Even when they have the best intentions, people sometimes miss their flights. There was an incredible amount of traffic (people have been known to leave their cars to get to their plane on time). They had a connection and their original flight was late. Their delayed flight suddenly became “undelayed.” They overslept.
There are things you can do if you’re at risk of missing your flight. Obviously, make sure you give yourself enough time – going to an airport is not a time to show off your “I’m habitually late” skills. And if you think you might miss your connection, these are ways to be ahead of the pack.
But when you’ve actually missed your flight, it’s a whole different ballgame. Here are some pointers…
- Contact the airline ASAP
If you know you’re going to be too late to get there in time, let the airline know. Their response will vary; granted, some will say, “Too bad, so sad,” but other might allow you to go onto a later flight with just a change fee, just the difference in price of the two flights, or perhaps both (whatever the case, you wouldn’t be out the original money you spent). Talking to the airline might salvage something, but if you don’t, you’ve lost all chance of anything.
- The Two Hour Rule (a.k.a. The Flat Tire Rule)
Things happen. Airlines know that things happen. So several airlines have a version of an informal rule where, if you’ve been delayed because of something you couldn’t help (i.e. a flat tire, massive traffic, etc.), and you let them know, they’ll do their best, in their own way, to get you to where you need to go.
— American Airlines has a “Late Arrival Standby” policy. Under this rule, if you show up at the airport up to 2 hours after your scheduled departure time due to flat tire, etc., the airline will schedule you on the next available flight that day as a stand-by passenger. Heads up that you have to show up at the airport (you can’t just call), you’ll have to pay the difference in price if you’re more than 2 hours late, and the service is only available for the same day.
— Delta may try to help you in a “case by case basis.” (gee, thanks, Delta)
— JetBlue will try to waive the difference in airfare (and charge only the applicable change fee) if/when they’re able to rebook travelers on a later departure.
— Southwest will rebook you with no change fee if you contact them, either by phone or in person, up to within 10 minutes of your original departure time. If you don’t contact them, you’ll be considered a “no show” and will lose the remaining value of your ticket
— United will often rebook you on the next available flight if you arrive at the airport within 2 hours after your scheduled departure time.
- Book a same-day change
Most of the above examples will rebook you as a standby, but sometimes you need to ensure you’ll get to your destination that day. Some airlines, such as Alaska Airlines, American and United offer same-day change policies.
- If you missed your connection
If you had a connection and missed it because your first flight was late, and were on the same airline all the way through, the airline should be able to help you with no charge. If you were using one airline on the first leg and a different airline on the second leg, contact the second airline ASAP.
- I can’t stress this one enough: BE NICE!
You might be under a lot of stress because you missed your flight but don’t take your frustration and anxiety out on the airline representative you speak with. Besides the fact that that person had nothing to do with why you missed your flight, (s)he also holds the key to getting you to your destination, hopefully as quickly and inexpensively as possible, and it’s at his/her discretion. So be super polite and don’t bite the hand that feeds you!
- Check your travel insurance policy
Some travel insurance companies allow you to get back at least some, if not all of your expenses that arise from missing a flight, as long as you can prove that it wasn’t your fault (so nope, oversleeping doesn’t count). Make sure to read your policy’s fine print, and, if this applies to you, try to get written confirmation or photos that the incident that caused you to miss your flight was caused by circumstances beyond your control.
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary