I’m not a frequent flier, but I’m a seasoned one. Most of my travels have involved long-haul flights and lengthy layovers. As I look back, I realize I’ve done most of my travelling in the winter—one of the trickiest times of year if you’re passing through snowy countries with a tendency for storms and blizzards. While I’ve never been stranded at the airport, I have had the misfortune of missing connecting flights.

If you’ve ever missed your connection, you’ll be able to relate to how panic-inducing it can be. Luckily, there are ways to escape this hassle. Here’s how to avoid missing connecting flights or getting stranded at the airport.

Group of people walking through an airport.
Walking through an airport terminal.

Tips and Advice to Avoid Missing Connecting Flights

1. Extend the time between your flight connections

Not leaving enough time between connecting flights while booking them is a rookie mistake. While it may seem more convenient and quicker to have an hour wait between connections, keep in mind that delays are always possible.

Travelling in the winter is an especially dicey time to take risks with short intervals between connections. Ensure you have at least 3 hours between your connecting flights when flying internationally. Some airports are massive and have various terminals, so give yourself enough time if you need to catch a shuttle to the next wing.

Remember to take other factors into account. You’ll likely have to go through a security check again, so ensuring enough time between connections is always necessary.

Quick tip: Make sure you’re at the right terminal. Don’t feel shy—when in doubt, ask for help!

2. Opt for non-stop flights when possible

Non-stop flights are the way to go, especially when travelling in the winter. Not only do you save time, you won’t run the risk of missing connecting flights. You also have a better chance of avoiding getting stranded at the airport.

Keep in mind that non-stop and direct flights are different. Non-stop flights are just that—non-stop. However, direct flights may involve a stop-over at an airport for refueling or other purposes. In this case, you may have to disembark and re-board.

Traveller sitting in a plane reading a magazine.

3. Pay attention to the timing

Morning flights are typically less busy and experience fewer delays, so they’re a top recommendation by many experienced travellers. However, do factor the flight’s estimated arrival at the first leg of your trip.

Between 7-10 pm is considered “rush hour” for most airports, which could lead to longer waits on the tarmac. So, even if the flight is on time, missing connecting flights is definitely possible if delayed while leaving the plane.

Quick tip: Make sure you inform the flight attendant about your connecting flight. It’s not always a guarantee, but they may be able to pull some strings, or help you disembark sooner.

4. Make friends with the weather channel

Make sure you keep an eye on the weather at your connecting flight’s destination, especially when travelling in the winter. If the weather is especially bad, check with the airline to see if you can be rerouted. This way, you can avoid getting stranded at the airport if flights happen to get cancelled or grounded at the connecting airport.

5. Avoid the last connecting flight

When booking your flights, be mindful of your connections. While it may not always be within your power, try to avoid booking the last connection of the day. The reason is straightforward: Since it’s the last connection, you could be stranded at the airport until the next available flight.

6. Book your flights on the same ticket

There can be some confusion when it comes to connecting flights. Simply put, a flight is considered to be ‘connecting’ when it’s booked under one itinerary or one confirmation number.

If you’ve booked flights on separate tickets, airlines aren’t obligated to help you rebook a flight if you miss the next one. If you have separate tickets and miss your flight due to a delay on your first leg of travel, it could spell trouble. This is because it’s viewed as arriving late to the airport—holding you accountable.

The airlines aren’t likely partners or part of an alliance, if you’ve booked flights on separate tickets, which means you could be on your own as they aren’t obligated to help you rebook a new flight. You may also have to buy new tickets, or pay applicable penalties or cancellation fees.

Man holding a brief case and boarding pass

Final words of advice

  • If you do miss a connection, speak with your airline’s ground staff immediately. They could put you on standby, reroute you, or rebook you for the next available flight. If you’ll be waiting a while, check to see if the airline can put you up in a hotel room, or cover other costs.
  • Sit closer to the front to avoid getting delayed when disembarking—time’s ticking!
  • While it’s never happened to me, I’ve heard of instances where you may be required to fetch your luggage at baggage claim at the connecting airport and put it through again. To avoid the hassle and save time, opt for travelling with a carry-on. Here are a few tips for travelling with only carry-on luggage. If you cannot avoid it, confirm with check-in staff that you’d like to claim your luggage at your final destination.

Missing connecting flights is a traveller’s worst nightmare, so an important takeaway from this is to always protect yourself with a good travel insurance policy. Trip Cancellation and Interruption insurance will reimburse you in the event your trip or a part of it gets cancelled due to an eligible reason.

Worried about missing a flight? Learn more about trip cancellation and interruption insurance. If you’ve never purchased coverage before, here’s how to buy travel insurance that’s right for you. Be sure to contact your local insurance broker about your travel insurance options.

Bon voyage,


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Tips to Avoid Missing Connecting Flights and Being Stranded at the Airport

Sep 22 2015