Airports are unfamiliar territory for the majority of us, and if you put anyone in an environment they don’t really know – they aren’t very comfortable. Unfortunately there are occasions where passengers may miss their flights due to a variety of reasons. I’m not going to write an exhaustive list, but sometimes it is very easy to loose track of time, fall asleep or misconnect from a previous sector.
If you are in the departure lounge or at the gate
Certainly at U.K. airports, you’ll be classed as being airside. Which is a strange thing as you technically are still on the ground but you have left the country. Airside is known as anything which is located after security.
If you have missed your flight, you will need to be escorted back landside to the areas before security (check-in/arrivals) at the earliest opportunity. Staff members must follow strict procedures* when a passenger has missed their flight; so it’s best to listen to the airline representative and follow their instructions.
If you haven’t done so already, alert a staff member on the airline you were travelling with. They can then set the necessary steps in motion to get the ball rolling. You’ll need to be escorted through immigration to re-enter the United Kingdom. As mentioned a few sentences above; being airside is classed as though you have left the country – so you’ll need to show your passport, original boarding card and any applicable permits or visas to pass through.
If you had bags checked in for your flight, the airline will work with their service partners to get your bags back to you. Usually you’ll find these in a specific area within the baggage hall. You’ll then be escorted through customs and will be back landside where you will be directed to the reservations desk for the airline.
What about duty-free purchases?
If you happened to purchase any duty-free items, these will have to be returned. Although you were airside, as you didn’t actually depart on a flight this makes you in-eligible to take advantage of the tax-free savings. It is quite confusing, but it is just the way things are.
What happens when I am back landside?
Most likely you’ll be taken back to the airlines’ reservations desk where they can look at getting you re-booked on another flight. Every individual situation is different from another; so I am not going to add any information about being re-booked onto another flight and whether you are liable to pay for any fare difference, change fees etc. Airline ticketing is a complicated business which took me a few years to understand. I still don’t know everything and probably never will – it’s just one of those things which is never easy to explain. This also applies if you were already landside when you missed your flight.
Missing your flight is never a positive experience and I feel sorry for anyone who does; regardless of where the blame lies. I’ve missed one or two flights over the years; but it is important to be polite and follow the instructions given to you by staff members at the airport. They want to help you, but are governed by strict procedures which cannot be deviated from.
*Each airports procedures may differ from the process outlined above. This post was created as a general guide to provide information on what may occur.