You missed hearing the alarm and, as result, you get to the airport after your flight has departed. Oops. Or, you get to the airport on time, but the flight is delayed. Whether you miss a flight, the flight end up being canceled, or for one reason or another, you cannot make your scheduled flight, when dealing with the situation, how to get at least part of the money back is what every traveler needs to know.
With extensive experience as a travel and ticketing agent, I’ve put together travel tips for these unfortunate travelers. Pay attention that, in all cases, action needs to be taken as soon as you realize you will not be making the flight.
You cannot make a flight: what should you do?
Once you are sure there’s no way to make a flight, log into your reservation on the airline’s website and search for the cancellation policy. You want to read about what happens if you cancel the ticket and what happens if you end up being a no-show.
Spoiler alert: if you end up a no-show for your flight, it is very likely that you cannot recuperate anything (and by that, I mean not even taxes). But if this is not the case, you can try to cancel the ticket via the website you used to book your flight.
There are two possible outcomes:
Your ticket is refundable or partly refundable. In this case, the airline may keep a penalty, but you may still get some money back.
Your ticket is non-refundable, in which case you have two options:Try to get some of the taxes back.Try to keep the credit for future use. It’s important to know that you have to check the ticket validity in this case as you may only use the credit during the ticket validity. Pay attention that if you booked a special fare, the validity may be only 1 or 3 months, whereas most tickets have a 1-year ticket validity.
If you don’t have access to the internet or the airline is one of those that don’t allow you to manage the reservation online, get on the phone immediately. Explain the situation to the airline’s customer representative and request for them to cancel the ticket so that you are not counted as a no-show.
If you bought the ticket through a travel agency, the airline may send you back to the “issuing agent”. The airline has control over your ticket – especially if you already checked-in for the flight – so you can insist that they should help. But talking to your travel agent may not hurt either.
However, in most cases, the airline’s agent, as well as your travel agent, will try to convince you that it’s better to just change the flight to a later date and only pay the reissue fee (and maybe a difference in the fares). This works great if you are willing to pay up and, of course, if you can change your vacation days.
You just missed the flight: what can you do?
You were seriously planning to get to the airport on time, but life happened and…oops, you missed the flight. There is only one thing to do: contact the airline and beg for a spot on the next flight out. If the airline that you booked the tickets with happens to be a flexible one (and many of the ‘full-fare’ airlines are), then this would not be such a big deal.
But if you’re flying with a budget airline or your ticket happens to be a ‘promo’ ticket – it makes it more challenging to get on later flight at no cost.
First thing is first, though: if your delay was due to a delayed connecting flight, then you have two cases:
If the flight that got delayed is on the same ticket as the one you missed, the airline has to help to rebook you for free on the next flight out
If the flight that got delayed was with another airline and on a different ticket, neither of the airlines has to help.
In any case, first, find the airline’s check-in desk and get in line. At the same time, call their customer service number. No matter if you get to the agent on the ground first or someone answers the phone, the idea is that you have to explain that you were not no-show and you need to get on the next flight out for free.
The rule is that they can only put you on a flight with available seats. And in many cases, flights are overbooked anyway, which leaves you with the only hope to be super nice with the agent.
If you have a connecting flight on the same ticket as the flight you missed, you also need the airline to sort that. If your connecting flight was on a different ticket, the other airline doesn’t have to help you with rebooking you for free, but being persistent may work in quite rare cases (depending on their empty seats). In most cases, you’d have to pay at least the reissue fee (which can be quite hefty).
If you booked through a travel agent, you also want to call them and explain the situation. This is one case when the agent may get to the airline faster than you – but remember that they cannot make any changes without your permission. Be prepared to fork over some more cash for the reissue.
The other option is to just choose to cancel the flight and see what you can salvage in terms of money. You can take this option into account as you talk to the airline representative or your travel agent, but in either case, make sure you ask not be marked as a no-show.
Your flight is delayed: what can you do?
As a well-informed traveler, you’ve checked your reservation in advance and have noticed your flight is delayed. Unless specifically instructed by the airline, always show up at the airport in time for the check in for the original flight time.
If at the airport, the situation is just as grim, you are bound to do some waiting, so grab a coffee and head to your gate. Do not leave the gate under any circumstance. If you have internet available, keep an eye on the notifications that come through the airline’s app.
Also, remember that if you fly within the European Union (EU), there are passenger rights the airlines have to abide by and you are entitled to compensations.
Your airline cancelled the flight: what can you do?
I admit that this can be one of the most annoying situations.
Out of the blue, you get an email in which it says your flight has been cancelled. In the same email, you should also be given options. So, read them thoroughly and make sure to contact the airline or your travel agent as soon as possible.
On the other hand, things turn crazy when you get to the airport only to find out that the flight has been cancelled. So now what?
Go to the airline’s check-in desk and, at the same time, get on the phone with their customer service. Chances are there will be many of you doing the same thing so patience is key. You may also want to shoot your travel agent an email (if you booked through one) and explain the situation.
Once you get a hold of an agent, ask what they are willing to do. This is an involuntary cancellation and you are entitled either to a full refund or rebooking on the next available flight (without paying anything else).
Special circumstances: what can you do?
In the travel business, special circumstances refer to anything from a hurricane affecting flights, to earthquakes, terrorist attacks, and anything in between.
These are the cases when the airlines may (and will) choose to over-ride the non-refundable rule and allow travelers to be rebooked for free on later flights (when it is safe to depart) or keep credit for future travel. It is extremely rare, but they may even fully refund your money.
For these circumstances, always make sure to have access to the information from your airline and the airport you were due to fly out of.
In all cases, the best outcome would be to have travel insurance with a good coverage (trip cancellation, trip interruption, etc.) so that you could claim any money out of pocket through it.
Best of luck!