Traveling by airplane is quicker and more efficient than traveling by car, but that does not mean that you will not run into problems. Probably the most common problem, as well as the biggest headache, is a missed flight. A missed flight causes a variety of problems. If it was a connecting flight, you will likely miss all of your connections as well. The airplane has to fly with an empty seat, which they do not like, and, often, your bags will not miss their flight, and will arrive at your destination without you.
What should you do if you miss your flight? The very first thing that you should do is head to the reservation desk. Tell the clerk that you have missed your flight, and do not leave until you have a plan, in writing, for how you will continue your trip. If missing your flight was your own fault, you may expect to pay, if not the full ticket price, then a penalty on a reissued ticket. If you miss your flight because your connecting flight arrived late, the airline will work with you to get you in the air as soon as possible.
In most cases, the airline will put you on the next available flight, with their airline. In some cases, particularly if there is a chance that you can catch a further connection, or the next available flight is not until the next day, the airline may put you on the next available flight with a different airline. Either way, do not leave the area until you know what flight you will be on, and when it departs.
Why Miss a Plane?
One may miss their flight because of a variety of reasons; some cannot be helped while others are just a mistake. It is rare that you miss a plane because of traffic or oversleeping. Most missed flights occur in connecting flights. Often, the layover time between connecting flights is not sufficient to allow the passenger to disembark and find the terminal for his departing flight. Many airports are large, and for someone who does not travel a great deal, can be confusing to navigate. Once they arrive at the correct terminal, they must still go through security.
Another reason for missing connecting flights is if the plane experiences mechanical difficulties. It is common for a plane to sit on the tarmac, passengers on board, while mechanics work to repair a problem on the plane. In this case, the passengers who have a limited amount of layover time may not make their connecting flights. Sometimes, if many of the passengers on board are in danger of missing their connecting flight, the connecting flight may be held, but, as you can imagine, this creates another set of problems on the arrival at the next airport.
Weather is another cause of missed flights. Sometimes a plane is held and not allowed to take off because of lightning or heavy winds. Other times a plane may be held while it is deiced. Even if a plane makes it into the air, strong winds or turbulence can slow the plane down in flight, causing is to arrive behind schedule.
Mechanical problems are clearly the responsibility of the airline, but weather conditions and tight layover scheduling are not, and the airline may be less accommodating of problems relating to weather or scheduling than they are in problems related to mechanical issues.
Where are Your Bags?
While you may have missed your flight, it is unlikely that your bags did. They are probably tucked safely away on your original flight. If your arriving flight was delayed long enough that the connecting flight left before your plane arrived, you may be able to collect your bags, but this is not typically how it happens. People are often in the airport when their flight leaves. If you have departed from your plane, but do not make it through security before your connection leaves, there is a good chance that your bags were transferred and are on your original flight. This is one of the reasons that you should always carry any medication as well as a change of clothes with you in your carry on. While the chances are good that you will be reunited with your bags in the future, that will not make you feel any better when you are sitting in the airport lobby, waiting for dawn and the next flight out.
Minimize Your Chances of Missing Your Flight
The best way to minimize your chance of a missed flight is to allow plenty of time between connecting flights. While no one wants to spend all day in an airport lobby, you should ask the ticket agent for enough time to disembark, visit the restroom and make it to the next terminal. The larger the airport you are flying into, the more time you should allow, as moving from terminal to terminal can take a considerable amount of time. While you cannot control the weather or the mechanics of the plane, you can make sure you have amble time to make your connection.