What to Do If You’ll Miss Your Flight or Have a Tight Connection

If you’ve ever found yourself sprinting to the airport because you’re late for a flight or biting your nails on the tarmac because of a tight connection, here are a few pieces of advice that could give you the few precious minutes you need to catch your flight.

Anyone who’s booked a tight connection through Heathrow knows that every second counts!


Take a taxi, unless the train or bus is extremely close and reliable


(Image: Wikipedia)

Perhaps this is obvious, but unless the train or bus station is literally next door and you know exactly how it works, take a taxi. The costs of rebooking and possibly an extra hotel night if there are no other options that day will easily outweigh the cost of that fare. Taxi drivers in most cities know the streets well and will push the limits if you’re in a hurry, seeking a good tip. Don’t disappoint them.

Return the rental car half full and don’t wait for the receipt

If you have a rental car and are THAT pressed for time, you can bring the car back will less than a full tank and jump immediately to the rental car shuttle/train. It is polite and good practice to wait for the car to be inspected and the receipt to be printed, but if the shuttle only goes every 15 minutes, you might not be able to afford to wait for the next one. If you have elite status with the car rental company, they MAY even waive or reduce the amount you’re charged for the missing fuel.

Check In Online and get mobile boarding pass before 60 minute cutoff - Screenshot it

screenshot reservationParticularly for US departures, but certainly possible abroad, try to check in online and get a mobile boarding pass before you hit T-60 minutes. Many airline systems will lock check-in out after that, so even if you arrive at the counter 59 or 45 minutes prior to departure, there’s nothing that the agent or kiosk can do for you.

Once you have a boarding pass, screenshot it. You can’t afford to wait for the airport Wi-Fi to connect and don’t want to be caught in a dead zone when you’re trying to show your boarding pass at security. A screenshot on your phone will do just as well.

Reconfigure luggage that was originally going to be checked

If you’re running late, remember that checked bags take more time (typically 45-60 minutes) to get to the aircraft than hand luggage (doors typically close 10-20 minutes before departure). If you can turn three bags into two, saving the need to check a bag, do this in the hotel or (if you can) in the cab.

Store all non-essential accessories in your carry on while in the cab.

Likewise, take off all jewelry, belts, jackets and other metal and put in your carry on and make sure your liquids are easily accessible. You don’t want to miss your flight because of the extra 5 minutes it took to go through a secondary screening. Pro Tip: If agents at London Heathrow find ANY liquids in your bag, expect them to unpack it’s entire contents and dutifully repack them, SLOWLY. Expect this to take at least 10 minutes.

Research airport security line info and your gate enroute

flightstatsIf you have access to fast track lanes or Pre Check, know where those lanes are. If you can find your gate on flightstats.com or the airport/airline website, get that info so you don’t have to track down a board. An airport map cached on your phone might even be helpful. Flyertalk often has the lowdown on security procedure changes at particular airports.

Have exact change and visa documents ready before your trip

If you’re heading to a destination that requires a visa / reciprocity fee document, have that ready well in advance and packed accessibly in your hand luggage. Similarly, if you know there is an airport departure tax, have that in exact change in an envelope with these documents. You can’t afford the time it’ll take to track down an ATM or Print Shop to get a paper copy.

Ask another gate agent to radio your departing gate

Lastly, in most US airports, particularly if you are departing or connecting in a concourse that a particular airline operates as a hubf, gates typically have the ability to radio each other. If you’re running to the far end and the door is about to close, for instance in a close connection, asking the gate agent at arrival gate (or any gate) to radio your connecting gate might buy you those few extra seconds you need to make that connection.

Have any other tips to save precious seconds? Comment below!

5 Responses to “What to Do If You’ll Miss Your Flight or Have a Tight Connection”

  1. Great tips. There were a few I hadn’t considered before. Thanks!

  2. GREAT advice all around and more so when they ALL sound as if they come from personal experience especially the one about LHR. Sooo true, it happened to me & at the end I just re-packed my luggage for she (the agent) was doing it sooo slow!! Don’t know if it was on purpose or not, but certainly liked to lecture. BTW I’ve truly enjoyed your insightful posts, and they come with a hint of humor on potentially chaotic situations that one should try to avoid, I like that! Nice to see you being part of the HMT team, it’s great a fit!

    • Thanks for the kind words! A lot of these are have come from experience, but by no means do I know what I’m talking about half the time. I do hope I can relate things to people that consider themselves savvy travelers so they avoid the same mistakes I made.

  3. Another tip: use a travel tracker app, I use flight view - it’s free - to monitor the inbound status of your departing flight. Many, many times, my flight is delayed 15/25/30 min because it was late getting in - but the departure time for my departing flight isn’t updated to reflect this. Same with gate changes.

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