You Missed Your Flight – Now What?

Some of us might see this as another exciting adventure, while others might feel stranded and alone.

Regardless of which side you’re on, we all want to know what’s next when we miss a flight. I recently found myself in this very position while on a return flight from Tuscany to Toronto via Frankfurt. After checking my suitcase in Tuscany, I expected a short layover in Frankfurt and then a nine hour flight back home. That all changed when my flight was delayed by more than an hour. I had a hunch I wasn’t going to make my connection.

Just as I was landing in Frankfurt, my connecting flight was taking off. If you’re a frequent flyer, this is a predicament you might have already experienced.

So what do you need to know? Here are four potential scenarios and what you can expect if you miss your flight:

 1. You miss a connection due to a delay at the previous airport

The rules may vary, but generally, it’s the airline’s responsibility to get you on the next available flight out. If none are available, most airlines set you up at a hotel, offer meal vouchers and transportation to and from. All of it with no extra cost to you. But you’ll need to be patient. In my case, it was a two hour process. It depends on the number of passengers being processed for missed, cancelled or delayed flights. I will say, Frankfurt’s airport is efficient and prepared for this scenario. Each passenger receives a number, like at the passport office.

2. You missed your flight because of a storm

There are things airlines can control, and things they can’t, like the weather. In this case, airline staff will do their best to get you on the next flight out. Since these circumstances are outside their control, airlines are not obligated to set you up at a hotel, should the wait be longer than a few hours. Think of it this way – if it’s their fault they will take responsibility. If it’s not, they can’t be expected to foot the bill.

3. The airline overbooked the flight and you’ve been ‘bumped’

Airlines will say this seldom happens. Passengers are often furious when they realize the seat they paid for was also promised to someone else. But it happens. Air Canada explains the reason it overbooks on its website:

“All major international airlines overbook due to the number of customers reserving flights and then subsequently deciding not to travel without cancelling their reservation, or simply missing their flight due to missed connections or other reasons. Market factors and historical travel patterns are used to determine acceptable overbooking levels which in turn allows other customers to book and travel on flights they would otherwise not have had access to.”

If you find yourself in this position, the airline will book you on the next available flight. In addition, you’ll be compensated. Depending on the airline and length of your delay, it can be anywhere from $200 to nearly $1,400. Airlines will first ask for volunteers who are not in a rush to come forward and give up their seat. If there are no takers, airline staff decide who to bump.

4. You hit the snooze button one too many times and the plane left without you

Sorry, but under this circumstance you are on your own!

In some cases, you may be able to call the airline and try to salvage a portion of the cost of your ticket and use it towards your next flight. If you’re delayed by just a few minutes, speak with the agent on the ground and try to get on the next flight out. You may even catch a break on the cost of that next ticket. In this case you’re still at the mercy of that agent so smile, be polite and patient.

Silver lining, my delay in Frankfurt resulted in a stay at a five star hotel and a civilized morning stroll through the old city. Not so bad after all.