What Happens if You Don’t Show up for a Flight? [Full Guide]

There are many times when I’ve been in a hurry on the way to the airport.

Despite considering myself a fairly organised person, things still go wrong. Traffic, breakdowns and even finding myself at the wrong airport (don’t ask!) have all meant I’ve cut it very fine on occasions.

But what actually happens if you don’t turn up for a flight?

There are a number of things that can happen if you don’t show up for a flight. These depend on the type of flight you booked and whether you inform the airline. No-show policies will be in the terms of your booking and can include losing your fees, cancellation of the return leg or being moved to another flight.

In this post, I cover the topic in more detail to help you understand exactly what your options are.

What Happens if You Don’t Show up for a Flight?

small plan at airport

If you don’t turn up for a flight, you will either be rebooked on another flight, charged a cancellation fee or will lose the entire value of your ticket.

Which of these happen will depend on the reasons you are missing the flight, the type of flight/ticket you have booked and whether or not you inform the airline.

Below I answer some questions that help you to understand what might happen if you miss your flight, but the best thing to do is check in the terms and conditions of the flight with your airline.

Missing a Flight Due To Circumstances Out of Your Control

Most airlines have what is known as a ‘flat tire’ rule, which means that they take pity on you if you don’t turn up on time for a flight because of circumstances out of your control – such as a flat tire.

If you turn up late, then the airline will normally do their best to schedule you on the next flight with available seats to your destination, but depending on the route this might not be a quick process.

The key in this scenario is informing the airline as soon as you can so know you are going to miss the flight and can advise you of your options. If you don’t tell the airline you are likely to be left with the cost of your entire flight with little chance of a refund.

What Happens if You Don’t Show up for Your Flight Because You’re Sick?

If you specifically can’t make a flight on medical grounds then the best thing to do is to get a certificate from your doctor describing the reasons you were unable to fly.

In the conditions of carriage, many airlines will allow a refund or will extend the validity of the ticket (for example Qantas extend for up to three months) if a certificate is provided. This often involves paying upfront for the cancellation and then a refund being processed at a later date.

If you have travel insurance, this may well also pay out against a missed flight due to illness if you have documentation.

What Happens if You Don’t Show up for Your Connecting Flight Because Your Arriving Flight Was Late?

There are two scenarios here.

The first one is booking connecting flights all on one itinerary. For example, if you fly from the UK to Australia with Singapore Airlines it is not a direct flight, it stops off in Singapore. This is all on a single ticket.

If the first flight is late, then often the second will be held because they know there are connecting passengers and if not, it is the airline’s responsibility to get you to your final destination.

This scenario is known as a connection.

The second one is if you’ve booked the itinerary yourself, or had your itinerary booked by a travel agent. In this scenario, it is your responsibility to ensure there is enough time between flights, not the airline. If the first flight runs late, then you are in the same situation as if your taxi gets stuck in traffic on the way to the airport and would need to negotiate with the airline when you arrive for your second flight.

They may be able to get you on another flight depending on the route, but the change in ticket could come at a cost to you.

This scenario is not a connection, it is just booking two flights.

Missing a Flight Due to Circumstances in Your Control

If you are missing a flight due to circumstances within your control then you have two options.

The first option is not telling the airline and accepting that you will lose the entire value of the ticket.

The second option is to reach out to the airline and explain the situation. If you have booked a flexi ticket (see the chart below) you should be able to move the flight for free, though the cost of the ticket will be more expensive initially.

If you aren’t on a flexi ticket then you will be charged for either rebooking the flight to another time, or a cancellation fee for part of the ticket cost.

Airlines are also being very flexible at the moment with cancellations due to border closures relating to Covid-19, so this may fall outside the normal terms of carriage.


Do You Get Charged for Missing a Flight and Not Informing the Airline?

Yes and no.

You get charged in as much as you lose the value of the flight you paid for and your seat is likely to be allocated to someone who is waiting.

What you don’t get is a penalty charge on top of the original cost of the flight.

Do You Get Charged for Cancelling a Flight?

Yes, you do, unless you have booked a ticket that negates this cost such as a flexi ticket.

If you decide you no longer want the flight you are either going to get charged to move it to a different time or charged for cancelling it completely.

For example, if we take Australia’s biggest airline, Qantas and their terms and conditions for flights to Asia:

CabinFare TypeCancellation Cost
Premium EconomySale$400
Business ClassSale$600
First ClassSale$300

This is just one example, from one route, from one airline out of thousands around the world, but it starts to give you an idea of the money you would lose out on if you decided to cancel.

The big lesson here is that if you’re worried you may not be able to book the flight then book a flexible ticket but, given these flexible fares can often be double the cost of a regular ticket, you would have to weigh up the financial implications at the time of booking.

What Happens if You Miss a Flight on Purpose?

My first question would be, why on earth would you want to!?

If you purposely miss a flight then your ticket will be reallocated to someone on hold. You will lose the value of your ticket.

The only reason I can think of that someone might miss a flight on purpose is that it’s sometimes it’s cheaper to book a muli-leg flight and travel one way or leg. This is called ‘hidden-city ticketing‘ which is controversial and may cause problems such as your luggage being sent to the wrong place. It is generally only used on domestic flights because stopping in a different country would mean the need for another visa.

If you miss the first stage of the ticket then it is likely it will all be cancelled. If you miss the second stage of your flight then chances are nothing will happen however, some airlines are changing their terms and conditions to prevent this from happening.

This is because the airline doesn’t want people gaming the system to find cheaper flights (sometimes a return can be cheaper than a single!) and also they want to re-sell your ticket to a paying customer.

If you ring them with a valid reason for missing the flight, then they are usually able to keep the return leg open, but only if they feel your reason for missing the flight was valid.


Prohibited Practices:

Fares apply for travel only between the points for which they are published. Tickets may not be purchased and used at fare(s) from an initial departure point on the Ticket which is before the Passenger’s actual point of origin of travel, or to a more distant point(s) than the Passenger’s actual destination being travelled even when the purchase and use of such Tickets would produce a lower fare. This practice is known as “Hidden Cities Ticketing” or “Point Beyond Ticketing” and is prohibited by UA.

Is It Better to Cancel a Flight or Be a No-Show?

I would always call, as there is a chance you could get rebooked on another flight or receive at least a partial refund.

There is no real benefit at all to being a no-show for a flight unless you are happy to lose the price of your ticket.

Does Travel Insurance Cover You for a Missed Flight?

Again this depends on the circumstances.

You may well be covered if you miss your flight due to:

  • Illness (though this can not be a pre-existing condition unless it was disclosed)
  • Natural disaster, riots or hijacking (though again these can’t have started before the trip began) and
  • Accidents that occurred on the trip
  • A motor vehicle accident on the way to the airport

You are unlikely to be covered if:

  • You got stuck in traffic
  • Mechanical issues on the way to the airport such as a car breakdown
  • Overbooking by the airline (this is their responsibility to provide compensation)
  • You are offered a different route or time of flight but refused to take it
  • You were delayed because of an issue with your travel documents

the reeves family picture


Reeves Roam, is a first-hand travel blog. The Reeves have lived in the UK, South Africa and Australia and have travelled extensively in Europe and Southeast Asia.

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Thanks – Ben, Becca and Gracie

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