I Missed My Flight. Now What?

It seems like everyone I know has recently either missed a flight, or barely made their connecting flight through poor scheduling. This is one of the definite negatives of travel, but when it happens to you (and it inevitably will), what do you do?

Keep Calm and Carry On

Keep Calm and Carry On

In the event that you’ve missed your flight or connection through your own fault (people, please schedule more time to get to the airport – traffic happens!), then I’m afraid your out of luck in having the airline cover your own error.

The more common situations, however, are in your original flight being delayed in takeoff, the knock on effect being that you miss your second leg of the journey. I have had this happen to me a couple of times. Provided that you’ve booked the flights together, as in a true connecting flight, the airline is required to book you on another flight. Now, the flight may not be taking off at a time convenient to you, but they will get you on another flight.

If, however, you’ve booked two different flights with either two different providers, or even with the same provider, but separately, the airline are not obligated to book you on another flight free of cost.

There are many things out of your control as the traveler. A plane could be delayed taking off, because it was late in landing. Such is life. It could be delayed for mechanical issues – in this situation, do you REALLY want to fly on a plane that might be faulty? Didn’t think so, so suck it up. There could be weather problems. I sat on the tarmac in Calgary for three hours once as a plane had to de-ice multiple times, because by the time it had finished de-icing, it has refroze. That time sucked.

Ultimately, the only thing in your control is your preparedness for a flight, and how you choose to respond. Here are my top tips in preparing for flights to make the inevitable more manageable:

  • Travel with carry-on only where possible. You legally have to fly with your baggage, so even if you personally could run to make your connection, your baggage might not, and you’ll be delayed anyways. If you can manage it, carry on provides a lot less hassle. Yes, it means I have to buy disposable razors wherever I travel, but at least I save time and stress with connections.
  • Check in online. Many airlines overbook. Fact of life. In order to do your best to keep your seat, check in as soon as you’re able to (24 hours in advance in most cases). If you’re not able to check in online, don’t panic. Often if you book through websites like Expedia, you just can’t check in online. That said, get to the airport at the stated suggested time (3 hours in advance for international and 1-2 for domestic). If your boarding pass doesn’t have a seat number, this is a dead giveaway that you’re on standby. Talk to the gate agent immediately.
  • Plan your schedule accordingly. If you’re a nervous traveler and you feel that a connection is tight, maybe it is. Technically airlines can’t book you on a connection that you can’t make (under ideal conditions), but you’re in control. Book a later connection if it will make you feel better.
  • Think about your schedule at your destination. Do you need to go straight into a meeting an hour after you land? If so, perhaps that wasn’t the best scheduling. That said, when you can’t avoid it, do what you can to prepare. Have a backup plan. If your flight is delayed, can you Skype in from the airport?
  • Have air-friendly snacks. Too many times I’ve been sitting on the tarmac for hours, and it always coincides with dinner time. The longer I go unfed, the more irritable I get. When I’ve been prepared and had a snack handy, it makes me much less likely to want to tweet awful things to the airlines. And by air-friendly snack, I mean something that won’t be taken off you at your country of destination. Fruit and meats are the big offenders.
  • Deep breaths. This sounds cheesy, but life happens. You’re going to miss a connection, and regardless of whose fault it is, consider your own stress levels and what you’re actually in control over. Where possible, see the positives. Yay, I have an hour of my life to finish reading this great novel. Well, at least I can grab dinner. I know it can be incredibly hard to think this way, and I often struggle to achieve it, but don’t let your frustration get the better of you. You’ll do more good for yourself and your journey if you maintain a positive attitude and work with people so they can help you.

Safe travels to all. Anyone else have advice for connections?

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