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What Happens If You Miss Your Flight? Tips For Rebooking, Claiming Insurance & Unplanned Transits

Guide to navigating through a missed flight

Buying an air ticket can be a significant expense, even with hacks to score cheap flight tickets. So, it’s best to be a bit more kiasu: always pack your passport, check in online, arrive at the airport at least 2 hours before your flight, and make sure you board on time.

However, sometimes unavoidable circumstances occur. Even the most on-the-ball traveller can miss a flight due to unforeseen circumstances or personal oversight. If you find yourself in such a situation and start to panic, don’t worry – we’ve put together a guide to help you navigate through a missed flight.

What is considered a valid reason for missing a flight?

There are various reasons one might miss a flight. But what qualifies as a legit reason for missing a flight that would qualify for airport assistance? A common scenario is missing a connecting flight because of a delay in the initial flight, which is often due to factors like bad weather or a tight layover. Unfortunately, this is a frequent experience in European cities.

Of course, there are also rare occurrences like natural disasters or road accidents en route to the airport. However, since this isn’t the airline’s fault, it may or may not be considered a valid reason for missing your flight. The same goes for personal issues such as medical emergencies. In times like these, plead your case and see what they can do.

missed flight - passport
Make sure that your passport is valid for more than 6 months before its expiry date as well.

It’s also a challenging situation if the reason for missing your flight is due to your negligence. So, if you’re venting to the counter staff about heavy traffic en route to the airport, that your alarm didn’t go off in time, or forgetting to apply for a travel visa for countries that require one, it’s a tough fight, fam.

What to do when you miss your flight

Once you realise you’ll be late for your flight, call and inform the airline ASAP. Otherwise, they will label you as a “no show” and cancel your entire booking. This means that any connecting flights or return trips booked with the same airline will be forfeited. So, even if you catch a different flight out, you’ll have to rebook the entirety of your remaining journey.

missed flight - baggage counter

So, you’ve arrived at the airport and the boarding gates have already closed. What now? Needless to say, there is no refund for the missed flight.

Head to the airline desk for information on the next available flights and your options. While this depends on your luck, there might be a chance they’ll assist you with an alternative flight at a minimal cost – perhaps just a small fee to cover the fare difference.

If you need to purchase a new flight entirely, you don’t need to navigate through websites on your phone. The airline ground staff will be able to filter the flights and recommend options based on your preferred time and budget. Simply confirm your details, and they’ll handle the booking through their system.

What to do if you miss a flight connection

missed flight - airport

Missing a flight connection is slightly less complex, provided your connecting flight is on the same ticket as your initial flight. Airports are usually informed of incoming flights that are delayed, and most of the time, there will be staff at the aerobridge to assist passengers in transit. This ensures you’re covered for compensation if you miss the connection. Otherwise, you’ll need to book a new flight at your own expense.

Upon disembarkation, you’ll be directed to the airline desk. It is likely that there’ll be other passengers in the same situation, fostering a sense of camaraderie. I vividly remember this when I missed my connecting flight from Helsinki to Singapore due to bad weather, as I was trying to spot other Singaporeans from their passports.

missed flight - finnair
There was a long line at the counter. You can only imagine that this was not the final destination for many of us.
Image credit: Pat Yuan Teng

The airline desk will rebook you on the next available flight with the same airline at no extra charge. One thing to know as a passenger is that if the flight departs several hours later, the airline is obliged to provide meal vouchers, lodging, and transportation to your accommodation. The exact number of hours will depend on the airline. Singapore Airlines, for example, will only provide compensation if the flight is delayed on arrival by 3 hours or more.

At this point, you might feel flustered and sian that your plans have been disrupted. However, it’s crucial to clear your head and ensure you get answers to all your questions.

It is best to clarify things over the counter. I recall feeling super pek cek when airline staff from different platforms gave me conflicting answers to the same question.

Below are some helpful questions to ask:

  • Is the transportation provided one-way or round-trip, and is there a limit to the transport fare reimbursement?
  • Besides the meal vouchers provided, will I be reimbursed for meals? If so, is there a limit to the reimbursement amount?
  • How do I make a claim for transportation and meal reimbursement if I have to pay upfront?
  • If my flight is scheduled for late at night, can the airline negotiate with the hotel for meals to be provided and a late check-out so I can have more time to rest? Normally, hotel check-out times are around 12pm.

Alternatively, if you need to hop onto an earlier flight that’s operated by a different airline, you might have to bear the cost of the entire booking yourself.

missed flight - baggage

Another thing to take note of is that even if you’re heading to your accommodation for the night, your luggage will remain at the airport, inaccessible to you. If you need access to your belongings, notify the airline desk so they can arrange for retrieval.

For those who have purchased duty-free items like alcohol or perfume at the previous airport, you must ask the airline to store them, as you won’t be permitted to bring them through security during check-in for your next flight.

Some helpful tips just in case

You know what they say, you can never be too prepared when it comes to travelling. Even if you’re confident, it’s always good to be ready for the unexpected; just in case. Here are some nifty travel tips that may be extra helpful in the event of a missed flight.

Pack your essentials

When it comes to long-haul flights, I always pack essentials such as my toothbrush, toothpaste, and face wash so I can freshen up on the plane. This came in handy when the airline “kidnapped” my baggage, as the hotel we were sent to didn’t provide these essentials.

For the record, I lasted 10 minutes in the snow while wearing a cropped top and joggers.
Image credit: Pat Yuan Teng

If you’re travelling during winter, always keep your winter jacket with you. When I missed my connecting flight from Helsinki to Singapore, I had nearly 24 hours before my rescheduled flight. I couldn’t even explore the city in sub-zero temperatures because I had checked in my winter jacket.

Get travel insurance

Purchasing travel insurance should always be on your to-do list when planning a holiday. Make sure that the travel dates covered by your insurance align with your itinerary. Accuracy in your information is crucial, especially if your flight arrives a day later, which can complicate matters.

Note that most travel insurance policies only cover delays exceeding 6 hours. If the delay was due to factors beyond the airline’s control, you may be eligible to claim compensation under “travel disruptions”. Don’t forget to obtain a memo from the airline to submit to your insurance provider as evidence for your claim.

Get access to airport lounges

Qantas International Business Lounge
Image credit: Qantas

If you find yourself stuck in the airport for several hours with nowhere to go, it’s a good opportunity to consider checking out the airport lounges. You’ll get free and fast Wi-Fi to stream a movie, less crowded restrooms, and plenty of charging stations. Some lounges even offer showers and a spa — it’s like checking into a hotel right at the airport.

Tip: For those holding onto a credit card that provides free access to these lounges, it’s the perfect time to take advantage of it. You can enjoy some peaceful rest and fill your tummy while passing the time.

Manage a missed flight like a pro

A missed flight could unexpectedly extend your holiday and give you a chance to explore a new city, or it could disrupt your plans for the next few days.

If you do miss a flight, remember to stay calm and navigate through the situation. Who knows, it might turn out to be one of the most adventurous vacations you never planned to have.

For more tips on travelling like a pro: