We’ve all heard the guidelines to arrive at the airport two hours before your flight is scheduled to leave, and we usually try to honor that suggestion. Then, life happens, and your worst-case scenario becomes a reality. You miss your flight.
Now before you break down as you watch the clock hit your departure time, rest assured. There is protocol for exactly what to do when you miss your flight, the first step being to call an airline agent as soon as you know you won’t get there in time. What many flyers don’t know is that some major airlines have an actual policy that helps travelers caught in this sticky situation.
It’s called the flat tire rule, or the two-hour rule. It states that customers who miss their flight due to unforeseen circumstances beyond their control—like a flat tire, the rule’s namesake—are able to get on the next flight to their destination at no charge, as long as they arrive within two hours of the missed flight. Can’t you just feel your stress instantly melt away?
According to Club Traveler, these rules vary slightly across airlines. At American Airlines, the rule doesn’t apply for the last scheduled flight of the day or for international flights. Southwest prefers passengers should call the airline at least 10 minutes before the original plane departs to let them know you’ll be late.
Some airlines may not offer this option at all, but it’s better to call and double-check than give up hope entirely. You may even be added to a standby list. (Yes, standby flights still exist—here’s how you can get on one.)
If you get confirmation that the flat tire rule applies to you, congrats! Clarify which gate you should proceed to and get to the airport ASAP. You may need to wait a few hours for your new flight—and if you do, here are some genius ways to pass time at the airport—but it’s a small price to pay for a free, rescheduled flight to your final destination.
[Source: Club Traveler]