You are currently viewing What Happens if Your Layover is Too Short and You Miss Your Connecting Flight

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.


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.

Bottom Line

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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Published February 17 2018, updated August 28 2018

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Andrew D'Amours

Andrew is the co-founder of Flytrippers. He is passionate about traveling the world but also, as a former management consultant, about the travel industry itself. He shares his experiences to help you save money on travel. As a very cost-conscious traveler, he loves finding deals and getting free travel thanks to travel rewards points... to help him visit every country in the world (current count: 71/193 Countries, 47/50 US States & 9/10 Canadian Provinces).

This Post Has 18 Comments

  1. SY

    Hey Andrew! I’m flying from Brussels (BRU) to Frankfurt (FRA) for a 45 minutes layover before flying from Frankfurt to Singapore. I booked my tickets as one itinerary with Lufthansa. If I miss my connecting flight to Singapore because the layover time was too short and not necessarily because of a delay, will Lufthansa still help to book me on another flight back to Singapore and do I have to pay for it? It’s my first time flying alone so I am unfamiliar with the Frankfurt airport as well. Your help is greatly appreciated!

    1. Andrew D'Amours

      If it was booked as one ticket (especially directly with the airline), they will replace you on the next flight for free if you miss it due to a delay. No worries.
      If there’s no delay, make sure you hurry to get to your connecting gate to avoid them blaming you for missing the connection. For example, if there’s a security check or whatever other line, find a Lufthansa customer service agent to let them know of your tight connection… just to be safe 🙂

  2. Vinesh

    so we have a flight to Boston from Newark and then from Boston to Munich and to Mumbai. I was wondering can I skip the flight from Newark to Boston. I can just drive there instead. Our layover at Boston is very short like 2 hrs. And since we have an international flight we may have to go through security again. Will this screw up everything?

    1. Andrew D'Amours

      Yes, they will cancel your whole ticket unfortunately. You cannot skip any flight segments.

  3. Sue McRuer

    I’m flying Air Canada, Halifax-Montreal for a Fort Myers arrival in January. I will have had the required 24hr time frame for a rapid test for international travels to the US. If my flight is delayed or cancelled either in Halifax or the connecting flight in Montreal, and I’m over the 24 hours, what happens? Is the test result still valid for entry to the US? Thanks.

    1. Andrew D'Amours

      Hi, the US has no “24-hour” requirement to avoid this situation precisely. Their rule is that the test must be done on the day of your flight or the full calendar day before the day of the flight, no matter the time (unlike the misinformation that has widely circulated, including in the media). So unless your Montreal-Fort Myers flight is delayed into the following day, no worries. Here is the detailed explanation of the US testing rule:

  4. Marie

    Hi Andrew, if I miss a connecting flight in a country where I do not have a visa, can I leave the airport in the interim before the next flight is available to me—especially if the next flight is not available until the next day? Is there a way to get a temporary visa at the airport in this kind of situation?

    1. Andrew D'Amours

      Hi! Missing a flight won’t give you a special privilege regarding visas no. That said, most connecting flight hubs are airports in countries with not too many entry requirements, or with already existing transit-visa policies (or visas you can get on arrival). For example in Beijing, there is a 6-day transit-visa so you could get that. Did you have a specific airport in mind or was it more of a general question? Hope this helps!

  5. Margaret

    Booked Air Canada Flight Toronto – Mexico City which was 45 minutes leaving due to technical difficulties (once we were on board), So we missed our connecting flight to Ixtapa on Aeromexico as a result, and had to purchase a new one way flight on AeroMar to arrive at our destination. We had to make a few follow up calls with Aeromexico to preserve our return trip from Ixtapa to Mexico City. Apparently our no show on the connecting flight made the return Ixtapa-Mexico City nul and void. That was restored with $100 charge per ticket to reinstate. So my question is who is responsible to reimburse the missed connecting flight due to AC flight delay and the surcharges to reinstate the cancelled return tickets?

    1. Andrew D'Amours

      Hi, did you buy the two tickets on the same itinerary? Or two separate tickets?

      1. Margaret

        It was the same itinerary through Expedia.

      2. Andrew D'Amours

        Then I am not sure why you had to purchase a new ticket. Usually you are simply put on the next available flight for free, was it because you wanted to get there earlier?

  6. Dean

    Not a first time flyer, but first time flying alone. Thank you so much for putting my mind a little more at ease! (No easy feat either, since I’ve got clinical anxiety.)

    1. Andrew D'Amours

      Glad to help! Going with the flow isn’t always easy with travel plans, but that’s one less thing to worry about, as long as it’s purchased on the same booking, no problem:) Enjoy your trip!

  7. MartinB105

    What happens if you book multiple tickets with the same airline?

    I asked KLM this question, and they told me it’s possible to call them and “associate” the bookings, so if the second flight is missed as a result of a delay or late arrive of the first flight, then it’s still on them to get you on an alternative second flight.

    I have no idea how or if other airlines handle this though.

    1. Andrew D'Amours

      Good to know, thanks! I would think that if both your segments are on the same airline (whether you booked them on the same itinerary or not) they should take care of you, but it’s always good to check with the specific airline to be safe!

  8. Jenn

    We have had a couple of things go on. I arrived too late for my flight from Toronto Pearson to Halifax Stanfield. Entirely my fault, but the Air Canada rep was the sweetest man. He just put me on the next flight. No charge, even though it was listed as more expensive.
    When my daughter was 6mos old we travelled to Detroit via Toronto. Our flight had been delayed due to mechanical reasons. When we landed they were paging us and loaded us into a golf cart. We tore off to the next terminal through secret passages and they got us on that plane. They held it for 15 minutes too.

    1. Andrew D'Amours

      Awesome! Yeah, often when there is room on the flight, they’ll be nice, even though it’s not their fault! It really depends but it’s nice when they are understanding!
      The golf cart ride sounds like an awesome experience, it never happened to me even after nearly 200 flights, I hope it does someday though just to try it haha!

      Thanks for sharing:)

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