Buyer beware applies particularly to connecting flights. Depending how you purchase your flights, you could be flying high or just plain grounded if you miss a connecting flight–potentially a very costly mistake if you need to pay penalties or re-purchase a ticket for your connecting flight, not to mention costs associated with a longer layover than you expected and the time lost.
Layover Guide gives the lowdown on what happens if you miss your layover flight.
First, you can mitigate your risk of missing a connecting flight in several ways:
• Take a nonstop flight.
• Leave plenty of time between flights. Leave even more if you need to change terminals, pass through security more than once, go through Customs or are going from domestic to international flights.
• Take an early flight. These tend to have fewer delays.
• Book your flights together. If they’re booked separately, perhaps on different airlines, they’re not really connecting flights; they are connecting only if they’re on the same ticket. Neither airline owes it to you to make sure you get on your second flight. They’re each responsible for just their own leg of the journey, and must adhere only to their own rules and regulations.
• Don’t travel during times of bad weather.
• Avoid holiday travel or other high-volume travel times.
• Avoid large and/or busy airports.
• Book only with reputable travel agents.
• If your itinerary changes for any reason, revisit whether enough time is allowed between flights.
Surprisingly, even if a missed connection is the airline’s fault, they don’t really owe you a thing–and may be less sympathetic if the cause of the delay was beyond their control, such as bad weather. Still, if you unable to catch a plane to your second destination until the next day, it can’t hurt to ask for a meal voucher, hotel stay and transportation to and from the hotel.
Travel insurance may help defuse unexpected costs associated with missed connections, but isn’t a cure-all. Such insurance will reimburse flight change fees, necessitated meals, transportation and lodging when the connection is missed due to inclement weather, an accident or other unexpected events, including delays caused by overbooked flights and involuntary bumping from the flight, mechanical issues with the plane, bad weather or to allow required rest time for the flight crew in the event their previous flight got in late.
Your travel insurer will require documentation, so be sure to keep associated receipts and ask the gate agent to put something in writing about why the flight was delayed.
If you didn’t allow enough time between flights, your claim likely will be denied.
Remember, if you miss one leg of your flight, all subsequent ones will be canceled and need to be rebooked–as long as its on one itinerary. This can be especially problematic for destinations where few flights are available in the first place.
In most cases, if you have booked your entire trip on one itinerary and the missed connecting flight is because of delays that are not the traveler’s fault, the airline will book the passenger on the next available flight.
Airlines and the industry have set minimum connecting times (MCT) to allow travelers and their luggage to be loaded onto connecting flights. However, these can still be tight, and airlines have the option of applying for exceptions to MCTs with the International Air Transport Association. So it’s still good to allow for extra time between flights, in case you can’t run as fast as the airline expects you to and to allow for all those little things that can come up–making a trip to the restroom, getting a beverage to allay that airplane dehydration or because the souvenir of your dreams beckons you from an airport shop.