What to do if you miss your flight ?

Missing a flight is a passenger’s worst fear. But depending on the context and circumstances, a missed flight isn’t always critical, even if it is often problematic.

Yet it’s easy to avoid missing your flight: all you have to do is arrive well in advance. That’s the theory. In practice, there are an infinite number of reasons for missing a flight: a long meeting, traffic jams on the road, overloaded security checkpoints, a late connecting flight, a forgotten passport…. And sometimes, despite all the precautions you can take, you arrive too late at the boarding gate… if you get there at all.

But that doesn’t mean all is lost: depending on the context and ticket terms and conditions, you may be able to get away with it.

Your first flight is late and you miss your connection

This is the simplest case. If you have a connection with both flights on the same ticket, the airline(s) concerned are obliged to take you to your destination.

So if you miss your flight because the first one is late, you’ll be rebooked on the next flight where there’s room, or even on another airline.

The only problem is if everything is full: you may have to wait a long time.

Be careful, however, if you are self-connecting, i.e. taking two flights on two different tickets. For example, easyJet from Bordeaux to Paris, then Air France from Paris to New York. If the first is late and you miss the second, you’ll be considered a no-show and have nothing to expect from the airline operating your second flight.

Of course, there are exceptions, and sometimes you may come across a willing agent who will do his utmost to arrange the situation, but it all depends on his goodwill, and if that happens to you, you’re really lucky.

Of course, if your flight is operated by a European airline, or if its point of departure is in Europe, you may be entitled to compensation under EU 261, depending on the length of the delay, and to reimbursement of the costs incurred. All this, of course, if you’re not in self connect.

Missing your first flight as a result of your own fault: pay attention to the terms and conditions of your ticket

If you miss the first flight of your itinerary through no fault of your own, you’re theoretically a no-show. By “your own fault” we mean for reasons beyond the airline’s control, i.e. any reason other than the above-mentioned reason for a late connection.

You have nothing to expect from the airline except exceptional compassion, but don’t dream. Some are more accommodating than others, and by asking politely you may be rebooked on a later flight, but this is by no means an obligation.

The consequences are far-reaching, even dramatic.

Not only is your ticket on this flight cancelled, but so is the entire itinerary. This means that if you have a connecting flight to catch, it is also cancelled and, even worse, your return flight is also cancelled!

Practically speaking, if you have a Bordeaux-Paris-Singapore flight on Air France and you miss your flight to Paris, you can’t even think about taking a new ticket to Singapore on a later flight and enjoying your return ticket! Not only will your one-way ticket be more expensive than a return ticket, but your Singapore-Paris-Bordeaux ticket will also be cancelled.

What can you do in such a situation? Absolutely nothing, unless your ticket allows it.

Indeed, if you have a flexible ticket, you may be able to change your flight with or without penalty, depending on the conditions of your ticket. Some can be exchanged or modified up to a certain time before the flight, and some even afterwards, with or without penalty. In the first case, don’t wait until you’ve missed your flight to change your ticket, but do it online as soon as you realize you won’t be on time.

Of course, it all depends on availability and the amount of any penalties and price adjustments.

Finally, in the event of a missed flight, it is not possible to obtain a refund of the ticket price, apart from two taxes: the airport tax (indicated by the letters QW on your ticket) and the passenger fee (indicated by the letters QX on your ticket).

Your travel insurance may also cover a missed flight in exceptional circumstances, but this is not a general rule, and often specific circumstances (illness, accident) are required.

What happens to your luggage if you miss your flight?

A final concern in the event of a missed flight: what happens to your checked-in baggage?

In theory, if your baggage is already loaded and your flight leaves without you, you should contact the airline to have it rerouted to the address of your choice. But that’s just the theory.

In practice, and for security reasons, airlines no longer let planes depart with baggage whose owners are not on board. So if you miss your flight, your baggage will be unloaded and you can pick it up.

Bottom line

Except in the case of a missed connection or exceptional circumstances, a missed flight with a non-flexible ticket means a cancelled and non-refunded ticket.

There’s not much you can do about it, apart from hoping that the airline will be understanding, having good insurance and, above all, taking every possible margin of safety, even if, by definition, imponderables are unpredictable.

Image : missed flight by AJR_photo via Shutterstock

Bertrand Duperrin
Bertrand Duperrinhttp://www.duperrin.com
Compulsive traveler, present in the French #avgeek community since the late 2000s and passionate about (long) travel since his youth, Bertrand Duperrin co-founded Travel Guys with Olivier Delestre in March 2015.

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