Missing Your Flight: A Guide for the Jetsetter

Whether the result of oversleeping, terrible traffic, natural disaster, family crisis, or just simple confusion, missing a flight inevitably provokes a great deal of stress. It can destroy a much-needed vacation before it has a chance to begin, disrupt important business, or even keep you away from home during the holidays.  It can also cost a small fortune. But it doesn’t have to. In fact, you’d be surprised how much leeway airlines are willing to give passengers. There is often a relatively easy solution even when things seem utterly hopeless.

So what do you do if you miss a flight? Well, every circumstance is different, but these tips are your best shot at finding a painless resolution. 

Don’t Panic!

Yes, it is terrible you missed your flight, but it will only get worse if you freak out. It happened. It can’t be undone. Just focus on finding a solution. Calmly!

You Can Buy Better Treatment (sort of)

One useful tip we’ve gathered is to buy a single day’s pass to your airline’s business/luxury lounge (if they have one). Usually the staff at work there will be less busy and more accommodating as you are seen as a “high value” customer. The added benefit is that you’ll probably be waiting around for at least a couple of hours, making the investment well worth it. Spend the extra time wisely  - for instance if you're travelling to Faro for a long weekend of partying sort out any bits like car rental ahead of time (I'm biased here, but I'd recommend Sixt). Keep busy and sleep on the flight.

Know the Password

For obvious reasons, airlines don’t like to volunteer this information, but many of them allow passengers a 2 hour accident window. If you show up at the reception desk within two hours of your flight’s departure, claiming you had a flat tire (or, say, ran over a deer, were attacked by rabid dogs, or some other plausible excuse) they can often put you on standby for a very small fee. But it helps to know the lingo. With US Airways, ask about the “Two Hour Rule.” At Southwest or American, see if the “Flat Tire Rule” applies. They usually won’t come right out and tell you, but if you show you already know the rules, they may be able to help.

To Call or Not to Call?

It is always best to go speak to someone at the airport reception desk (especially if you can get there within the 2 hour window). But if you’re absolutely sure you’ll miss the flight, and you have several hours advance notice, it is a good idea to call. This way they can try to put you on standby and fill the seat with another passenger. 

You’re Probably in the Clear If…

you miss a connection because of a delayed flight or can’t make the plane because of an illness or emergency covered by flight insurance. They will put you on the next flight, pay for a hotel room for the night, and cover most of the expenses you incur. Sure, you’ll be late, but at least you won’t be financially burdened. Airlines are good about this when the fault is clearly theirs (or the weathers’). 

What Not to Do

Don’t book a new flight before speaking to an airline representative.  Of course, the queue is ridiculously long and hardly moving, but you’ll just need to wait.  Also, be careful about buying a one-way ticket if you miss the first flight on your itinerary.  Often the whole trip will be voided if you miss that first flight, and you could end up with no way home.

It also pays to remember a smile goes a long way. In many cases the airline representative will be able to help you find some reasonable solution. So the way you treat them can have a huge influence on the outcome. Remain calm, try to smile, understand they are just trying to do their job, and remember it isn’t their fault your gate change wasn’t announced. Best of luck!

George writes for


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