18

What happens if I miss a connection flight and it's my fault? Let's say I got distracted or something. The airline may not book me onto the next flight because it wasn't their fault. And if I don't have the money to book another flight I'm stuck in the airport.

What would be the best course of action under these circumstances?

  • 28
    If this is a hypothetical question, then the only real answer is, "Don't do that." If it's the actual situation you're in right now, please give full details. – David Richerby Feb 22 at 15:22
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    @RuiFernandes: don't travel if you can't afford an emergency back up plan. – Hilmar Feb 22 at 16:13
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    Your question basically boils down to: Something went wrong and I need to spend money, which I didn't expected on a short notice and I don't have that money. This may happen when you are travelling, but it can happen to you in any other daily situation as well. The most obvious workaround, which will work in any situation, is to have some spare funds for unexpected, but required expenses. I thought to do so is just common sense in everyday life. – Tor-Einar Jarnbjo Feb 22 at 16:27
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    I think it is a fear many of us have. Either not having the money for an emergency, or not being able to access the money needed to get out of the emergency. – Willeke Feb 22 at 18:28
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    Hmm, in fairness to the OP, the question is not the same as a general, "What do I do if I don't have enough money for an unexpected situation?" He is asking specifically about airline flights. A realistic answer could say, "This is what the policy of most airlines is in this situation." It may be that the answer is "you're out of luck, they're not going to do anything for you". But it's reasonable to ask if they have some provision. – Mark Daniel Johansen Feb 22 at 21:58
35

While this is a real fear of everyone with a connecting flight, it's actually not something that is very likely to hurt you. First, precisely because you worry about this, you're not likely to get so distracted that you forget why you are at the airport. Second, the airline pages people who are in danger of missing their flights. Hearing your own name should snap you out of your daydream pretty quickly. I've even seen airline staff wandering around other gates asking people if they are the missing passenger.

On top of that, airlines have some leeway to help you out. You're right there, you're upset, and you have some sort of story to explain what happened. They will probably just take care of you for little or no charge. I've missed two planes in my life -- both in Atlanta as it happens -- and one was not my fault (taxi arrived very late then broke down on the way to airport and limped me there after a partial roadside repair) and the other was totally my fault (spaced and thought my 14:30 flight was at 4:30). In both cases I was put on the next flight no fuss no muss even though it was clearly my fault in the second case. I understand it wasn't a connection, but leeway is leeway and I am quite sure there's no "only if you had trouble actually reaching the airport" rule.

Then finally, few people who can fly cannot come up with the funds for a ticket home. Yes, putting hundreds of dollars on your credit card would hurt, and might leave you with a bunch of issues when you get home about how to pay rent or buy groceries, but you could at least get home and show up for work so you keep getting a paycheque.

However, let's pretend all these incredibly unlikely things materialize: you are on your way home with no cash, nothing in your bank account, no room on your credit card, no line of credit, nothing, and you zone out and semi-deliberately miss your flight and the airline takes no pity on you and says "$400 or sit here for the rest of your life, we don't care." You can call your family or friends. Some will be alert for a "Grandma scam" but you can probably convince someone that you're really you and you need them to go to the website of a rival airline and buy you a ticket home. (You're not going to give money to the people who wouldn't take pity on you, are you?) If you are an orphan or all your other family members are as tapped out as you, then I suppose a GoFundMe and a social media campaign are your next step, though that might take a few days.

You're far more likely to get a bad sunburn, a jellyfish sting, or food poisoning, not to mention the dreaded "caught a cold on a plane" than you are to find yourself stranded because you missed a connecting flight. If this truly worries and concerns you and you can't talk yourself out of it, spend your connection time at the outgoing gate, and check every 15 minutes that the gate hasn't changed, while never ignoring a single overhead announcement. That's what most of us do anyway, and it will protect you from this highly unlikely scenario. (At least, better than sitting in a restaurant 20 minutes from the gate drinking, ignoring announcements, etc.)

  • 1
    We talk from the point of view of the 1st world. In Asia, some companies use the dirty trickof booking on purpose flights at 00:05-00:10 to earn some extra bucks from distracted people coming at the end of the day (the next day), and so charge you around 300USD for getting into the next flight. – Rui F Ribeiro Feb 22 at 22:00
  • I think I only missed a flight once because I was late getting to the airport. I was a lot poorer then and I was worried the airline would tell me "too bad, you're out of luck", but in fact, like in your case, they just put me on the next flight. In general I plan to get to the airport 2 hours before my plane leaves, so that if I do get stuck in traffic or can't find a parking space or whatever, I still have time. And I've always figured it's better to sit waiting at the airport than to sit waiting at home. – Mark Daniel Johansen Feb 22 at 22:05
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    "Second, the airline pages people who are in danger of missing their flights." Not necessarily. There are many airports where this doesn't happen. Indeed, I can't actually remember the last time I heard a "Passenger Fred Smith, where the heck are you?" announcement at an airport. OK, I only take about ten flights a year and they're mostly from the same airports, but you state it as if it's something that always happens, and that's definitely not the case. – David Richerby Feb 22 at 22:16
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    I hear them constantly. At first it's the flight, but later it's specific people. In Europe they even add "you are delaying the flight." The only place I didn't hear such announcements was on small Pacific islands, and not all of them. – Kate Gregory Feb 22 at 22:28
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    "I've even seen airline staff wandering around other gates asking people if they are the missing passenger." My experience is limited, but I've only ever seen them try that hard to find the passenger when the passenger has checked baggage already on the plane. Reason being, they don't order the baggage all that well, and trying to find a specific passenger's bags to remove from the baggage hull on the plane before take off might take even longer than finding the passenger. So if, for example, you're flying with just a carry-on bag, don't expect the airline to try too hard to find you. – Davy M Feb 23 at 4:21
17

Your options not necessarily in order of preference are:

  1. Call Family and ask

  2. Call Friends and mooch off them

  3. Setup a Gofundme and compose a tearjerker

  4. Ask random strangers at the airport

  5. Camp out at the airport until the airline or airport authorities have mercy on you (Scroll to 32:30 mark of video)

  6. If you’re a citizen of another country and missed your flight home in a foreign airport, your embassy might lend you funds to get back to your home country. You will likely have to pay them back. Emergency Financial Assistance for U.S. Citizens Abroad

  7. I would have said call the airline frequent flyer/customer service number however you’ve already indicated the airline refuses to help.

Note

Because this is a connection flight you can’t rely on the flat tire rule to help you out.

  • If you’re a citizen of another country and missed your flight home, your embassy might lend you funds to get back to your home country. You will of course have to pay them back. – RoboKaren Feb 22 at 19:06
  • @RoboKaren I know the USA does that in extreme cases. Will add. – ThE iLlEgAl aLiEn Feb 22 at 19:07
  • Given todays climate #1 and #2 would put you at risks of being unfairly accused of one of those scam schemes where strangers pretending to be you email your relatives/friends and beg them for money – Peter M Feb 22 at 19:24
  • @PeterM That's surely true, but with video calls and other verification methods we have thanks to cell phones, it shouldn't be hard to show that you're really the person they know compared to the scammer on the phone. – Davy M Feb 23 at 4:25
  • @PeterM The answer does say call rather than e-mail. If your family knows you're travelling, and you are actually speaking to them on the phone (even if it isn't your phone), it's unlikely they'll think it's somebody trying to scam them. You can also ask them to book a flight for you (though there are times this may not actually work), rather than asking them to send you the money for one, which a scammer wouldn't do. – Anthony Grist Feb 23 at 19:20
3

I'm not sure how it's different for connecting flights, but this actually happened to me on a single leg.

I missed an easyJet flight from Venice to Paris after arriving late at the airport due to delays with public transport. In reality, you are possibly stuck, unless, like some other people mentioned, the airline bails you out. In my case, easyJet had no mercy on me for alternative arrangements, but they did give me a partial refund for the flight a few weeks later.

I arrived at Marco Polo airport about 5 minutes after the gate closed, so I immediately reported to the airline desk to explain my situation. They had no solution for me, except that I could either book a seat on an Air France flight for 12,800 euros and I had to be at the gate in 8 minutes or forfeit the money. My other option was to take a flight 2 days later and pay 3,400 euros.

I only had around 3,000 euros of credit available to me, which I think many of us will agree should have been sufficient "emergency funds." In the end, I got a night train to Paris for around 890 euros. I had to take a taxi to Santa Lucia station and wait 5 hours for the train, which arrived in Paris around 20 hours later due to more delays.

So, at least for me, the solution was to find cheaper transport. My initial flight cost 80 euros, plus 30 euros for a pre-booked taxi to pick me up in Paris, a total of 110 euros. Even with the budget option, I lost 980 euros. (I got a 20 euro refund)

The moral of the story - don't miss your flights, have enough emergency funds, and travel insurance. Leave a long enough connection time between your land transport and your plane, otherwise, you won't be able to claim from travel insurance either.

  • 2
    Sorry but the prices you mention seem crazy high: unless you insist on traveling first class, I don't see how they can be so high for such a short flight. A quick google flight search gives plenty of options for less than 200 euros. – Erwan Feb 24 at 14:16
  • I was equally surprised. The prices were for business class as there were no economy seats available. Even for business, it was crazy. Naturally, I did my searches at the time, but I believe it came down to supply and demand - there was limited availability and it was Christmas Eve to make things even worse. – user10504 Feb 25 at 15:41
1

Missing a connection is a real risk of travelling by air.

Let's look at some of the possible scenarios:

  • You're delayed in arriving at the airport: It shouldn't happen and you should most certainly have scheduled your arrival at the airport a minimum of an hour beforehand for a national flight and preferably two hours, for an international flight at least three hours. Your immediate course of action is to explain the situation to an airline representative at their desk at the airport and though they've no obligation to help you, they'll very often, especially if the reason is convincing, do their best to put you on a later flight on which they've plenty of space.

  • You catch your first flight but it arrives late and you miss your connection for another flight which is not on the same ticket: It shouldn't happen -- if you're on a multi-leg journey you should always leave plenty of time between different legs of the journey and especially so if the flights are not on the same ticket. It's exceedingly unwise not to have all the legs on the same ticket. If they're not, then all you can do, realistically, is again explain the situation really nicely to a representative of the airline on which you were booked to fly the next leg. If you're there, present at their desk, there's a reasonable chance that if a later flight has plenty of space they may book you on that at no extra charge. You have no rights in that instance, but representatives at the desk are often very good at helping when they can. Much better than an airline representative working from an office and speaking to you on the end of a phone. Remember that a good travel agent can often get a multi-leg journey using several different airlines on the same ticket when you yourself can't. Remember too, never accept tight connections. For major international and especially intercontinental connections, aim to leave at least three hours between scheduled arrival and scheduled departure of the next flight. More if the interconnection is in the USA which has no transfer lounges.

  • The first leg of your flight results in a late arrival at the transfer point and you miss your connection for the next leg of your flight, both legs being on the same ticket and the minimum specified connection time has been allowed when booking the flights: In this instance you're in a totally different situation and the airline responsible for the second leg of your journey has a duty to get you to your destination either by booking you on one of their own later flights or by rerouting you by a flight or flights on another airline so that you reach your ultimate destination without undue delay. Don't stand on your dignity, but you'll probably find the representatives of the second airline more than keen to help you out. Irrespective of that duty on their part, it is exceedingly unwise to accept a transfer which allows only the minimum amount of time between flights.

Airports can be very big, very confusing places.

  • Check in online where that's practicable
  • Leave plenty of time to find your way to the check-in desk if you have no realistic option but to check in in person
  • Get through security to airside at the earliest possible opportunity -- security lines can be horrendous
  • Locate the gate for your flight as soon as possible and get a seat where you see both the gate and a departures board
  • Keep monitoring the departures board at least every five minutes
  • Don't assume that your flight will be called -- quite often that doesn't happen. Even when it does, if you're in a foreign airport you may not make out what's said. Even in your own country you may not understand what's said. I've had occasion plenty of times to say, even in my own country, to the staff on duty at the departure gate "I didn't understand a word of that announcement" -- and that's from someone who speaks three languages fluently and has a working knowledge of a lot more: I've heard plenty of announcements in Chinese which are a lot more intelligible than some announcements in London Heathrow.
  • Don't assume that a flight call necessarily specifies the correct gate -- sometimes a flight may simply be wrong.
  • Don't assume that the departures board is correct. Late gate changes don't always make it to the departures board.
  • Gate changes may be very last minutes. I've seen a last minute sprint at Houston for a gate change going on to the departures board and announced only five minutes before actual gate closing time -- and that plane left without a lot of its intended passengers.
  • If nothing is happening at the gate 15 minutes before scheduled departure it's past time to start asking what's going on. Often it's just airline gate staff incompetence, but if you're at the right place there are going to be other passengers there and it does no harm to check that they're heading for the same flight. Ask, ask and ask again.
  • Remember that in some airports each gate may have several different doors. Schiphol (AMS) is a large airport which is a prime example of this. It's very confusing because in fact although it's described as a "door" and there may be several "doors" under each gate number, each "door" is in practical terms a gate. No use simply assuming that because you're in the right gate area that you're actually at the correct point for catching your plane which may be boarding via a door some distance from the one you're sitting near.
0

Get some money. Try and find the cheapest trip home.

If you have an ID with you, ask family/friends for a Western Union remittance.

If you have no ID, the remittance with them might be possible, but the amounts allowed are limited.

Sell something you have with you. Try a pawn shop. They won't offer you a fair price, but solve your liquidity problem.

The issue here, though, is to have backup plans upfront.

  • 1
    I don't think this answer is helpful for several reasons. There is no need to buy a ticket locally; your friends and family can purchase you a ticket remotely and immediately, bypassing Western Union. This has been true since at least 1970. (With paper tickets, it was called a "PTA" or "prepaid ticket advance"; with e-tickets, it's a moot distinction.) In practice the first step must be to negotiate with the airline ticketing staff. – Calchas Feb 23 at 17:45
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    who is at the airport with no id? Also the number of in-airport pawn shops must be quite low. – Kate Gregory Feb 23 at 18:24
  • @KateGregory: no doubt about the number of in-airport pawn shops, but he could leave the airport, couldn't he? As I understand the question, it's about coming back home. – Pierre B Feb 23 at 20:50
  • @Calchas: there's nothing to negotiate with the the ticketing staff, but you are right about getting your ticket paid from home. – Pierre B Feb 23 at 20:51
  • @PierreB An important point is that at-airport ticketing staff have wide discretion outside the fare rules to make changes to tickets. This is different to staff at call centres or elsewhere. Especially at a hub airport—where presumably this missed connection was made—it is definitely worth pressing your case with more than one member of staff. – Calchas Feb 23 at 22:01
0

Airlines often overbook flights so they won't have empty seats if someone doesn't show up.
Occasionally, they'll actually 'bump' people off a flight that have a reservation because they overbooked and everybody showed up.

So just because you miss your flight doesn't mean that the airline took off with an empty seat. They may have filled it with someone who would otherwise have gone on the next flight but was waiting in case someone didn't show up to go on the earlier flight.

Since that guy took your seat and paid for it, they can give you the seat he would have had without losing money.
I think in that case they would be more likely to allow you out on a later flight without charge.

The only way to know for sure is to read the fine print of every carriers policies because those are the legally binding policies and thus the ones they're most likely to follow.

Still, to be safe, I would assume it's going to cost you if you miss one and, if at all possible, have the money to purchase another ticket.
If you don't, then at that point, you're homeless in an airport and it becomes security's job to remove you if you have no legal business there.
The world is cruel.

People become homeless not because they were able to deal with the unexpected.
People become homeless because they weren't able to deal with the unexpected.

You can panhandle but that's probably illegal in an airport and often illegal in most places. So the next place alot of people end up is in jail. It's called a string of cascading negative events and it can ruin lives if you don't have anyone to help you or the money to help yourself.

  • 2
    Welcome @earlphlegm. I'm not sure this is a particularly helpful answer. It lacks sources and is mostly based on speculation. I think the path from "missing a connecting flight" to "jail and homelessness" is probably not commonly trodden. In most cases the situation is "go to the ticket desk and cry until they take pity on you" or "take out the credit card, if necessary first discussing the situation with your card issuer and securing an extension of credit". – Calchas Feb 23 at 17:40

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