Whether you are a seasoned traveler or only fly once in a while, there's nothing as frustrating as having your flight canceled, delayed due to weather conditions or mechanical issues. These situations are not your fault and the airlines will take care of you. If one of these situations is affecting you, the airlines will usually make an announcement and will work with travelers to get them on their way as quickly as they can. On the other hand, if you are at fault due to arriving too late at the airport, getting stuck in traffic or various other situations, here are some valuable suggestions you should take into consideration:
If you believe you are going to miss your flight, you should contact the airline as soon as possible. The rules regarding showing up at the airport late will vary from airline to airline. Before there are any issues, it's highly advised that you go to the airline's site and read up on their rules and regulations. You will get a good idea what will incur should you show up too late to get on a flight. Here are some guidelines for airlines in the United States.
You Should Contact The Airline Quickly:
Call the airline immediately if you know you are going to miss your flight or show up too late. If you fear you will have to forfeit a portion or the entire cost for your ticket, call the airlines to see how you can keep your ticket. If you are in the middle of a flight but missed your connecting flight due to your own mistakes, call the airlines immediately to see what you can do. In many cases, you will be able to keep your ticket but there will be a charge that could extend up to $200 USD for domestic flights. You might also have to pay an additional charge if the rate for the flight has gone up since you booked. Keep in mind, calling the airline will probably save you some money and a great deal of headaches. Doing nothing will cost you everything!
Southwest Airlines is the only U.S. carrier that has a no change fee but you must call at least 10 minutes before the flight departs. Unfortunately, if you fall under their No Show Policy you will lose the value of your ticket, so again, call them! If you think you are going to miss your flight, call them and explain your situation, they can probably work with you. If you get to the airport just before you flight is scheduled to take off or are a few minutes late, gate agents might be able to get you on the flight. There are no guarantees but you are better off finding out vs losing out totally.
Get In Touch With The Gate Agent:
If you have already contacted your airline, your next step is to get in line and speak with the gate agent. He or she might be able to put you on another flight as a standby passenger or you might find a seat on a different airline though this is not probable. Be willing to waive your No Change Fee if getting to your destination is critical. Keep in mind, this avenue is actually quite rare if you have a non-refundable ticket.
Abide By The 2-Hour Rule:
There is a little-known rule in the airline industry that is called the 2-Hour Rule, or flat-tire rule. This is a policy with several U.S. Airlines but is not generally advertised. There are circumstances that are beyond your control, such as a car accident on the way to the airport, you might get some assistance. This rule states that if a passenger shows up within two hours of missing their flight, the airline can put them on the next available flight or as a standby passenger at no further charge. If that was the last flight of the day, you can be placed on standby for the first flight the following morning or a flight that has open seats the next day.
If you sign up for a TSA Pre-Check, which will cost $85 for a 5-year membership, you will get through the check-in line faster. Getting through security faster can mean the difference between catching your flight or missing it. This option might be well worth the price.
Only Have A Carry-on Bag:
You will save a great deal of time if you do not have to wait in line to check a bag. Most airlines do not charge for a carry-on, hand-held bag. Check their website to find out the rules for a carry-on item. Depending on the size and weight, if it's larger than allowed, your bag will make it on the plane but you might be charged.
Give Yourself A Few Hours:
Since security has heightened over the over the years, it is standard that you give yourself enough time to get to the airport on time. Seasoned travelers will tell you to show up at least 2 hours before your flight's departure. When deciding when to leave for the airport, consider unexpected things that might happen so you can allow for extra time. Don't expect the airlines to roll over and help you out if you do not call them or are running late.
It's advised that you put the airline's number on your phone and have it ready in case of a situation such as a flat tire, traffic jam, or car accident pile up. Also, if you have an Elite Miles Membership, have the membership number available at all times and the membership hot-line number on your phone!
It's miserable to miss a flight, have it canceled, or held up due to weather conditions or mechanical issues. It's even worse if it's your fault! Be prepared, understand your obligations for showing up on time and what you need to do if something happens that is out of your control.