How to Handle a Missed Flight Connection?

During our last trip, my boyfriend and I missed our connection in Toronto. And because it was a first for us both, we didn’t know what to do. We tried not to panic, but being stuck in an airport that is closed during the night without luggage or any Information counter available can be quite stressful — trust me.

So I thought that it would be helpful to everyone leaving on a trip soon that I share what I’ve learned from this experience, to make sure that if it ever happens to you, you’ll know what to do. Missing a connection or dealing with a cancelled flight is never something fun, but knowing all this will almost certainly make your life easier.

Who’s Fault is it?

If you missed your connection because of a problem on the airline such as a flight being delayed or mechanical problems, then it is the airline’s fault. They need to rebook a ticket for you on the next flight available and make sure that you reach your destination as planned.

For example, we missed a connection in Toronto to go to Taipei and because there was no other flight for this destination for 2 days, the airline had to send us to Vancouver where a flight was leaving on the following day for Taipei. Since it was their fault, we didn’t have to pay anything extra.

But if you missed your connection and it was due to something which you had control over, you got lost in the airport for example, then you’re on your own. You might get help from the airline to rebook another ticket, but they don’t have to help you with anything (although if you’re nice they usually help you out in some way, normally by offering a reduced rate ticket). This also applies if you bought two separate flight tickets, then it is not considered as a connection — this is important to note when booking multiple flights, if there is a delay and you miss a flight, you could be in a world of trouble.

Take precautions beforehand if possible by being on time for your flight and booking connecting flight packages — these are usually cheaper anyway.

What Kind of Compensation Can you Expect?

Apart from making all the arrangements for you to reach your destination, the airline is under no legal obligation to compensate for anything more. But most of the time, if you have to stay overnight because of a missed connection, they will offer you a room in a hotel and provide vouchers for your meals. Luckily for us, the airport hotel was a Fairmount. Note that you cannot choose which hotel you would like to stay in. You can also check with your travel insurance because they sometimes cover missed flights, also check what your home insurance plan covers, they may also cover you in these instances — mine does.

How to Deal with Airlines Customer Service

Just like any other customer service, the best way to get help and excellent service is to stay calm. You can find some great tips on how to deal with customer service in a previous article Stephen wrote. This is not always easy, but remember that it is a person behind the counter and that he or she has nothing to do with the reason why you missed your connection. No matter how tired and angry you are, stay as calm as possible and you’ll get better service.

How to Occupy your Time?

No matter how frustrated and angry you are, this won’t change your situation, so how about you try to make the best out of it. If it happens at the end of your trip, take time to do a clean up of all your photos, go online (most airports now offer free WiFi) or read the newspaper (which you haven’t bothered to check during your vacation). If it happens when you are leaving, take some more time to verify your itinerary and your travel guide, empty your memory card, start to read your new book, relax and try to focus on the fact that you’re on holiday!

I remember exactly how I felt when it happened to me and this is not something fun. In fact because we didn’t know what was going to happen and it was in the middle of the night (so everything was closed and no one could help us), I was almost panicking.

But looking back, everything went really fast and we really had a lot of fun during the night that we spent at the airport! We even had the chance to see Vancouver for a day, which wasn’t part of our first itinerary, but something I’ll remember forever.

I hope this will never happen to you, but if ever it does, at least you will know what to do!


1 Comment

  1. Stephen says:

    I’m flying back home for Christmas and I thought other people might like to read Anne’s excellent article on how to deal with problematic flights. it happened to her, it’s happened to me, and at some point it might happen to you. So this might help you be prepared!

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