What Do I Do If I Miss My Flight? Everything You Need to Know to Act Quickly & Reach Your Destination

It’s every traveler’s worst nightmare: missing your flight. You roll out of bed late, get a flat tire on the way, or come to a standstill in long security lines. Whatever the reason, your departure time rolls around, you’re not at your gate, and suddenly, you’ve missed your flight.

And then comes the inevitable next step, where you’re frantically Googling “What do I do if I miss my flight?” and praying the search delivers the answers you need.

Hopefully, you’re not experiencing that right as we speak, but the search algorithms brought you to the right place if you are. Because if the only words running through your mind are “I missed my flight” and “What do I do,” it’s time to take a deep breath. You don’t have to torch your entire itinerary just yet. Whether you’ve missed your first flight or your connecting flight departs without you, we’ll take you through everything you need to know about what to do next.

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Is There a Fee for Missing a Flight?

Most airlines don’t charge an outright fee for missed flights. Of course, that doesn’t say anything about the lost value of your unused ticket. But you don’t have to worry about additional fees on top of the original cost of your flight.

Most legacy carriers will rebook you on a later flight or allow you to fly standby on the next flight if possible. The important caveat is that you must inform airline representatives that you’ll be missing your flight and show up at the airport as soon as possible after it departs.

In contrast, budget airlines generally have much stricter policies and additional fees. Consequently, you may have to spend a bit more to book a new ticket or fly standby on some low-cost carriers. 

Can You Get Your Money Back if You Miss Your Flight?

You generally can’t receive a refund on a missed flight. Depending on the circumstances of your situation and the terms of your fare, you may receive partial credit or free rebooking, but the only way you’re likely to get a full refund is if the airline cancels your flight. 

Most airlines aren’t obligated to help if you miss your flight. That could leave you out some serious cash if you have to rebook, in addition to the lost funds from your original ticket. However, if your missed flight is due to the airline, you’ll almost certainly be rebooked for free, and if it means staying at the airport overnight, they’ll foot the bill for a hotel stay. 

However, that’s not saying anything about your original trip plans, although travel insurance may cover unused and prepaid trip reservations. But on top of being a significant blow to your vacation plans, missing your flight could be a major blow to your wallet. Of course, all this uncertainty is why anxious fellow travelers will arrive hours before their scheduled flight to avoid any additional stress. 

It’s My Fault I Missed My Flight: What Do I Do?

Make no mistake; if it’s your fault you missed your flight, most airlines won’t be eager to cover your misstep. Many companies are too happy to leave their customers to clean up their own messes. However, that’s not to say the people working for that company won’t do what they can to help.

You may have limited options—and limited rights—for getting your travel plans back in order. However, if you find yourself stuck on the ground when you should be in the air, all isn’t lost. Take a breath, take a drink, and know you can still salvage your missed flight.

Does Your Airline Offer the “Flat Tire Rule?”

First things first: find out if the airline you’re flying offers a “Flat Tire Rule.” Consider the flat tire rule, the knight in shining armor to the princess in need of saving, a.k.a. your travel plans—and sanity.

A flat tire rule covers you for what the airline deems any valid reason, meaning delays outside your control. Think things like traffic, long security lines, and, you know, a flat tire. And while it doesn’t cover things like snoozing straight through your alarm, you may still be able to sweet talk—or stumble—your way into some leniency here. 

American Airlines has an internal late arrival standby policy. So, if you arrive within two hours of the scheduled departure time for your missed flight, your tardiness is covered—kind of like sneaking into the classroom while the teacher wasn’t looking. 

Note: American Airlines doesn’t apply this rule to the last scheduled flight of the day or international flights. 

Delta Airlines has a flat tire rule but no specific policy. They handle everything on a case-by-case basis, so try to speak with an agent to explain your situation as quickly as possible. They may be able to get you on the next available flight.

Southwest allows passengers to make changes up to ten minutes before their scheduled departure time. However, if you can’t change your flight via the website, you’ll need to call at least ten minutes before your flight departs to alert the Southwest agents you’ll miss your flight.

United Airlines puts passengers on standby for the next available flight at no extra cost. Just be sure to arrive within two hours of your original departure time to take advantage of this rule. 

Fly Standby on the Next Available Flight

With the way airlines tend to overbook their flights, getting a confirmed seat on the next flight may not be easy. 

If you missed your first flight and can’t get a confirmed seat on the next one, request a spot on the standby list. You can then wait at the boarding gate for something to come available. With a little bit of luck, you may be able to squeeze in on a last-minute open seat.

Now, under some airlines’ policies, like American Airlines, you may be able to standby for a later flight for free. Others, like JetBlue, may charge you a standard fee.

Rebook on a Budget Airline 

Missing your first flight is the last way anyone wants to start a vacation. Instead of looking out over majestic peaks, you find yourself buried under a whole mountain of stress. If the airline doesn’t accept your reasons for missing your flight, you may not have any options available—at least not through them.

So, if the airline won’t put you on the next flight, you may just have to do it yourself. Instead of waiting around, consider booking a new ticket. For the same price that some airlines make you pay to fly standby, you could purchase a new flight with a budget airline.

Of course, this does mean some sacrifices in comfort. But as avid travelers, we can confidently say a few hours of discomfort on a flight today is better than flying out two days later or canceling your vacation plans entirely. And fortunately for those of us who have missed our flights before and will do so in the future, plenty of budget airlines like Spirit and Frontier offer last-minute deals on cheap one-way tickets. You may even be able to cut costs by booking your ticket at the airport!

Pro-tip: Most airlines cancel the second half of a booking if you missed your first. Make sure to inform your original airline that you missed your flight but still plan to take advantage of the latter half of your booking, so it’s not canceled. 

Find Another Path to Your Final Destination 

With your vacation at stake, it may be time to think outside the box. For example, if you can’t find a direct flight to your final destination, it may be worth looking into flights to other cities, routes with extra stops, etc. 

And let’s not forget, while airplane travel is by far the quickest, that’s only taking into account your time in the air. Once you factor in the wait time until the next flight and any lengthy layovers, it may be time to consider putting rubber to the road. 

Renting a car or taking the bus could end up saving you time and money and ensure you get to your destination as quickly as possible, so you can start enjoying your time off sooner.

Travel at Another Time

Rebooking your flight on the same day as your missed flight could be expensive. Instead, if your schedule is flexible enough, booking the next day or even a few days later could help mitigate the damage to your wallet. Just make sure you avoid any delays by getting to the airport early. 

The last thing you want to do is repeat your mistakes and end up with another missed flight on your hands. 

It’s the Airline’s Fault I Missed My Flight. What Do I Do?

Of course, no one wants to miss their flight. But if you’re going to miss it, it’s much better to miss your flight because of something the airline did rather than anything you did. Whether it’s nasty weather, staff shortages, or something else that causes cancellations or delays, the result is usually the same. 

So, here’s what to do when the airline makes you miss your scheduled connecting flight.

Speak with an Agent ASAP

Some psychic abilities would do wonders here to see trouble coming before it hits. But barring that, at the first sign of trouble, get in touch with an airline representative. The sooner you speak to a rep, the more options you’ll have and the sooner you can plan for what to do next. If you wait, you risk ending up at the back of a long line of passengers in the same situation as you, with far fewer options at your fingertips.

The airline representative will be able to help with confirming your flight’s status and what else they can do, confirming a seat on the next flight, putting you at the top of the standby waitlist, etc. And remember, a little bit of kindness goes a long way to getting the best solution that works for you.

Try to Change Your Flight Online 

It used to be that the only option was to wait in long lines to speak with a gate agent or someone to assist you. Now, with everyone carrying a little supercomputer in their pocket, you have options at the press of a button. 

If you miss a connection because your flight was canceled or delayed, try the airline’s website or mobile app to get a jump start on finding other flight options.

Try Calling an International Call Center 

When mass cancellations/delays cause a bunch of missed flights, you might be fighting with countless other passengers trying to get through to the airline’s call center. You can try avoiding annoying hold music by calling the airline’s international call center instead.

You may think you need to save the international number for international travel, but make no mistake, you can use this trick for any missed domestic flight too. 

The idea is that international centers won’t be suffering from the same problems affecting local agents, so you can get through quickly and get the help you need.

Check Your Credit Card Benefits 

Your travel credit card and the insurance that comes with it could be your saving grace. When things go topsy turvy, having a great travel card can help you avoid missing out on some solid benefits and soften the blow of your missed flight. Credit card travel insurance can cover a variety of protections from rental car insurance to a trip delay or trip cancellation and even a medical emergency. 

Contacting your card issuer can alert you to all the options at your disposal before you speak to the airline representative. So, say your return flight is canceled, and the next flight isn’t until tomorrow. Your card may help cover meals, a hotel stay, and more to get you through until your new flight.

Next Vacay Can’t Save You from Missing Your Flight, But It Can Save You Money on Your Next Trip

Missing a flight can feel like the world is ending. You spend so long planning your trip and finding the perfect flight deal that it feels like a waste when your flight departs without you. Unfortunately, Next Vacay can’t magically put you on another flight. But, it can help take away a bit of the sting of your hard-earned time and money going to waste.

Signing up for the Next Vacay newsletter gives you access to incredible deals all over the world, saving you hundreds and even thousands of dollars on your next trip. Not to mention the hours spent online searching for the best flights. Next Vacay does all the hard work, so you don’t have to do anything except book. 

And for any deals you book, you can enter your trip details into your account. So, you know…there’s less of a chance that you forget and miss your flight.

Skip the missed flights and take to the skies with Next Vacay.

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