We often read comments from travelers who are sooooooo stressed out by the fact that the flights they found have tight connections. There is no need to worry.
Here’s what happens if your layover is in fact too short and you miss your connection: nothing.
You can officially stop worrying now. It’s really not the end of the world.
If your itinerary was purchased as one ticket (as in: you have only one itinerary and one confirmation number), and the connection time was too short and you miss the second (or third) flight, you can rest easy, no matter what happens. The airline will simply put you onto the next available flight, free of charge. No need to worry uselessly.
(If you are building a multi-ticket itinerary by combining tickets and airlines yourself, go to the end of the article, because the following doesn’t apply in your case, it only applies to those buying regular tickets in one piece).
Missing your connection means you’ll arrive later than expected, sure, but you won’t have to buy a new ticket (we really don’t know where this myth comes from). We’ve got great pro tips below to make everything better.
Of course, the missed flight has to be because of circumstances outside of your control, such as your first flight being late or delayed (and not because you decided to stay in an airport lounge too long and didn’t make it to the gate on time for example).
So even if it looks tight, don’t worry about the money part, you can book an itinerary with a short connection time.
You won’t need to pay extra for airfare if you miss the flight, but on the other hand, you will most likely not be compensated by the airline for the incurred delay. It always depends on the amount of time, the reason for the delay and the airline’s policies. As soon as it’s weather-related, you won’t be getting a penny (and that’s normal: airlines can’t control the weather).
Yes, they will assign you a seat on the next available flight, but if you want a compensation for the incurred costs (meals or hotels for example), simply take responsibility and don’t rely on airlines. It’s so easy to have your meals paid for (and your hotel if the delay makes you spend an extra night somewhere)… all you need to do is to pay for your plane ticket with a travel credit card. This is a free protection that’s included with most good travel cards. More details here.
Here’s what to do if it happens to you.
Tips If You Miss Your Connection
Personally, having a little more time abroad when my hotel and my meals are paid for doesn’t bother me too much (not at all in fact). What good could come out of worrying about a delay? If it happens to you, we have two important tips (actually three, the first was obviously to pay with a credit card that will compensate you, as we just mentioned).
First, plan your schedule accordingly, as much as possible. Keep in mind that these kinds of things can always happen (and it will happen to you at some point or another if you travel somewhat often, it’s inevitable) because the aviation industry takes safety very seriously.
As soon as the weather compromises operations in any way, the flights are delayed – for your safety – and the risk of missing your connections and arriving late goes up. This is normal, it happens.
So our advice is to try to, as much as possible, plan for a “buffer” period of at least one day on arrival before an event or an important appointment. Even if everything goes as planned, which it will 95% + of the time, you will be more relaxed because you will have had a day to relax before your important activity or appointment. And if there are delays, you are more likely to be able to be re-booked within a day than you are if you only have a few hours before an event.
Secondly, if you eventually miss a connection, take matters into your own hands and do your own research. Use online tools to find a faster alternative routing or plan B because airlines will never be as interested in finding the best solution for you as you are yourself.
Often, when passengers can’t make a connection, they’re automatically re-booked on another flight, usually the next one for their specific destination. This is often the simplest option, not necessarily the best. Rarely the best one in fact. Do some research on your own, get back to them with a specific plan and ask politely, you’ll definitely get where you want to be faster.
For example, one time I missed my connection and they automatically re-booked me on the next direct flight from where I was to where I was going. But just by making another stop at another airport, I arrived 10 hours earlier at my final destination.
They didn’t offer this option, I found it myself and asked, with specific flight numbers. And by not being rude to them (yes, unfortunately many people are very rude when they’re delayed, as if it was the gate agent’s fault that their flight is late…), you’ll usually get a positive answer.
The fact is, airlines don’t have the time to perform advanced searches to find the optimal solution for every single passenger who is delayed. You, on the other hand, should take the time to do it. Again, take responsibility and you’ll reap the rewards.
If You’re Traveling on a Multi-Ticket Itinerary
As we said before, if you searched for your flight on our search tools for cheap flights, and the itinerary that came out has tight connections, it’s because the airlines’ computer system approved that itinerary and they’re confident enough that you’ll be able to make your connections. No worries.
If you built your own multi-ticket itineraries by manually combining separate tickets yourself, now that’s a whole other thing. By using that technique, you can save up to $1,000 on a single ticket, as we often do, especially to go to Europe. But in these cases, you have to leave plenty of time between your flights.
This is actually the most important rule for this technique. We recommend leaving a full day between flights: take the opportunity to spend a day in another city and discover new places.
AIRLINES OWE YOU NOTHING IN CASE OF A MISSED CONNECTION IF YOU BUILT A MULTI-TICKET ITINERARY YOURSELF.
If you have combined two separate purchases and you miss your connection, you will have to buy another ticket to replace the one you missed, at your own expense. It’s as simple as that. Because your tickets are on different confirmation numbers, it is your problem if one of your flights is late.
So, under no circumstances should you take risks. Leave yourself a day, why not even two days, to discover the city where you have a stopover and make it a 2-in-1 trip! It’ll be safer. And more fun.
When you buy a plane ticket, don’t worry too much about the tight connections unless you absolutely can’t be late at your destination. The airlines will take care of flying you to the right place. Just follow these tips to protect yourself and make the experience more enjoyable: always pay with a travel credit card, do not plan anything important too close to your scheduled arrival time and take matters into your own hands if you miss a flight.
Have you ever missed a connection? What’s your story? Tell us in the comments!
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8 Tips to Survive a Long Flight in Economy Class
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Published February 17 2018, updated August 28 2018