8 Things You Should Do If You Miss a Flight

June 8, 2019

“Flying may not all be plain sailing, but the fun of it is worth the price” Amelia Earhart

It happens.  You miss a flight.  Or your flight is delayed.  Or canceled.  And when it happens it feels like there is nothing worse.  Here are eight things you should do if you miss a flight.

You’re taking a flight because you need to get somewhere at a certain time, right?  And when your schedule gets messed up it can be incredibly frustrating.  Part of my Travel 101 Series, in this article I will share some of the things you should do when your flight schedule is upended.  Tactics to use when you miss a flight or when your flight is delayed or canceled.

I have missed my fair share of flights and had flights delayed or canceled.  And I can’t think of one time it was my fault.  It’s usually due to a delayed connection which can happen for a variety of reasons.  Whether or not it’s your fault or whatever the reason for the delay it’s pretty much a crappy situation.

man holding sign with angry face

One of the reasons missing a flight is so frustrating, is that you as a passenger feel powerless.  It feels like you are at the mercy of the airline.  And you are. But in my experience, here are some things you can do to retain a feeling of control and perhaps help get you where you need to be more quickly.   First, take a deep breath and then do the following.

Download the Airlines App

Hopefully, you downloaded your airline’s app before your flight.  If you didn’t, download it as soon as you find out there is a chance of you missing your flight or there is a delay.  The app is often updated before the information is relayed on the ground. And the sooner you have information, the sooner you can be proactive.

man running

Run

Seriously,! If you think you may not make a flight, get to the gate as quickly as you can. I can’t tell you how often I think there isn’t a chance in hell I’m going to make a flight but after running like mad I do because my connecting flight has been delayed.  I’m usually panting, sweating, and smelly but I often make my flight.

My husband recently had a flight delay due to deicing and called me in a panic to reschedule his flight. Everyone around him on the plane was rescheduling so he thought he had to as well.  I told him that he might make it and if he didn’t, the airline would automatically reschedule him. 

The fact that I travel on this airline several times a month didn’t matter to him and he insisted I reschedule him.  So, I did.  And guess what?  When his flight landed, he went to the gate of his original flight and he would have made it. But he lost his seat when he rescheduled.  Lesson here?  Assume everything is going as scheduled until it isn’t.

crowd of people

Get in Line

If you are at the airport and find out that your flight has been delayed or canceled, get in line with a gate agent immediately.  A line will start as soon as passengers find out something is wrong, and it will grow quickly.  And those in front of you will have more options.  Alternate flights will fill up quickly and you want to be in front so more rescheduling options are available to you.

If, your missed connection/flight delay/cancellation requires an overnight and it’s the airline’s fault (i.e. crew is late, maintenance issue) often they will issue hotel and meal vouchers.  This varies by situation and country so it’s important to review passenger rights for the country you are traveling in to see what the airline is required to do. If this is the case in your situation, DO NOT get out of line until you have the vouchers and are rescheduled.

Please, please be polite to the airline employees! They are working to help you being rude is just not cool.

Side note here.  Airlines will usually automatically reschedule you if they know you are going to miss a flight.  It’s nice to have this cushion, but you can still check to see if there are other flights available. 

missed flight - person using phone

Call Customer Service

I often find that I can reach a customer service agent over the phone more quickly than waiting to talk to a representative at the airport.  I always call customer service AND get in line.  This allows me to work rescheduling from two angles.  If I am able to reschedule over the phone, I simply get out of line.  Don’t get out of line until you have everything you need from the airline (see above tip about vouchers).

Make Transportation/Lodging Arrangements

If the delay/cancellation is due to weather, the airline will reschedule your flight, but they are not required to provide hotel vouchers.  If this is the case, start planning for lodging as soon as possible.  It will be best to stay near the airport, especially if your rescheduled flight is early in the morning.  Bad weather leads to lots of cancellations and hotel rooms will fill up quickly.  So, hop on the phone or online as soon as possible

If the delay is going to impact existing reservations for lodging, rental cars, etc. contact those companies as well to let them know your arrival time has changed. Doing this can help ensure you don’t lose a reservation or charged penalties.

Side Note – Expect to pay more than you would like for a last minute hotel room near an airport.  I once paid a ridiculous amount of money for a basic hotel room in Flushing, Queens after my flight from LGA was canceled due to weather.  But it beat sleeping at the airport.

Check With Other Airlines

You may be able to make alternate arrangements with another airline.  Asking the airline if they can assist with options on other airlines is worth a shot.  This worked for us recently in Chicago when we missed a flight in London and when we made it the US our flights home kept getting canceled.  We were booked on another airline at no cost to us.  We still spent the entire day at the airport, but we made it home on the same day.

Make Lemonade Out of Lemons

It may not seem possible at the moment, but a change in your travel plans may be an opportunity to do something wonderful. 

We missed a flight from Paris to the US and my daughter and husband had complete meltdowns when we found out we wouldn’t be able to leave until the next day.  But what were we going to do?  Walk home?  Instead, we grabbed a taxi into the city where we got to see the Eiffel Tower and take a lovely boat ride down the Seine.  It ended up being a wonderful evening and one we would have missed had everything gone according to schedule

Other Suggestions

Flight Aware shows you where your flight is and when it’s expected to land and is available online or as an app. It’s not going to change anything, but it’s helpful to see where your flight is and not be totally reliant on the airline for information.

person waiting at airport

Be Prepared. I’m an optimist by nature but years of traveling has taught me that sometimes my flight schedule isn’t always going to go as planned.  So I travel with the items I need in case I miss a flight or have an unexpected delay.  I always carry snacks, entertainment options, power cord and battery pack for my phone, and must-have toiletries like a toothbrush and toothpaste, contact case, etc. in my carry-on.

Missing a flight or having one delayed or canceled can be scary and definitely frustrating. Using these eight strategies outlined above can help you maintain some control of the situation and hopefully get you to your destination more quickly. 

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More about Candy Wafford

Candy Wafford is a US-based travel blogger and while she travels frequently for her job, she is happiest when traveling for pleasure. Preferably strolling along a cobblestoned street with an ice cream cone in her hand.

7 Comments
    1. Boy, can I relate! These are great tips. I wouldn’t mind a flight cancellation in Paris — what fun! We did almost miss our flight home from Paris last year. It was raining and our prebooked taxi didn’t show up at the hotel. The desk clerk told us taxis don’t drive in the rain. What???! Travel is always an adventure!

    1. This is a great post! Really helpful tips & so much more helpful than my usual approach (find a bar & have a drink). Also like the final point. I was once delayed for 48 hours from Florida to UK, after the initial panic & anger we chose to make the most & ended up in Disneyland for an impromptu evening. Definitely the best delay ever! 😀

      1. Going to the bar is always an option! Maybe I should include that on the list!

    1. It’s because of past delays and cancellations that I always keep a change of my spare glasses/contact lens, underwear, toothbrush and dress in my purse or carry-on. Lessons learned the hard way!

    1. I love this post, thanks for sharing. I once had a flight from Auckland to Perth re-route through to Sydney and the airline (Qantas I think) put us up in a hotel and gave us food vouchers. Like you said I made lemonade out of lemons. I’ve already downloaded FlightAware, thanks for this tip.

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