Even the most confident air travelers may be a little nervous when their flight plans include a connecting flight. A small delay or poor weather conditions could mean a major setback if it causes you to miss your connecting flight. Fortunately, there are several options that can help you get to your destination, many of which won’t delay your travel too much. Learn more about what to do when you miss a connecting flight and what kinds of options you have for reaching your destination.
When You Know Ahead of Time
In some cases, you may find out before arriving at the connecting airport that you’re going to miss you’re second flight in your itinerary. In most cases, this happens when your first flight is delayed due to weather concerns or issues with the plane or crew. When you know that you’ll most likely miss your connecting flight before you arrive at the connecting airport, there are a few things you can do to ensure that you still reach your destination at a reasonable time:
- Call the airline (or go directly to the airline desk at the first airport) and tell them you’re going to miss your connecting flight. They may be able to book you a seat on the next available flight (remember that means the next flight with available seats and not necessarily the next flight to your destination).
- If that’s not possible, ask if you can be placed on standby for the next connecting flight. You’ll need to check-in with the airline once you reach the connecting airport. Then, you can possibly grab a seat on the next flight if for any reason a seat becomes available.
One thing to keep in mind in these situations is that it will likely work to your advantage if you’ve booked both flights through the same airline. In some cases, airlines automatically give passengers seats on the next available flight when a delay causes them to miss a connection. However, never assume this is the case and always speak to an airline representative to increase your chances of reaching your destination in a timely manner.
For Unexpected Missed Connections
Unfortunately, there’s often no way to know ahead of time if you’ll miss your connecting flight. Inclement weather during the flight could delay your landing, or you might have to sit on the tarmac waiting for an available gate. If you get to the second airport and find you’ve missed your connecting flight unexpectedly, here’s what to do:
- Go directly to the desk for your connecting flight’s airline. Explain your situation and request to be placed on the next available flight. Unless you missed the flight due to your own error, this should not be an issue.
- Even when the airline finds you another flight, it may not depart for hours. Ask if it’s possible to be placed on standby for an earlier flight if possible, then make sure to stick around to see if you get a seat.
- If you’re truly in a hurry, you can purchase a seat on a flight through a different airline. For those who choose this option, be sure to cancel with the original airline once you book a new flight (ask for a refund or credit, but keep in mind that it may not be an option).
Seeking Out Alternatives
Can’t get another connecting flight any time soon? This can be an issue when hundreds of flights are delayed due to bad weather or at busy travel times like the holidays. Here are a few alternatives for those who are stuck at a connecting airport:
- Find out whether there are nearby airports and see if you can find a flight from there. In Chicago, for example, there are two major airports (Midway and O’Hare) along with a few in nearby cities (Milwaukee, South Bend, etc.).
- If you’re not travelling too far from the connecting airport, consider travelling by train or bus as an alternative way to reach your destination.
- Renting a car may also get you to your destination faster than waiting for a flight if you’re willing to drive. Some travelers have saved money by sharing a car rental with other passengers trying to reach the same destination.
If your new connecting flight isn’t until the next day, be sure to ask the airline if they’ll offer you meal vouchers or a hotel discount due to the inconvenience. When it’s the airline’s fault that you missed the connection, this will most likely be an option. However, your chances of getting a hotel voucher decrease if the connection was missed due to weather conditions or other circumstances out of the airline’s control.
If you decide to use alternative means to reach your destination, you’ll have to cancel your connecting flight with the airline. When this happens, request a refund or airline credit for your cancelled flight. As with meal vouchers and hotel discounts, you chances of getting a refund are much greater if it’s clearly the airline’s fault that you missed the connection.
Keep in mind that many missed connections can be avoided by leaving plenty of time between flights. Don’t schedule flights so close together that even a small delay will cause you to spring through the airport in order to catch the connection. It’s better to leave plenty of time between flights, especially if the two flights are with different airlines.