What To Do If You Miss Your Flight

Planning your holiday is incredibly exciting. What’s even more exciting is the day you actually leave! The anticipation builds up as you pack your suitcase, kiss the pets goodbye and make your way to the airport. There are so many things to take into account when you’re flying from one destination to the next and worrying about whether you’ll get to your flight on time is just one extra thing. Travelstart wants you to enjoy stress-free travel, so we’ve come up with a guideline on what to do if you miss your flight!

The reality is that most of us can’t control everything that happens in life, and sometimes, there’s an accident on the road or family emergency that just has to be seen to before you can board! So, let us share our tips, advice and some information to alleviate any confusion on what happens when you miss your flight.

miss your flight

Please note that there are no guarantees on how different airlines handle this situation and so it is always a good idea to spend that little bit extra and invest in travel insurance to avoid all stress. Also, make sure you’ve read through and understood the airline’s terms and conditions before you depart.

But, first things first – let’s answer the most frequently asked questions regarding missing your flight…

Can you get a refund if you miss your flight?

The short answer to this is, ‘No’. Passengers are not automatically refunded for missing their flight as it is their duty to board on time. In some cases, you may qualify for a discount on the next available flight or even be allowed to board for virtually free of charge, but this is done at the discretion of individual airlines and at unique times.

miss your flight

Is travel insurance a good idea?

Travel insurance is definitely a good idea to cancel out any worry about missing your flight. Consider taking out Travelstart’s comprehensive international travel insurance, which covers everything when abroad, including airline delays, missed flight connections, visa denial, baggage loss, and even damage to your home. Travelstart also has a fantastic medical aid protection plan, which insures you the full refund of your flight ticket, should you miss your flight due to unforeseen death, illness or hospitalisation of yourself or family member. You could also opt for a cancellation refund guarantee, ensuring that whatever you need to cancel your flight, you will have 48 hours to do so.

Please note that these travel insurance packages do NOT cover missed flights due to heavy traffic, forgotten documents or anything else that could have been avoided, so always plan ahead and be prepared!

Ideally, you DO NOT want to miss your flight, so let’s look at some options to avoid that from happening.

Tips on how to not miss your flight

  1. Check in online – this saves you from spending time in long queues at the airport and gives you peace of mind that you’re checked in. Bear in mind that once you’ve checked in online, the airline considers you to be on the plane and will not account for you if you are running late for your flight. Once your seat is confirmed, and you miss your flight, that is essentially a wasted seat that could have been given to a standby customer. By checking in online before your flight, all you need to do is proceed straight to the boarding gate with your printed out boarding pass. Online check-in is only available to those within the baggage restrictions who can proceed straight to the bag drop counter (bag drop usually closes 40-60 minutes before departure); or if you’re travelling light with only hand luggage, you can head straight to your boarding gate. See our online check-in guide for all major airlines.
  2. If you have an unexpected emergency, phone the airline or airport and let them know. Although an airline will not delay a flight for a passenger (unless in case of an extreme emergency), a representative can advise you of any information that could potentially help you. Also, by informing the airline that you may potentially miss your flight, they may be able to give your seat to a standby passenger and hold you in good light for doing so.
  3. If you arrive at the airport late, immediately find an airline representative and let them know you are late for your flight. They can direct you to the front of the queues for security checks and passport control so that you can get to the boarding gate as soon as possible.
  4. Pack light to avoid having to check in your baggage – if you’re doing a short trip, pack as light as possible to store all of your belongings as hand luggage that does not need to be checked in. You will immediately save time, which will come in handy if you’re already late.
  5. Plan to get to the airport earlier than need be – this one may seem obvious, but many people enjoy sticking to a strict travel schedule, which may include very precise travel times to and from the airport. By doing this, you may forget to take any roadworks or traffic jams into consideration and arrive at the airport later than expected.

miss your flight

Unfortunately, even with the best of planning, some travellers do miss their flight! What would the next steps be in getting you in the air and off to your desired destination? Well, there are a few options to look at…

Advice on what to do if you miss your flight

  1. Find a representative of your booked airline and ask about the airline’s policy on missed flights – some airlines may only charge a re-booking fee while others may ask you to pay in the difference between the new and old flight, which can work out expensive. It is NOT standard practice for an airline to waiver excess charges, so don’t expect a free pass. To avoid the hassle and expense of booking a new flight, make sure you don’t miss your flight!
  2. Check for the next available flight and ask to be put on the standby list – often during peak travel season, there are many flights to the same destinations and with your name on the list, it may just be an hour or two before you’re on your way again. If the airline cannot offer you an alternative flight at an equal or cheaper price, do a quick search and compare flights on Travelstart!
  3. We know this situation can be incredibly stressful, but always try to remain calm and communicate politely with airline staff. Clearly explain your situation and they will do their best to assist you.
  4. Stay at the airport – it’s always a good idea to stick around at the airport as you await your next flight. If the waiting time is less than 5 hours, it is recommended to stay in the vicinity to avoid any further delays on your behalf.

miss your flight

Sometimes, one action can lead to the next and that is especially the case in terms of connecting flights! Have a look at these tips on what to do when you miss your initial flight.

Can you miss the first leg of a flight?

When you miss your first flight on a multi-city air ticket, many airlines will automatically cancel your connecting/return flight and have you marked as a ‘No Show’. If you have a long layover and are still able to catch your connecting flight, make sure you immediately let the airline know, so they can put you on their system for that flight. If all flights are with the same airline, or have code-share agreements, you only need to phone the main airline on your ticket. In the case that your flights are with multiple airlines, you will need to inform each affected airline that you will miss the first flight, but will still be on the connecting one. You will need to do this once you have successfully re-booked your missed flight.

What happens to your baggage when you miss your connecting flight?

If you missed your connecting flight and your luggage was on that flight, you would again need to find a representative from the airline that you booked with as soon as possible. The representative would then track your luggage and hold onto it until you get there, instead of leaving it for security to collect at the end of the luggage conveyor belt on the other side! Always be on the safe side and take out baggage insurance for lost or delayed baggage, especially for long trips.

miss your flight

What should you do if your flight is delayed?

If and when a flight is delayed, it is the responsibility of the airline to inform passengers about this delay and provide all the information needed, such as how long the wait will be. Most airlines, depending on how long the delay is, will compensate their passengers. If a flight is delayed by more than a certain number of hours (the amount of time is airline and route dependent), you will be compensated with meals and accommodation near the airport if need be. For shorter delays, you might even be given access to the airline’s luxury lounges, keeping you as comfortable as possible! Be aware that some airlines might only give you a percentage of your air ticket back – another reason why travel insurance is a good idea.

What happens if the airline cancels your flight?

There may be an unlikely situation where the airline cancels your flight. This could be due to a number of reasons, and remember that the airline always has your best interests at heart. Luckily, an airline flight cancellation is at no fault of the passenger and so it then becomes the responsibility of the airline to fix the situation and make an alternative plan. In the extreme case that your flight is cancelled, you will be put on the next available flight at no additional cost. Alternatively, you may be fully compensated for your lost flight.

miss your flight

Have you ever missed a flight before? How did you handle it? Let us know in the comments section below, and don’t forget to sign up to the Travelstart newsletter for more great travel tips and inspiration.


All information on this blog page was correct at the time of publishing and may change at any time without prior notice. Travelstart will not be held liable for loss or inconvenience resulting from the use of out-dated or incorrectly noted information.

Our Readers Comments

  1. HI Adele,

    Thanks for contacting us.

    When making a booking you are able to ask for assistance. We can request this put a note into the booking with the relevant information so when arriving at the airport the ground staff will be notified and assist from check-in to boarding as well as when you arrive at your destination and disembark.

    When making your booking please just mention that you need assistance and a note will be put into the booking. We do request that it done sooner rather then later the request.

  2. I just would like to know if my son and I want to travel to overseas but what scared me the most is…
    Will someone help me and my son …. as I am deaf single mom and my son who is Down Syndrome.
    I am always worrying thinking we will miss the flights which I hate to miss our flights.
    I have never booked the tickets for going overseas because of this.
    Would be grateful to know about this. Thanks

  3. Loved to read your useful tips and information. I believe forewarned is forearmed and I agree totally that travel insurance is a must. Thank you for this interesting blog.

  4. Hi Mary-Anne,

    Thanks for taking the time to send us your feedback and sorry to hear you have not had a great experience.

    I’m afraid Travelstart and all other agencies are governed by the airlines rules and regulations and we are not permitted to waiver them.

    The same rules would have applied when one books directly with the airline.

    If you are able to be flexible with your new dates of travel maybe we could find you a cheaper fare.

    Should you wish you are more then welcome to send your feedback on your booking experience to feedback@travelstart.com

    This inbox is checked by our Team Leaders. Please be assured all comments from our clients are welcomed and taken very seriously as we are always looking to improve and deliver 5 star service to all of our clients.

  5. Nice post. It’s so informative and interested post. Thanks for sharing with Us! Go ahead with different tips.

  6. I always phone the airline 48 hours before my international flight(s) to make sure that all information is correct and check in online 24 hours before the flight. We also leave extra early and it’s quite annoying to spend so much time at the airport before a flight takes off, but rather safe than sorry! Of course, this is for leisure travel; I have no idea what I would do if I had to travel for business! I also fail to understand how people can not take out comprehensive travel insurance, since anything can go wrong at any time! One time my bag was delayed for three days, because the airline’s tag fell off my bag, so they had no idea what the destination of the bag was (this happened at Madrid en route to Copenhagen). This happened on a Friday morning and when the missing bag was reported that same afternoon when we landed in Copenhagen, the lazy buggers in Madrid did not feel like searching for my bag over a weekend! They only looked for my bag on the Monday (three days later) and delivered the bag to our door at our accommodation on Mon night (close to midnight). When the person delivering my bag opened the vehicle, I could see countless other baggage which he still had to deliver! This was through no fault of my own and my travel insurance refunded my extra expenses incurred due to the delayed luggage, so I’m happy about the fact that these days, airlines place a bar code sticker on your bag which can be scanned for details (this was not done back in 2007 when this happened). I was really shocked at the amount of baggage that is delayed and/or goes missing. Human error all the way!

  7. Unfortunately I haven’t had such a great experience with Travelstart over the long weekend end of April. I fell sick on the Thursday, declared unfit to travel, was booked off from off till the 1st of May.
    I contacted Travelstart the Thursday evening, advising them that I will be unable to fly the next Friday midday. Was told that I could suspend my ticket and rebook within 6 months.
    When I contacted travelstart to rebook a weekend in July, after the school holidays, I was quoted a fee of R1100. 00 for a one way ticket!!!! My initial return ticket was R1400!?
    I even emailed the sicknote.
    Only alternative is to get a refund ofR134. 00…. What a ripoff

  8. Hi Dianne,

    Thanks for the interesting question.

    When booking a “through ticket” all flights on our itinerary are on one booking, the booking system will never allow you to complete a booking.

    I once had a layover of 6 hours in Chicago and nearly missed my connecting flight due to the outbound flight was delayed.

    The booking system will not allow one to complete a booking if the connecting times on that booking are to short.

    For piece of mind you can book longer connecting flights of 4 hours, rather safe then sorry.

  9. What would you say is the minimum gap time between connecting flights to be safe.?
    We missed an onward flight from Jhbg to Dbn after coming in from Perth with only a two hour gap between flights. So now I get nervous when there is a gap under 4 hours between flights?

  10. Hi Richard,

    Thanks for the feedback. Glad to hear that the airline accommodated you. Wow 2 days delay, that must have been pretty hectic.

    Travelstart don’t have their own Travel Insurance policy however we have partnered with Hepstar a very reputable Travel Insurance Company who have a team of experts there to help on any queries when needing to claim. If one has all the correct documents and is within the rules of the Travel Insurance policy there shouldn’t be a problem.

  11. I recently missed a flight because the airline had changed the departure time to an earlier time and not informed me. The airline was very helpful and found me another flight at no charge but I was delayed for two days. When I tried to claim the very modest expenses incurred during my two day wait and a missed bus ticket at my destination (c. R2000) from my travel insurance they fought and fought. I wonder what the Travelstart insurance would have done?

  12. Hi Darryl,

    Thanks for sharing your travel experience with us 🙂 This is what we love. And so glad that the airline assisted with your onward flight.

    Yes, if a passenger has purchased a “through ticket” it would be for the airlines expense to accommodate the passengers. So glad you and your wife were helped 🙂

    Thanks for the great compliment about our website and app. If there’s something in particular that you liked, please let us know. We’d love to let our management know so we can do more of that! 🙂

  13. My wife and I were very fortunate many years ago, August 2000 to be precise, on an international holiday. When we were departing London, UK, to go to Geneva, Switzerland, we had a connecting flight with the same airline that all our flights were booked with, Air Iberia. Our London flight was delayed by a few hours which meant we hadn’t even taken off yet when the connecting flight had left already. Once we had disembarked in Barcelona, there were a lot of unhappy passengers who had missed connecting flights. That airline helpdesk booked us on another airline’s flight, Swiss Air, with no cost to us. All the unhappy passengers were rebooked on other flights and some even into overnight accomodation where necessary without being charged extra. Needless to say we were very thankful at the no cost to us bit.

    PS! Thanks for an awesome website and app.

  14. Hi there,

    Thanks for contacting us.

    When booking on Travelstart website: http://www.travelstart.co.za

    One our website we show the following at the top of our landing page:

    “Search and Book Cheap Flights” (and underneath that we show)

    “One way” “Return” “Multi city”

    Select the Multi city and you can then start selecting your dates and route of travel. Once you have selected this. underneath you will see

    Add another flight + Select this and put your next routing and dates of travel.

    For access to the lounges you would need to see if they airline has any available at an additional cost or contact them to see if you qualify for “STPC” which is complimentary accommodation. There are a few rules, so they will need to see if the ticket you have purchased qualifies for this.

  15. Hi Ronell,

    Thanks for getting in touch.

    When making a booking through an online agent or the airline direct, if you have booked a “through ticket” (meaning all sectors of the booking are on one air ticket) it will be up to the airline to assist in re-booking your connecting flight should your first flight have been delayed.

    If one booked two separate tickets (example) Durban to OR Tambo one ticket and then made a separate booking OR Tambo to London. If you Durban to OR Tambo was delayed and you missed your connecting flight, the airline can assist in try changing the ticket date (depending on the ticket rules) and any changes will be for the cost of the passenger.

    When making a booking online, the airlines booking system will not permit one to finish a flight booking if the connecting time is to short.

  16. Hi Alissa,

    Thanks for taking the time to comment and the tip 🙂

    Sounds like you turned a not so great experience into a positive one and enjoying a weekend in New York City. Lucky!

  17. Hi Emma,

    Thanks for getting in touch.

    If it was a codeshare flight, you need to contact the carrier you purchased your ticket from.

  18. Hi Walter,

    Thanks so much for the awesome compliment! We value all feedback and really appreciate that you have taken the time to write to us and let us know.

    We look forward to you booking with us again.

  19. Hi Pieter,

    Thanks for contacting us and sorry to hear you expereincing problems in trying to search for flights on our website.

    I’ve just made a test booking on our website and seems to be fine. If you could try clear your browser history and try again.

    If you still don’t come right, please pop us an e-mail at: urgent@travelstart.com with detailed feedback on the error you receiving and if you can a screenshot. One of our agents will get back to you.

    Alternatively you welcome to call us Monday – Friday 9am – 5pm to speak to a guest agent over the phone.

  20. The Travelstart “Search for cheap flights” booking web thingy does not work

  21. I recently booked a flight through an online travel agent, I trusted their booking, but they had the connecting flights too close to each other. The first flight was delayed, so I missed the second international flight. They refused to assist me in any way and I had to book other flights at my own cost.

  22. Helpful indeed. I have booked flights with Travelstart since last year. Everything on-line and you drive to the airport to fly. So convenient

  23. 1) How does one book ‘multi city’ flights?
    2) Are airport lounges accessible to economy passengers? For instance:-
    I am flying to Athens via Qatar with a 13hour stay over. What are my options, if any?

  24. Hi Earl,

    Great to hear from you and thanks for booking with Travelstart.

    If you still need to book Travel Insurance we are happy to help. You welcome to pop our direct sales team: Travelstart Live,
    an e-mail at: travelstartlive@travelstart.com with your Travelstart booking number and what you are looking for.

    One of our agents will be able to assist with a quote and assist you in purchasing your Travel Insurance.

  25. Thank you – this is very informative. One question for clarification: if my return flight is with a partner of the carrier with whom I booked and the flight is cancelled, do I claim the expense for the overnight accommodation from the carrier with whom I booked, or from the carrier who has cancelled the return flight?

  26. I travel quite a bit both for personal and professional reasons. I’ve missed a few flights because of my own errors and one connection because of an agent’s error.

    The main thing for me is to remain calm, not be concerned over blame and let go of things over which I have no control (control flew out the window once I didn’t look carefully at the departure time!).

    In the most extreme case, I was delayed 3 days (it was holiday season and all flights were overbooked) and had to spring for a hotel room. Looking on the bright side, I had a fun weekend in New York City that I would’ve thought I was too busy to schedule in.

  27. Thank You, much appreciated and very helpful . Need to contact you as we already booked our tickets with travelstart without insurance….:(

  28. Hi Agnes,

    Thanks so much for taking the time to send us your feedback.

    Always puts a smile on our face knowing our clients enjoy the travel blogs we put out there for them 🙂

  29. Very informative and interesting information.

    Many thanks

  30. Thank you for this information – I just have not ever been late for a flight, but there is always a first time!

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