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What happens when you miss your flight?

Perhaps you got stuck in traffic on the way to the airport, your alarm didn’t go off, or a travel companion kept you waiting. Whatever the circumstances, few situations are as stressful as missing a flight. Even with the best of planning it can happen, but it doesn’t have to turn into the disaster you may be imagining.

What to do first

First, speak to your airline - it should have a dedicated help desk at the airport. The staff there will be able to advise you on the best solution.

Bear in mind that if you missed your flight because of transport delays, strikes or any other circumstances outside your airline’s control, then the carrier isn’t legally responsible for you and therefore doesn’t have to put you on the next available flight. If it does decide to set you up on the next flight, you may incur a penalty charge.

You should also check your travel insurance policy, as in many cases this will include cover for missed flights. Call your provider to find out your options, and always read the small print in your plan in case there are certain situations relating to missed flights that aren’t covered, for example if you travelled to the airport in your own car.

If you booked your flight as part of a tour, contact your tour operator. They may be able to advise you about connecting flights and cover the cost, depending on your reasons for missing your departure.

When it's not your fault

If you missed your flight because your connecting plane arrived late or was cancelled due to a technical fault, or for any other reason that was out of your control, it is your airline's duty to get you in the air as soon as possible. This could be on a flight with another airline or a seat on their next flight.

With missed connections, you’ll need to contact the airline to make sure you can pick up your bags at the other end and to find out where to collect them from. Your bags will arrive before you do, so simply letting the baggage claim agent know will help expedite the process. You should also call your hotel and ground transport if you will be arriving much later than expected.

It might be the case that your flight has been rescheduled to an earlier time - if so, it is up to the airline or the travel agent you booked with to inform you of these changes. If they fail to do this and you miss your flight as a result, you may be able to make a claim against the airline.

It's important to remember that policies for missed flights tend to differ between airlines, but cheaper tickets sold by budget airlines are usually non-refundable. If you think there's a chance you may miss your flight, or if you are relying on a connecting flight for part of your holiday, check your airline's missed flight policy before you book.

Top tips to ensure you make that flight

There are a number of ways you can prepare in advance of your holiday to reduce the chances of missing your departure:

  • Rather than allowing the recommended 45 minutes for domestic connections, allow an hour instead. With domestic to international flights, allow at least 90 minutes.
  • Look up the size and layout of the airport you're departing from well before you leave - this will help you work out how much time it'll take to get around.
  • Consider the time of year you're going away - if it's during a school break, Christmas or the summer months, the airport could be busier than usual and you may want to allow extra time for checking in.
  • Give yourself plenty of time to get to the airport, and make sure everyone in your group is clear about what time to be ready - it's far better to be early and waiting around than late and stressed.
  • Save time by checking in online - the majority of airlines now allow passengers to check in 24 hours before their scheduled flight.