What Happens if I Don’t Show Up for a Flight? (Guide)

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When things don’t go according to plan, you might find yourself running late for your flight. You might be eligible for some form of reimbursement or a seat on the next flight depending on the reason you missed your flight, the airline you booked with, and the type of ticket you booked. However, if you don’t let the airline know that you won’t make it, you’ll most likely lose the total value of your ticket and might even be placed on a no-show list.

In this article, we will go in-depth about the steps you must follow if you miss your flight, reasons that can get you some form of reimbursement from the airline, how to get reimbursed, and what you should know about cancellation fees.

What Would Happen if I Wouldn’t Show Up for My Flight and Wouldn’t Notify the Airline?

If you decide not to contact your airlines to tell them you’ll miss your flight, you will lose the full value of your ticket and might be added to the airline’s no-show list. Airlines usually penalize passengers on the no-show list by banning them from flying with the airline for a given period, canceling the rest of their itinerary, or canceling their airline miles.

You’ll also stand no chance of having them reschedule you for the next flight. This is why it’s always advised to call your airline and tell them that you’ll miss your flight. Even after the plane has already taken off, it’s advised to notify your airline as soon as possible, because the sooner you notify them, the higher chances you have of getting some kind of reimbursement.

Reasons When You Get Reimbursed for a Missed Flight

Loss of a Family Member

If you’re mourning the loss of a family member, you’ll get reimbursed the total value of your flight by any airline because this unfortunate event is out of your control. With that being said, it’s important to inform them as early as possible. You might need to show some kind of proof that your family member passed away, such as a death certificate. The airline will tell you what documents are needed specifically after calling them.

Serious Illness

If you can’t attend your flight because you fell seriously ill, you can get reimbursed for your ticket or reschedule your flight date to when you think you’ll get better.

For this scenario, you need to get a doctor’s certificate to prove you are sick. Due to COVID, millions have unexpectedly missed their flights after testing positive. A passenger can move their flight to another day if they prove they tested positive because the law prohibits them from flying while having COVID.

Catastrophes, Storms, and Other Major Force Majeure Reasons

Events like natural disasters can make it impossible to arrive at the airport on time or even leave your house. In such scenarios, you are eligible for full reimbursement for your ticket value, or the airline will move your flight date to the nearest date available.

Reasons When You Won’t Get Reimbursed for a Missed Flight

Missing the Flight on Purpose

It does not make sense to miss your flight on purpose and not inform the airlines (unless you’re hidden-city-ticketing), but if you feel like doing that, the airline will not go out of its way to reimburse you. So if you had no valid reason for missing your flight, you won’t get any reimbursements.

Read Next: Is Skipping a Part of Your Flight a Good Idea?

Missing the Flight Unintentionally and Not Showing Up at the Airport at All

There are several scenarios where you could end up missing your flight unintentionally. Some of these scenarios might be valid to get you some reimbursement if you show up at the airport soon after the flight has taken off and explain yourself. However, you lose all of your chances to get any form of reimbursement or a rescheduled flight if you miss your flight, do not show up at the airport, and don’t notify the airline.

So next time you think you won’t be able to make it to your flight on time, make sure you show up at the airport as soon as possible, and notify the airline, especially if you think your excuse is valid.

Missing the Flight Due to Not Having the Right Travel Documentation

If you missed your flight because you forgot crucial documents like your passport or visa, you would not get any reimbursement from your airline. Preparing a checklist before leaving your home to catch your flight is advised. Always double-check that you have all your documents and that they are valid before you book your flight. If your documents have expired or will expire soon, you should plan to get them renewed to avoid complications when your flight date is near. Usually, most countries require passports and ID cards to be valid for at least 6-12 months at the date of entry.

This is especially important during the pandemic, because countries now require much more documentation, such as negative test results, vaccination cards, and health forms, and the required documents may change on a daily basis. So always make sure to double-check everything on the previous day of your flight.

Most Major Airlines Have an Unofficial “Flat Tire” Policy

The “flat tire” policy is derived from the situation where a person misses their flight because they had a flat on the way to the airport. But in airport lingo, this policy is used to describe other reasons as well. Nowadays, the term is being used for missing your flight by a few minutes (usually 30 minutes or less) due to unexpected events, like crazy traffic jams, checkpoints on the way to the airport, or long lines at the airport.

The “flat tire” policies of airlines are usually very vague. That’s because each case is different, and they aren’t obliged to refund you anything. Essentially, a “flat tire” policy just allows their customer service agents to refund or reschedule based on their own judgment, if the customer missed the flight by a short time due to reasons out of their own control.

Each airline has a different “flat tire” policy, but in general – the more expensive the airline, the more likely you’ll be able to get a reimbursement. Airlines aren’t obliged to have these policies, so if you’re flying with a budget airline, you most likely won’t get a refund, even if you didn’t miss the flight on purpose.

What’s “Hidden City Ticketing” and Why Do Airlines Punish Those Who Do It

Hidden city ticketing, also known as a point beyond ticketing, is when a passenger books a flight with a layover but intends to end their flight at the layover point instead of the final destination. The main reason a passenger would do that is if the flight ticket is cheaper when booking a connecting flight that stops by the desired city instead of booking a direct flight to that city.

Hidden city ticketing can be a good idea only if you are trying to miss the last leg of your flight. This means that if you booked a round trip and try to skip the second leg of your flight, the airline will cancel all the remaining flights under that ticket (return trip included). So keep that in mind if you decide to skip a flight to reduce your cost because if it is poorly planned, it can cost you more or get you banned from flying with that airline.

Hidden city ticketing is not illegal, but airlines usually punish such behavior by canceling your airline miles because if you miss your next flight, they are losing money if they can’t fill your seat before the flight. Because of this, airlines usually hesitate to give you your checked luggage during a layover so that you don’t skip your next flight.

Bonus tip: Travel only with a carry-on and personal item to prevent the risk of having your checked luggage going to your final destination without you.

What Will Happen to Your Luggage if You Don’t Show Up for the Second Leg of the Flight?

The second leg of a flight is the second flight you take in a connecting flight. Usually, the airline automatically checks your luggage for your next flight if both flights were booked on the same ticket. However, the new rule is that your luggage cannot reach the final destination without you. This law was established due to the fear of terrorist attacks, so the bag could not be transferred if the bag owner did not board the plane.

This means that if you decide to miss the second leg of your flight or you did it by accident, the airport will look for your luggage and take it out of the plane. You usually can claim it at the “lost property” or “luggage services” after the second flight has taken off. That said, it’s important to note that this policy isn’t always enforced, so sometimes your checked bag will fly without you anyway, even if it’s against the law.

Tip: If you want to be extra cautious, attach a GPS tracker to your checked luggage. This way, you can track it from anywhere in the airport. It’s especially helpful if your luggage is stolen or lost.

Read next: The Ultimate Guide to Rechecking Luggage on Connecting Flights

Will You Get Charged for Canceling a Flight or Not Showing Up?

You usually lose the full value of your flight for canceling a flight or not showing up without a valid reason. The only exception for that is if you have a Flex ticket. If you book a flex ticket, you can change your flight date or cancel your flight after you purchase your ticket. Some premium airlines also have flexible cancellation policies, so you might be able to change your flight for free.

You can cancel your ticket online, via phone, or in person at the airport. The cancellation fee varies between airlines, the type of ticket, and whether you booked a domestic or international flight. Most US airlines charge around 75 USD for cancellation on a domestic flight, but it can go up to a whopping 400 USD for canceling an international flight.

It’s important to note though, that you won’t be charged any additional costs – you’ll just lose the full value of your ticket.

Should You Cancel a Flight and Notify the Airline or Simple Not Show Up at the Airport?

For an economy ticket, you will get back some value for your ticket after it covers your cancellation fee. Your points will be transferred to your next fight with the airline and will be valid for a year. But if you don’t notify the airline, you’ll lose all the value of your ticket and risk getting penalized. If you think you cannot show up at the airport because you are ill or too far, try to notify the airlines by phone.

Even if the cancellation fee is higher than the cost of the ticket itself, call the airline and let them know that you won’t be able to make it, to avoid getting included on the no-show list.

Final Words

If you think that you won’t be able to make it in time for your flight, you should always call the airline and notify them. If the reason was beyond your control and you called them soon enough, you might even be rebooked for the next flight without any additional charges. If you’re planning on missing the flight intentionally, you might be penalized by the cancellation of your frequent flyer points, or even banned from future flights (although this happens extremely rarely). That’s why it’s always advised to think up a reason why you couldn’t make it and explain it to the airline as soon as you can.

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