I’ve missed my flight! What are my rights as a passenger?

I’ve missed my flight! What are my rights as a passenger?

By Jaqueline Junginger・Last updated on July 5, 2021

A missed flight can happen to the best of us. Whether you missed a flight due to traffic or had to endure slow lines at the security checkpoint, it can be a stressful experience, especially if you find yourself trapped in a foreign country. 

Don’t panic! Even if you miss your flight, there are always ways for you to fix it and get on the next possible flight to your destination. We break down what you can do immediately after a missed flight, and what your rights are in different situations. 

What to do if you missed your flight

So what to do if you missed your flight? The first thing you should do is to call the airline, otherwise, they will declare you a “no show” and cancel your entire itinerary, including any connections or return flights that you may have. If you are running late and can already tell that you’re not going to make it to the airport on time, it’s worth it to go ahead and let the airline know beforehand so that you can start thinking about a solution. 

Martin Seeley, CEO of MattressNextDay and an avid traveler, says “Airlines are most likely to assist you with another flight if you call them as early as possible. There is a high chance that they will book you on the next flight when you call them when you’re on your way because of external factors that caused you to be late.”

If you are already at the airport, you can also ask the airline desk at the gate for information. Tawnya Redding, a blogger at Money Saved is Money Earned advises “I've missed several flights, both due to things within and out of my control. In both instances, the first thing I did was go to the airline desk at the gate — and that should be the first thing you do as well. The people at the gate can give you immediate information about the next available flights and your options. In one instance, I was able to reschedule right there and take a flight an hour later without any fuss. Another time, I was directed to a larger help center for the airline to get help rescheduling and finding accommodations for the night.”

Can you rebook a missed flight? 

Can you rebook a missed flight? Yes — if you ask the airline nicely, there is a good chance that they can book you on the next available flight to your destination. Some airlines are actually quite understanding, especially if the delay wasn’t your fault. Martin Soto of Travel Explorator says “Keep in mind some airlines like American Airlines have what is considered a flat tire rule. What this rule basically means is that if you arrive late to a flight and miss it due to circumstances out of your control, like a flat tire, you're able to get on another airplane that same day at no cost. While you might need some type of proof to show this was the case, some airlines are more lenient about it.”

Be aware that some airlines may charge a fee for rebooking the missed flight. This is especially likely if you're flying with a low cost airline, or have chosen a cheaper ticket with more restrictions on changes. You may also be asked to pay the difference in fare if the rebooked flight costs more.

Another point to note is that airlines may try to rebook you on a flight on a much later date. When this happens, do your research and check if any of the next flights still have a seat left and negotiate a spot on that flight. Stay calm and friendly, but be firm. 

Kara Harms, who writes for the travel blog Whimsy Soul shares her experience: “Once, Southwest canceled the entire flight and tried to rebook me for a flight 6 days in the future. The agent told me they wouldn't pay for hotel options or give me a refund. While I was on the phone, my husband was looking up flights that day and found one with seats that left the same day. Then, I channeled my inner Karen and explained how I wasn't going to pay for 6 nights in a hotel waiting to fly home especially when I found a flight later that day online that still had seats. They eventually got me on that one with a lot of pushing.” 

Can you get your money back for a missed flight?

If you choose not to rebook, can you get a refund for a missed flight? Generally speaking, no. If you miss your flight and choose not to fly, you will not be refunded for the unused ticket. The only time that an airline will refund you is if they cancel your flight.

However, there are a few airlines that have a different policy. Joshua Francia, who writes about travel and surfboarding at Surfhungry.com says that some airlines may refund you if they so choose. He writes: “Call your agent or flight authorities immediately and state the situation on why you will not be able to make it.  They will confirm the cause and if it’s acceptable according to their policies, they will refund the price of the ticket.”

Be sure to always check the airlines’ policies and see if it is possible to negotiate.

Does travel insurance cover a missed flight?

Travel insurance may cover a missed flight, but only if it is included in your coverage. Shylar Bredewold of Odyssean Travel advises that you always do your research before choosing a travel insurance provider: “Don’t travel without travel insurance. Read the inclusions and exclusions —  don’t just buy whatever is thrown in your face with a box to tick during check-out. A good policy will cover traffic delays on the way to the airport and other issues which can otherwise ruin your trip.”

If you do find an insurance provider that covers missed flights, you will have to prove that you’ve had a valid reason for missing your flight. You will also have to show that you’ve left with enough time to go to the airport, as they will not cover flights where you could have avoided missing it. 

What happens to my baggage if I missed my flight? 

If you end up missing your flight and your baggage is already on board, for example, in cases of missed connections, call your airline and inform them immediately. They should open a ticket for a missed flight baggage claim to track your luggage and return it to you, or arrange where you can pick it up after you rebook a new flight. They may also ship your bags to an address of your choosing.

People walking in the airport

How do different causes of missing your flight affect your rights?

Now that you know what to do if you missed your flight, here’s a quick breakdown of what your rights are depending on what caused your missed flight. The reason for missing your flight matters, as it can affect how the airline handles your situation.

Missed flight due to traffic 

If you missed your flight due to traffic, the airline may label you as a no show and cancel your entire itinerary. This is why it is important to call ahead and see if you can be rebooked on another flight so that you can still fly. Chances are, you will need to pay the rebooking fee. 

Unfortunately, most airlines don’t consider traffic jams as a valid reason for missing your flight, so it is best that you check how much time you need to travel to the airport and leave early to avoid being late. 

Missed flight due to medical emergency or illness

If you missed your flight due to a medical emergency or illness, you may need to ask your doctor for a letter to prove that you couldn’t fly due to illness or injury. Depending on the airline’s policies, they may be willing to refund you, or at least be willing to waive the cancellation fee if you had to cancel your flight ahead of time. Check your airline’s policies to see if a documented medical emergency is enough reason to waive their cancellation fee. 

Missed flight because of security check

If you missed your flight because of a security check, there is usually very little that you can do about it. Airports and airlines are well within their rights to search passengers thoroughly to ensure everyone’s safety. Though you can ask to be rebooked on a later flight, they will likely charge a rebooking fee. 

To avoid getting held up at the security check and missing your flight, be sure to arrive at the airport early to give yourself ample time to pass through the security check— at least 90 minutes before a domestic flight, and at least 2 hours for international flights.

Make sure that your luggage is well within the weight limit and that you do not pack anything in your bag that would set off security. You should also check if your passport is updated and that any documents needed are up to date — such as a negative Covid-19 test, or proof of vaccination.

Long lines at the airport could lead to missed flights.

Missing a flight connection

There are times that you make it onto your flight on time, but end up missing your connecting flight instead. In these cases, you may be able to get compensation on top of getting rebooked, unless the airline is found to not be responsible for the delay — for example, if your flight was affected by the weather.

When you miss your connection, the steps you have to take are similar to when you miss your flight: let the airline know that you missed your connection, and ask to be booked on the next possible flight. In most cases, they should book without you having to pay the rebooking fee. However, you may incur a fee if you are at fault for missing your delay — for example, if you didn't allot enough time to travel to the airport. Here are some cases where you may end up missing your connection:

Missed flight connection due to weather 

If you missed a flight connection due to the weather, the airline should book you on the next possible flight. You usually don’t get compensation in these cases, because airlines are not considered at fault for delays caused by dangerous weather conditions. However, if your connecting flight is on the same booking, the airline will have to provide you with care, including food, refreshments, and lodging if needed. 

However, if your connecting flight is not part of the same booking on your ticket, the airline will not be obligated to rebook you, and you will have to book a new flight yourself. 

Missed flight due to short layover

If you missed your connecting flight due to a short layover, the airline will book you on the next flight free of charge as long as the connecting flight is part of the same ticket. Since the airline did not give you enough time to board your connecting flight, it is possible to claim compensation if you end up missing your connection. 

If your connecting flight is part of a separate ticket and not part of a single itinerary, then you may have to rebook your next flight yourself and pay the fee. 

Missed flight connection due to a delay or cancellation

If you missed your flight connection due to your previous flight being delayed or canceled, you will likely be booked on the next flight free of charge. The airline is also required to provide you with care, including food, refreshments, and access to communication. In some cases, they will also need to provide you with a hotel, as well as transport to and from the airport. 

If the airline is at fault for your disruption, you can also claim compensation. You can get up to €600 for each passenger, depending on the length of the delay and the distance of your flight. 

So, if you ever miss your flight, keep a cool head and be sure to know your rights. You’ll be sure to arrive at your destination.  

Did you also know that you can claim for delayed, canceled, or overbooked flights from up to 3 years ago? AirHelp is here to help you check if your flight is eligible — it’s quick, easy, and totally risk-free! Get started with your claim now.

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