What should you do if you miss your flight?

While missing your flight may seem like the end of the world, rest assured it’s not.

man waving at his plane as it leaves

SJ is a regular travel contributor to YourLifeChoices. Her dream is an endless summer where bikinis are work appropriate attire.

I hesitate to even say this out loud as I fear it will jinx me but (clutches my wooden desk), in all my 27 years of flying, I have never missed a flight.

That said, I have come close a few times. Interestingly, it’s not the times I have been zooming – or perhaps more accurately crawling – along a freeway worrying about time,­ but when I am already through security, that I find myself sprinting to the gate in a panic. It’s easy to lose track of time in an airport and get caught up shopping or browsing only to realise that your gate closes in 10 minutes and you are nowhere near it. Time really does fly when you’re having fun.

While missing your flight may seem like the end of the world, rest assured it’s not. Here’s how to handle the situation like a pro and get yourself to where you need to be with as little consequence to your time and money as possible.

1. If you’re not at the airport yet and fear you may miss your flight now is the time to act. Don’t wait until you get there as by that stage it may well be too late. Call the airline and let them know your situation, it’s possible they may be able to move you to a later flight over the phone for no additional (or a nominal) cost. Failing this, you will at the very least be able to speak to them about their policies when it comes to missed flights and what steps you should follow at this point.

2. If you’ve made it to the airport but still aren’t in the clear and need to check-in, do not go to the back of the queue and wait for someone to come dig you out. Pull on your manners hat and politely make your way to any check-in or customer service desk. Tell the staff that you need help to make your flight. If there’s still time, they should help race you through the airport in order to avoid holding up the flight.

airport checkin line spain

3. Failing the above, go to the customer service desk or ticketing desk and explain your situation. Before you do this take a deep breath and repeat after me, ‘keep calm and be nice’. I can guarantee you that if  you go in guns blazing you will get nowhere fast or inexpensively. Remember that you missed your flight and, despite what may have gone wrong, this is not the airline’s fault.

Calmly explain your situation and ask to be placed on a standby list for the next available flight. Most airlines have an aptly named ‘flat tyre rule’ allowing customers who missed their flight due to circumstances beyond their control to be accommodated on the next available flight to their destination. If they try to charge you, ask if there is a missed departure fare available. If that fails, also, try to speak to a supervisor or call customer service. If they give you the same answer, it’s unlikely you’ll get another answer regardless of how hard you push.

4. Connecting flights are slightly different. The best option here is to always book on a “through ticket”, which covers you from your port of departure to destination. It also ensures that if you miss your connection, it falls onto the airline to sort this out for you at no additional penalty. Should your flights be booked separately, this safety net no longer applies.

Plan Z is to book a new flight from scratch. Failing all of the above, put the whole thing down to life experience and search on Skyscanner to compare the cheapest flights. While this is clearly a complete waste of money and last resort, learn your lesson and go get yourself a drink to drown your sorrows – but only if you’ve got time before your next flight!

Have you ever missed a flight? What did you do to recover the situation?



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    2nd Sep 2017
    I prefer to travel to the airport by public transport. This is why I always book an afternoon departure from Australia and an evening departure from London. So that I can get to the airport in plenty of time to drop my bags, go thru security and then have time in the lounge where I know I will be called with plenty of time to make the plane.
    2nd Sep 2017
    And - if you're a "no show" on the first leg of a return ticket, the airline will cancel the return flight.
    2nd Sep 2017
    Good article, one of my fears is missing a big flight, ie overseas. Only once have I come close - Sydney to Hobart - omg, I miscalculated travel times, rushing through terminal. Lucky for me flight was delayed and I swore I'd never do this again, too stressful. Now I travel to Sydney day before and stay somewhere cheap.
    2nd Sep 2017
    I can relate to your first paragraph Sue. Been there done that.
    The real problem is with international flights. Whilst you may get another ride for a domestic flight international flights normally only have one or two departures from Australia so much more difficult to fix.
    I have to admit I am paranoid about missing flights and we always allow plenty of time. Its better to be sitting around for one to two hours before the flight than running to make it as they shut the gate. The stress levels are also better.
    One of my best recommendations is to book the flights taking both peak hour traffic and time of day into consideration. If you live a ways from the airport then anything can go wrong so allowing extra time gives you the opportunity of still making it even if there is a traffic and/or accident holdup.
    2nd Sep 2017
    I have never missed a flight or even come close. It is the traveller's responsibility to leave enough time to make the flight regardless of any eventuality that may befall them on the way. If you don't then you pay for your mistake.

    2nd Sep 2017
    Always get to the airport in plenty of time. May as well be hanging around waiting at airport than sitting at home ..makes no sense to me why people do not leave plenty of time to get there...you never know if there will be a traffic jam on the way.
    4th Sep 2017
    If driving to airport factor in:Fog, Traffic Accidents, Roadworks.
    I prefer public transport and still allow 2 hours for domesic and 3 hours for international flights.
    4th Sep 2017
    I totally missed a flight last year to Myanmar. I went to Customer Service at the airport, paid $100 and caught the same flight the next day.
    6th Sep 2017
    This hit a nerve with me. Last October on returning from Canberra (up at 2AM) to Townsville we arrived at Brisbane for the connecting flight, saw the gate for TSV and sat and waited to be called. We were tired, husband not too well. After a while I got up and looked at the board (not easy with my neck and the flights information board moving all the time) and realised we were at the wrong gate. Never missed a flight before and tried to appeal to the service desk attendant who looked at me coldly when she wanted a contact number. I gave her the landline (sorry I don't own one of those smartphones that catch on fire). it cost us a further $600 (including fee) to continue our journey, so that was our Xmas funds blown away.

    Then I remembered our last oversees flight to Hong Kong in 2014. Somehow my husband dropped the piece of paper at immigration and had to go to the back of the queue while I waited in limbo for him to catch up. Reality struck: we are both too old now to be bothered by queues and rude officials. At least we have memories of trips taken in the past.

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