What Happens If You Miss Your Flight?

First of All – Take a Deep Breath

The most important step is to stay calm. All the panicking in the world cannot help you travel back in time and catch your flight, so there’s no point in getting angry or upset.

Your first steps will often involve speaking to airline staff and figuring out the next best option. You’ll be more successful at this if you are calm and clear, rather than hysterical and desperate.

If you lose your head, or get angry, it will only make working with airline staff more difficult.


Can you get a refund if you miss your flight?

No. But you can, on rare and serendipitous occasions, avoid penalties for your tardiness.

“There’s something called a ‘flat tire rule,’” Kincaid explained to T+L, noting that not all airlines have this.

“Basically, the rule can be used to only charge the same day confirmed [or] standby fee, instead of a change fee and change of fare fee, if the passenger states they were late due to a flat tire, accident, or something similar.”

In just the same way that airlines avoiding compensating passengers for weather-related cancellations, travelers also have some recourse when they are late for reasons beyond their control. Such as, well, a flat tire.

While this policy is rarely publicized on airline websites, The Points Guy noted that most domestic carriers, including American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, and United Airlines, will accommodate travelers who arrive within two hours of their original time departure, without paying a fee or swallowing fare increases.

Can you miss the first leg of a flight?

When you miss your first flight on a multi-city air ticket, many airlines will automatically cancel your connecting/return flight and have you marked as a ‘No Show’. If you have a long layover and are still able to catch your connecting flight, make sure you immediately let the airline know, so they can put you on their system for that flight. If all flights are with the same airline, or have code-share agreements, you only need to phone the main airline on your ticket. In the case that your flights are with multiple airlines, you will need to inform each affected airline that you will miss the first flight, but will still be on the connecting one. You will need to do this once you have successfully re-booked your missed flight.

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Did You Purchase Travel Insurance?

If you checked the box that most of us say no to, this might help quite a bit . Assuming you did, then your day just got a little easier. As long as you have a qualifying reason, your travel insurance will cover your expenses for a cancelled flight or delay.

Qualifying reasons differ per policy, so you will need to read the fine print. Generally speaking, if your flight is delayed or cancelled by four hours, then your insurance will cover the costs for another flight to get you to your next destination. There’s no need to wait standby, just book a flight with any airline and be on your way.Check the Terms of Your Flight

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.)

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.

What happens if you miss a connecting flight?

There is something called a contract of carriage that can be found on most airlines’ websites. Basically, this means that if you miss a connecting flight, you will be protected.

The airline should rebook you for the next flight without charge. Sometimes, this may mean you will need to stay overnight at the airport. But, no worries, the airline should cover your hotel expenses as part of the contract.

For a missed flight on connecting international flights to Europe, you will have even better luck. European consumer regulations will give you up to 600 euros for certain missed connections. In addition, they will cover a rerouting flight or even a flight back to the city you departed from.

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.

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…

6. If needed, find the cheapest flight with Skyscanner

If you have to book yourself a new flight, you can do so via our website and app. Don’t forget to check alternative transport options too. If you are funding the new flight yourself, you might want to investigate rail routes, or the cost of renting a car. 

Download the Skyscanner App and Save!

Is Another Flight Available?

The airline will typically put you on the next available flight on standby. Be informed on the upcoming flights and make suggestions. If it’s the end of the day, they’ll put you on standby on the first flight with available seats in the morning. Remember, the “flat tire rule” is unofficial, there is always a chance that you’ll be charged a fee to rebook your ticket.

If need to be somewhere fast, you might as well see if there are any other flights available to help you reach your final destination. You still need to take a flight within the carrier’s network, but taking a stopover might get you to where you need to be a bit quicker.

In the chance you cannot find any flights available through your carrier even with some creative strategies, you can book a new flight entirely. Last minute flights are always available on Skyscanner. 

When you miss your flight you should be proactive
When you miss your flight you should be proactive in finding some solutions before you reach the counter. Look at at other flights and download the Skyscanner app to see what is available last minute.

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