Even the most well-planned travel days can be disrupted by a delay or cancellation. Here's what to do.
You’ve purchased a plane ticket, packed your bags, and are ready to start your vacation. But then, you miss your connecting flight. Now what?
Even with the best planning, missed connections and flight delays may happen — just over 22 percent of all flights have been delayed this year by at least 15 minutes, according to the Department of Transportation. Missed connections and delays can be stressful, but if you’re prepared, you’ll be able to handle them like a pro.
Here’s what you need to know if you miss your connecting flight due to a delay, including whether or not you’re entitled to compensation and how to get that money.
What to Do If You Miss a Connecting Flight Due to a Delay
Missing a connecting flight due to a delay can be stressful for even the most seasoned travelers. Knowing what to do ahead of time can ease some tension and help you act quickly to get rebooked on another flight as soon as possible.
Most travelers head to the airline’s customer service desk once they miss a connection. If there are widespread problems and lots of passengers have been delayed, these lines can be substantial.
While you’re waiting, be proactive and check your airline’s app to see if you can rebook yourself. You may also want to get on the phone with your airline’s customer service team, as they may be able to assist you sooner than the airport agents. Lastly, it can’t hurt to reach out to your airline via social media.
You’ll have a better chance of resolving any issues quickly by reaching out to the airline through multiple channels rather than solely relying on the airport customer service desk.
When talking to the airline representatives to get rebooked on a new flight, it’s important to stay calm and polite. Jordan Rush, travel advisor, owner of Explorateur Travel, and a member of the American Society of Travel Advisors, has a simple but important piece of advice. “A great attitude will work wonders,” she says. “Travel hiccups are out of everyone’s control. Working through it with positivity will still allow you to enjoy the journey, even though it may be a bit overwhelming.”
Find Out If You're Entitled to Compensation for a Missed Connecting Flight
Whether or not you’re entitled to compensation for a missed connection depends on who is at fault.
If you're the one responsible, you won't be be entitled to compensation. The airline may choose to accommodate you by booking you on another flight, but that’s their discretion, and you may be on the hook for change fees or even fare differences.
If you miss a connection because your first flight was delayed, you’re entitled to compensation depending on what caused the delay.
If the airline is at fault for the delay (due to circumstances like maintenance, crew problems, refueling, cabin cleaning, and baggage holdups), you’ll be rebooked on another flight on the same airline at no additional cost. Some airlines (Alaska, American, Delta, Hawaiian, JetBlue, and United) will also rebook you on a different airline if needed.
If the delay is significant, passengers are entitled to a ticket refund if they choose not to accept the rebooking options. Unfortunately, there’s no standard amount of time that constitutes a “significant” delay, according to the Department of Transportation, so claims are handled on a case-by-case basis.
If a flight is delayed for three hours or more, passengers are entitled to a meal or meal voucher. If there’s an overnight delay, most major U.S. airlines (with the exception of Frontier) will provide a hotel stay and transportation to and from the property.
If the missed connection was caused by a delay outside of the airline’s control, including things like weather and air traffic control issues, passengers are, unfortunately, not entitled to any compensation.
How to Claim Compensation for a Missed Connection
If you’re entitled to a meal, hotel, or transportation voucher due to a delayed or canceled flight, you’ll need to request it at the airline’s customer service desk, as these are usually not handed out automatically.
If the airline runs out of vouchers (as can happen during widespread delays), passengers should submit receipts to claim reimbursement for reasonable hotel, meal, and transportation charges.
These can be submitted, along with requests for a refund if you choose not to accept the rebooking options, to the airline’s customer service email address. If an email address isn’t available, try the airline’s live chat or feedback form, or call the customer service number to inquire about reimbursement.
Flight Insurance for a Missed Connection
Having the right flight insurance can help cover expenses in the event of a missed connection or delayed flight, and you may already have a policy without realizing it.
Many of the most popular travel rewards credit cards include trip delay coverage as a benefit. These policies cover expenses resulting from a delay or cancellation, like hotel accommodations, food, and essential toiletries.
Even better, credit card coverage protects passengers from delays caused by a wide variety of events that aren’t taken care of by the airline, including severe weather. Here are some great options with coverage of up to $500 per trip that kicks in after a six-hour delay:
Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card
Chase Sapphire Reserve
Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card
Platinum Card From American Express
If you want to use the trip delay protection from any of these cards, all or part of your flight must be purchased with the card.
Alternatively, some passengers prefer purchasing a separate flight insurance policy to protect themselves against flight delays, missed connections, and flight cancellations.
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