The most painfully expensive airline ticket is a missed connection ticket…

Some of you may remember a time when Craigslist “missed connections” was en vogue. The segment was a captivating read, filled with potential lovebirds who weren’t able to exchange information in transit, but would love to. Missed flight connections are far less amusing. Airlines are constantly changing the rules of what happens when you miss a flight, so here’s everything you need to know…

When You Miss A Connection That’s Part Of A Single Ticket…

You’re covered. The airline is responsible for getting you onto the next possible flight. Many will even bump you up to the next class of service, if it’s all that’s available. Star Alliance even recently launched a connection service, which helps to expedite all passengers with tight connections at select airports. British Airways now has a similar feature at Heathrow and Delta, American and United each have a similar service for VIP’s. It’s important to note, that many airlines in many regions have a duty to rebook you on another carrier, if there’s no suitable flight on the original airline.

Example: You’re flying Zurich to Paris on Ticket A, connecting onto a flight to Cape Town on Ticket A. A delay from Zurich causes you to miss your onward flight from Paris to Cape Town. Air France is responsible for getting you to your destination in a timely fashion, and you are also eligible for EU261 delay compensation, if not caused by weather.

When You Miss A Connection On Same Airline, But On Different Tickets…

You’re not covered, but you may not be out of luck. When you’re traveling on two separate reservations, you’re no longer covered per any alliances rebooking rules. Any offerings of help are done on a compassionate or customer relations basis. As obvious as it may seem: being honest, polite and flexible can make a huge difference in your outcome- since the airline has no obligation to help and can stiff you with the cost of a walk up ticket, to get you where you want to go. On two separate bookings- sticking with one airline is your best shot at getting help. If your delayed flight is on a European airline, you may be entitled to some reprieve, up to $650 however.

Example: You’re flying Delta from Atlanta to New York on Ticket A, connecting to a flight bound for Sao Paulo on ticket B. Your Atlanta to New York flight causes you to miss Ticket B. You’re not protected, but the airline may be compassionate. Be prepared to buy a new ticket. 

When You Miss A Connection With Airline Partners, On Separate Tickets…

You’re not covered. Unless you’re a very frequent flyer, who the airline cares deeply about keeping happy- you’re likely completely out of luck and will need to buy a new ticket to reach your destination. OneWorld airlines once had a policy ensuring protection, but as of 2016 that ended. Shame. For this reason, it’s crucial to allow ample connection time when traveling on separately booked tickets.

Example: You have a flight from London to Amsterdam on Ticket A with British Airways, connecting to a flight from Amsterdam to Doha with Qatar Airways on ticket B. Qatar Airways has no obligation to put you on a later flight if you miss your flight from Amsterdam to Doha due to a delay from London to Amsterdam. They’ll cancel your ticket and start from scratch, unless someone is feeling compassionate or you’re a very frequent flyer. 

When You Miss A Connection With Non Partner Airlines, On Separate Tickets…

Stop dreaming, you’re not covered. Your only potential hope is that the airline you’re connecting onto thinks you’re extremely important or that your onward flight has a waiver issued for it, due to weather or unforeseen circumstances. Short of that- there’s no hope. You will not be covered, you’ll need to pay for a full fare walk up ticket or abandon your plans altogether. Do not book tight connections onto airlines that aren’t partners. In fact, just don’t book tight connections unless they’re on a single ticket.

Example: You’re flying American from Los Angeles to Vancouver on Ticket A, connection onto a flight from Vancouver to Tokyo with ANA on Ticket B. You miss your flight from Vancouver to Tokyo and you’re toast. No help, no exceptions. You’ll need to buy a brand new ticket or abandon all your plans and lose out on all non refundable travel plans.