What To Do When You Miss Your Flight
Shippers Guide is the learning page of MMS Plus newspaper. Here you learn the 5Ws and most important ‘H’ on various aspects of shipping. This week, we will take you through a detailed process of what to do when you miss your flight.
Most of us can’t control everything that happens in life, from unforeseen traffic to road accidents, health or family emergencies that just come out of the blue and a long list of things to factor in before you board. We have come up with tips, advice and some information to clear any grey area on what happens when you miss your flight.
Obviously, it’s not a good situation but there are steps that you can take to remedy it and rules about how airlines should treat you. We’ll walk you through them.
What is the “flat tire” rule?
As we know, airlines experience delays and cancellations all the time, but they often try to absolve themselves by pointing out that a problem was caused by factors “out of their control,” such as air traffic control delays (when they’ve scheduled 100 flights to depart within 20 minutes) or it’s raining (somewhere in North America). When this happens, passengers often receive nothing.
However, most airlines have long had quasi-official policies of waiving fare rules and change fees when passengers need to rebook a flight that they missed. Without these rules, you could be forced to pay hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of dollars on the flight you eventually book after missing the one you were supposed to be on.
This policy is known as the “flat tire rule,” though you won’t find it on most airlines’ websites.
How this works in practice
The rule isn’t publicly documented and it can be hard for passengers to take advantage of it, but we do know a bit about how airlines handle missed flights.
Firstly, let’s answer some of the most FAQs regarding missing your flight.
CAN YOU GET A REFUND IF YOU MISS YOUR FLIGHT?
The short answer to this is, No. Passengers are not automatically refunded for missing their flight as it is their duty to board on time. The implication, to the airline, of missing your flight is that your seat would have been empty; giving a refund would mean a loss of revenue by the airline. A loss they would not want to take responsibility for.
WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU MISS YOUR FLIGHT
Find your airline’s representative and ask about the airline’s policy on missed flights some airlines may only charge a rebooking fee while others may ask you to pay in the difference between the new and old flight, which can work out expensive. It is NOT standard practice for an airline to waiver excess charges, so don’t expect a free pass.
Check for the next available flight with the same airline and ask to be put on the standby list often during peak travel season, there are many flights to the same destinations and with your name on the list, it may just be an hour or two before you’re on your way again. If the airline cannot offer you an alternative flight at an equal or cheaper price, do a quick search and compare flights.
We know this situation can be incredibly stressful, but always try to remain calm and communicate politely with airline staff. Clearly explain your situation and they will do their best to assist you.
Stay at the airport it’s always a good idea to stick around at the airport as you await your next flight. If the waiting time is less than 5 hours, it is recommended to stay in the vicinity to avoid any further delays on your behalf.
TOP TIPS FOR NOT EVER MISSING YOUR FLIGHT
Study the flight timing and check your emails regularly: Most of the time, the time, as written on tickets, is always in 24hours format (not AM or PM). Many passengers have missed their flights because they thought 04:30 was 4:30 pm. Also, check your emails regularly for updates on flight schedule.
Always Cross-reference: cross-check the information on the ticket with what you have on the airline’s website. This will allow you to make any corrections (where necessary) early enough to avoid last-minute regrets and delays at the airport.
Check-in Online: If you are traveling light (with just hand luggage) you can cut off the long queues at the airport and proceed straight to the boarding gate. This gives you an additional 1hour or so to play around with. However, ensure you get to the boarding gate early and not too close to departure time as the boarding gate may close too.
Call the airline: If there is an extreme emergency that will allow you get there late or not at all, call the airline. They will advise you on the best possible steps to take, they can sell your seat to a standby passenger and may give offer you the best deal on your reschedule (as you will be seen in good light)
International Flights with the “flat tire” rule
American: American has an internal, unpublished Late Arrival Standby Policy that says that passengers who arrive at the airport within two hours of their original departure can be accommodated as standby flyers on the next flight without paying change fees or fare increases, as long as the flight they missed wasn’t the last one of the day. As View from the Wing reports, the following situations have to be applicable:
They arrive too late to check in but within two hours of their posted departure time, or
They don’t have proper travel documents and miss their flight, or
They haven’t applied for or received an ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) to travel to the U.S., or
They have mobile boarding passes but turned up at the wrong airport (only for Washington National/Dulles and Houston Intercontinental/Hobby)
Delta: Delta Air Lines, on the other hand, doesn’t have a flat-tire policy.
The reason the airline doesn’t have such a policy is because it doesn’t want passengers making it into a system for free same-day standby or changes. Instead of having a policy that encourages tardiness, the airline prefers to handle each case in the context of the situation.
No matter what, we recommend calling Delta prior to arriving at the airport to see if you can make a change over the phone. If not, you’ll want to head to the nearest Delta ticketing counter upon your arrival at the airport.
Southwest: Southwest also has an unofficial flat tire rule. If you arrive at the airport within two hours of your scheduled departure, the airline will try to accommodate you via standby on the next available flight to your destination. The rule applies only to passengers who miss their flight through no fault of their own.
In addition, you technically must cancel your flight at least 10 minutes prior to departure to avoid forfeiting the price you paid but as long as you arrive at the airport within two hours of scheduled departure, you should be accommodated. This even applies to passengers on the last flight of the day.
United: United Airlines doesn’t have a flat-tire policy in place. If you miss your flight and contact United or arrive at a ticketing counter within a half-hour of your posted departure time, United will “generally speaking” book you on the next available United or United Express flight. Even though it’s not guaranteed, it’s still worth a shot.
JetBlue: Officially, JetBlue’s policy is that passengers who miss a nonrefundable flight forfeit what they spent. However, the airline will allow you to wait on standby for the next available flight for no added fee. You can also take advantage of the Same Day No Show option, though it will cost you between $75 and $200, depending on your fare.
British Airways: The U.K.’s flagship airline isn’t too forgiving if you miss your flight. As a spokesperson told The Telegraph, “If you miss your flight, then you need to book an alternative.” However, if you are traveling on British Airways and miss a connecting flight, the airline will automatically rebook you on the next one. But both legs of your journey have to be on BA.
Air France: Air France has a generous official policy. As stated on its website, “Missed your flight? The missed flight policy will cover the cost of a new ticket* for the same destination for a departure within 24 hours of the original departure time.” Of course, it’s limited to the cost of the original ticket. You’ll also want to get in touch with the airline ASAP once you miss your flight.
There are times when people book flights knowing they will just barely make them. This is only advisable under a few conditions. First, you’ll need to know that the next available flight(s) will work for your schedule. You’ll also want to travel only with carry-on bags and your boarding pass. Know which gate you are departing from and the quickest way to it, as well as the airline’s official cutoff policy at the gate. We wouldn’t advise this strategy if your flight is the last of the day, international, or for any destination with only one or two scheduled flights per day.
Still, try to make the flight: Always attempt to get to the airport, even if the situation appears hopeless. Sometimes your flight is also delayed and it ends up working out. At other times you might be able to speed through security to your gate.