If you ever find yourself in the unfortunate situation of having your connecting flight canceled, don’t worry.

You will likely get to your final destination with your bags intact, and/or you may be entitled to compensation.

What Happens When Your Connecting Flight is Canceled

If your connecting flight gets canceled, the airline will book you on the next available flight to your destination.

If the airline doesn’t do this, you are entitled to compensation, though it can vary depending on if your flight originates in the U.S. or abroad.

What You Are Entitled To

In the U.S., under Federal law, airlines are required to only compensate you for the cost of your ticket if your flight is canceled – connecting flight or otherwise.

If you’re forced to cancel your trip because of the flight cancellation, you’re entitled to compensation for both the cost of the ticket and any additional fees you paid for your bags, but that is it.

airline refund policy displayed on a laptop

In the E.U., you are entitled to more generous compensation.

Airlines operating in the EU are required to compensate you for the cost of your ticket, as well as airport services, like food.

If the airline refuses compensation for a canceled flight, you can complain through official avenues.

What Happens to Your Luggage

If your connecting flight is canceled, your luggage, which was meant to be transferred to your final destination, will be waiting for you at baggage claim in the airport where the flight was meant to depart.

In the event that your connecting flight departed, but you missed the flight because your layover was too short, your luggage will likely be placed on the next flight to your final destination.

airport luggage

If you missed the flight for other reasons, your luggage will either be placed on the plane and will be at your final destination, or it was taken off the plane because the airline realized that you weren’t onboard.

What to Do If Your Connecting Flight is Canceled

If your connecting flight is canceled at the last minute, here is what typically happens and what you should do.

1. Communicate With the Airline

Your airline should notify you about any flight disruptions, including cancellations, through email or text. They will tell you the reason for the cancellation, options for alternative flights, and instructions on what to do next.

If you do not receive an email or text, you’ll receive news of the cancellation at the airport.

2. Rebooking Options

Your airline should provide you with options for rebooking you on the next available flight to your destination.

3. Assistance at the Airport

If you’re already at the airport when your connecting flight is canceled, head to the airline’s customer service counter.

There you will be assisted in finding alternative flights, rebooking, and addressing any concerns you might have.

4. Availability of Flights

The availability of alternative flights will depend on various factors, including the time of day, destination, and airline’s capacity.

airport board showing canceled flights

If your connecting flight is canceled during busy travel periods, such as the holidays, rebooking might be more challenging due to limited availability.

5. Compensation and Amenities

Depending on the airline’s policy and the circumstances of the cancellation, you might be entitled to certain amenities or compensation.

This could include meal vouchers, accommodation (if the next available flight is on the following day), and transportation to the hotel.

Ella Dunham, a Freelance Travel Journalist and Marketing Manager, boasts an impressive career spanning eight years in the travel and tourism sectors.

Honored as one of "30 Under 30" by TTG Media (the world’s very first weekly travel trade newspaper), a "Tour Operator Travel Guru" and "Legend Award" winner, Ella is also a Fellow of the Institute of Travel, a Member of the Association of Women Travel Executives, has completed over 250 travel modules, and hosts travel-focused segments on national radio shows where she provides insights on travel regulations and destinations.

Ella has visited over 40 countries (with 10 more planned this year).