If You Miss A Flight, See If Your Airline Uses The ‘Flat Tire Rule’

If You Miss A Flight, See If Your Airline Uses The ‘Flat Tire Rule’

Missing a flight can be a huge nightmare. It’s enough to send some customers into quite a tizzy. Before you throw a full-blown fit, check to see if your airline follows the little known “flat tire rule.” Photo by holgi.

Frugal travel site The Points Guy says that this is a casual policy most airlines don’t advertise. The site explains:

…mercifully, most airlines have long had quasi-official policies of waiving fare rules and change fees when passengers need to rebook a flight that they missed, presumably due to factors outside their own control…This policy is known as the “flat tire rule,” though you won’t find it on most airlines’ websites. Ironically, a flat tire is a mechanical failure, which is considered to be outside the control of customers (when driving their own car), even though aircraft maintenance delays are considered within the control of airlines.

Since the rule usually isn’t advertised, many people have no idea how to go about using it. The Points Guy lists the unofficial policies of a few airlines. Here’s American’s, for example:

American: According to USA Today, American has a Late Arrival Standby Policy that says that passengers who present themselves at the airport within two hours of departure can be re-accommodated on the next flight without paying change fees or fare increases, so long as the scheduled flight was not the last of the day. Sadly, the “Late Arrival Standby Policy” doesn’t exist on American’s website, so this seems to be an internally documented rule. For what it’s worth, US Airways has a similar policy (sometimes called the “two-hour rule”), although this brand will disappear later this year as it’s absorbed by American.

Since it’s not advertised, it’s probably one of those things that’s hit or miss, likely at the discretion of the employee you’re dealing with. But it’s worth looking into if you ever miss your flight. For more detail and to check out the policies of other airlines, head to the link below.

What To Do When You Miss Your Flight [The Points Guy]


    • I suspect they won’t advertise this either … but it’s likely similar to what’s in the piece above.

      I’ve been in a situation where a company booked me on a flight but got the date wrong. So I pitch up to the airport to find out that they were expecting me the day before. A small amount of begging saw me put on the next flight out with no additional expenses or fees to pay.

      Of course this is dependent on there being free seats or no-shows. Otherwise, you’re stuck there no matter how charitable the airline +/- staff might feel.

      Edit – this was with Qantas.

  • I missed a flight once on a US carrier and called to explain that I wouldnt be able to make the flight, they told me there was nothing they could do so I hung up and called back and told them my grandmother was sick and they changed my flight NQA

  • When we were travelling from London to Paris on the train, we missed our train because we got on to the wrong connecting train (right train & platform, except the train went to the opposite direction :/). My wife went up to the ticketing counter, chucked on the puppy dog eyes and pleaded to let us on the next train to Paris.

    The officer was nice enough to put us on the next one at no charge (we would have had to pay 100 pounds each). On the system he noted that our connecting train was “delayed” so he wouldn’t get in trouble.

    • Having flown twice a week for 4 years I can confirm this. I even missed the last flight of the day, and they put me on the first the next day, no charge (sure I had to pay for airport accom, but that was cheaper than a whole flight, or the taxi home, then back again)

  • Probably the best advice is to admit some sort of fault and be as nice and thankful to the person at the counter as possible. Despite what they say, they do get a lot of leeway to try and get you where you need to go but a lot of times it can depend on their mood and how you treat them. Other times there is nothing they can do because all of the flights were full or they already shifted a lot of other passengers, etc. In that case, say thank you for their help and go find the ticket counter and just suck it up.

  • On an International flight, where there is typically one flight per day with that carrier?
    Missed it because your connecting flight was delayed / cancelled?

    This is why you have travel insurance.

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