Missing a connecting flight is a nightmare setback on a long journey. But UK travellers as well as anyone traveling to or from Europe might be legally protected. According to UK and EU law, if you miss a connecting flight due to flight delay, cancellation, or being denied boarding you could be entitled to up to £520 compensation
A connecting flight is the term used for a flight which is not direct. Though these flights are bought as one booking, they involve flying into or ‘connecting’ via other airports on the way.
If something disrupts one of your flights, it may cause you to miss your connection. This sounds like a nightmare but don’t worry – your airline should arrange a new flight for you. Plus, if you are flying in or out of the UK or Europe you may be entitled to additional compensation.
That’s because of an EU regulation EC 261 and its equivalent in UK law. Although there is no specific category of missed connection compensation, if the airline has caused you to miss your connecting flight due to flight delay, cancellation, or denied boarding, you can still make a claim for compensation.
You can claim compensation for a missed flight connection if…
You missed the connection due to a flight delay, flight cancellation or overbooked flight.
In the case of flight delay: Your missed connection caused you to be over three hours late arriving at your final destination.
Your connecting flights were part of the same booking, not purchased individually.
The flight took off in the UK or the EU (from any airline) or landed in the those territories (provided that the airline is headquartered in either the UK or the EU).
The disruption which caused you to miss your connection was within the airline's control (e.g. airline staff strike or technical difficulties).
You did not miss your connection for a reason under your control (for example, you showed up too late at the departure gate, or did not have the correct documentation).
You encountered these problems on a flight operated no more than three years ago.
It doesn’t matter whether the airline has already provided you with a replacement flight,
In the case of missed connections, we realize some of the criteria might not be as straightforward as they seem. The simplest way to find out if you are owed compensation is to use our eligibility checker.
Or read on if you’d like to understand more about your right to compensation for missed connecting flights:
Missed connections are only eligible where both flights were part of the same reservation. That means that you booked a single journey from your departure to your destination, and the airline issued you with a ticket for connecting flights. Most often the connecting flights are with the same airline, but that isn’t always the case.
This is different to if you made two (or more) bookings for flights and plan to catch one following another. This situation would not be covered for missed flight connection – although you may be able to claim compensation for the original disruption.
Some travel agents will book two separate flights as part of the same journey. But they should make clear if they are not part of the same reservation and highlight the “self-transfer” at the connecting airport.
If you’re not sure if your journey is a single reservation, a simple way to tell is by looking at your booking reference number.
If this is the same for all flights they are considered part of the same reservation.
The legal regulations apply to all passengers on flights within the UK and Europe – regardless of where the passenger is from. The definition covers all flights that depart from a UK or a European airport, and those that land in those territories on a European or British airline.
Missed connection compensation may even apply to flights outside of Europe, if part of your journey includes a UK or European connection. This chart makes the coverage clear:
|Itinerary||EU air carrier||Non-EU air carrier|
|From inside the UK or EU to inside the UK or EU||✔️ Yes||✔️ Yes|
|From inside the UK or EU to outside the UK or EU||✔️ Yes||✔️ Yes|
|From outside the UK or EU to inside the UK or EU||✔️ Yes||No - unless your journey originated in the UK or EU*|
|From outside the UK or EU to outside the UK or EU||No - unless your journey originated within the relevant territories*||No - unless your journey originated in UK or EU*|
* If flights were purchased under one booking, the relevant law considers them part of the same journey. Consequently, journeys departing these territories are covered regardless of where disruption occurs or where you miss your connection. This rule generally holds true, though some courts interpret the regulation differently.
EC 261 and its UK equivalent are also applicable in Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and the so-called “outermost regions” (French Guiana and Martinique, Mayotte, Guadeloupe and La Réunion, Saint-Martin, Madeira and the Azores, and the Canary Islands).
Under UK and EU law, passengers are eligible to claim compensation when airline fault causes one of these three flight disruptions to occur:
A 3-hour (or more) delayed flight arrival at your final destination
Therefore, if you miss a flight connection as a result of these flight incidents, you are eligible for missed connection compensation.
Note that in many cases airlines will reroute passengers on cancelled or overbooked flights, negating the possibility of a missed connection.
One important point in relation to missed connection compensation is the 3-hour (or more) delay principle.
If you miss a connection due to a delayed flight, it is immaterial how long the delay is that caused the missed connection. The focus is on the length of delay of your final destination – which has to be three hours or more to be eligible for compensation.
If you missed your connection due to a cancellation or denied boarding, the total delay to your final destination can be any length.
Extraordinary circumstances are events deemed to be outside the control of the airline.
These include situations like lightning strikes, medical emergencies, air traffic control strikes, serious adverse weather conditions, acts of sabotage, political unrest, acts of terrorism… you get the idea.
If you miss a connection due to these kinds of extraordinary circumstances the airline isn’t obligated to pay compensation, since they are only held responsible for things that they control.
Airline strikes do not fall under extraordinary circumstances
In April 2018, the European Court of Justice made a ruling (matched in UK law) stating that internal ‘wildcat strikes’ by flight staff do not constitute as extraordinary circumstances.
Therefore, airlines must now compensate air passengers for flight delays and cancellations when an airline strike is to blame.
We know there are sometimes good reasons why you’ll miss a connection. Mishaps like a family emergency, a sudden sickness, or simply losing track of time can make you a no-show on your flight.
Regardless of the reason, if you are responsible for missing a connection you will not be entitled to compensation under EC 261. We do have some advice on how to handle a missed connecting flight in our FAQ section.
Even if you are on a business trip when you miss a connecting flight, it is still you, the passenger, who is entitled to compensation.
The general legal principle is that the passenger who has suffered the inconvenience is owed compensation, not the person who paid for the ticket.
How much compensation you are owed depends on the reason for your missed connection.
The most common reason for a missed connection is flight delay. If that’s what happened in your case, you can use the following table to understand how much you are owed (in pounds sterling).
Compensation based on length of delay:
|Distance||Less than 3 hours||3 – 4 hours||More than 4 hours||Never arrived|
|All flights 1,500 km or less||€ -||✔️ £220||✔️ £220||✔️ £220|
|Internal UK/EU flights over 1,500 km||€ -||✔️ £350||✔️ £350||✔️ £350|
|Non-internal UK/EU flights between 1,500 km and 3,500 km||€ -||✔️ £350||✔️ £350||✔️ £350|
|Non-internal UK/EU flights over 3,500 km||€ -||✔️ £260||✔️ £520||✔️ £520|
You may be entitled to different amounts of compensation if you missed a connection for reasons other than flight delay.
When you are claiming compensation for a missed connection, it is the total length of the journey that is important, not the leg of the journey that you missed.
That means any legs of the journey that came before the disruption might be included as well, if they were operated by the carrier responsible for the delay (and there were no intervening flights operated by a different carrier).
To put it another way, if an airline causes a missed connection, they are usually responsible for all of their own flights, even if they came before the disruption. They are also responsible for any later flights that are affected, even if they are with a different airline.
If you missed your connection due to the fault of the airline, the airline should rebook you on the next available flight to your destination.
If the missed connection means that the flight is no longer serving the purpose of your original travel plan, you may also want to make use of your rights of reimbursement.
This right kicks in if your flight is delayed for five hours or more, if your flight is cancelled or if you are denied boarding for overbooking.
Under this part of the regulation, you may ask the airline to provide you with a return flight to the first point of departure AND a refund for the journey not made.
EC 261, which was been carried over into UK law following Brexit, is clear that refunds must also include parts of the journey that have been made if the flight is no longer serving its original purpose. This is particularly relevant to passengers on connecting flights, who have already flown part of their itinerary before the disruption occurred.
Right to care
If you’re waiting for the airline to get you back on track toward your destination, UK law says you’re entitled to a number essentials, depending on your flight details.
After several hours of delay, your airline must provide meals and refreshments as well as access to communications (two telephone calls, fax messages, or emails).
If overnight accommodation becomes necessary, they must provide you with a hotel room, and transportation to and from the airport.
Right to reimbursement or re-routing
If your delay exceeds five hours, you are entitled to a full or partial refund of your original ticket and a return flight to your point of departure, if needed. That’s in addition to your compensation.
Upgrading and downgrading
The legal requirement is that your new flight should be of a similar standard to your missed connection.
However, if you are offered an upgrade, the airline isn’t allowed to charge you anything extra. On the other hand, if the class of the alternative flight is lower, you can get a reimbursement of between 30-75% of the price you originally paid.
Even if you are compensated this doesn’t affect your right to request further compensation. But bear in mind that the amount you are legally entitled to may be deducted from whatever additional compensation you receive.
If you arrive at your connecting airport to find your next flight left without you, you typically have 2 choices: ask to be rebooked on the next available flight free of charge, or ask for a refund and flight back to your point of departure.
Either way, here are the steps to take:
1) Hold on to your boarding pass and other travel documents
You’ll need these later to make a compensation claim.
2) Speak to an airline representative
Today most airlines are aware straight away and will try to contact you with a replacement flight. If there’s no-one waiting when you disembark the plane find the customer services desk or speak to your airline on the phone.
3) Request an alternative flight to your destination
Your airline is obligated to get you on the next available flight to your destination.
Or, if that doesn’t work for you, ask them to refund your flight and fly you back to where you started.
4) Ask if the airline will cover your meals and refreshments
If you’re at the airport longer than planned, the airline can provide food and drinks to keep you comfortable. It’s not just good hospitality, in the UK and Europe, it’s a requirement.
5) Ask the airline to provide you with a hotel room
If by 6pm the airline has still not managed to rebook you to another fight, hasn’t found a seat on a night flight or for the next day, the airline must arrange your hotel accommodation. They must also cover transportation to and from the airport, if necessary.
6) Check what will happen to your bags
Did your luggage also miss the connecting flight? Ask if they can be returned to you if you’re going to be waiting a while for your replacement flight.
7) Let people in your destination know
If you’re visiting friends or relatives, you don’t want them to worry when you don’t show up on time. If you’re staying in a hotel, you should also contact them. They might put you down as a no-show and cancel your booking otherwise. The airline should offer you a way of communicating as part of your right to care.
8) Keep your receipts if your missed connection ends up costing you extra money
Whether it’s missing out on a pre-paid reservation, hotel, rental car, or other unexpected costs, passengers on international flights may be able to recover expenses caused by travel disruptions.
9) See if your missed connection is eligible for compensation
Use our eligibility checker to quickly and easily find out what you’re entitled to.
AirHelp makes the claim process simple. Fill in a few details about your flights, tell us what happened, and our team of expert claim agents will handle the rest.
We’ll check the details of your flight and build a case for compensation. And we’ll handle all the negotiations with the airline on your behalf.
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If the connecting flight is part of the same booking reference, then the airline should rebook you on the next available flight free of charge.
For lengthier delays i.e. if the next flight departs the following day, the airline must also provide you with accommodation, food, and transport to and from the airport.
If you land at your final destination more than 3 hours after you were supposed to, you may also be eligible for compensation, provided that the delay wasn’t caused by an extraordinary circumstance. The laws vary depending on where you’re flying, but flight delay compensation can be a considerable amount, so it’s always worth checking if you’re eligible.
But please note, if your connecting flight was part of a separate booking, you'll likely have to book another onwards flight yourself as the airline is not obligated by law to do so.
Always make sure you have enough time between flights. Usually this means at least 45 minutes between one flight landing and the next taking off.
When booking your tickets, check how much time you'll have between flights. Airlines will only offer connections that are feasible, but if you're worried, or you know you'll need longer, you can research each airport's minimum connection time, and choose a flight with a longer connection.
Some factors that can affect how much time you will need include:
Whenever a cancellation or delay causes a missed connection, most airlines will automatically book affected passengers on the next flight to their destination. So start by contacting your airline to check what's been arranged.
In rare cases, if they can't find you a substitute flight, you may book one yourself — just be sure to keep the receipt so you can get the costs refunded.
However! If you are responsible for missing your connection the situation is different, and your airline is not obligated to rebook or refund your flight.
You can decide not to show up for the next leg of your connecting flight you need to be aware that the airline is under no obligation to pay you compensation or to rebook you.
You should let the airline know, as they will otherwise label you as a "no-show" and could even cancel the rest of your itinerary.
Most passengers will have about 3 years to make a claim.
However the exact time varies from one country to the next, and your claim's will be determined by where you were flying, and where the headquarters of the airline is, so we advise you start a claim as soon as possible, just in case!
If you are eligible for compensation, then most laws will base the amount of compensation on your whole journey, from your first departure airport to your final destination, regardless of whether or not you have connections on the way.
However, the flights must be under one booking and not purchased individually for this to apply.
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