Call the airline immediately if you think you’ll miss your connection

a digital clock with red numbersA few months ago I wrote about what to do when your flight is delayed. Number one on the list: call the airline as soon as possible. What happened to me last week is exactly the reason why.

Last week I traveled to Manila, basically halfway around the world from Texas. Typically I fly DFW-Tokyo Narita-Manila. However, for some reason when I was booking my trip the DFW-NRT flight wasn’t available, so I chose DFW-Hong Kong-Manila.

My alarm was set for 4:30am on Monday. Alas, I woke up at 4:15am because of a grinding, relentless headache. Perfect way to start 28 hours of travel time! When I checked my phone I saw that I had multiple missed calls from American–never a good sign when you’re about to embark on a long trip. The notifications were not welcome news: my flight from DFW to HKG was delayed by five hours, which would cause me to miss my connection to Manila. This connection was the last flight of the day, and I’d have to spend the night in Hong Kong, arriving in Manila mid-day Wednesday (as opposed to Tuesday night).

This may not sound like a big deal, but my schedule for this trip was extremely tight. I was supposed to take off Monday morning, land Tuesday night and head to the office, working Tuesday night, Wednesday night, and Thursday night, then head from the office back to the airport to fly home Friday morning. So getting in Wednesday mid-day means I would miss an entire night’s worth of work–⅓ of the overall working time. Not ideal, to say the least.

As soon as I was in the car headed to the airport I called American Airlines. I (calmly) explained the situation to the agent, who put me on hold for several minutes. In the end, he was able to re-route me through Tokyo, getting me the final business class seat on the DFW-NRT leg. As a bonus, I landed an hour prior to my original arrival time. Win!

If I had waited until arriving at the airport (which was tempting, as my monster headache had not yet subsided) I would likely have gotten onto the DFW-NRT-MNL route, but without the business class seat. I would have survived, but obviously business class is more comfortable and conducive to sleep!

After my post a few months ago about delayed flights, I got several emails from readers saying that calling is good, but they’ve gotten their best results from working with someone in person. I’ve also gotten had great experiences with desk agents, but if you’re not physically at the the airport it is still best to call while you’re in transit. (I’ve even heard a few stories about people on flights that haven’t landed using Twitter to contact customer service from the air!) If you are still on hold once you arrive at the airport, go talk to someone in person. But oftentimes speed is the can make the difference, especially when you are competing against an entire plane full of delayed passengers. This is especially important if you think you will miss your connection!!

Readers, what do you do when you are going to miss your connection? Do you have better experience with calling customer service or going to customer service desks in the airport?


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  1. I learned the hard way last quarter … it may be best to call your company’s travel group instead of the airline. I was routed SFO-ORD-AMS, but the inbound was delayed. United rebooked me, but when the 2nd flight was delayed I called travel to see if there was anything to do. At that point United had taken control of the reservation so I couldn’t be rebooked onto another airline without it being a brand new last-minute reservation! 100% agree to working the phones early, but if you have flexibility on carriers, your corporate travel group may be the best call.

  2. The AA calls you have missed should have suggestions for reroutings… but here you don’t tell how it ended! My experience with Delta was a call and a text around midnight reporting an early morning departure being postponed to noon. My reaction was to call at that late hour to advise of a second continuing Delta flight that i will miss for sure. It appeared that they were already working on it and at the first contact i was answered with a choice of two or three routings. Happy ending, i arrived to my final destination like two hours earlier… and it was a 3 legs trip. Cool. Those who didn’t call and moved to the airport at the due time had hard times looking for a rerouting or waiting for the delayed departure.

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