Here’s What Happens if You Miss Your International Flight

Flying is already stressful, and even more when you find yourself at risk of missing your flight, especially when you’re flying internationally. The prospect of getting stranded abroad is not the most pleasant thing in the world and depending on the airline’s policies, you may or may not have to pay for a completely new flight. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways that you can reduce the risk of having to pay for a completely new ticket.

If you miss your international flight because you slept in, you’re almost always out of luck. However, if you missed your flight due to an emergency, some airlines will work with you to help you find a new flight. Connections are almost always guaranteed and will be rebooked with no fee.

The rest of this article will cover the different situations you may face when you miss a flight—everything from traffic delays to short connections to getting stranded internationally. We’ll even go over what to do when your luggage makes the flight, but you don’t.

You May Need To Buy a New Ticket

We’ve all done it before, overslept, and missed something. Unfortunately, when it happens with a flight, there isn’t much that can be done. That’s another reason why you should really set multiple alarms when you need to be on a plane in a few hours.

The aircraft isn’t going to wait for you.

Last-minute changes are always the most difficult for airlines to accommodate, and if you only figure out you’ll be missing your flight an hour or two beforehand, there will be very little they can do.

Call the Airline When You Know You’ll Be Late

If you’ve simply arrived late and that’s why you missed your flight, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to get rebooked. Your best bet is to call the airline as soon as you know you’ll be late and see if you can either get refunded or rebooked.

Remember, being nice always helps.

If you know you’re going to be late and miss your flight, you should call the airline and do your best to calmly and respectfully explain the situation and see what they can do.

Don’t try and get them to wait for you with a sob story. They hear them all day, and if anything, it’s going to annoy them, not make them sympathetic to your cause. If you’ve already gotten through security and checked your bags just to realize that your gate has closed, then you’ll need to take different steps.

What To Do If You’re Late

Go to the flight schedule board and find the next flight to your destination. Write down the flight number and what time it’s leaving. If you have time, go online and look for available seats and write those down as well.

Then, go to the airline’s help desk. Explain your situation to them, tell them the flight you found, and ask if they can help you to rebook it.

If you’re nice, you have a chance of getting rebooked with just a rebooking fee.

If you’re obnoxious about it, there’s a much higher chance of them telling you that you simply have to buy a new ticket. Remember that airlines are not obligated to do this, so if you must pay for a new flight, just go along with that.

You’ll Need to Prove Your Emergency

Many airlines all over the world have a “flat tire” policy. This means that if you miss your flight due to extenuating circumstances, they will cover your rebooking. Some airlines will require proof, while others are more lenient.

Read Your Contract

When you book your flight, make sure to read the contract of carriage. This is a contract that details all the policies of the airline and your rights for the flight.

This contract contains things such as how uncooperative passengers will be handled, what is allowed on board, and, of course, what happens if you miss a flight. The contract will detail which circumstances will qualify you for a rebooked flight and how you should go about obtaining one.

Depending on which airline you are flying with, what is covered under this “flat tire” policy will vary.

For example, some airlines will cover something as simple as a flat tire or traffic jam with only you calling them to let them know and maybe sending in some photos. Other airlines are more strict about this policy, and you will only qualify with a medical emergency and proof of that emergency.

Even if your airline doesn’t typically require evidence, we still recommend you take pictures of whatever circumstance made you late and bring documentation along.

That way, a grumpy help desk agent won’t be the reason you miss your flight.

Don’t Lie About Your Situation

If you know your rights and bring along the proper documentation, then you won’t be taken advantage of.

Along with this, we strongly recommend not lying and making up a situation when you were really just late. If passengers start abusing the system, then it won’t exist in the future when you’ve encountered a real emergency.

That’s why it’s so important that you read the contract of carriage before purchasing the plane ticket. If you know, there’s a possibility that you are going to run into issues, or you simply want a more flexible airline, the contract of carriage will give you all that information.

Airlines Might Cover a Missed International Connection

If you’re flying domestically, then chances are the most common reason that you’re late is because of just that, you’re late. If you’re flying internationally, it tends to be a different story. Very few people are going to be intentionally cutting it close with international travel.

The risk is greater than the reward. However, in international travel, there tend to be lots of flight connections relatively close together, and that’s when you’ll run into issues.

Short International Connections Make It Hard To Make Your Flight

When you have a bunch of flights booked close together, and one decides to delay, that can ruin the rest of your travel day, especially if you have short connections. Fortunately, the majority of airlines all over the world guarantee their connections.

When you book connections through the same airline, they should be guaranteed.

This means that if one connection arrives late and prevents you from making your next flight, the airline will cover your new ticket. They should also cover any accommodation if you need to wait overnight.

When you land and realize that you’ve already missed your connection or you’re not going to get there in time, the first thing to do is contact your airline.

You can do this through your airline’s helpline or by going to the in-person help desk.

I’ve always preferred going to the in-person help desk because, often, when you’re traveling internationally, your phone isn’t working. Especially if you’re just stopping in the country to catch another flight, I find that they also tend to be more cooperative in person than over the phone. Contacting the airline as soon as possible is important because it will give them the most time possible to help you find a solution.

It also helps the airline to minimize any loss because they may have the opportunity to resell your seat if you know early enough.

If you know your incoming flight is going to be late before you even get on if, in the case of a weather day or something like that, then they can resell your seat. If you wait an extra 30 minutes to grab a snack, then they’re not going to be able to do much to mitigate their loss and might be less cooperative when helping you.

Once you contact the airline, you should explain what has happened and present all of your flight information. They should take that information and help you to reroute the rest of your flights.

Depending on how many flights need to be rerouted, you may or may not be able to keep traveling that day.

If not, and you need to wait a day or two, then the airline should cover your accommodation for however long you have to wait. Not every airline will do this, and it is another thing that should be covered in the contract of carriage.

European Regulations For Missed Connections

If you’ve missed a connection in Europe, you’re in luck.

European customer regulations will cover certain missed connections depending on where the flight is leaving from and which airline they are operated by. If you are flying within Europe or to Europe on a European airline, you are covered as well as if you are leaving Europe on one of these airlines.

According to European customer regulations, if you are delayed and arrive more than 3 hours late to your final destination, your flights were booked in a single reservation, and extraordinary circumstances did not cause your delay, you will be entitled to compensation.

This compensation can be up to 600 euros ($681.16), and they will help you to rebook your flights for free.

This could mean you being able to use the 600 euros ($681.16) for a few days of accommodation and meals in the city or simply keeping the money. They will also help you to reroute the rest of your flights or fly you back to the city you started at if that’s what you desire.

If you have luggage with you, they will also cover getting that luggage back to you, although that may take some time depending on where your suitcase ended up. Fortunately, you’ll still have the stipend to use so, if you really need it, you can use the money to buy clothes.

What Happens to Your Luggage?

Luggage already gets lost often enough when you’re flying. If you manage to miss your flight, it can be even more of a headache. Just like with rebooking your flight, you’ll want to call the airline as soon as possible.

If the airline already has your luggage and you just know you’re not going to make it, they may be able to stop your luggage before it gets on the plane. If it’s already on the plane, then the next step will be to make sure it gets back to you.

The airline representatives can arrange for a few different things to be done. If you’re going to end up at your final destination eventually after being rebooked, they can have your luggage held in the airline’s office at the airport.

I’ve done this before, and it was super simple to get it back. I just had to walk over to the office, show them my luggage tracking number, and they handed me my bag from their storage room.

If you’ve decided that you’re not going to go to that destination, after all, the airline should be able to ship it back to you. Remember, this may or may not be covered under airline policy, so you may have to pay for this, especially if your missed flight was not due to the airline’s error.

Also, this may take several weeks for them to get your luggage back to you, during which time it may not be kept in the best conditions. So, if you have anything of value or something that you’re going to need in your luggage, your best bet will be to follow it to its final destination and pick it up there.


If you miss your international flight, it’s going to be a headache when you must make phone calls to ensure that you receive compensation.

Most airlines cover situations that could make you miss your flight, and you’ll receive some compensation. You may still be charged a flight change fee or rebooking fee, but that’s better than buying a new ticket.

The next time you’re booking a plane ticket, make sure that you read the contract. This document lets you know your rights so you can go on your next trip prepared. If anything goes wrong, you’ll know what to do.


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