Despite our best efforts, many of us have previously missed a flight, wreaking havoc on our travel plans.
Depending on the reason you miss a flight, you can either lose the entire value of your ticket, you can be charged a fee to rebook, you can be rebooked on another flight for free, or you may receive a refund.
Besides the reason for missing a flight, what happens next can also depend on the airline you are flying with.
What Happens If You Miss Your Flight? (By Situation)
If You Haven’t Checked In
If you aren’t able to check in and therefore miss your flight, an airline considers this to be a “no show”.
Your ticket will be canceled, you won’t be able to obtain a refund and won’t be rebooked onto another flight.
After Having Checked In
If you’ve checked in but miss your flight, an airline will still consider this a “no show”.
So an airline can cancel your ticket and the rest of your itinerary, leaving you with little option for a refund, but you may be able to rebook for a fee.
If you checked in a bag, it will also arrive at your destination without you, which will be a hassle in itself.
If you miss a domestic flight due to certain external circumstances, such as bad weather, an airline is under no obligation to provide you with accommodations or food vouchers.
An airline can put you on the next available flight, though.
If you miss a domestic flight because you woke up late, got stuck in traffic etc., try and take advantage of the “flat tire” rule that we talk about below.
Generally, the same rules apply for domestic flights as they do for international flights departing from a U.S. airport.
However, if you’re flying from an international airport and miss your flight, especially if due to circumstances outside your control, you are better protected compared to the U.S.
If You Miss a Connection
If you miss your flight due to a late connection that was outside your control, and you are flying on a single ticket, it is the airline’s responsibility to get you to your final destination, so you will be booked onto another flight for free.
If you aren’t flying on a single ticket, it is considered your responsibility to make your flight.
So if you miss your flight, an airline is not responsible for this, and you will have to pay for a new ticket.
Because You’re Sick
If you miss a flight because you are sick, you should get a note from your doctor that states the reason why you weren’t able to fly.
Depending on the airline, you may be able to receive a refund or obtain a travel voucher to book a flight in the future.
What Happens If You Miss Your Flight? (By Airline)
If you miss an American Airlines flight, though arrive within two hours of scheduled departure, you can be rebooked on the next flight as a standby traveler and without having to pay any additional fees or the difference in the new airfare.
Delta state that they do not have an official policy and will handle each missed flight on a case-by-case basis
If you miss a flight when flying with JetBlue, you will likely have to forfeit the non-refundable portion of your ticket.
However, you may also be put on standby for the next available flight at no additional cost.
Southwest allow you to change or cancel flights without penalty before departure.
You just have to pay the difference in the fare.
United state that they do not have an official policy if you miss a flight, but you can usually be rebooked on a new flight if you contact the airline within 30 minutes of your scheduled departure.
What is the “Flat Tire” Rule?
In the U.S., most airlines have a “flat tire” rule that allows passengers to rebook their flight if they miss their flight or are running late for free or for a small fee.
The best way of making this rule work for you is to contact the airline if you are running late and think that you are going to miss your flight.
This will give the airline time to rebook you onto another flight.
If You Miss Your Flight Can You Get on the Next One?
If you miss your flight, you may be able to get on the next one to your original destination, provided that there are seats available.
Due to the “flat tire” rule, you also may not be charged to be rebooked onto the next flight, either.
Will You Get a Refund If You Miss Your Flight?
If you’ve missed a flight through a fault of your own, you will not receive a refund.
But if an airline cancels your flight for whatever reason, or you miss your flight due to unexpected external circumstances that are outside of your control, you might be eligible for a refund.
What Happens to Your Baggage If You Miss Your Flight?
If you’ve already checked in your bag, and you miss your flight, your bag will end up at your destination without you.
You should contact the airline and ask them to hold your bag until your arrival.
If you never end up going to your destination, you can ask the airline to ship your bag to you at another location.
Will You Be Charged If You Miss Your Flight?
You are unlikely to be charged it you miss your flight, unless you have a habit of doing so.
The worst that will happen is that you may lose the entire value of your ticket.
Does Travel Insurance Cover Missed Flights?
Most travel insurance providers won’t cover you if you miss a flight, but it’s sometimes possible to pay extra to obtain missed flight cover.
Additionally, the reason why you missed your flight and whether the policy you took out covers this reason or not will also affect if you can obtain a refund or not.
What Should You Do If You Think You’re Going to Miss Your Flight?
If you think you’re going to miss your flight, you should definitely contact the airline and let them know.
If you do this, you may be booked onto the next available flight.; if you don’t, it’s likely that you will lose the entire value of your ticket.
Is There a Fee to Change Your Flight?
Depending on the airline, you may be charged a fee to change your flight, especially if you want to change your flight on the same day of your scheduled departure.
Generally, the more budget the airline and/or the more basic your ticket, the more likely you will be charged for changing your flight.
How Late Can You Change Your Flight?
You can change your flight up to and including the day you are meant to depart, though you will very likely be charged a fee for doing so.
How to Avoid Missing a Flight
The common denominator in every missed flight is a lack of time.
So to avoid missing a flight, it is of course better to leave yourself with plenty of time instead of having to rush.
You should aim to get to the airport 3 hours before an international flight, and 2 hours before a domestic flight if you practically want to be guaranteed that you will make your flight.
To avoid missing a flight:
- Get to the airport as early as possible
- Double check that you have all the travel documents you need with you
- Account for busier travel periods, such as during the holidays
- If you can, avoid checking in a bag to save time
- Check in online, even if you are also checking in a bag to take advantage of the self-service bag drop
- Become familiar with the layout of the airport
- If you need a connecting flight, book a later connection to be on the safe side
- Get TSA PreCheck
- Make sure that you aren’t travelling with a forbidden item, as it will only delay you
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Robert is a seasoned flyer who knows more about commercial air travel than practically anyone else out there due to the time he has spent at airports and on planes over the years for work.