through security? If you think you’re going to miss your flight, or you do miss it of your own accord, the first thing to do is notify the airline.
Each airline has their own policy on how to deal with missed flights, but in general there are a few scenarios that may occur.
Standby and the Flat Tire Rule
If you can make it to the airport within two hours after your flight’s scheduled departure, you may be eligible for the “Flat Tire Rule.” This unofficial policy will allow you to fly standby on the next available flight, free of charge.
The Flat Tire Rule only applies if something out of your control (like a flat tire) has prevented you from making your flight on time. But even then, it’s up to the ticket agent to apply this rule as it’s not a required policy.
Keep in mind, you can sometimes still fly standby for free if your ticket is in business or first-class, you booked the ticket with rewards points, or you have a higher tier credit card or loyalty program status with that airline. But even if the airline won’t allow you to fly standby for free, you still have the option of trying anyway, for a fee (usually around $75 USD).
If you’re not able to get to the airport within two hours after your flight’s departure (or the airline’s ticket agent is not willing to invoke the Flat Tire Rule for you), you still have options if you miss your flight. As soon as possible, call up the airline’s customer service number and inform them that you’ve missed your flight (or are going to miss it).
Unfortunately, in this scenario, you’ll likely be subject to a rebooking or change fee. Again, each airline has their own policy, but in general, you can expect to pay between $50 and $150 USD to get yourself on the next available flight. However, there are some exceptions.
Southwest Airlines doesn’t charge any change fees ever, but you may still have to pay a difference in fares between the flight you missed and the new flight. You’ll also be able to change or cancel your flight for free as long as you’re able to call them at least 10 minutes before your flight’s scheduled departure.
Other airlines may waive these rebooking or change fees if you have higher status in their loyalty programs. For example, Delta Airlines provides a complimentary, same-day flight change for their Diamond, Platinum and Gold Medallion Members.
If It’s the Airline’s Fault
There are also plenty of scenarios where it’s the airline’s fault that you miss your flight, especially when it’s a connecting flight. Delays due to weather, mechanical problems, or crew issues may cause a missed flight, leaving you wondering what your options are. Luckily, you’re a lot better off if it’s the airline’s fault. You can also check your travel insurance policy to see if there is some coverage that can help you out.
Next Available Flight
For instances where a missed flight was within the airline’s control, they will simply book you on the next available flight for no additional charge. You can ensure this happens by visiting the ticket counter for that airline, speaking to one of the gate agents, or calling customer service.
Sometimes, you might also get monetary compensation, extra rewards points, or meal and accommodation vouchers, especially if the next available flight isn’t until the next day.
If you’re forced to stay overnight due to a missed flight, most airlines will provide you with a list of contracted hotels where you will either receive a reduced rate or possibly even a free night. Some airlines will provide round-trip transportation to and from the airport as well.
Even if a contracted hotel has no vacancy, airlines such as Delta will still reimburse nights at a hotel up to $100 per night.
Weather delays, on the other hand, are a different story since a storm can sometimes last for several days at a time. In that case, most airlines will allow you to change the dates of your reservation without charging you a fee. But, if it’s too much of an inconvenience to wait until the weather passes, you also have the option to fly out of another local airport that’s not affected by the weather.
Cancellation and Refund
Airlines know how inconvenient a missed flight can be, especially if someone is flying for business reasons. Therefore, if it was their fault, you can usually cancel your reservation and receive an e-credit or refund to be used at a later date. In that case, you would either have to book yourself with another airline or choose an alternate mode of transportation such as a car or train to get to your final destination.
Although missing a flight is frustrating, with this knowledge you’ll now be better prepared in the event it happens to you.
Note: These rules apply for the United States and U.S.-based airlines. The European Union has its own policy, which its airlines are required to follow.