What Happens If You Miss Your Connection Because Of A Flight Delay?

Flight delay led to a missed connection? We dive into EU passenger rights, from compensation amounts to alternative flight options, to help you navigate this travel hiccup.

Ah, air travel—the gift that keeps on giving, especially when your first flight is delayed and you end up missing your next one.

Welcome to the club.

But before you throw your carry-on in despair, take a deep breath. I've got the 101 on what you can do when you miss your connecting flight and what you're entitled to, thanks to the tangled web of air passenger rights.
Think of this as your "get out of travel hell free" card, or at least a less painful layover in airport purgatory. So grab that airport sandwich and read on.

TL;DR: What you must know when you miss your connection because of a flight delay:
- Under the EU Regulation 261/2004 (EC261), you're often entitled to missed connection compensation if the delay wasn't your fault or due to extraordinary circumstances.
- The EU law may apply even if part of your journey doesn’t include Europe.
- To be eligible, all your flights must be under the same booking…
- … and you must reach your final destination 3 hours late or more
- The compensation amount varies depending on the distance of the entire journey and the length of the delay
- You may get a refund and/or an alternate flight in addition to the compensation

Your Passenger Rights When You Miss Your Connection Because Of A Flight Delay

Don’t panic. I've got you covered with the ins and outs of passenger rights, which, believe me, are a lot less complex than trying to figure out what's really in airline food.

When can I get missed connection compensation?

For you to be eligible, you must be delayed at your final destination by at least three hours. Even if your initial flight is delayed by less than 3h, if you don’t have enough time to catch your connecting flight because of the first flight’s delay, you may be entitled to compensation.

Also, it’s crucial that the flight delay was within the airline’s control. If it’s the airline's fault, bingo—you've hit the compensation jackpot. But if you're delayed due to extraordinary circumstances like bad weather or air traffic control issues, unfortunately, you won’t get compensated. More on that later.

Note that although your right to compensation relies on EC261, you may be eligible if you’re traveling from the European Union to the outside the EU (including the US), or from a departure airport outside the EU to the EU (if you’re traveling with a European airline, like Lufthansa, KLM, or British Airways).

How much compensation can you get for a missed connection?

The amount of compensation you can get varies depending on the distance of your flight and the length of the delay. The compensation amount ranges from €250 to €600:

  • Flights under 1,500 km: 250 euros
  • Flights between 1,500 and 3,500 km: 400 euros
  • Flights over 3,500 km: 600 euros

Now, to be fair, there are some subtleties: you might want to check our page on missed connection compensation.

How to claim compensation for a missed flight?

To claim compensation for your missed connecting flight, keep all the documents: boarding pass, booking confirmation, and any communication with the airline.

Then, file a claim directly with the airline, or via experts like ClaimCompass.

If they decide to act like it’s not their fault, you can escalate it to a national enforcement body. Rest assured that if you have a valid claim under the appropriate passenger rights regulation, we will get your money for you.

Remember, airlines might try to give you vouchers. You have the right to demand cold, hard cash—or, more likely, a bank transfer.

Missed Connection: When Are You Not Eligible

Extraordinary circumstances

Extraordinary circumstances are like the airline industry's "get out of jail free" card. We’re talking about things like bad weather (“adverse weather conditions”, to be more specific), air traffic control issues, or other “unforeseeable events” that are genuinely not the airline’s fault, not within their control. In these cases, since the reason for your missed flight connection doesn’t fall within their responsibility, you won't get compensation.

But, under EC261, you might still get some assistance, like refreshments or overnight accommodation. More on that later.

Missed connection for personal reasons

Life has a way of throwing curveballs. Family emergencies, sudden illness, or even just losing track of time—these things happen to the best of us.

That said, it's important to know that if you're responsible for missing your connection due to personal reasons, the airline won't provide compensation, because EC261 doesn’t plan for it. It's a tough spot to be in, but you're not completely out of options. We do offer helpful guidance on how to handle a missed connecting flight in our FAQ section.

Can I get a refund if I miss my connection because of a flight delay?

The good news is yes, you can often get a refund if the airline's at fault and you decide not to travel further. Under EC261, you can be reimbursed after a 5-hour delay, in cases of flight cancellations, or when you are denied boarding because the flight was overbooked.

This applies to connecting flights as well if you have to wait more than 5 hours for your replacement flight. When this happens, the airline must refund you the cost of the journey you did not make and provide you with a return flight back to your departure airport. If your journey no longer serves its original purpose, you may also receive a refund for the first part of your journey.

Can I get an alternate flight when I miss my connection because of a flight delay?

If you miss your connecting flight due to a delay, the airline usually has to rebook you on the next available flight. Now, "available" is a loose term here, and “next possible flight” is certainly more accurate. Don't expect to get on the next flight if it’s fully booked. But they should get you to your final destination as soon as they can, even if that means on a later flight. Now, be aware that sometimes, the next available flight won’t be on the same day. If that happens, the airline must provide you with a hotel room for the night at no extra cost to compensate for the flight disruption.

That being said, if you have to wait more than 5 hours for your next flight, you may choose to get a refund instead, along with a return flight to your point of departure, at no extra cost.

Your right to care: additional services and benefits at the airport

Under EC261, if you have to wait longer than 2h for your next flight, airlines are supposed to offer you refreshments and a meal (it might be a meal voucher). You also have a right to wi-fi access and at least two phone calls.

After a 6h delay or in case of a forced overnight stay, you’re entitled to hotel accommodation. Yep, you read that right. So even if you're stuck in a layover purgatory, you might at least get a hotel room and some food out of it. Don’t expect a five-star meal, though—airline vouchers usually don’t cover champagne wishes or caviar dreams.

What should I do if I miss my connecting flight because of a delay?

Firstly, contact the airline. They’re your first port of call for rebooking your flight. Keep all of your documents, like boarding passes and booking confirmations. If you have travel insurance (which you should), contact your travel agent or insurance provider as well.

Then, go to the airline counter or customer service to sort out the next steps. If they offer you an alternative flight that’s departing later than you'd like, check other airlines. Sometimes, especially in Europe, there’s another flight to your destination within a couple of hours.

If there are no suitable options available, get the airline to provide you with a return ticket home and a refund for your journey.

Conclusion on missed connecting flights

And there you have it, everything you need to know about what happens when you miss a connecting flight because of a delay.

Keep in mind that if you ever run into such a painful travel experience, you have rights, and shouldn’t let the airline make you pay for it even more. When in doubt, reach out to us and we’ll help you claim compensation.

Until next time, safe travels, and may your flights be ever on time!


Can a delayed flight make you miss a connecting flight?

Oh, absolutely. Flight delays are like the chain reaction of the air travel world. One delayed flight can set off a cascade of missed connections, especially if you don't have plenty of time for your layover. Always plan accordingly, but acknowledge that it’s not entirely within your, nor the airlines’, control.

What happens if you miss your connection because of a flight delay?

If it’s the airline's fault, they usually have to rebook you on the next available flight to your final destination and may owe you compensation. Alternatively, you may get a refund and a flight back to your point of origin. If it’s not their fault or if you bought separate tickets for separate flights, you might need to rebook and pay for a new flight yourself.

What happens if I miss a connecting flight on purpose?

If you miss your connection on purpose, airlines usually consider you a "no show" and all bets are off. Most likely, you’ll need to book a new ticket at your own expense.

How to avoid missing a connection flight?

Ah, the magic question. Plan for layovers wisely, aim for at least a two-hour layover for domestic flights and three hours for international flights. Check in early and keep an eye on your initial flight's schedule. Also, knowing the minimum connection time can save you from making overly ambitious (or downright impossible) travel plans.

What is minimum connection time (MCT)?

Minimum Connection Time (MCT) is the shortest time interval required for a passenger to make a connection between flights. Airlines and airports set these, so check them while you're booking. Remember, MCT is the minimum—you’ll probably want more time than that to be safe.

Will my flight wait for me if my connecting flight is delayed?

Despite what romantic comedies may have led you to believe, planes generally don't wait for tardy passengers. There are exceptions, but don't count on it.

If I miss my connection, should I book my own replacement flight?

Only if the airline is unable to rebook you in a reasonable amount of time. Keep your receipts for reimbursement, but be cautious: airlines have varying policies about what "reasonable" means.

How do I know if my connecting flights were part of the same reservation?

Check your booking confirmation; if all flights are on one ticket or confirmation number, they’re on the same reservation. This makes you eligible for more protection and benefits if you miss your connecting flight.

But if you bought separate tickets for separate flights, you're probably not going to get much love from the airlines.

What if my connecting flights are operated by different airlines?

Ah, the complexities of modern air travel. If your flights are part of a single ticket, you’re generally covered. But if you booked separate tickets, each airline is only responsible for their leg of the journey.

Now, if several of your flights are operated by different airlines, but you’re traveling under the same booking number, you’re still entitled to compensation when missing your connecting flight because of the first one’s delay.

What is the time limit for making a missed connection compensation claim?

You usually have up to six years to make a claim for a missed connection in the United Kingdom. But many other European countries have different time limits. Don’t wait that long, it’s easier to get things sorted while details are fresh. But if you missed your connecting flight a while ago and are just learning about your rights now, you may yet get money back!

What happens if I miss my connection on a business trip?

Business travelers are also covered under EC261, so the same rules apply. Keep all your documents and make sure to pass them to your corporate travel department or whoever handles your business-related pain and suffering.

How to calculate distance for missed flight compensation claims?

Use an online flight distance calculator or check with the airline. The distance is important as it affects the amount of your compensation under EC261.

When it comes to claiming compensation for a missed connection, it's the whole enchilada—the entire length of your journey—that matters, not just the segment you missed. So, if the same airline operated earlier flights on your itinerary, those could also be considered when determining your compensation.

In simpler terms, if an airline messes up and causes you to miss a connection, they're typically on the hook for all their own segments, even those before the hiccup occurred. What's more, they might also be responsible for subsequent flights you miss, even if those are with different airlines.

Can I get an upgrade when I miss my connection because of a flight delay?

Technically, it's up to the airline's policies, but don't count on it. The priority is usually to get you to your destination, not to upgrade your experience, unfortunately.

By law, EC 261 says your new flight should be of a similar standard to your missed connection.

If you are offered an upgrade, the airline isn’t allowed to charge you anything extra. On the other hand, if the class of the alternative flight is lower, you can get a reimbursement of between 30-75% of the price you originally paid.