Last Updated: March 9, 2023

What Happens If You Miss Your Flight? (A Detailed Guide)

The thought of missing a flight is an absolute nightmare for all of us. But, if you have never missed a flight, a lot of the worry might simply be from not knowing what actually happens when you miss your flight.

Can you get on the next one? Do you have to buy a new ticket? Is it different if you are connecting flights? Are there any costs?

Join me as I answer all these questions and more about missed flights so that you can be sure about all the rules on your next flight, and can be prepared if you happen to miss your scheduled flight.

Is There a Fee for Missing a Flight?

fee for missing a flight

No, there is no additional fee for a missed flight and you do not have to pay an extra fee if you arrive at the airport after your flight departs.

You might lose the flight entirely and not get a new one unless you pay for one but this usually depends on the airline and the rules around the ticket you bought.

Do You Get a Refund If You Miss Your Flight?

If it is your fault for the missed flight, chances are you will not get a refund. For example, if you simply choose not to fly on a flight you have booked, then you will not get a free ticket, refund, or credit.

But, if your fare allows changes to your ticket, you could try to call and rebook before you miss the flight in order to not lose your ticket entirely.

If you have travel insurance, missed flights are covered for certain circumstances such as health, so it is worth looking at the coverage you have.

But, if your missed flight is the fault of the airline they have to assist you. You will be put on the next flight for free and even be put up in a hotel for free if you need to spend the night.

If You Miss Your Flight, Can You Get On the Next One?

can you get on the next flight

After a missed flight, all we want is to get on the next available flight so our travel plans are delayed as little as possible. But, can you simply get on the next one after your missed flight? It depends on the airline and whether it follows the flat tire rule.

There are some circumstances that are simply out of your control, like a pile-up on the road to the airport or a flat tire. The flat tire rule gives you some leniency for being late on most airlines, a great tip to know for first-time flyers.

American Airlines

If you are flying American Airlines and you are late, you can benefit from the flat tire rule so long as you arrive within two hours of the departure time of the flight you missed.

American Airlines will put you on the next flight they can so long as you are not flying internationally or on the last flight of the day to your destination.

Delta Airlines

Delta also used the flat tire policy but they do not have a blanket policy for it, they take every situation case-by-case. If you are going to miss your flight’s scheduled departure time then call an agent as soon as you are aware.

By acting like this, you are enabling the airline representative to understand and help you get onto the next flight without paying for a new flight.


Southwest Airlines allows you to reschedule your flights online up to 10 mins before your departure time. If this service is not working, you will need to call an agent and run through the process.

Whether you have to pay to change your scheduled flights completely depends on the type of ticket you bought.

United Airlines

United has a blanket rule that states it will put any passengers that arrive within 2 hours of their missed flight on standby for the next flight at zero cost.

What Happens to Your Baggage If You Miss Your Flight?

baggage if you miss flight

If you have checked in your baggage and it makes it on the plane but you somehow miss your flight, then you should inform the airline immediately.

There is a rule in some countries that no flight can take off with a bag without the customer who owns the bag onboard, these are for safety reasons I am sure you will understand.

If it happens on the first flight of a few, chances are the airline will track you down in the airport and get you onto the plane. It is much faster for them to board you than search for a single bag to remove from the plane.

If this happens on a connecting flight, they will have either sent the bag to your destination anyway or held your bag back from the connection so it flies on your flight with you.

If you need to rebook a flight, make sure the airline reeboks your baggage too, most airlines will do this!

What Happens If You Miss Your Flight on Purpose?

If you miss your flight on purpose then nothing happens, you simply lose the money for the ticket and get no assistance from the airline for a later flight whatsoever.

Of course, if you miss your flight on purpose, you can still say it happened for reasons out of your control and try to organize a later flight through the flat tire rule, but this does involve playing with the truth.

What Happens If You Miss Your Flight Because of Security?

The chances of you missing your flight due to security is incredibly small, especially if you arrive at the airport at least 1.5 hours before you depart.

Usually, you can ask nice passengers to skip to the front of the queue or ask airline representatives to take you to the front of the queue, and most of the time the representatives will actually come and find you so that you do not miss your flights.

If you do miss your flight due to security, it will be covered by the flat tire rule with most airlines, just be sure to inform the airline if your bags have been checked so they can stop them from getting on the plane or have them held at your destination.

What Happens If You Miss Your Flight Because of Traffic?

miss flight traffic

Traffic is also covered under the flat tire rule, so if you miss your flight due to traffic and still arrive within two hours of your scheduled departure, you should be able to get onto the next flight.

Of course, while you are stuck in traffic you should call the airline if you think you will miss your flight and see if you can change it before you even get to the airport.

What Happens If You Miss Your Flight Because of a Medical Emergency?

If you miss a flight due to a medical emergency then you should be entitled to a full refund through your travel insurance, so long as you have some. Some airlines also provide full refunds for medical emergencies too, but not all of them.

Most airlines will cover medical emergencies under their flat tire rule and therefore rebook you for free. Just be sure to get proof of your medical emergency in the form of a doctor’s note.

What Happens If You Miss Your Connecting Flight?

If you miss a connecting flight that is with the same airline as your first flight, then you are covered as it is the airline’s fault, not yours. You will be booked on the next flight and be able to stay in a hotel near the airport overnight for free if needed.

If your connection is with a different airline, then chances are you will need to try to use the flat tire rule for getting your next flight.

How Late Can You Be for A Flight?

The gate doors to the plane usually close 15 minutes before the flight is scheduled to take off. The check-in desk is usually closed 40 minutes before departure. These are your latest windows to be at the airport.

If you are traveling with carry-on luggage only, then you can be at the gate 15 mins before your flight takes off. For checked luggage, anything less than 1 hour before take-off, and you are really pushing it.

What To Do If It Is The Airline’s Fault?

miss flight airline's fault

If your flight is canceled due to the airline, speak to the airline as soon as possible and see what their solution is for you. If the solution works for you, for example, you will be on the next flight and only arrive 4 hours later, it is probably ok.

If they do not have a flight for 3 more days, then it is time to play a game. See if they can rebook you on another airline with a flight that is as convenient as possible, if not, ask for a refund and look for flights online, if you get a refund, book with another airline.

Tips to Avoid Missing Your Flight

  • Aiming to arrive at the airport 3 hours before departure is ideal as you have a 1.5-hour buffer for delays along the way
  • Do not sit quietly in a security queue if you are late, make noise, get to the front, and make your flight
  • Plan your trip to the airport well so there are no complications
  • Book flights with realistic connection times, at least 1 hour between flights at a minimum

About the Author Anna Timbrook

Anna is the co-owner of expert world travel and can't wait to share her travel experience with the world. With over 54 countries under her belt she has a lot to write about! Including those insane encounters with black bears in Canada.

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