How to avoid missing your flight

I missed the funeral.

My best friend, Bob, was gone. I had to fly from Florida to New York in the middle of a December snowstorm.

I was five hours late — a “no show” for the memorial service.

Not my fault. Or was it?

Maybe. In my grief, I forgot a few things.

• I neglected to check the weather, the flight cancellations, and didn’t verify my flight number.

• I failed to find out that my airport terminal was undergoing major construction, which re-routed passengers to another side of the airport.

• I overlooked my emails, but then again, my airline failed to notify anyone of its schedule changes. But late is late and I could have avoided this had I been thinking clearly.

Don’t let this happen to you. Passengers miss their flights too often. On some flights, the number is said to be as high as 10 percent. Airlines sometimes overbook their flights because they know some of their passengers will be “no shows.” But catching your plane is often as simple as paying close attention to the confirmation you get when you book a ticket.

Remember to double-check the date, departure time and flight number, or DDF.

Check the date – then check it again
When you’re booking, before to clicking the buy button, make sure you’ve checked and re-checked the date (year matters, especially if booking at year end for next year), and departure time (is it a.m., p.m., or 24-hour time?).Check twice to avoid errors.
Next, you should verify your flight number, terminal and use the airline phone app.

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Check the spelling of your name
Is your name spelled correctly? Does it match your ID? Are you sure you provided your proper email address and contact phone number when booking? Make sure the confirmation email doesn’t end up in your Spam file.

Keep checking your info
Check your flight regularly prior to the day of travel. A good rule of thumb is to review it weekly and as you get closer, say the last three to five days, check daily. Flights can be changed without notice and how and where you are traveling may be affected by weather, causing cancellations or delays.

If you must make a change because of an error, call the airline or travel agency immediately. Don’t wait. You may be more likely to get corrections when it’s within 24 hours of making your purchase

If you’re like me in my nongrieving state, you will have read all the fine print on your ticket, e-ticket or the information about airline regulations, known as a “contract of carriage”. Of course, most passengers do not read or even review this basic information, which often gets them into trouble.

What are you going to do the next time you have to go to that funeral, visit family or a vacation spot? Make DDF your new mantra for travel. You will book it, and before hitting the “accept” button, you will check your DDF: date, departure and flight number. And then you’ll do it again.
Use technology if available. Most airlines have a phone app where you may receive timely info.

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By taking these steps, you’ll ensure a smooth flight, and unlike me, you won’t miss the funeral.

Have you ever missed a flight?

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Elise Negrin

Elise Negrin is an active volunteer and an avian specialist. She lives in South Florida with two parrots and one cat.

  • bodega3

    What are you going to do next time? Another suggest would be to use a travel consultant who is well trained in airline tickets. Without a Travel Consultant, you are on your own for your screw-ups.

  • rpoppen

    All reasonable advice. Be especially careful for times that are just after midnight–you may think of 12:15 a.m. Friday as late Friday night, but the airline thinks of it as early Friday morning (what you may think of as late Thursday night).

    But check the year? I don’t think I’ve ever seen a travel provider that would book more than a year in advance–or in the past–so in what case is this necessary?

  • Joe

    I would guess that two types of people answered the poll question today: 1. People who said they have missed a flight, and 2. Liars. If the question concerned travel circumstances under individual control, then I might be mistaken; but I’d really like to meet the people who have never missed a flight (gate changes, mechanical delays, weather delays, TSA incompetence, etc.), because I have a bridge in New York I’d like to sell them.

  • bodega3

    I have never missed a flight.

  • Joe

    That’s fascinating. How do you structure your travel? I’m looking for a serious answer, because I’ve never met a road warrior who doesn’t have a briefcase full of travel horror stories.

  • I admit, I have. I can’t even blame the kids — this was before I had a family. I was just absentminded. Lesson learned.

  • texan_in_idaho

    Stop on by Boise any time Joe – I’ve NEVER missed a flight other than for mechanical and weather delays at a connection…not even TSA incompetence. BTW, how much is the bridge?

  • bodega3

    I get to the airport 2 or more hours early and try to only fly nonstop flights. Now I have had flights delayed, but I have reached my destination the same day as planned. I also avoid at all costs, commuter flights, especially on the east coast.

  • bodega3

    We don’t travel in the same car with the kids, since they drive from their own homes now. So one trip, my youngest almost missed his flight and that changed his attitude about allowing plenty of time to be at the airport, allowing enough connecting time. Missing a flight when you are by yourself is one thing, missing a flight with 3-5 others in tow is another. I keep my fingers crossed my good luck continues as I know what a bear it is to get reaccommodated.

  • slyabney

    I’ve only missed two scheduled flights: 1. mechanical and 2. weather. I am not a road warrior (as you later addressed), but this was never (1) part of your original post and (2) not part of Chris’ original post either.

    I always plan to get to the airport at least 2 hours early (earlier if holidays) and sit near a display board so I can be aware of gate changes. I also provide the airlines with my cell/emails and family member cells/emails, so I can be doubly notified of any changes. And if applicable, the airline’s app.

  • TonyA_says

    Well if you are a flight hacker, there are many times you intentionally miss your flight :)

  • Well said, Tony. Hidden cities, anyone?

  • TonyA_says

    3X Fuel Dumps, Throw Away tickets? Just ask we can talk about them privately :)

  • You are a master hacker. I am just a Jedi apprentice.

  • Joe

    “I’ve NEVER missed a flight other than for mechanical and weather delays at a connection.” So…you’ve missed a flight. I assume you answered “Yes” to the poll then but just felt like responding and inviting me out to Boise. Next time I come out to ski Sun Valley I may take you up on the offer.

  • Joe

    You’re right, I didn’t mention the road warrior part in the initial post, but I’m still suspicious of non-frequent travelers who assert they’ve never missed a flight as the original question asked. “I’ve only missed two scheduled flights,” so I assume you answered “Yes” as well? I’m curious who these “No, I’ve never missed a flight” people are. Your second paragraph is chock full of common sense points (refreshing, with common sense being decidedly less common these days).

  • Joe

    “…but I have reached my destination the same day as planned.” Does this mean your flight was just delayed but you arrived at your destination on the scheduled flight but just late, or you’ve missed a flight but got put on a later one and still made it to your destination the same day? I read the poll question as a simple yes or no, black and white query, which is why I expressed distrust of the many many “No” votes who last I checked outnumbered the “Yes” votes.

  • slyabney

    I abstained from a vote. I believe this poll addresses two types of issues that need to be separated: (1) issues caused by person (didn’t check ticket information, didn’t leave enough time, etc) and (2) issues caused by airline (mechanical, weather (though no one controls this), overselling, etc).

    I try not to waste money/time when I do travel, so it only pays (by way reduced stress) to be on top of things.

  • Joe

    While I agree with you that I believe those two issues should be separated, the initial question was a simple yes or no query: “Have you ever missed a flight?” There are a lot more “No” answers than I would have expected. Even accounting for those who live in a hub city and fly only nonstop to their destination, the number saying they’ve never ever missed a flight in their whole entire life seems absurd.

  • bodega3

    One flight the pilot didn’t show up, so we had to wait for one to get to the airport. Another flight, the plane door got damaged as they were loading food, so we had to wait while they got us a new plane. I have never missed a connecting flight as I put as much time as possible between them. I sell airline tickets and know how to do this.

  • slyabney

    That’s true. I would say I have voted without thinking, it would have been “No”. I think there’s a distinction though between “missing” and “cancelled/changed” that I’m implying through the reading. To me, missing a flight would be I f’ed up and missed it (in other words, it still took off “on time” and scheduled and/or as rescheduled/delayed but I was still on it). Through my perception, I’m not sure one can miss a flight that was cancelled or changed (given notification/updates were available).

    However, you are correct, the wording clearly suggests that the correct answer is “Yes”.

  • Joe

    Interesting, thanks for the insight. I apologize for calling you a liar.

  • Joe

    I missed a flight in Toronto last month because, even with a six hour layover before my connecting flight to Boston, I got stuck in an eight hour line at customs. I caught the next flight home, but I still chalk it up as a missed flight. I would certainly distinguish between “events under your control” and “I have no idea what just happened,” in which case a higher rate of reported “No” answers seems plausible.

  • VoR61

    The closest we came was at ORD when fog had enveloped the airport. We simple hustled over to a gate where they were close to departure and got re-booked. Technically is was a “miss”, but not caused by us. Ours is, I think, a case of good fortune and adequate planning.

  • MarkKelling

    I have never missed a flight in 30 years of flying both for work and leisure. I have come close like one time at SEA where it was a four hour security wait but since so many people were late the airlines were holding flights.

    There have been several flights I was scheduled to be on that I ended up not being on because the airline cancelled or delayed the flight for too many hours and I was able to get on a replacement flight. I wouldn’t call these a “miss” since I was there and ready and willing to get on the plane but the airline changed things.

  • Michael

    I have an issue with this part of the article above:
    “If you must make a change because of an error, call the airline or travel agency immediately. Don’t wait. You may be more likely to get corrections when it’s within 24 hours of making your purchase”

    Federal regulations now say that within 24-hours of purchase passengers can cancel any ticket with a full refund and make any changes needed to their ticket “without” ANY change fees.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    I’ve never missed a flight, but I have missed connections because the first leg of my journey arrived too late for me to get to the second leg. Does that make you feel better? Then again, I don’t fly more than a few times a year.

    EDIT TO ADD: In the case of the connections, *I* wasn’t responsible for the missed connection, the airline was. So I answered “No”.

  • PolishKnightUSA

    I think it’s reasonable to ASSume that missed flights due to circumstances outside of one’s control are reasonable and especially missed connections which, in that case, are the airlines’ responsibility to correct.

    Thinking back, I missed a flight because of VISA issues for my wife in which case the airline graciously rerouted us to another city.

  • VoR61

    More like Jar-Jar Binks (he-he)

  • VoR61

    I’ll take “Cheating the Airlines” for $400 please Alex ….

  • bodega3

    This isn’t 100% across the board. This applied to US carriers and international flights to and from the US and tickets issued within the US. Be very careful of where you are buying your ticket for this protection.

  • Joe

    No, it doesn’t make me feel better, lol! I read this question way too straightforward it seems, and everyone else was picking out the nuances I obviously missed.

  • Yvonne Kleine

    Gee, Joe, angry much? I’ve never missed a flight in my life, probably because I usually do exactly as Elise suggests. I came close only once, forty years ago, when my connecting flight into Dallas was late and I had to run to the other side of the airport to get my connection to Austin. I got there just as they were closing the gate and they let me board. And I had my 4 year old daughter in tow as well. Why lie about such a silly thing?

  • ddouma

    I don’t really count weather issues as “missing my flight” … thinking more about things in my control (scheduling, etc.).

  • AH

    to me, “missed” implies fault on the passenger, not the airline. e.g. failure to get to the gate, failure to have a boarding pass, failure to… passenger error of whatever kind.
    i can’t “miss” a flight that has been delayed or cancelled. i didn’t “miss” anything if the airline directly causes the passenger to be unable to board a specific flight at a specific time.

    i have dealt with gate changes (didn’t “miss the flight” because i was paying attention), terminal changes (now that was interesting, the flight was delayed because there were 30-40 passengers who were connecting on that flight and they actually held the plane for those who hadn’t been so resourceful as to get a cab instead of waiting for the “late” shuttle at LGA)

    but no, i’ve never “missed” a flight.

  • AMA

    Why are you saying “use the airline phone app”? I save a PDF of my ticket to my picture folder; why bother to download an app when I can just go to the website?

  • AMA

    I have never missed a flight either. Why is someone being organized and on time so hard for you to believe?

  • Kathy S.

    I voted no. I’ve never missed a flight and never missed a connection. Four years ago we almost missed a connection where we had a 3 hour layover. The flight was delayed getting into LGA but we made it to the gate while the flight was boarding. Granted I only fly once a year, but I plan that flight very carefully.

  • ctporter

    I have missed flights, the most recent was when my flight was delayed allegedly for 90 minutes, so I went to an airline club to relax while waiting. Unfortunately, the flight was able to take off within 32 minutes of the scheduled departure time (not the 90 minutes later). Since I was not at the gate, I missed my flight. My bad. The airline did allow me to catch the next flight that was 3 hours later than my original. So, we arrived at our destination (including the drive time) 4.5 hrs later than we originally had planned. That was all my fault for not waiting at the gate and not monitoring the actual flight times as they were updated.
    I have also missed a flight from SFO to SEA (a few decades ago) that I had booked through a TA (famous agency with three alpha letters known for autos). We had booked a trip from SEA to Oahu, then to Maui, then to Kaui, then to Hawaii, then to SFO, and finally from SFO to SEA. We checked each and every flight except the SFO to SEA because we foolishly thought that flight was a given. It turned out the flight we were ticketed on no longer existed, and had not since prior to our booking. (not sure how our TA was able to actually ticket a flight that did not exist). Thankfully, back then tickets were paper tickets, and we were able to get a seat on another airline just a few hours after our original ticket was booked for.

  • ctporter

    because your phone can often access the web when there is no computer access available to you! Been there done that lots of times, and not just from an airline app, but also from apps such as triples

  • Carchar

    I don’t consider my flight’s late arrival, thereby causing me to miss a connector, as my having missed a flight. I said, “No.”

  • Bill___A

    I’m really sorry for your loss and sorry you didn’t make it. Don’t be too hard on yourself, your heart was in the right place.

  • Bill___A

    I had expected the question to mean “Have you ever missed a flight where you screwed up”, not missed a flight that was not flying due to a schedule change or cancellation, or missed connection.
    I.e. Have you ever missed a flight where it was your fault and you had to pay the consequences….

  • PsyGuy

    I’ve never missed a flight. It left without me, and I had no sorrowful feelings about the plane being gone at all. I do not have emotional attachments to “things” (such as planes).

  • PsyGuy

    So having children improved your memory?

  • PsyGuy

    I’ve never missed a flight. It left without me, and I had no sorrowful feelings about the plane being gone at all. I do not have emotional attachments to “things” (such as planes).

  • LadySiren

    Same here. I’ve never once missed a flight, go figure. Like you, I budget getting to the terminal at least two hours ahead of time, plenty of time between connections, other common sense stuff.

    The one time I almost missed a flight – almost – was because I blew up my car. Even after having a carbeque on the side of the road, I still made my flight from NC to Seattle with plenty of time to spare. :)

    EDIT: When I say never, I mean NEVER. Strange, but I’ve never even had mechanical or weather issues affect my flight schedule to where I missed a flight. And before you ask, yes, I used to be a road warrior in my younger years. These days, I’m an office chair warrior.

  • Joe

    This is where people read into the question more than it asks and most likely why there are more “No” votes. If my butt’s not in the seat when the plane leaves the runway, that’s a missed flight.

  • Joe

    You’ve never missed a flight? Never had a mechanical problem or weather delay at your point of origin and missed a connection? The question seemed to me a very straightforward one: “Have you ever missed a flight?” I think I may have missed one or two flights due to my own negligence in the span of thirty years, but several due to connection issues. That’s what I have a hard time believing. It seems most people are reading WAY too much into the question and making exceptions for why them missing a flight doesn’t really count as missing the flight.

  • Joe

    Not particularly, Yvonne; however, the number of posters who are saying they’ve never missed a flight and then go on to detail how missed connections due to weather, mechanical issues, labor strikes, or other things out of their control do not constitute a missed flight in their minds is driving me a little crazy. I thought it was a very simple and straightforward question: Have you ever missed a flight? Not reading between the lines, I expected a lot more people to vote “Yes,” than “No,” if their butt wasn’t in the seat when their scheduled flight took off. The number of people who’ve replied to tell me they never missed a flight under any circumstances is less than a dozen, and with 189 “No” votes as of my reply, I’m really curious how the other 177+ have managed to never miss a flight.

  • AndTheHorseYouRodeInOn

    As an airline employee I have seen this many, many times; so you’re not alone if you’ve missed a flight. It’s not always possible but generally airlines will rebook (same day) if the person has shown up within 1-2 hours of their missed flight. Obviously if the person is somewhat distraught over it and has made every effort to get to the airport and only minutes from missing a closeout, I will rebook them or stand them by on the next available flight with no charge. Unfortunately many of my coworkers do not agree and insist on change fees or penalties. Me?..I’ll run it by a supervisor and have yet to have one disagree with waiving the fee.

  • SierraRose 49

    Excellent advice and many good pointers to remember for future flights, especially DDF. I’d also like to suggest checking the box when you book your flights to receive text messages from the airline. Also, it might help to install apps on your tablet and/or smartphone for the airlines you fly the most often. This proved invaluable to us last week when our departure flight on Delta had changed gates and confirmed our flight was on time. We re-confirmed, but the heads-up is appreciated. We are all at the mercy of the airlines since they call the shots and seldom make concessions when things go wrong. Anything we can do as consumers helps mitigate the pain/anger of flying.

  • LonnieC

    My wife and I almost missed a flight once. We were at the Caracas airport, going to Margarita island, at about 8:00pm. The gate agent told us there was no flight to the island that evening, even though we had confirmed tix for the flight. We said that there had to be one – we had tix! He responded – Okay, there’s one, and boarded us several minutes later. And the plane was only about half full. We never did figure that one out….

  • Judy Serie Nagy

    The OP gave us a great list of things to remember, it’s valuable info. I was bumped off a flight LAX-SFO by the Houston Astros once, but I have never actually missed a flight. I’ve come close tho by not paying attention … not checking the gate and walking to the wrong concourse, coming out of the ladies room and walking the wrong way at an unfamiliar connecting airport and my best one that qualifies for dope of the year … sitting in the area across from my gate reading my book and not hearing the flight called. THAT takes real inattention.

  • Cat

    “Airlines sometimes overbook their flights because they know some of their passengers will be “no shows.”” True meaning: Airlines double sell your seat with the hopes of collecting twice for the same service. They pocket the money and bumping you does not concern them.

  • bodega3

    I had a client, who no longer is able to travel, and had traveled all over the world (loved handling his travel..miss him!) go to a country in Africa and was sitting right by the desk when we realized his flight was departing. There was another man who had been sitting there, too, who missed the same flight. He claims they never announced it. More than missing his flight, he was now overstaying his visa, a serious issue. Fortunately it all worked out, but he had to wait a few days for the next flight, as daily flights didn’t exist.

  • taxed2themax

    I like the comment about time.. “is that AM or PM?”… I’ve seen many people miss their US->Asia flights on some Asian carriers who depart at 01:00 or 02:00, therefore check-in opens at around 23:00… but sometimes I see those times listed as 11:00pm.. yes.. it does always say “PM”… but I can see how one may miss that..

    So, I think the better was is to use only “military” time, or the 24hour clock and do away with the “AM” and “PM” use as that to me, is just one way for someone to miss it..

    However, I do have to agree that in the end it’s the passengers responsibility to know and arrive on time.. and so long as the carrier does show the time as “AM” or “PM”, then I can’t say they were deceptive or similar.

  • DesignIt

    I’ve never missed a flight because I’m paranoid that I’m going to miss my flight and allow at least 2 hours (for domestic) upon arrival at the airport to boarding time to get through all the hoopla.

  • AMA

    No, I have not ever had a flight cancelled or missed a connection. I’ve been flying for 40 years, regularly, out of Boston. Certainly I’ve been on planes that have been delayed, but I’ve never missed a connecting flight. I’ve also never had a checked bag lost. Why are you so hostile and suspicious? Does everything go wrong for you all the time?

  • AMA

    Right, like I wrote, I can just go to the airline website on my phone, so why should I clog up my phone with their app?

  • ctporter

    What is important to you may not be important to the next guy. For me, the airline apps offer so much more, so I find them useful, I am not much into games etc so my phone is not “clogged up” by the apps I use. YMMV :)

  • Heather Reese

    Until recently I could have said I had never missed a flight also and I’ve been doing it a long time… it’s just something I never do… now, if we’re talking trains, that’s a whole different thing! :)
    On my last trip, apparently Marrakesh was not ready for me to leave and no one wanted to work Customs on a Saturday.. so after spending over an hour and a half and making it through almost half the line, I missed my flight. Did everything right like it has been done the 40 years I’ve been flying, got there over two hours early, got checked in, etc but a lot of us missed our flights that day and to add insult to injury, there are no ticket counters or any one there to help unless you are on one airline. AND they took my luggage too. Interesting place to be stuck. That was my real horror story for sure. The best part, once I finally found a flight the next day and got through customs in 10 minutes! ugh.

  • Annie M

    I have also never missed a flight. I check times again when I print my boarding passes to make sure there have been no changes, that there are no weather issues I need to account for and I am always checked in at least 2 hours before my flight is scheduled to leave. Simple good planning goes a long way. Giving myself that planning in time also gives me leeway in case there are traffic issues on the way to the airport.

    So there are plenty of people who aren’t liars and really have never missed a flight. And I fly at least 5 times a year, sometime more.

  • Annie M

    Why are you do insistent that everyone has missed a flight? There are those of us who never have because we plan properly and check and re-check details.

    I can’t believe that most people HAVE missed flights. Even as a TA in 13 years I have never received a phone call from a client that missed a flight and had to have me help them either. So I think YOU are in the minority because you have missed flights.

  • Annie M

    I have also never missed a connection either because I won’t book a flight with a connection that I anticipate could be missed if my original flight doesn’t get out on time. I’d rather sit at an airport for 4 hours waiting for a connection than stress that I booked a connection that is too short.

  • Joe

    The insistence was borne out of the phrasing of the question. “Have you ever missed a flight?” seemed incredibly straightforward to me, but judging by the fact that people are still commenting on this thread to insult me and give their $0.02 says otherwise. I read it as a very simple question, but many people seem to conclude that missing a connection due to an airline or weather delay (or terrible gate layouts like CLT) somehow doesn’t count as missing a flight. Most people have told me when looking at it that way, then yes, they’ve missed a flight. Honestly I didn’t look at it any other way as the question didn’t ask if the missed flight/connection was your fault. If you’ve never missed a connection due to delays out of your control, I will be impressed, and I think I’ve mentioned that to a few people who’ve replied with that answer unchanging.

  • Annie M

    I’ve never missed a connection either. Maybe I’ve just been lucky but I also attribute it to making sure I have more than enough time to make my connections because I know my husband would go insane if he heard me panicking on a plane that might have taken off late from it’s original destination. I won’t book anything with less than a 2 – 3 hour connection. if I book a connecting flight at all.

    Here is an example – we booked a flight to Vancouver 8 months before flying for a cruise. There was a two hour connection in Seattle. Three weeks before the flight, I get an email from Delta telling me they changed the flight and I now had a 45 minute layover. I asked the agent “are you guaranteeing I will make that connection” to which she replied “we wouldn’t give you a 45 minute connection if we didn’t think you would make it”. After laughing for 5 minutes and opening my GDS on my computer, I asked if there was another flight they could change me to. She said no. I said that I am looking at such and such flight that leaves 2 1/2 hours after the new originating flight arrives and I wanted to be changed to it. She changed me and I didn’t have any worries.

    I do the same for clients and so far not one in over 10 years has missed a connection.

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