Missing your connecting flight is one of the worst things that can happen to you when you travel by plane: you're stuck between your destination and your point of departure, you're likely to spend more money than planned, and you may not know what to do to save your trip.
The good news is that you might be able to claim compensation for your missed connection.
The problems? You don't know for sure if you're entitled to compensation - and even when you are, you might still get tricked into accepting an offer inferior to what you are legally entitled to.
This is what (almost) happened to Chris: when he missed his connection to get back to New York, he was told that he couldn't get anything from the airline. Worse: he had to pay for another ticket by himself!
Well, actually, Chris got home without spending another dollar - and a couple of month later, he even received a 600€ compensation!
This complete step-by-step guide will walk you through the exact process that you need to follow to get the best of the situation if, like Chris, you miss your connection at the airport.
Better than that: with the "OTAREU" method, you'll know instantly whether you're entitled to compensation or not!
Can I Get a Compensation When I Miss My Connecting Flight?
Pre-requisites to compensation
We found that the easiest way to remember whether you're entitled to compensation when you miss you connection is to make sure that the "OTAREU" conditions are met. The acronym stands for:
- One Ticket (OT)
- Airline's Responsibility (AR)
- European Union (EU)
You were travelling on One Ticket only (OT)
EU law also requires that your tickets were booked under the same reservation number. This is also known as flying on a "through ticket". In other words, you have a single ticket for your entire journey, even if it includes several legs.
It was the Airline's Responsibility (AR)
To be eligible under the EU Regulation 261/2004, you must have missed your connection because of the airline. For instance, when you missed your plane because of the delay or cancellation of your first flight, or because you were denied boarding.
Here, the concept of Minimum Connecting Time applies: each airport specifies a minimum amount of time that is required for you to catch a connection there. If you have less time to board the next plane than the MCT as a result of the delay of the first flight, you may be eligible.
The itinerary was part of the EU jurisdiction (EU)
Your right to compensation for a missed connection is also dependent on your journey and whether EC 261 is applicable or not.
As illustrated above, EU law applies for:
- Flights within the European Union, no matter the nationality of the airline which operated them
- Flights departing in the EU and arriving outside the community, no matter the nationality of the airline
- Flights departing out of the EU and arriving inside the EU, but only if the operating airline has its headquarters in the EU
As pointed out on europa.eu:
"EU means the 28 EU countries , including Guadeloupe, French Guiana, Martinique, Réunion Island, Mayotte, Saint-Martin (French Antilles), the Azores, Madeira and the Canary Islands as well as Iceland, Norway and Switzerland"
How much am I entitled to?
Your missed connection compensation varies based on the distance of your whole journey, not only the part of your journey that was disrupted.
For instance, let's imagine that you were flying from New York to Paris with a connection in London, with British Airways. Because the flight from New York to London is delayed, you miss your connection and arrive in Paris, your final destination more than 3 hours late.
In this case, you are entitled to 600€, even though the distance between London and Paris is less than 1500km. That's because the compensation amount is based on your whole journey, not only the leg which you missed.
Remember Chris, at the beginning of this post? He was travelling back from his vacations in Athens, Greece. His itinerary included a connection in Paris, which he missed.
If Paris had been his final destination, he would "only" have been eligible to 400€, because the distance between Paris and Athens is between 1,500km and 3,500km. But because he was heading back to New York, he was actually entitled to 600€.
Note that if the flight were operated by different airlines (but were still booked under the same reservation), the airline responsible for paying your missed connection compensation is the one which caused the event in the first place.
When Am I Not Eligible For Compensation Even If I Missed My Flight?
As for classic cancelled and delayed flight compensation cases, airlines can waive their responsibility and avoid paying compensation when the disruption was the result of extraordinary circumstances.
These include most notably impracticable weather conditions (e.g. bad weather such as heavy snow), air traffic control restrictions, security issues (e.g. a fire at the airport), or airport strikes.
Read more about extraordinary circumstances and flight compensation.
Keep in mind, however, that airlines tend to lie or abuse the meaning of extraordinary circumstances to avoid paying compensation to their passengers. For instance, a "technical issue" is not regarded as an extraordinary circumstance by the EU Regulation and should give you right to compensation.
You can read more on the topic in these two posts:
- Airline Strikes: You Might Get a Compensation for Your Disrupted Flight
- Can I get a Compensation When My Flight is Delayed or Canceled Because of Bad Weather? Maybe.
You were travelling on 2 separate tickets
If you booked two separate tickets, you're not eligible to compensation. That's because when you do so, you are responsible for catching your connection in time, whereas when you book a single ticket for several legs, the airline is responsible for providing you the conditions allowing you to take your next flight.
This applies even if both flights are within the jurisdiction of the EU law. So when you book your tickets, make sure to either:
- book a single ticket for the whole journey, or
- book separate tickets only if the time to transfer from one flight to the next is long enough to account for potential delays or mishaps
The part of your journey that caused the disruption isn't under the EU law's jurisdiction
What happens when the connection took place out of the EU and the airline isn't based in the EU? Courts have long had different interpretations of the Regulation for this specific case.
Let's imagine a flight from San Francisco (SFO) to London (LHR), with a connection in New York (JFK). The first leg is operated by Delta Airlines, while the second one is operated by British Airways.
If the first flight from SFO to JFK is delayed, causing you to miss your connection, you are not eligible to compensation, because the EU law doesn't apply in this case. Even though it does for the second flight.
Note that at the end of May 2018, the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU), previously European Court of Justice (ECJ), ruled in favor of air passengers. A statement reads that when:
"two (or more) flights are booked as a single unit, those flights constitute a whole for the purposes of the right to compensation for passengers. Those flights must therefore be considered as one and the same connecting flight."
The ruling applied to the case of a woman travelling from Berlin, Germany to Agadir, Morocco. The flight was operated by Royal Air Maroc and included a stopover in Casablanca, Morocco.
This means that airlines now have to pay compensation when the connection point was out of the EU and the flight was operated by a non-EU airline.
It was your own responsibility
It should go without saying, but when the missed connection as of your own doing, you are not entitled to compensation.
For instance, if you didn't have the required documents for your second flight, like a needed visa, and are denied boarding as a result, the airline doesn't owe you compensation. The same goes if you didn't reach the gate in time even though the MCT was respected.
Note that in some cases, it's hard to judge whose responsibility it was - courts usually give their decision on a case by case basis.
I Missed My Connection: What Do I Do Now?
So, you're at the airport and miss your connection. You'll have time to think about the OTAREU method later to determine whether you're entitled to a compensation.
The priority right now is to get you to your destination.
Ask to be rebooked right away...
If you manage to get first in line at the counter and speak to an airline representative, good for you! Stay there, keep calm (the delay is surely not this person’s fault and they’ll be more willing to help you if you’re polite), and the airline should be able to find you another flight.
If other passengers are already there before you, don’t bother waiting in line and call the airline straight away. You’re more likely to find a substitute flight over the phone than by waiting for an hour in line.
Alternatively, if the airline is incapable of providing you a replacement flight, consider booking one yourself. If you do, make sure to keep the receipt with you: the airline is supposed to refund their cost (more on that in our complete guide to claiming flight compensations).
... Or get a refund and a flight back to your airport of departure
If, following the missed connection, the airline was unable to provide you with a replacement flight to get you to your destination, you are entitled to a refund along with a flight back to your point of origin, free of charge (provided that the aforementioned conditions are respected too).
This is similar to what EC 261 states about cancelled flights.
Delayed more than 2 hours? Enforce your right to care
If the wait until your next flight (either re-routing to your destination or back to where you cane from) lasts more than 2 hours, the airline is also supposed to provide you with refreshment, food, a phone call and free access to the internet.
If you still haven’t been rebooked to another flight before 6:00pm and get a seat on a flight during the night or on the next day, the airline must provide hotel accommodation as well as the means to go from the hotel to the airport and vice versa: it's all part of your air passenger rights, so be sure to have them enforced!
Prepare to claim compensation
As you now know, whether you bought your tickets on the same reservation or separately will determine your right to compensation. It's also important that the flight be under the jurisdication of the EU law and that the airline be responsible for the missed connection.
From then on, you are entitled to compensation, whether you accepted a replacement flight to your destination or a flight back to your pint of departure. The amount, however, varies depending on the scenario.
You can claim a missed connection compensation of:
- 250€ for flights up to 1,500km or 125€ if you arrived within 2 hours of your original flight time;
- 400€ for flights of a distance between 1,500 and 3,500km or 200€ if you arrived within 3 hours of your scheduled arrival time;
- 600€ for flights over 3,500km or 300€ if you arrived within 4 hours of your original arrival time.
If the airline did not provide a replacement flight, you are entitled to the full amount:
- 250€ for flights less than 1,500km
- 400€ for flights between 1,500 and 3,500km
- 600€ for flights longer than 3,500km
Here's a handy summary:
Did that happened to you in the past 5 years? Submit your claim now!
Final Words on Missed Connections Compensations
Missing your connection can really ruin your trip - on the bright side, you can take advantage of the situation and get a flight compensation in exchange for your trouble.
If you choose to claim on your own, take a look at this complete guide.
OR just let us do all the work for you:
And don't forget to subscribe to the ClaimCompass newsletter: in addition to travel tips that you won't find on the blog, you'll get a free checklist to know if you're entitled to compensation from your airline!
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