Missing a flight can be bad and there are various outcomes depending on the situation you are in and most importantly on whose fault it was. I have missed a flight on 3 occasions, given the amount of flying I’ve done over the years this is hardly surprising. In fact, I think I’m lucky I haven’t missed more flights. On two occasions it was my fault and on the last occasion, it was not. I’ll tell you about each situation and what happened to give you an idea of different scenarios when you miss your flight.
Your fault, the airline owes you nothing
The first occasion was many years ago when I was working for a company based in Germany. I was visiting headquarters to help with the delivery of a training course. It was a rather unusual situation where they had set up a six-day course and I was delivering day one which, somewhat unusually, was on a Sunday. I flew over on the Friday to set up in the office, had Saturday off, and then spent Sunday delivering the training.
My plan was to return in good time on Monday morning to get back to my UK office to do an afternoon’s work there. My usual route was flying via Dusseldorf and renting a car for the two-hour drive to where the office was located. I had noticed there were road works on the autobahn on the way over and I took this into consideration for my return journey. What I hadn’t realised was how bad the Monday morning rush hour on the German autobahn was going to be. I knew the drive took two hours and I usually plan to be at the airport about two hours before the flight, which is normal for a short-haul flight. Given I knew there were road works I also added another hour. I think my flight was around 11:00 AM, so I left my hotel at 6:00 AM giving myself three hours for the drive to get me there two hours before the flight.
Unfortunately, things did not go to plan and I spent a huge amount of time sitting stationary on an autobahn. By the time I got to the airport I knew my flight was well and truly missed. I went to the British Airways sales desk and they concurred that I had missed my flight. As this was quite some time ago, I had no status and was flying in Economy. As such, there was absolutely no wiggle room for me, the flight was gone.
Since it was my fault that I was late the airline had no responsibility for me. They offered me tickets on the next few flights that day, but they were all quite expensive. After a brief search of the web I found that there was a 5:00 PM flight with now-defunct airline Flybe, heading towards London for only £90, so I booked that. A brief call to my office to tell them I wouldn’t be in today and we agreed that since I had my laptop with me at simply find a coffee shop get some Internet and sit and do some work while I waited for my flight. So, I had that joy of spending a whole day at Dusseldorf airport, I must admit I did go and ride the hanging train to the railway station just to get out and have a bit of a break.
Check-in opened two hours before the flight, so I checked in, went through had some supper and headed home.
I was late for a flight, entirely my fault and with no status or flexibility of my ticket to bargain with the airline owed me nothing and I had to buy a new ticket.
Your fault, but sometimes they airline is helpful
The next occasion was in America, I was in Orlando and I needed to get to Las Vegas for a conference. I was flying American Airlines on a stopping service via Dallas to Las Vegas. I had a day off in Orlando so naturally I went to Disney World. I had never been to the new Avatar Land, and I was particularly keen to ride the new, state-of-the-art ride “Avatar Flight of Passage”, ironically a flight-based ride!
At the time the only way to ride that ride, without sitting in a two-hour queue, was to book a slot. The only slot I could get was for 4:20 PM, and my flight was at 7:20 PM. So, I did some thinking and worked out what my options were. My bags were all packed and stored at reception at my hotel. As I’m a member of the Global Entry Programme I get TSA pre-check, which is a different security queue at American airports that is a lot faster as it doesn’t ask you to take off shoes or remove laptops from your bags etc., you can go through very fast. Plus, it was a domestic flight, so no need to be at the airport particularly early. A taxi ride from the park back to my hotel was only 20 minutes and another taxi ride to the airport was 25 minutes. My plan was to ride the ride as fast as possible get out of the park, grab a taxi, go to the hotel, grab my bags and go to the airport. If all went well, I could be at the airport between 5:30 PM and 6:00 PM. Plenty of time for my flight.
All did not go well, as that was one key piece of information I was missing!
I went to do the ride, which by the way was absolutely amazing, then legged it out of the theme park in good time to go and start my journey. However, there were no taxis at the taxi rank, but no problem I can call uber. No Uber drivers available, I’ll try Lyft (another ride-hailing service), but they too were also very busy. All this messing about with taxi ranks and apps meant I started losing precious time. I had to get back to my hotel, so I used the Disney transportation system which is basically a bus network provided free of charge. Unfortunately, I was not staying at an official Disney hotel so I had to get the bus to the nearest hotel and walk back to my hotel. This took considerably longer the taking a taxi. When I arrived at my hotel, I grabbed my bags and I spoke to reception about getting a taxi, they tried to get me a local taxi while I went back to Uber to see if I had any luck. The hotel struggled to get me a taxi saying that they were all busy, which they thought was highly unusual. After a bit of time, I managed to secure an Uber, and I was collected and on my way to the airport. I was talking to the Uber driver about the lack of taxis and Uber’s around and she informed me that there was a major gig happening in central Orlando that evening, which had triggered surge pricing. This meant drivers got paid a lot more if they went there, so all taxis and Ubers had headed to the centre of Orlando well away from Disney World, which is why I couldn’t get anything. Of course, there were queues getting into the airport which made matters worse.
I did manage to get to check in before my flight departed but unfortunately, the check-in close time had officially passed. Annoyingly there was quite a long queue for Economy check-in, and a reasonable queue for the Business Class check-in area. Thanks to my One World status I was able to use the Business Class area, however this queue was moving incredibly slowly as there were very few staff serving at this queue. I soon worked out it was quicker to move to the Economy queue as there were more staff there. By time I got to the front I was definitely too late and had to confess that I was late for my flight with no excuse.
I was therefore a little surprised when she just shrugged and said “ok, no problem I’ll put you on the next flight”. This might have been because of my status or it simply was because in America flights are as common as London buses, and people miss them and make changes all the time. My empty seat was probably taken by somebody on a standby ticket and it’s fairly easy to bump you onto the next flight. The only catch was the next flight was early the next day. I was advised that there are plenty of hotels around the airport and one inside the airport. Whilst the hotels outside the airport will probably considerably cheaper I decided to splash out on the more expensive internal hotel with runway views and direct access to the terminal. In fact, the reception was directly above a security area. It was quite unusual experience staying in the airport, once I drop my bags, I went for a wander around the terminal, which is somewhat surreal when you don’t have any bags or even a boarding pass. I grabbed some food I went to bed for a few hours before getting back up pretty early to walk downstairs and across the terminal back to check-in. My new flight went without a hitch, this time connecting in Miami, but I was in Vegas before lunch.
If you’re flying domestically in America there’s a pretty good chance that you can move around as there are so many flights so many people move around that, as long as you don’t cause a scene, the chances are that they’ll bump you to the next flight fairly easily. But again, if it’s your fault you can’t rely on this if the next flights are full they have no obligation.
The airline’s fault, what now?
The most recent time I missed a flight it was not my fault. I needed to get to the town of Graz in Austria, there were a number of ways I could have got there, including flying to Vienna and taking a train or renting a car. However, the quickest way was to fly to Graz, there’s a very small airport there which does have flights to Austria and Germany.
I found a route with Lufthansa flying from London, via Frankfurt, to Graz airport. I needed to be in Graz for a day of training on the Monday, so I booked the last possible flights on Sunday, just so that I didn’t take up any of my time during the day. This meant flying from London Gatwick on a 6:20 PM flight. I’ve done a whole other report about this trip, so I wont go into details. The short version is there were thunderstorms all over Europe and the flight from Frankfurt was delayed. Leaving Gatwick took time as there was a queue for the single runway.
My original flight plan gave me a 1 hour and 40minute connection at Frankfurt, usually more than enough time. However, with the delays we landed 20 minutes before my next flight was due to close doors and depart. There were a lot of people on my flight who were connecting, so there were plenty of announcements about what to do. They said that as many flights had been delayed there was a good chance my next flight was one of them and I would make my connection. The instructions were to head to my gate regardless, unless I’d receive alternative instructions.
By time we taxied to the arriving gate there was only 10 minutes left. Nonetheless I headed in and started making my way to the gate. As I had arrived from the UK, I had to go through passport control, which was luckily very quiet. Then I was inside the Schengen area and ready to head towards my flight. Halfway to the gate I got a notification on my phone saying that I had been cancelled off this flight and rebooked onto the next flight, which was the next day.
So now I need to find a Lufthansa service desk to figure out what I did next. Finding the desk wasn’t easy but eventually I did manage to go and speak to someone, who was very helpful. He gave me my new boarding pass for the next flight, then made a hotel booking for me and gave me a voucher to pay for it. Then he gave me two vouchers for taxis to and from the hotel. I headed outside, presented my voucher to a local taxi who didn’t seem very happy about it, but reluctantly took me to my hotel. Upon arrival there was someone else with a similar voucher checking in, while I waited about another eight people showed up with similar vouchers. I checked in got about, six hours sleep, checked out and headed outside to find they had organised taxis to make sure we all got back to the airport. I got to the airport with plenty of time and took the new flight. The end result was I arrived about an hour late for the work I supposed to be doing, luckily a colleague was already there and managed to cover for me until I got there. And the day went very well.
When you have connecting flights the airline basically takes responsibility for you until you reach your destination. As long as you’re on time for your first flight anything that happens after that becomes the airlines problem. If, like me, you miss a connecting flight and the next option is the next day, they are obliged to put you up in a hotel and book you on the next suitable flight. On top of this you’re also entitled to compensation, which I’ve now very easily applied for through the Lufthansa website.
One word of warning, if you book two flights separately, that are not officially connected together, even if it’s with the same airline, then these rules don’t apply. If an airline makes you late for a flight by being late on the first flight, if they’re not connected then they’re not necessarily going to help you. Although, I have found if it’s the same airline, then do tend to try and help as it will save on your compensation claim later on. Just don’t rely on that.
If an airline cancels your flight or you miss a connecting flight due to an earlier flight delay you can claim compensation. Here is a link to the UK laws on this, if you’re travelling completely outside the UK check with local government or airline for rules that apply to you.