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Do You Know What To Do If You Missed Your Connecting Flight?

Particularly if you’re linking up with a cruise, a missed connection can be a stressful and frustrating experience, disrupting travel plans and, at the very least, causing inconvenience. Knowing how to handle the situation when you have missed your connecting flight is essential, whether due to delays, cancellations, or other unforeseen circumstances.

Not all airlines have precisely the same policy regarding missed connections, but in this guide, we aim to provide you with a step-by-step approach to what to do if you miss your connecting flight, offering practical advice to help minimize stress and maximize your chances of reaching your destination smoothly.

What to do if you missed your connecting flight | photo of girl watching her flight depart

What To Do If You Missed Your Connecting Flight

Missing your connecting flight doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be too late to join your cruise, but we’ll cover that possibility a little later.

Step 1:  Stay Calm and Composed

The first and most crucial step is to stay calm and composed. Take a deep breath and remind yourself that missing a connecting flight can be frustrating, but it’s a solvable issue. Maintaining a positive mindset will help you clearly approach the situation and make informed decisions.

Once you realize that you have missed your connecting flight, take a moment to assess the situation. Identify the reasons for missing the flight. Understanding the cause will help you communicate effectively with airline representatives and seek appropriate solutions.

  • Were you delayed through traffic congestion, a mechanical breakdown, or an alarm on your watch that let you down? If the fault was yours, accept the fact that the airline isn’t responsible and is not required to do anything.
  • If your flight was delayed, for example, by bad weather or a mechanical problem, and as a result, you missed the next connecting flight, were both flights booked on the same ticket? 
  • Was your flight canceled or possibly overbooked?

Step 2: Locate the Airline Customer Service Desk

The customer service desk is the designated place to seek assistance and initiate the process of resolving your missed connection. After assessing the situation, locate the customer service desk for your airline in the airport terminal and inform them about your situation. 

Provide them with your booking details, including the flight numbers, boarding passes, and any other documentation to show how and why you missed your connecting flight.

 Be patient, polite, and clear in explaining the circumstances surrounding your situation. Remember, the staff at the service desk are trained to advise customers on how best to solve the problem, and they have more experience than you in this type of situation. You may be upset with the airline if they are at fault, but don’t take it out on their staff!

Understand your Rights

Inquire about your rights as a passenger who has missed a connecting flight. Every airline has its own written policies and procedures for handling missed connections, and all airlines will accept responsibility for your onward flight at their expense if they are to blame for the missed connection. 

Familiarize yourself with these policies to understand what options and entitlements are available to you. This includes compensation, alternative travel arrangements, and assistance with accommodation if necessary.

What to do if you missed your connecting flight | photo of tired woman at customer service counter

Step 3: Explore Alternative Flights

Discuss with the airline representative the best alternative flights to your destination. In cases where the airline is responsible for you missing your connecting flight, they are obligated to book you on the first available flight, hopefully on the same day, without charging any fee. This is true as long as the connecting flight is part of the same booking. If this is not the case, and it’s a separate booking, you may have to pay for the rebooking or find another flight yourself.

Make the airline representative aware of the need to rebook or reschedule your travel utilizing the best possible option that aligns with your cruise departure time. Be prepared for potential changes in the timing or routing of your journey and communicate any concerns or constraints you may have. 

While representatives will attempt to resolve your flight’s rescheduling using their own airline, this is not a firm rule. From personal experience, they may book you on a flight with another airline if that is the best solution, so explore this option with them.

Consider All The Options

Sometimes, the airline may not have suitable alternative flights that align with your cruise departure. If that’s the situation, consider arranging another form of transportation to your cruise departure port. Explore options such as train or bus travel or flying into another city and hiring a car to get to your port of embarkation. 

Take into account the distance, travel time, and cost but be creative in thinking of ways to solve the problem. Keep in mind that some expenses may not be covered by the airline or insurance, so factor these into your decision-making process.

Notify the Cruise Line

Once you have a clear picture of your new travel arrangements, contact the cruise line with which you’re scheduled to sail. Inform them about the situation, provide updated information regarding your arrival time, and seek their guidance on any necessary adjustments or updates to your cruise booking. They may provide assistance or make necessary arrangements to accommodate your delayed arrival. (Note that there are federal regulations that limit how late a cruise ship can allow passengers to board at U.S. ports.)

Booking Airlines Through Your Cruise Line

A significant advantage of booking your connecting flights through the cruise line is that if there is a delay or canceled flight, which may result in your missing the cruise, the cruise line is responsible for ensuring you are booked onto a different flight. What’s more, if you miss embarkation for your cruise due to a canceled flight, then the cruise line has to find you a different flight and get you to the ship. 

However, cruise lines and airlines will likely not be responsible for rebooking you on a flight if you miss a flight due to being late or other reasons. Usually, arrangements will be made only for travelers who are impacted by delays caused by the airlines themselves.

Arrange Accommodation If Necessary

If it’s going to take an extra day and you need to spend a night or more before catching an alternative flight or reaching the cruise port, inquire with the airline about the possibility of providing accommodation or compensation for your overnight stay. 

Again, if the delay is caused by the airline, they will generally pay, but even if not, most airlines have agreements with nearby hotels and may offer discounted rates or vouchers for accommodation. Additionally, check if your travel insurance covers accommodation expenses in case of missed connections.

Check Travel Insurance Coverage

If you have travel insurance (and we strongly advise you do!), review your policy to understand the coverage for missed connections. Contact your insurance provider to advise them about the situation and inquire about the benefits available. Insurance coverage can provide financial protection for additional expenses incurred due to missed flights, such as accommodation, meals, and transportation.

It’s crucial to know if your policy covers expenses incurred due to missed flights or any assistance they can provide to ensure you reach your cruise on time. It’s better to do this before you undertake additional expenses to get to your cruise on time, but it’s not always possible. 

Just remember to get your insurance provider to give you full details of your coverage as soon as possible so that you can claim payment in terms of your policy.

Keep Detailed Documentation

Throughout the process, keep detailed records and documentation of all interactions, including the names of airline representatives you spoke with, their contact information, and timestamps. (This doesn’t have to be elaborate. You use the notes feature on your phone.)

Maintain copies of your original and new itineraries, and boarding passes, receipts for any additional expenses incurred, and communication with the airline, cruise line, or insurance company. These documents may be necessary for future reference or for potential reimbursement claims.

Photo of woman surrounded by luggage sitting on ground with head hidden in folded arms

Ensure Your New Schedule Works

Depending on the complexity of your new flight plans, it might be wise to check all the details with the airline representative. If you have another layover or connecting flight as part of your rescheduled itinerary, take precautions to ensure you have sufficient time to make the connection. 

Plan for a reasonable layover duration, considering potential delays, immigration and security procedures at the connecting airport, and any additional time needed to navigate larger airports. Prioritize reliability over the shortest connection time to minimize the risk of missing another flight – you certainly don’t want that to happen.

Stay Informed and Stay Connected 

Because the delay may have been caused by weather conditions that still exist, while waiting for a resolution or exploring alternative options, stay informed about your situation and any updates. 

Utilize airline apps, websites, or social media channels to stay connected and receive real-time information about flight changes, rebooking options, or any additional assistance the airline may provide. 

Maintain communication with airline staff to ensure you receive the most up-to-date information and guidance.

How To Avoid Missing A Connection

Having done all you can to ensure that you’re on track to meeting your cruise on time, here are some tips to avoid missing a connecting flight again:

When booking your tickets, check how much time you’ll have to get on the next flight — most airports will need a minimum of 45 minutes to transfer onto your connecting flights. Airlines should only offer realistic connections. But you can check online to see what the recommended layover time is and adjust accordingly.

Factors that can affect how much time you will need include:

  • Health and safety protocols (e.g. Covid-19 protocols).
  • Customs checks.
  • Terminal changes (especially if you need transport between terminals).
  • If your flight is on a different airline.

Closing Thoughts

Missing a connecting flight can derail your vacation plans, but hopefully, you can use some of the tips above to get back on track. Regardless, use it as a learning experience to improve your future travel planning and decision-making.

David Chapman


David is a seasoned international traveler with a diverse hospitality background. He loves cruising in Asia and the Mediterranean.

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