Navigating a Missed Connection: How It Affects Your Travel Policy

For anyone who has ever missed a connecting flight, it’s a sinking feeling. After all the planning, booking and packing, there are times when business travelers arrive in a connecting city – and don’t take off again as planned.

“It’s definitely not a time to panic,” says Jennifer Alford, Concur’s travel and expense administrator. “Missed connections happen – it could be bad weather, mechanical problems or even traveler error. How it affects the travel policy really depends on whose fault it is.”

There are two main instances that affect road warriors and their policies differently:

It was the airline’s fault.

 

When the culprit is related to the airline’s operations – usually maintenance delays – the carrier is on the hook to rebook you on the next available flight. Often, that means you’ll be flying standby if they are booked to capacity – and if several people on your original segment also missed the same connection, you’ll be jockeying for a seat.

“The airline can also move you to a partner carrier – they almost always have options to get you back up in the air,” says Alford. “If they can’t get you reconfirmed that day, they should provide overnight accommodation until you take off on the next available flight.” If you booked the flight through a travel agency or booking tool like Concur, a phone call can be helpful in moving the process along. If you booked directly with the airline, however, you will have to deal with their service desk.

When the airline is at fault, your company’s travel policy isn’t affected. You shouldn’t be charged rebooking fees or overnight accommodation. The situation gets a little stickier when travelers cause the missed connection.

It was the business traveler’s fault.

 

There could be a million good reasons you missed your connecting flight. Maybe your road to the airport was clogged from an accident. Maybe the gate was impossible to find. Whatever the circumstance, be prepared to pay.

“When the missed connection is due to traveler error, you are at the mercy of the airline. Which means you may be required to pay a ticket change fee when rebooking,” says Alford.

And in general, overnight accommodations, food, transportation and other fees may come out of your pocket, depending on your travel policy.

“This situation doesn’t happen very often, but when it does, I leave it between the manager and the traveler to decide what can be expensed,” says Alford. “There are so many reasons people could miss flights – care and discretion should be taken by managers on a case-by-case basis.”

It was the weather’s fault.

Storms, strikes or “acts of God” definitely blur the line of responsibility for missed flights – at least in the eyes of the airlines. It’s a contentious issue, but language in the contract of carriage – the long, legal document that governs ticket purchases – has become increasingly vague on this topic in recent years.

So what can be done in cases of natural disasters? Or even man-made ones?

“Before you fly out on your original segment, we’ll generally know if a storm is brewing or a pilot’s strike is imminent. When we know these things in advance, we recommend our travelers rebook their connecting city, change carriers – do everything they can to avoid problems in the first place,” says Alford.

If you do get stuck for several hours or days through no fault of your own (or the airline’s), don’t fret. Your travel policy should cover your expenses in these extreme cases, and the carriers usually don’t charge rebooking fees for weather-related cancellations.

“In my experience, the airlines will do all they can to ensure that you are back in the air as quickly as possible,” says Alford. “We always advocate asking about options at the service counter and leveraging frequent flier status if you have it – and if you don’t, it’s time to join a program for this very reason.”

What did you do when you missed your connection? Tweet us @Concur and tell us your story.

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