What Happens If You Miss Your Flight?

Air travel provides joy to millions of passengers each year for holidays, business trips and visiting friends and family. Most flights go according to plan, and passengers reach their destination as expected. For the unlucky minority, sometimes things go wrong, and passengers miss their flight. We take a look at what happens when you miss your flight.

What if it is my own fault?

Missed flights can happen for all sorts of reasons. Traffic congestion getting to the airport, delays at security, illness, late connecting flights, weather, losing track of time in duty-free and endless other reasons. If you have missed your flight due to circumstances within your control, the airline is not obligated to rebook you on a later flight free of charge.

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Airlines have different policies on this. For example, in the USA, the ‘flat tire’ rule may apply. For airlines that apply this policy, if you miss your flight due to circumstances beyond your control and arrive at the airport within two hours of the flight departs, then the airline will book you onto the next available flight for no extra cost.

If you know you will miss your flight the first step is to contact the airline. If you know in advance then it is worth checking to see if you can cancel with zero penalty. If you simply do not turn up, the airline is likely to cancel your entire trip, including connections and return flights. Contacting the airline early could resolve the situation as they may be able to book you on the next available flight.


Some airlines will be able to reschedule the trip at the airport, others might require contacting a call center. Many airlines will accommodate passengers in these circumstances if they can, but it is by no means guaranteed. could put you on a standby list.

The ramifications for missing flights largely depend on who is at fault – the passenger, the airline or unforeseen circumstances. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

What if it is the fault of the airline?

Aviation is a complex industry with many organizations involved in getting an aircraft into the sky. If the airline cancels the flight you are often entitled to get your money back. However, this is not always the case, and rules vary between countries.

If you are connecting through an airport and the first leg of the flight is canceled or delayed, resulting in missing the next leg, then your rights depend on how you have booked your flights. the airline will book you on the next available flight and provide accommodation if required. If you booked two separate tickets, then the passenger will be responsible for rearranging new flights. Some airlines may be willing to accommodate passengers at no charge but it is at their discretion.


The rules and the rights of passengers vary in different areas. In Europe, for example, passengers can be protected under European Union Regulation EU261. It details specific rules that passengers are entitled to, including reimbursement and compensation.

The rules and regulations for passengers missing flights vary between countries. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

What if I am already at the airport?

If you are already airside and your flight has departed without you, you will either wait at the airport for the rescheduled flight, or you will need to leave the airport. Airport staff must escort you back through the terminal and into the arrivals hall. your baggage was already loaded onto the aircraft, the flight will not depart without it if your trip has been canceled. It will be offloaded, and you will be reunited with it.

Missing a flight can feel like the end of the world, but even if it is the passenger’s fault, airlines may be able and willing to rebook on alternative flights. If the airline is at fault, passengers can travel with the knowledge that procedures are in place to reschedule, provide compensation, or both.

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