I am fortunate that in all my many years of travel, I have not yet missed a flight, but the idea of doing so has always been a source of considerable anxiety for me. The thought of being an ocean away from home, with your only sure route back having just left the runway, is justifiably a cause of terror for many.
Sometimes, no matter how well you prepare or how early you leave, unforeseen variables can occur that cause you to miss your flight. Your vehicle may break down, accidents or other events may cause extreme gridlock (I did once nearly miss the last train out of London one night owing to the freak event of a drive-by shooting on the motorway my bus was taking into town), or there may be heavy human traffic through airport security during holidays. One cannot possibly account for everything.
However, thankfully, there is little real reason to panic if you find yourself in this situation; as always, being forewarned is being forearmed. By knowing what to do prior to actually missing a flight, you will ensure that the mishap is as painless as it can possibly be. Those who travel frequently, such as those who engage in business travel or military travel (whether for work, or while taking advantage of discount military flights for frequent family vacations), are especially in need of a sound plan for what to do if a flight is missed. So, without further ado, here are eight essential steps to take if you miss your flight:
1. Stay calm
In any emergency situation, this is rule #1. Nobody gets things done effectively while in a state of panic. Panic critically impacts your logical problem-solving abilities by putting you in a reactive “fight or flight” state of mind. This reflex may have been useful many thousands of years ago when our ancestors dealt with things like predatory animals, but in most modern emergencies, it’s more of a hinderance than anything. Take several deep, relaxing breaths and remember that the situation you are in is one thousands of people find themselves in every year. You are not the first person this has happened to, and you will not be the last. Because it is a common problem, solutions already exist and people are likely to be understanding.
2. Weigh your options
Once you have recovered from the initial sense of doom, take stock of where you stand. Is all hope of getting your flight really lost? Weigh up when your flight leaves, how far you are from where you need to be, if it is a) possible to get there on time and b) is it worth the potential cost of trying? It may be tempting to put all your energy into catching your flight, whatever the cost, without looking at other options. Try not to fall into that trap; you may wind up spending a lot more money than you need to rushing around via taxi, etc.
3. Be polite to staff, and enlist their aid
Never, ever take your frustrations out on surrounding staff. Do not become rude or belligerent to the very people who are your best resource for finding a solution to your predicament. It’s not only unpleasant, it’s downright illogical. Some airlines are incredibly helpful to those that have missed their flights (they do want to keep your business, after all) and if you approach them with a smile and honest story of misfortune, they may simply usher you onto the next available flight without you incurring any extra charges. Be aware that budget airlines tend to be much less flexible in this area, but it never hurts to ask.
4. Turn misfortune into an adventure
If you don’t have to be home for any reason of great importance, why not simply change your plans? Fly somewhere new, spend some more time in the country you find yourself stuck in, be spontaneous. Odds are, nothing terrible will happen to you if you lighten up and just enjoy the ride (trust me, I have engaged in this style of travel in countries where I didn’t even speak the local language. You’ll probably be fine as long as you practice common sense and do a bit of research on the go.) If you’re not in the mood for random journeys, check the departure boards to see if another airline has a flight leaving soon to your originally-planned destination.
5. Try to find free Wi-fi
This is the best way to compare available flights leaving on the day you need, or book new hotels, cars, etc. to accommodate your change in plans. Airport Wi-Fi is often poor, so locating a cafe that offers free Wi-Fi could help considerably.
6. Don’t beat yourself up
Really, these things can happen to anyone. Whatever you decide to do with the remainder of your trip, don’t let having made a mistake spoil the rest of it for you. Life happens; learning to enjoy the unexpected will make all of your trips more enjoyable, whether you miss flights during them or not.
7. Review your insurance policy
If you get delayed and it’s not due to your own error, you may be covered for some of your extra expenses. If you can prove that you were delayed by an “act of God” or an event similar to the crime that nearly had be trapped in London overnight, chances are your insurance policy includes some form of coverage that will help you pay for the extra travel expenses incurred as a result of such an incident.
What To Do If You Miss Your Flight
By Military Travel Exchange