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How to Avoid a Missed Flight (and How to Cope if You Happen to Miss It)

Updated on June 27, 2011

It's every air traveler's worst nightmare that happens in all airports: a missed filght!

There are reasons why people miss their flights intentionally. Their kids, husbands, and wives are too slow to prepare for the traveling parties' first day of vacation, business trips, or other circumstances in which they need to travel on an airplane. Oversleeping is another hurdle, particularly the night before that all-important flight.

But there are situations that are beyond travelers' controls that make them miss their flight. In especially busy cities that have an airport, like Newark, NJ or New York, NY, traffic in and around the airport can be as worse as the way en route to it. Speaking of personal transit, a flat tire can stop you from reaching the entrance. Other uncontrollable events are delayed connecting flights, inclement weather, and altercations in transferring flights (like some kid's tantrum causing a major disruption).

So, what can you, as a flyer (first time or frequent), do to sidestep one of the most common airport problems. If you happen to miss your plane, what should you do?

Avoiding Missed Flights

If you want to avoid the tragic mistake of missing your plane to your vacation spot or nearest city to your relative's funeral, it's pretty easy to avoid it if you follow those simple steps.

Check Your Departure Dates and Times

I can't stress that enough. It's vitally important to check what day you should be at the airport and when the plane is leaving. Don't just check it once - check it again and again!

Find Reliable Transportation

Find someone reliable to take you to the airport. If you have the money, find a cab or coach and schedule a time to be picked up on the day of your flight. If you happen to be on a budget, find a reliable relative or friend to taxi you there. Tell him or her to pick you up at least 2-3 hours before your flight if domestic or 4-5 hours for international. Remember: your distance from the airport varies.

Check the Boarding Cutoff Times

The time you should board the plane before actual departure time varies by airline and airport. Go to the airline's website to find out the time you should be at the gate ready to board. Subtract the minutes before departure from the departure time and write the time you should be at the gate. Ideally be there at least 30 minutes before that. If it is 7:00 AM, plan to be there by 6:25, for instance.

Those People Should Have Been at the Boarding Gate at Least 15-30 Minutes Before Departure!

Pack this Lightly...

...and much earlier, to avoid having your airplane ditch you at the terminal!
...and much earlier, to avoid having your airplane ditch you at the terminal! | Source

Pack Carry-On Luggage Lightly and Safely

Not only does it help you save your back and posture, but packing your carry-on luggage lightly and orderly is also crucial to get you through security faster.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) recommends that you put your liquid and gel products (including sunscreen, concealer, or tube lip gloss) in a separate bag: 3 ounces or smaller containers, 1-quart-size, clear, zip-top bag that can hold them all, and one per traveler who will put that bag of liquids in the security bin. It's called the 3-1-1 rule. Also, keep in mind what not to pack, too!

Pack Your Regular Luggage Earlier

Save some grief by allowing yourself to pack your bags at least 3 days prior to the day of your flight. It helps you get what you need and with less trouble. When in doubt, make a list of what you need to pack. Also, know what things are prohibited to pack in your bags!

Early to Bed, Early to Rise

Nothing's more important than sleeping earlier and waking up earlier. Oversleeping is one of the most common reasons why people miss flights. Set your bedtime earlier than usual and set your alarm clock to a set time. This is especially important for early morning flights.

Save Your Shopping Until You Find Your Gate!

Find your boarding gate before heading to the stores or restaurants.
Find your boarding gate before heading to the stores or restaurants. | Source

Arrive at the Airport Early

How early should you arrive at the airport before a flight? Most travel experts say that 2-3 hours before departure is ideal, while a few others say that 1½ hours before that is good. But the TSA has its recommendations:

...we recommend that domestic passengers arrive at the airport at least two hours prior to their flight. International passengers are encouraged to allow additional time and to check with the air carrier.

As for international ones, be there at least 3-4 hours. If you happen to live near a particularly busy airport, such as international airports in the Chicago, Los Angeles, or New York metro areas, arrive at least 3 hours before domestic or 4 hours before international departures. Do the same with peak seasons, such as the holidays.

Find the Boarding Gate First

Save yourself some grief after passing security by finding the boarding gate before doing something else to kill time once at the airport. Find a spot to sit as close to the check-in and mark it. Don't waste time by idling at the nearby shops for that lovely piece of jewelry only to miss your plane!

Check the Boards

It's critical to check the gate boards for departure times. Take the time to do so frequently to notify yourself for changes at the gate (delays, cancellations, etc.). Don't just rely on your watch or cell phone to see if it's time to go.

Remember: Don't Scream When You've Missed Your Flight! Please Just Keep Calm and Polite!

What if You Missed A Flight?

Admit it: you're not a happy camper when your airplane to Orlando International Airport for that magical family Disney vacation or that jet to Seattle, WA, to your niece's wedding ditches you in the terminal! Here are some steps that can keep you sane at the airport.

Calm the Peas Down!

Airport staff and airline agents won't really help you if you panic, rant, or throw a huge fit. Do something that can calm you down. Try inhaling into your belly through the nose, holding it for a few moments, and exhaling through your mouth. Do this several times until you feel calm.

If that does not help, try doing the Emotional Freedom Technique. It's a method of tapping at certain points on your body until you feel calm.

Ask For Options

Don't be afraid to ask the staff for options to make up for the missed flight. Tell them calmly, and see where can you go. Ask for alternate destinations closer to your vacation spot or hometown.

Have Money Nearby When Rebooking

Your airline might charge you a rebooking fee. Please have enough money (or credit cards) on hand and nearby when rebooking your flight. If you're on a budget, ask for options to find the cheaper choice. Don't forget to thank the staff.

Next Flight Longer than One Day?

Stay at an airport hotel!
Stay at an airport hotel! | Source

Find Something to do and/or Stay at a Hotel

The time waiting for your nearly rebooked flight is the best time to go shopping or get a spa treatment. If it's more than a day, don't be afraid to stay at an airport hotel (if your airport has one), no matter how bad it is.

Finally, Listen to Your Flight Announcement So You Won't Have to Miss that Darn Plane Again!

That’s all I can say on this advice!

Air travel experts don’t care if you are a first-time flyer or a frequent one, but missing a flight can be avoidable as well as manageable in the right circumstances. It’s as simple as being on time and staying calm.


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    • Thelma Alberts profile image

      Thelma Alberts 6 years ago from Germany

      Very useful hub. Thanks for sharing.