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This is a hypothetical question.

Say you book a flight from A through B to C. For some reason or another, you choose not to board the last part of my trip. Would this create problems for other passengers?

When a checked in traveller does not show up for a flight, that flight is actually delayed – at least if he/she has baggage checked in. If he/she doesn't show up within a reasonable time, the crew will start off-loading the baggage, delaying the flight even further. In my experience, this process takes approximately 20 minutes (which may be very frustrating for other travellers, whom may have planes to catch at the next airport).

So, to recap:

  • If I don't show up for one part of the journey, will that delay those flights?
  • What if my luggage is short checked to point B (for example, when they need to be taken through customs) and you don't check them back in?
  • What if I only bring carry-on luggage?


There are some related questions below, but they focus on whether or not you as a traveller may face problems, whereas I am more interested in what problems it will cause for the airlines and other travellers.
Not flying the last segment of the first half of a return flight
Consequence of not showing up for one leg of journey
Do you have to take the second leg of a flight?

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2 Answers 2

up vote 8 down vote accepted

There are only two cases where delays might occur:

When you checked in - let's assume without luggage. This means that before the flight closes the doors, they will call for you in the terminal. The delays here are usually minimal since they will not wait so long until they miss an assigned departure slot or even connection flights. Delays should be up to a maximum of 20 minutes I would assume.

When you checked in with luggage. Then, they will have to take your luggage out again and that can take a while. This of course comes on top of the delay from waiting for you at the gate. I heard of instances where they do not take out the luggage, apparently more on high-volume domestic flights, but I would assume this is rather an exception.

Otherwise, there should be no problems, specially if you did not check in yet.

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3  
As a regular traveller on European airlines, it came as a surprise to me that US airlines will take off with your luggage on board, even if you don't show up to the gate. –  DJClayworth Apr 8 '13 at 14:55
    
@DJClayworth even post-Lockerbie? European airlines used to do it too but stopped after the Lockerbie bombing. –  jwenting Apr 9 '13 at 5:59
1  
@DJClayworth Almost every European airport I know unloads your luggage on a noshow. Most prominently Schiphol, where they even include it in their announcement ("... please proceed immediately to gate XYZ. We will proceed to offload your luggage") –  perdian Apr 9 '13 at 11:27
    
Yes, even post Lockerbie. I found it hard to believe too. I'm not sure if it was airport or airline policy. –  DJClayworth Apr 9 '13 at 12:56
    
See my answer for full details, but the reason the US doesn't do PPBM (ie, offloading of bags) is because ALL checked luggage is screened for explosives before being loaded. –  Doc Apr 9 '13 at 14:31

It depends on the specific circumstances.

If you have checked luggage that has been loaded onto the plane, AND you're on a flight that requires Positive Passenger Bag Matching (PPBM - more on that below) then there will be a delay whilst they first try and page you, and then resort to removing your checked bags from the plane. Normally this would take 5-20 minutes, depending on the type of plane, the airline, and how closely they track where luggage is stored in the plane. Most airlines start this process ~10 minutes before departure, so any delay would normally be closer to 5-15 minutes.

If you do NOT have luggage, OR if you're on a flight that does not require PPBM, then you will likely NOT delay the flight at all. Most airlines have a cut-off time 10-15 minutes before the stated flight departure time, and if passengers are not at the gate at that time then their seat can be released and even given to another (standby) passenger if required. Depending on the exact situation some airlines may delay the flight by a few minutes whilst they page the passenger, but that's becoming more and more unlikely.

Now, back to PPBM. Positive Passenger Bag Match is a regulation introduced on most international flights and many domestic flights after the bombings of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Air India 182 over the Atlantic Ocean, and UTA Flight 772 over the Sahara Desert. In each case these bombings involved luggage for passengers that were not on board the flight.

PPBM regulates that a customer should not be able to cause their checked luggage to fly on a flight that they are not on. That's not to say that their luggage can't go on a different flight - it's just that the passenger themselves can't make that happen by, for example, failing to board the flight.

US domestic flights do NOT enforce PPBM as all checked luggage in the US is screened for explosives before being loaded on the plane.

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