It happens to the best of us – no matter how much we plan, unexpected events come up prior to departure which might cause us to miss our flight (or nearly miss it). Thankfully, there are a few things you can do which can help you get rebooked on the next available flight (or even have your flight held for a few minutes as you run to the gate). Airlines understand that life happens and usually they will be able to accommodate you on the next available flight, assuming seats are available.
For how much we complain about US airlines, there are a few places where they shine in comparison to other airlines – usually a US airline will rebook you on the next flight if you miss your flight without issue whereas a European airline, for example, will simply tell you to buy a new ticket (which last minute can cost a lot). Nevertheless, here’s what you can do if you are running late and think you will miss your flight (or already miss it).
Same Day Change to Another Flight
While US airlines may not offer the best service, they do have some perks that other airlines may not.. for example, Same Day Changes – something that is mostly not possible with airlines outside of North America. When flying on a US airline, you can usually change your flight to another flight that same day for a flat-fee instead of a fare difference, the only thing to keep in mind is that usually the Same Day Change can only be done the day of the flight or the day before and there have to be seats left on the new flight you want (you can also standby if there are no seats available).
Same Day Changes are amazing because you can change your flight for a flat-fee instead of paying an expensive last minute fare difference; same day change fees are waived for some top-tier elite members on some airlines. If you think you will miss your flight, check the airline’s app or website for different available flights that same day, this is usually done during the Online Check-in process, which you can access at any time up to an hour or so before your flight. You can select a flight later in the day that works for you or standby for another flight if there are no open seats.
Notify The Airline
If you are running late and will be cutting it close, notify the airline call center or the airline’s check-in counters at the airport – have one member of your travel group run quickly to the counters and inform the agents that you are on your way. If you aren’t super late and the security lines are quick, airlines could potentially hold your flight for a few extra minutes if you inform them you are on your way. The check-in agents can simply ring the gate agent and inform them to hold the flight for a few more minutes.
Missed Your Flight?
If you already missed your flight, you can try to rebook yourself using the airline’s app or website – but more often than not, you will have to either call them or speak with an agent at the airport. If the next available flight has seats, they can rebook you – sometimes they won’t charge you anything and sometimes they could charge you the same day change fee. There are some airlines that will make you buy a new ticket or pay a fare difference (or a no-show fee) and won’t be willing to waive this – in situations like this try to speak with someone else and explain your situation.
If you are flying on a low-cost airline, don’t expect much.. as they have strict rules designed to squeeze every dollar out of you – so don’t expect them to be as accommodating as legacy airlines.
Some Reasons Are Valid
If you are simply running late because you couldn’t plan well, then the airline probably won’t care that you missed your flight. However, if you had a flat tire, for example, on your way to the airport and can prove it, airlines will usually be accommodating. Some reasons for missing a flight are more valid than others – especially those outside of your control like life-or-death emergencies, for example.
Travel Insurance Helps
Make sure you have travel insurance – it can help you save hundreds of dollars if the airline makes you pay for a brand-new ticket or refuses to rebook you. Remember that most major travel credit cards come with some type of trip insurance and if you paid for your ticket using that credit card, find out what is included in the travel insurance provided by the card issuer. Some travel insurance policies are better than others – generally, the more you pay for your policy or for the credit card providing the insurance, the better the coverage will be. Make sure you have proper documentation, which will be requested when submitting your claim.
FYI Travel insurance can also cover expenses that the airline refuses to refund if the airline cancels or delays your flight (for example, due to weather).
All in All
Our life is constantly evolving and last minute changes and emergencies do happen – thankfully, if you use the right tools, you can usually save yourself in situations like missing a flight. It is important to note that every airline has their own policy and these do differ – so while some airlines are happy to rebook you on another flight for no fees, others may insist that you need to pay a fare difference and/or no-show fees. Remember to read up the policy of your carrier online and inform yourself about your rights and what other tools (like travel insurance) are available to you and your travelers.