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I got on the flight from Hong Kong to Tokyo via Beijing, and on the stopover, the scheduled time difference is 70 minutes.

However, while the first flight arrived at the scheduled time, it took another 30 minutes to get off the plane, during which the plane repeated to stall and move a few times. Then I had to get on the shuttle bus to the airport and then walked to the immigration, which took another 4 minutes. And I passed the immigration.

At that time, the immigration staff said to me that I had only 4 minutes left to pass through the body and baggage check and walk (dash, actually!) to the boarding gate; the boarding time is 30 minutes before the departure.

I'm sure that is impossible even for Usain Bolt. And I'm highly certain that this is not my fault. Not even close.

In the end, I missed the boarding time but got on the second shuttle bus on the last 1 minute, which was 15 minutes before the departure.

With this horrifying experience, I now wonder what would happen if I were late just a minute. My question is, if I missed the boarding, what should I do first? Can I still get on the flight? And if I can't, who would bear the unexpected hotel and flight cost?

Also, is there anything that I could do in this case? Even if I can make it to the flight I hate to dash. I have no reason whatsoever why I have to dash...

For your information I used the same airline (Air China).

  • 1
    This is why I absolutely refuse to book long multileg trips with less than 2 hours for transfers. – Leliel May 31 '16 at 5:24
17

I think we've all had that experience where a delay on one flight means we really had to hurry and dash through the airport, getting there after boarding has started. I once had a gate attendent see me (out of breath, red in the face, running hard, panting "I'm here!") and turn and run down the jetway to stop them closing the door! That plane started moving before I was fully seated.

If you had missed the flight, the people at the gate would have helped get you on the next one. Since it was all on the same airline and booked all together, there wouldn't have been a cost, and they might have even given you a voucher to buy dinner if the next flight would be a while.

Since you didn't miss the flight, no-one will compensate you for the unpleasant airport experience. I doubt they will even apologize. I empathize - I've had several awful airport experiences with short connections at airports that are hard to get through quickly. If you travel a lot you may develop a mental list of airports where you won't accept the connections the airline offers, instead coming in on an earlier flight or leaving on a later one just so you will have a lower stress experience. This is some of the wisdom you gain with practice.

As for what to do once you land late like that, all you can do is hurry. If you are in a line, show the other people your boarding pass, say "my plane is already boarding!" or "my plane boards in 5 minutes!" or whatever and hope they let you go to the front of the line (I've done this in Frankfurt.) Do this at every lineup, shuttle bus, etc. Run whenever you can. [Other times, if a red sweaty stressed person begs to go in front of you, let them - you'll remember that time you needed it.] Do what it takes to catch that flight. Or, accept that you won't, take your time, and work things out with the gate people when you get there. Those are really your only chances. There's no phone call you can make or email you can send that will cause the plane to wait for you. If you had very high status on the airline, you might be met by a golf cart to rush you through the terminal, but such things are not offered to infrequent flyers. Hurry, and perhaps save yourself all the hassle associated with taking a later flight, or accept your fate and walk slowly towards the long wait for that later flight.

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    Well, this was my first trip ever and I didn't know it occurs so frequently. In general does the arrival time mean when the plane stopped first, when the plane stopped finally and passengers got off the plane, or when the bus got to the airport? – Blaszard May 30 '16 at 20:42
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    The published arrival time for a flight is usually the "gate time," the time the airline expects the flight to arrive at the gate and come to a stop. And of course the arrival may be late for any number of reasons. Depending on the airport and terminals, it may take a significant amount of time before you can get to your next flight (arriving on an international flight into the US, if you're not coming from a Preclearence airport, you'd have to go through immigration, customs, and security first). There are many questions on this site asking if a particular connection provides enough time. – Zach Lipton May 30 '16 at 20:47
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    +1. For what it's worth, Beijing airport is infamous for delays and not a place where I would rely on a short connection. Avoiding this kind of hassle is also a big reason why business travelers willingly pay a lot more for direct flights. – lambshaanxy May 30 '16 at 21:41
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    I once landed in Johannesburg 20 minutes late with Lufthansa and I failed to make it to the boarding of South African Airways. They wanted to charge me for putting me on the next flight but I managed to call Lufthansa's office in Johannesburg and they paid for everything. Don't be afraid to ask for help is my advice in a nutshell. – Galaxy Jun 1 '16 at 11:10
7

Just a short answer: it all depends on whether you had it as one booking or two separate bookings.

If it is on one booking (which I assume) then you are fine. The airline will take care to get you on a later flight and also of hotel if necessary. Just contact their desk in case. (Since the delay/missed connection is their fault, not yours.)

If it's two bookings, you can try to ask but they are not responsible for it, it is you.

See this question and links therein for more details.

  • I had it as one booking, including hotels. And I didn't have to receive my baggage on the transfer, FYI. – Blaszard May 30 '16 at 20:24
  • Is there a limit to how tight you can plan? For example, if you ignore the MCT (minimum connecting time), is it still the airline's problem? – CompuChip May 31 '16 at 9:17
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    @CompuChip The limit is what the airline is willing to sell you as a ticket. If they sell you the ticket then they commit to and are responsible for bringing you to you destination. Likely though no airline would sell you a ticket ignoring the MCT. – mts May 31 '16 at 9:18
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    I remember back in the day the reservation system would give me a warning which would have to be acknowledged and then could be ignored. I had some 40-minute transfers in Vienna because these flights were scheduled to connect and would usually wait for one another even though the default MCT in the reservation system was longer. – CompuChip May 31 '16 at 9:25
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    I once booked a ZIH-MEX-YYZ flight with Air Canada with a 40 minute layover that I knew was blatantly impossible to make. It required a terminal change and the incoming airline (Aeromexico) couldn't issue an Air Canada boarding pass so I had to check in again. Since there was no workable connection that didn't require an overnight stay at MEX or IAH and Air Canada was willing to book this one, I took it. Air Canada paid for the hotel... – Dennis May 31 '16 at 14:37

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