My VERY Costly Misconnect At London Heathrow

Filed Under: Travel

This sure hasn’t been a good week for me as far as airline reliability goes. I feel like for my past several hundred thousand miles I’ve had amazing luck with my flights, and have barely had any major delays or cancelations. Then last week I had a 10 hour delay on my flight from Yerevan to Doha due to fog, which threw off my plans.

I’ll be the first to admit that I often plan trips very tightly, and that’s on me:

  • I feel like I’m pretty well equipped to handle operational challenges when they arise, so even when things go wrong it’s usually not a big deal
  • Given my crazy travel schedule, to me it’s generally worth the substantial time savings to plan travel as tightly together as possible, even if it comes with some risk
  • I realize sometimes this plan backfires, and it could cost me

Well, today this plan backfired, and it cost me dearly. I’ve learned a lesson from this, and will act accordingly in the future, because it’s simply not worth the hassle and cost.

Ford and I were scheduled to fly on American last night from Los Angeles to London. I then booked a separate ticket from London to Geneva on Swiss, since I wanted to fly the CSeries. I planned a layover of 2hr20min. I know that’s on the tight side (again, that’s on me), but I figured as long as our flight arrived within 75 minutes of our scheduled arrival time, we’d be good. American has an excellent on-time record for this route lately.

Boarding was completed well before our scheduled departure time, though the door just remained open. A few minutes after our scheduled departure time the captain announced that there was a small maintenance issue they just fixed and were getting signed off, and the door should be closing within a couple of minutes.

A few minutes later the captain announced that there was another issue, and that the plane would be going out of service completely. That escalated quickly.

On the plus side, I have to give American a lot of credit for how quickly they got us a new plane. There was another 777-300ER at the gate next to us, and they managed to get it catered, serviced, the bags switched over, and everything else, with a delay of just 95 minutes. Credit where credit is due — that’s impressive.

During the delay I looked more closely at our connection, and realized it was likely we’d misconnect. In looking at flights from London to Geneva, virtually everything was sold out. I guess everyone is going skiing this weekend. I decided to book a backup just in case.

I ended up booking Swiss tickets from London to Zurich to Geneva for $250 per person, which was the cheapest option. I booked through Priceline so that I could cancel within 24 hours (in other words, till departure), and figured at least we’d have these tickets as a last resort.

When we got to Heathrow we rushed as much as possible, though with the terminal change and long security lines, we missed our connection by a couple of minutes.

The Swiss agents couldn’t have been less helpful, and told us to go to the Swiss ticketing desk at check-in. So we went there.

I explained that we misconnected, and that I was dumb for booking on separate tickets.

“I have good news, we can get you on the 7PM flight nonstop to Geneva.”

“Oh, that’s great!”

She typed and typed and typed and typed. I felt like she was a nicer version of Carol Beer.

After typing for over five minutes, she said “oh, your ticket is changeable. That’ll cost you 450GBP per person.”

I asked nicely if there was anything else that could be done, and she said that we could also be routed through Zurich, and that would “only” cost 300GBP per person.

In the US we’re used to airlines putting us on standby for the next flight if we miss our flight, while in Europe you’re out of luck. The only option is to pay the fare difference and possibly even a change fee, which can be prohibitively expensive.

At that point I told her it was fine, and that we’d find a separate way to get to Geneva. The catch was that we had a return from Geneva to London booked on the same ticket, and I even paid about $100 per person to upgrade (because both directions were on the CSeries, I wanted to review economy in one direction and business in the other).

“Yes, you can keep the return. There shouldn’t be a cost to do so, but you’ll have to call Swiss to reissue the ticket.”

“But you’re Swiss ticketing, can’t you reissue the ticket for me?”

“No, you have to call. We can’t do that here.”

After checking in for the other itinerary we booked, we headed to the lounge. The Wi-Fi in the lounge was awful and my phone signal wasn’t good (for whatever reason), so Tiffany was nice enough to call Swiss for me. They informed her that the fee to be able to take the return flight would be 205GBP per person. That’s right, they wanted that amount just to let us keep the return flight on the ticket we already paid for.

That’s in spite of the fact that the agent at the desk told us there would be no cost (though I was skeptical of that). I could book a significantly cheaper one-way ticket from Geneva to London, so had Tiffany just cancel it. She asked if they could at least refund the upgrade cost, and they said no. On the plus side, after Tiffany asked they offered to refund us 52GBP per person for the tickets, which is a small portion of what we paid.

The original roundtrip Swiss ticket, with the outbound in economy and the return in business class, cost 400GBP total for both of us. For that we got a 104GBP refund. And then I had to buy new tickets from London to Geneva for 180GBP per person, and then separate return tickets from Geneva to London.

So, what did I learn? Generally I tend to think that most airport agents will work with you, so there’s limited risk. Clearly that’s not always the case, especially in Europe. This was my first time no showing (at least as they saw it, since my inbound flight was on a separate ticket) for a ticket in Europe, and I realized they have no mercy whatsoever. I kind of knew this in the back of my mind, though always hope for the best.

I won’t be doing this again. Next time I’ll just leave a longer connection on separate tickets, because this simply isn’t worth the risk. Not only was the mistake expensive, but the whole situation was extremely frustrating, between having to go to the ticketing desk, being lied to by the ticketing agent, having to call (which Tiffany was kind enough to do), and not even being able to keep the return portion of the ticket.

If you’re connecting in Europe on separate tickets, leave LOTS of time! Usually I say “oh well, that’s the cost of my strategy,” but in this case I learned my lesson and won’t be doing this again. And if I do, I’ll be sure to book my tickets as one-ways, so I don’t run into the same issue with the return.

  1. Of course the flip side of “In the US we’re used to airlines putting us on standby for the next flight if we miss our flight” is the extreme over-booking culture in the US, which you just don’t really get anywhere else in the world in my experience.

  2. @Lucky – yikes – I am on 108 tonight and noticed that last night too and was wondering what the cause was. I often book AA RT and tack on BA connectors if I cant make all the ticketing work with AA and over pad at this point myself. I do not like to kill time at LHR but on a tight connection but at this point I would rather spend time at the lounges and catch up on email than be sweating bullets when MX at LAX (which seems to happen with me a lot on AA’s 77W’s) or circling for an hour waiting to land at LHR

  3. And @LiveandLetFly is going to try to get the same people from Swiss to refund him for a Swiss First ticket that he actually flew…GL

  4. Out of curiosity, if you miss a flight with a European carrier and don’t bother to go to the check in/ticketing desk to get rebooked, do they charge a no show fee?

  5. @ David — Your ticket would be forfeited. They can’t charge you anything beyond what you paid. Sorry if that’s not what you were asking, because it’s possible I’m misunderstanding.

  6. Too bad Tiffany didn’t try to delay the flight for you by calling in fake bomb threat. Oh wait, she is not Latin American. American once wrote that people from Latin America do that.

    Disclaimer: Do NOT do this. You will go to prison. People who try are caught 100% of the time, not 99%. Kids, don’t do this at home

  7. I feel your pain! I usually route from California to LHR on UA, then switch to BA for a flight to Nice. Separate terminals / separate tickets as its far more affordable vs a single round.
    Needless to say, connecting in LHR T1 to T5 already takes a huge amount of time- — we have been fortunate all but once and the same situation on paid business occurred.
    Couldn’t roll over to the next flight without having to pay ~ 125GBP fare difference + another 50GPB’s in a change fee pp.
    Really had no viable choice — paid an additional total of 350 pounds.
    Oh well —

  8. I thought you were going to say you missed an important appointment or party. I get that it was frustrating but the cost isn’t too bad when looking at all the time you’ve saved. If you change your normal tight bookings going forward it’s going to cost a lot more (in time which is as valuable as cash) for these kinds of not regular occurrences. Just my two cents.

  9. Similar experience just before Christmas with (almost) the same outcome.
    Travelling CLT-LHR on AA then LHR-DUB on EI (separate ticket). CLT-LHR was delayed by 2 hours. We went through connections from T3 to T2 (Queens Terminal) about 5 mins after flight departed. We went to the EI transfer desk and told it would be GBP200 each to book on a later flight. I said we would come back after reviewing our options. I went back up about 20 mins later to check other flight availability.
    A different agent was there so I explained the situation to her. 5 mins later I had 2 boarding passes for the next flight (90 mins) in my hand for no fee.

  10. For example, if I were to book a ticket with 4 flights from BA, use the first 3 and not show up to the last one, can they charge a ‘no-show’ fee?

  11. Which credit card did you use? Trip delay/Interruption protection should help with this. Have used it for similar circumstance with separate tickets in past….

  12. “Generally I tend to think that most airport agents will work with you, so there’s limited risk. Clearly that’s not always the case, especially in Europe …. and I realized they have no mercy whatsoever.”

    Let me get this straight …. so you’re doing (1) a self-connecting (2) onto a difference alliance altogether (3) in another terminal (at an airport not exactly all that transit friendly), and (4) late yourself not due to anything induced by LX, LH Group, or Star Alliance for that matter, and (5) as far I remember from your blog, neither LH Senator nor HON Circle …. so therefore, you expect the agent to bend all rules and waive all fees for you, and since she simply chose to follow policy, she’s “no mercy” now ?

    There are limits to “empowering agents to do the right thing for the customer,” else anyone could just go up there, invent some elaborate story, and undermine their whole business model by making any discount ticket into full fare Y flexibility.

  13. Thanks for the tip about Priceline offering a 24hour refund right up to the last minute, the airline sites wont do that.
    And yes Heathrow is the worst place in the world to plan a tight connection. These days it’s part of the business-plan for airlines to make money from latecomers as their customers are caught by the disorganized jumble of Heathrow and the M25. A business-model originally provoked by BA’s spiteful auto-offload of customers who don’t pass security 35 minutes ahead of scheduled departure. BA will throw you off regardless, even if the flight is late, you’ll be denied boarding even if you can see there’s no aircraft yet at the gate.

  14. @Alpha : “dispute” on what basis exactly ? The fee is published in the fare rules, and his no-show met all the necessary conditions for the fee to come into effect. He’s self-connecting, so there’s zero obligation on either AA or LX when a mis-connect happens.

    On top of all of that, it’s a voluntary change fee that he has agreed upon since you have full rights to completely discard the residual value on the ticket and Swiss can’t be billing you GBP450 out of thin air.

  15. Citi Prestige Trip Interruption coverage: “The Covered Traveler(s) misses more than half of their Trip because of missed connections, delayed departures, denied boarding, traffic accidents on their way to a departure, or lost or stolen passports. “

    What’s covered: “Change fees charged by the airline or other travel supplier(s).“ […] “Additional fares or tickets needed to rejoin the Trip that has been interrupted must be booked within the same fare class service as the original booking, such as economy or business class. “

    Covered up to $5k pp w/ Citi. Would presume CSR is similar coverage.

  16. SWISS a very very arrogant airline and provides quite awful customer services if you need any help on your ticket.

    Earlier this month during the winter storm in the Northeast region my flight from ZRH-BOS was cancelled and I called SWISS U.S. customer services center after I received the email telling me “your flight was cancelled and we’re working hard to try to find you an alternate itinerary.” I knew I can’t rely on them so I found a flight to NYC on I told the CSR everything and my alternate plan. And guess what? The CSR told me my itinerary can’t be changed since “they’re not received authorization.” WTF!? A flight cancellation is not a kind of authorization?

    Never fly them again.

  17. @ Andrew Meyer — I used the Amex Plat to earn 5x points. Sure is making me rethink whether I should be using the Sapphire Reserve for more tickets (though I should probably read the terms more closely as to how this kind of a situation would be covered).

  18. Depending upon the particulars won’t you be able to claim the travel delay insurance from whichever credit card you used?

  19. Lucky – in that case would recommend supplemental protection for times when not using Prestige or CSR. check out DAN annual travel insurance (Divers Alert Network) for very reasonable cost <$200/year with mostly similar and some slightly broader protections. (Would have protected you in his situation) I get it every year for my husband and I—has saved us thousands in past. Also offers medical coverage when traveling which none of the cc’s do.

  20. Moral of the story – if you want to book multiple airlines with connections – best to go to a third party booking site – Travelocity, Expedia, etc.

  21. @ henry LAX — You’re making an unnecessary number of points. It doesn’t matter if my inbound was on Star Alliance or not, since they don’t offer any sort of intra-alliance protection on separate tickets. Oneworld used to (which was a great policy, and if it still existed I would have booked British Airways). But other than that it’s a moot point.

    I acknowledge it was a relatively short connection, and that there was a terminal change (though T3 to T2 is the easiest connection you could make between terminals at Heathrow, since you can walk).

    As far as saying they have no mercy, I stand by that. I’m not talking about the individuals, but rather the companies as a whole. I’m not saying that they should have let me rebook for free, but you don’t find it slightly ruthless that they even want to charge me for the privilege of taking the return when I clearly had the intent to take the outbound, but dealt with a mechanical problem outside my control? That certainly doesn’t “undermine their whole business model” because one-way pricing as half of the roundtrip here. Beyond that, I was lied to — the ticketing agent told me there would be no fee, when clearly there was a huge fee.

  22. @ Randy — Yeah, though in this case the issue was that when we booked our tickets to London we didn’t yet know where we actually wanted to go. We only booked the flights within Europe after the fact, which is what made this tricky.

  23. @Andrew Meyer : the way I’d interpret that language is that if your *single-e-ticket* had a mis-connect and delay, it would be covered.

    AA has a 91min late arrival, which hardly counts as “half the trip”. And there’s no AA change fee here for him to be able to fly his hypothetical LHR-LAX back, so there’s no fee induced there either.

    Assuming he’s like this :

    AA LAX LHR <—– roundtrip 1
    ……. LX LHR GVA <—— roundtrip 2
    ……. LX GVA LHR <—— roundtrip 2
    AA LHR LAX <—– roundtrip 1

    The top and bottom is 1 trip, and his 91min delay doesn't qualify as half his trip.

    As for trip #2, it's the beginning of his trip, and there was no "missed connections" because that's his first flight, no "delayed departures" because LX was actually no time, no "denied boarding" because he wasn't even there at the gate to have a chance to be denied, no "traffic accidents on their way to a departure" (sorry, AA bird going tech on a separate e-ticket is not a "traffic accident"), or no one had a passport problem.

    You can always give it your best shot, but if I were the insurance company, i'll treat roundtrip 1 as a 91-min late arrival that's hardly material in the grand scheme of things as far as the totality of trip #1 is concerned ……….. and treat roundtrip 2 as a self-induced no show not related to any of those reasons, so probably isn't covered by policy.

  24. “If you’re connecting in Europe on separate tickets, leave LOTS of time! ”

    You needs lots of *contingency*, not just time. What if the AA flight were delayed 6 hours? How else will you get to the ticket split airport if my first flight goes belly up?

    Swiss has a Flex economy fare which gives a free same day change to an earlier flight that day, and no change fees for other changes. So you could have booked the last flight of the day on that fare (you’d have to be really unlucky to miss that) and once at LHR change to an earlier one. That would have given you contingency. British Airways is even better with its Plus fare (not the most expensive Y short haul fare) giving a free SDC on the same calendar day.

  25. I guess it’s the price you pay for getting individual cheap flights and stitching them together yourself. Mostly it pays off, but sometimes it won’t. Overall, it’s probably not costing you more than always getting connecting flights. Personally I’d rather pay more on each trip as a form of insurance. But individuals differ.

    “Swings and roundabouts”

    Companies are sociopathic entities designed to make money. I never expect them to be anything but ruthless. The odd occasions when they aren’t are then pleasant surprises.

    And you’re always so horrible about everything British that it’s probably karma that you had to spend extra time there. 🙂

  26. Lucky,

    I have the Chase Sapphire Reserve card and I carry third-party travel insurance because of the medical evacuation benefits given that I travel to some remote places. As the insurance policies are independent, it is possible to lodge a claim with both insurance policies. Given your travel, you might want to look into third-party travel insurance. My guess is that it would cost <$500/year for you.

  27. LHR is terrible for connecting! I always book 2.5 – 3hrs for layovers even on the same ticket just to get through that mess!

    What a frustrating situation. This is always why I am weary of booking separate tickets even when the prices are tempting.

  28. @henry – key term is “Trip” meaning “…any pre-paid travel, tour or vacation”. Does require a *single e-ticket* or for the travel to even be an airline ticket at that, protection would similarly cover if your flight was delayed thus causing you to miss a scheduled train, bus, ship or other flight journey in your *Trip*. Has nothing to do with requiring flights to be booked on one ticket.

    Read the fine print, always.

  29. ” but you don’t find it slightly ruthless that they even want to charge me for the privilege of taking the return when I clearly had the intent to take the outbound, but dealt with a mechanical problem outside my control?”

    Heathrow Express on way to the airport breaking down half way and stranding people for hours is a reasonable “mechanical problem outside my control” …. self-connecting plane going tech just doesn’t cut it.

    Picture this : someone heading for an interview and is late, the hiring manager asked why, and he said “oh my PVG-JFK was supposed to land 2 hours earlier but there was Chinese military restriction on Shanghai ATC that was out of my control…..” does that sound reasonable at all ?

  30. I misconnected on an AA flight LAX-LHR with a BA connection and they just booked me on the next flight for no fee. Luckily It was a round trip ticket to the destination but it goes to show how poorly things can go if you miss your connection.

    Did you try to book a BA flight to Geneva with Avios? That might have been your best option.

  31. The trip delay insurance provided by Citi Prestige and CSR only kicks in for delays lasting more than 3 and 6 hours respectively.

    Lucky’s delay was only 95 minutes so it would not have been a covered event. In addition, the limit is $500 per ticket and only covers meals, lodging, toiletries, medication and other personal use items. I doubt it would have allowed Lucky to buy a new ticket and have it covered.

  32. I don’t know about anyone else, but my biggest takeaway is that Tiffany rocks!

    Then there’s something about no longer making such tight connections I think, also.

    In conclusion, Tiffany rocks.

  33. Travel Insurance. There are policies that you can buy that cover a length of time and not just particular segments. Pay say $1000 for the year and it will pay, up to certain limits, for booking new flights as well as reimbursement for missed connections.

  34. The irony. I’m on AA106 connecting to Swiss in LHR to Zurich with a 60min connection. I went though the same analysis and protected myself of a 12:30pm LCY to ZRH BA flight using miles in case of a misconnect. I’m a bit of a heathrow ninja so I also banked on lhr flights getting in ~60 mins early and AA’s 777 dispatch reliability from JFK being solid.

    Good news is we just pushed back so fingers crossed I should have a 110 min connection and will be able to cancel the protection segment at no cost given my status.

    I was basically starting at my screen for 20 minutes coming up with this strategy…sorry to hear a similar gambit blew up in your face.

    FWIW I agree that Swiss gate agents are abysmal and unhelpful / unemplwered.

  35. @Andrew Meyer.

    Trip interruption insurance wouldn’t have covered it either. It only kicks in if one of the following events occurs (non of which happened to Lucky).

    1. Accidental bodily injury, loss of life or sickness affecting you, a traveling companion, or immediate family member of you or a traveling companion

    2. Severe weather that prevents a reasonable and prudent person from beginning or continuing on a Covered Trip

    3. Change in military orders for you, your Spouse, or your Domestic Partner

    4. A terrorist incident or hijacking

    5. A call to jury duty or receiving a subpoena from the courts, neither of which can be postponed or waived

    6. Your or your Traveling Companion’s dwelling becomes uninhabitable

    7. Quarantine imposed by a Physician for health reasons

    8. Financial insolvency of the Travel Supplier, Tour Operator or Travel Agency you used to book the trip

    The terms and conditions for travel interruption insurance specifically exclude “Common Carrier caused delays, unless they are as a result of an organized strike that affects public transportation.”

  36. I’m curious whether you think it would be the same result had you flown a oneworld carrier where you had oneworld emerald status?
    Since you were flying Swiss, do you think star alliance gold status would have helped in this case?

  37. I agree with Andrew. I think this would be covered under Citis insurance. Long story but I missed a connection and they paid for a rebooking. I did have to submit a bunch of documentation and explain it several times but it worked. I always use the Prestige for tickets because of that.

    I’d rather have the protection than extra points. Although I should probably do the math between Amex or Chase points and extra travel insurance…

  38. Thank You for this message on Swiss inter-European flights – it reminds to proceed with caution on my own bookings: to allow for flight delays etc. Your honesty on your blog (acknowledging mistakes, etc), makes you my favourite airline blog!
    Happy and Safe flying. Also thank you!

  39. Lucky, while I feel your pain I am definitely not sure I would define this as “European” practice specifically.

    I have been rolled onto the next flight at LHR several times after missing my flight time at no, or minimal, charge, but usually on an alliance where I have top level status. SWISS seem to have handled this spectacularly poorly on the ground, but they were under no obligation to help, and they seem to be very well-known as sticklers for their rules. Also it’s the middle of ski season, they will be fully booked on most flights out of LHR…

  40. Thats why you dont use your amex for a few extra points. I have always purchased all of my tickets with this card and have gotten the following:
    DFW-CDG-CAI misconnected in Cairo from award ticket to another award ticket. $400 new ticket purchased on a new airline all reimbursed
    SIN-ICN-TYO, award to paid ticket, had to again purchase a new ticket that was close to $350.
    JFK-YYZ-YVR, separate tickets had to pay extra fees due to me missing my flight(low cost), cost was closer to $350.
    Numerous trip delay claims that were paid with very little questions asked.
    Its a clear winner in my book

  41. Things I learned from this article:

    1. You need to allow a long connection time at LHR.
    2. I would continue with tight connection times in order to save time overall but remember which airport will allow for this strategy.
    3. Use Chase Sapphire Reserve card regardless of how many miles I might earn another card.
    4. Avoid Swiss at all costs.
    5. Most important: have a great friend like Tiffany. Priceless!

  42. Exact same thing happened to my family on Dec. 18th out of CLT. AA decided to downsize our plane as it was only half full – A330-300 to 200 series. Took them 2.5 hours!! We had a 4.5 hour layover scheduled at LHR with transfer to separate BA tickets to Paris. Missed security cutoff by 5 minutes and they sent us to BA ticket counter. ONE HOUR later we saw an agent who said best he could do was $400 each for the three tickets and only one flight was available. Used my CSR and called them this morning to try and get reimbursed for the delay. No go, first off we were under 6 hours (barely) and their insurance does not reimburse any sort of airfare or air charges, only incidentals that occur AFTER the 6 hour mark, i.e. receipts have to be time stamped 6 hours after original time. A costly mistake indeed – $1200, but they had us and they knew it. Going to try working with AA to at least see if I can get my miles back or some sort of voucher from the delay since it was not weather related. Just been waiting for the crazy weather to clear up so I can get an agent that’s not out of their mind with complaints from stranded travelers!

  43. I’m not sure why you would change your practices over one incident, when your practices have served you well for 5, 10, 15, 20 years?

    Also do you have any status with LX? or Star and do you feel if you pestered them more, you could have gotten them to waive the change fees & additional fare collection? How about if you got an AA agent in LHR to try to work with the LX agents?

    And henry LAX,
    I also do all sorts of things even crazier than Lucky’s connections, and by and large I am able to get the airlines to do what I want in terms of bending or breaking the rules or however you want to put it.;

    I will say in my personal experience they are much stricter and by the book in Europe than in America; I don’t think its even airline specific. In the good old US of A if you get the right agent, you can get them to do almost anything, even if it is 100% outside of the fare rules and an exception to company policy.

  44. Are the rules different for award tickets?
    I booked SQ using Krisflyer miles and UA using Lifemiles. My SQ flight was delayed and I missed my connecting flight on UA, but UA rebooked me without charge/penalty.

  45. @Lucky, I recently read stories (on Flyertalk, Tripadvisor, etc.) about people asking for connection advice at LHR. It was fascinating to see that *many* travelers thought 2 hours was more than enough for separate ticket connections and between different terminals. They didn’t realize that you had to clear passport control, collect bags, change terminals, check-in, and clear security. I get that most of those were infrequent travelers, so I find it really hard to believe that you would risk such a short transfer at LHR, of all places.

    I have to say that this was a very basic mistake that could’ve been avoided with a proper buffer. Anything less than 4 hours on separate tickets is just asking for trouble, IMHO…

  46. Two one ways is usually how I go these days unless the price difference is significant. The downside is possibly paying two redeposit or change fees but the flexibility is usually worth it.

  47. I had a very similar misconnect last July at LHR.
    AA flight JFK-LHR was delayed by 4 hours. Had booked a cheap Y ticket on air france LHR-Paris CDG.
    Due to the delay, I missed the AF flight. Had to pay for a last-minute flight on BA LHR-Paris Orly.

    Can’t remember which card I ha used for that trip though

  48. Just curious why you even bothered going on to Geneva at that point?

    Why not just stay in London as it sounds like you were returning to the US shortly?

  49. Does Swiss not have any sort of “trip in vain” policy? That seems like something that you could have tried to claim

  50. Hahahaha you complain about connecting in Europe???

    I thought the famous sentence ‘no worry there is always a next flight’ was invented by US immigration and TSA

  51. The US sounds better than that and at least in the US business class (or domestic first) domestically isn’t a blocked middle seat

  52. @Andrew

    RE: Citi Trip Interruption

    I woudln’t rely on it. They will jump through every hoop possible to deny your claim.

    Including redefining on the fly what the word “trip” means.

    Sometimes it means a single flight. Sometimes it means a single outbound/inbound movement. Sometimes they try and define it to mean your roundtrip.

    I missed a train connection and asked for $28 to cover the change fee.

    After first saying trains arent covered (they are) and that missed connections isn’t a thing (it is) they settled on saying that because my delay was due to a mechanical issue, and not a weather issue, it’s not covered. After 1+ hour on the phone I gave up even though they had nothing to back up that excuse.

    Check the Citi flyertalk forum for many other horror stories.

  53. Sorry but if you are in sep tix penalties apply. No sympathy. You know the rules and aware of the risks when buying the tickets.

    Then everyone complains how uncooperative Swiss was !

    And it’s the same worldwide. There is no special exception in the US.

    Yes there may be *exceptions* when you may be transferred free of charge,but that’s not the rule. you

    You may be covered by Insurance but I think that’s unlikely

    Furthermore it’s not a connection when on a sep ticket

  54. Will avoid Swiss, seems like their customer service is lacking from every angle. I’ve found that KLM provides decent service and Alitalia can be good to you but only if you’re at least a fluent-ish Italian speaker.

  55. @zymm a trip in vain is when flying A B C on a single ticket. A B delayed causing a misconnect and you return to A and can get a full refund as per EC261. This only applies ex EU or to the EU on an EU carrier

    Swiss did not handle this poorly at all
    You are perhaps trying to use the DYKWIA card !?

  56. @ HenryLAX:
    “Let me get this straight …. so you’re doing (1) a self-connecting (2) onto a difference alliance altogether (3) in another terminal (at an airport not exactly all that transit friendly), and (4) late yourself not due to anything induced by LX, LH Group, or Star Alliance for that matter, and (5) as far I remember from your blog, neither LH Senator nor HON Circle …. so therefore, you expect the agent to bend all rules and waive all fees for you, and since she simply chose to follow policy, she’s “no mercy” now ?”

    I AGREE WITH YOU A 100%!!!

    @ Lucky, I always read your blogs and posts and quite agree many times with you (not always, let’s be clear).

    But this time, I can not agree and support you at all, and as said, what HenryLAX is saying is a 100% correct.
    On top of those, you only left 2hr 20′ for connecting at LHR under those circumstances???

    You can take it or leave it, but my humble opinion is that this makes you lose credibility because you are supposed to be an expert who gives the best possible advice in your blog, and what you did is exactly an example of what it is NOT supposed to do.

    Even I have transited LHR many times and knowing exactly what to do and how to move, I would never leave less than 5 hours (and sometimes more) for connecting between airlines in separate tickets at separate terminals.
    Can you imagine if a non-experienced traveler follows your plan and gets stranded on what you did?

    And by no means I would blame Swiss for how they managed the situation. For them, you were just another simple mortal not appearing for their flight, that’s it!

    Agree with somebody else on these posts: the only positive thing in this particular blog was the mention to your truly friend Tiffany and how she tried to help you. That has no price! The rest, better to forget!

  57. Unfortunately this isn’t surprising at all, but it can be hard to take, given how flexible North American airlines tend to be. I’ve consistently found it simpler just to book a new ticket in Europe with this kind of situation – rarely worth talking to an agent at all.

    But yes, everyone is skiing this weekend. It’s Swiss gay ski week… you should plan a few extra days!

  58. I just got approved for the Amex Platinum personal. With their $550 annual fee that doesn’t offer any kind of trip interruption protection?

    I have the Amex and the Citi Prestige cards. Is there a consensus on which card people tend to prefer to purchase airline reservations on? Yes, I know the Platinum gives you lots of points, but is that really it?

  59. Also I wanted to say, considering all the travel you’ve been doing over these years, and this is the first time anything happened where it ended up costing you 300GBP, I’d say you’re still doing pretty good. One bad instance shouldn’t send you, or any frequent flyer or mileage runner into panic.

    Now you know how travel insurance agencies make so much money since delays and interruptions barely happen. I’ve been reading this blog since 2013, and this is the first time I have ever seen a delay cost you an amount of money, and a small one at that.

    300GBP over 5 years that I’ve been reading (and I’m sure it’s longer) I would say you’re doing very well.

  60. As someone from Europe, it doesn’t really make sense to me why you’d expect an airline to bail you out if you miss your flight – regardless of the reason. If I didn’t leave enough time to get from my home to the airport, or my car broke down, I don’t expect the airline to bend over backwards to look after me. Similarly for a flight on a separate itinerary and even a separate airline.

    If you’re booking flights close together, you’re making a trade off: your time is worth money to you, so you run the risk of having to pay out more, as in this case. Sometimes it goes bad, and then you lose money. Maybe you go back and revise your strategy slightly, but the fundamentals of the issue remain the same as they were before this incident.

  61. I stitched together my own tickets in London last year. I highly recommend it if you can stay overnight in London each way, haha. I really enjoy the Lime Tree Hotel in Belgravia. Cozy rooms and delicious breakfast.

    I guess you can cut it close if you have a backup plan, but to me it’s not worth the stress and time in the airport to try and connect same day.

  62. @takke the difference is that inn the US the airline agent will usually help you, even if it isn’t in their policy. I tend to leave very little time going to the airport, this has only backfired on me once. I arrived late for an AA flight in 2016 after struggling to find open parking in Boston. Without my even asking, the agent who I talked to issued me a confirmed Y ticket on the next flight at no cost. This may not be airline policy, but it happens pretty regularly in the US.

  63. I didn’t read all the comments but you are entitled to get back ticket costs deducted by taxes and airport charges.

  64. You only have yourself to blame, Lucky. Perhaps this is your hatred of the UK coming back to bite your ass.

  65. Luckily in Europe we have (fairly cheap) travel insurance who will cover misconnection on seperate tickets. They will pay the new ticket and costs. With one note that you book separate tickets with enough minimum time.

    Did you have to switch to an terminal on the other side of airport? Yes you didnt take enough time. If not it was ok and insurance would pay.

    I always calculate a 1 hour delay in it. Then pending airport i check what is normal. Amd calculate possible checked luggage. If only carry on sometimes you dont do security.

    The only thing is the insurance will cover a new economy ticket not of course a mega expensive one.

  66. Hi Lucky, you mentioned about this refund “On the plus side, after Tiffany asked they offered to refund us 52GBP per person for the tickets, which is a small portion of what we paid.”

    I quote this from another website:

    “The airport taxes imposed by governments and local authorities are ALWAYS refundable. The only thing is; airlines and travel agents won’t tell you this because the make a huge amount of money by keeping those taxes for themselves.

    Airlines have to publish the amount of passengers, cargo and mail to the arrival and departing airport, so those airport can calculate the exact amount of taxes and charges. Hence; the airlines are charged by the EXACT amount of passengers actually flown. If you didn’t fly, your airline doesn’t have to pay your taxes to the airports. ”

    They were simply doing what they were suppose to do. They should have told you this at the start.

  67. Isn’t this just another difference in how airlines operate in the US compared to Europe? In Europe we have adopted a “buy it cheap and everything else costs extra” policy, so Swiss were totally correct in applying the rules. I’ve just bought a cheap fare on QR which ends in OSL with me needing a separate ticket back to the UK, with a 3.5 hour transfer time between them. If it goes wrong (it all being on separate tickets) I wouldn’t really expect BA (with whom I’ll be travelling from OSL to the UK) to do much to help me, even as a BA Gold/OW Emerald. That’s what it’s like here since the advent of easyJet, Ryanair, Wizz etc and also since here in Europe we don’t have Chapter 11 that lets airlines go bust and continue to operate – so costs and fares here match each other a bit more than in the US. Air travel doesn’t cost much more now than it did 20 years ago, even though the costs involved are totally different – so we shouldn’t expect that level of service for what we pay.

    (By the way, I don’t think Ben was complaining about what I’m talking about – I just think some of the comments about it are OTT).

  68. I have a bit of a conundrum with one of these. I’m flying BA LHR-SFO (747, upper deck yes please) in April. As it turns out, I want to go to YVR almost as soon as I get there to see a friend for the weekend and then come back for my business in California.

    There are no OW direct flights SFO-YVR, and I’m landing at 2pm so it’s going to be difficult to connect somewhere else. If I book AC or UA, I can get a non-stop flight, but then nobody will guarantee that connection (even if I book with my Amex Plat, I guess). So I’d probably have to leave 4hrs layover at minimum.

    Should I book AA and try to get it added to my itinerary, and would they guarantee that connection if the LHR-SFO leg is late? In that case I can get away with a shorter connection in SFO.

  69. IF you roll the dice enough you are bound to crap out eventually. Everybody knows the risk of separate ticketing – the prudent person will allow a longer connection or even consider a stopover.

  70. Thanks to this blog I booked one ticket in first and biz with Avios: ORD-NRT-HKG-DPS-KUL-BKK-DOH-MLE..(MLE-AUH-LHR with AA)…LHR-YYZ.

    I had to to position with an open jaw on a separate ticket with United from YOW-ORD…YYZ-YOW.

    Our flight from YOW-ORD was 3hrs behind schedule due to ice. We had 15min in ORD to connect onto our first flight on the Avios booking. We made it but did not have time to get our luggage. Thankfully, at ORD you can transfer terminals while remaining airside.

    Had we not made it, the rest of our ENTIRE itenerary would have been forefeited. (Except the aa segments) This
    trip is for my honeymoon and includes the following sensational flights:

    JAL 777 First ORD-NRT
    CX 77w Biz NRT-HKG
    CX 77w First HKG-DPS
    QR 388 First BKK-DOH
    EY 388 First AUH-LHR
    BA 777 First LHR-YYZ

    Goodnight from Thailand!

  71. Oh yes, and kudos to Japan Airlines Staff…

    Even though our “lost” baggage had nothing to do with JAL or One World, after being escorted through immigration at Narita, they presented us with an evelope of ¥40,000 in cash due to the inconvenience. Then the next day our luggage was delivered free of charge to our hotel!

  72. Stop buying round trip tickets. One ways provide much more flexibility when employing strategies like this. I have not purchased a RT in years.

  73. takke s, (and also Henry LAX)
    I can’t even fathom living in Europe, as it seems like the airlines do not help you. I’ve missed flights several times in the US either by a few hours or a day, and 99% of the time, the airline has rebooked me for free even though that is outside the rules and theoretically against published company policy.

    The way its done in Europe seems totally strict, by the book, and less customer friendly. It gives me a bad feeling about the Europeans the way its done like you guys are totally inflexible and lacking understanding and empathy for travelers!

    I will say in the US Amtrak is strict like this if you miss your train they will charge you $.50 or $500 to pay the correct fare for the next train instead of just reaccommodating you for free like an airline. You guessed it, I don’t take Amtrak much!

    But this really makes me question why are you Europeans so much stricter and less customer friendly than America? I mean you do have that nice EU261 regulation, but your day to day interaction seems a lot less helpful.

    There was a famous line, anyone know who coined it (lucky, Gary)? that said if you don’t miss a few flights a year, you are waiting around the airport too long/too early!!! That statement I think is very much on the money.

  74. I have an upcoming trip soon, Amsterdam > Geneva (6.5 hour lay-over, KLM) > Riyad > Kuala Lumpur (Saudia) and then another 6 hour layover in Kuala Lumpur to Singapore (Malindo).

    3 different airlines, with very long layovers. Because if I miss the flight in Geneva to Riyad. My whole flight to Kuala Lumpur is cancelled and the flight to Singapore too. I rather wait longer and not taking a risk than having a tight connection.

  75. sorry Lucky but You make mistake

    but even worst Your explanations in comments are even worst
    You should state what You took risk which You shouldn’t as a “travel guru”

    you didn’t take reasonable time to transit from long-haul flight and because of this insurance can deny claim

    I had once almost 5 h for connecting TXL-JFK-SFO (airberlin and AA) and we miss our flight by minutes (2h inbound delay on beginning) and it cost us 1500GBP (3 adults+2kids) for new tickets lucky for us that insurance covered 1300GBP…..

    Termianl 3->Terminal 2 isn’t easy
    1. You must walk sometimes more than 10min from gate to passport control
    2. You must walk between terminals for another 10minutes
    3. if for some reason your departure is from satellite 2 terminal its another 10minutes

    total 30min and this not including passport control at arrival (egates are quick), security check its another 10minutes to add
    so in normal scenario You should do transfer in less than 40minutes

    but on top off that You should add 20min for some disruptions

  76. Surprised to hear that you booked a 2h20 connection that would require change of terminal – at LHR of all places – and would be ok with a 75 minute delay?!

  77. I know that it’s been said a few times before here, but another big difference between the ground handling and airport services culture in Europe and the USA is that often in the USA the gate agents or ticketing staff actually work for the airline. In Europe even in major focus cities, it will often be handling agents wearing the airline’s uniform. Often they don’t have as thorough training in the customer airline’s ticketing rules, or more usually, don’t get given the freedom to override or waive ticketing rules as the airline’s own staff would. Connecting T3 to T2 at Heathrow also requires some additional time also and 2h20 might have been tight without any mechanical issues.

  78. People are being overly unfair to lucky. He understands he messed up. He fessed up that he knew he didn’t have enough time. And he’s willing to take responsibility. Give the guy a break.

    But the fact that they wanted to charge him to keep his return itinerary is really silly, and poor customer service given the circumstances. At the very least they should refund the return itinerary upgrade fees since THEY are cancelling the ticket.

  79. @90s Flyer

    BA has a ‘Flat Tyre’ rule in its regulations which state that if you contact them as soon as you realise that you may miss your flight due to circumstances beyond your control (i.e. breakdown in transport to airport) then they will try to minimise disruption and costs to your journey. Usually this will mean they will re-book you for no or minimal cost to the next flight.

  80. I understand that the fare is non-refundable, but I hope you did claim the other costs? Airport taxes, local authorities etc. are always refundable.

  81. @ Markus — Yep, that was the breakdown of what they eventually refunded. But it wasn’t proactively offered — I had to specifically ask after ~45 minutes on the phone.

  82. Frequent travelers that are non UK-EU going through UK a lot should get Registered Traveler because you can jump in the UK-EU line.

    In October I flew back to the US from Germany on AA (EXP status), mechanical issues delayed the flight into DFW I could have made the connection (single AA ticket) if AA met me at the gate with a cart, or an agent or something. I did ask for transfer assistance at the gate in Germany and with the purser in-flight. When I landed in DFW I was put on a flight that was two flights after my original scheduled flight, even though they could put me on another airline to get me to my final destination with only a 1.5 hour delay vs 4 hour delay.

    US companies screw you over too.

  83. I’ve often wondered how comfortable people are doing this. If I am travelling on separate tickets, I will put in an overnight between the two tickets. It may be arriving on one ticket at 10:00 p.m. and departing on the second ticket the next day at 10:00 a.m, but I just feel better knowing that there is a delay, I’ve got a cushion. I just get a hotel room at the airport. Probably very conservative, but I worry a lot less that way. I don’t have an issue missing a tour (and losing the money associated with it) due to a delayed flight, since that means I’m just out the money but I don’t need to restructure my whole vacation as a result of the delayed flight.

  84. This happened to me when our AA flight was canceled and we couldn’t make the connection to Iceland on Icelandair. (Separate tickets — AA ticket was bought with award miles). I paid an extra $1200 to change the Icelandair flight for two people to the next day. After the trip I wrote AA and they sent us $1000 in AA vouchers. So it turned out better than I expected.

  85. I’m with @DSK. I travel to UK/Europe from the West Coast a lot. I usually include an overnight stay at one of the Starwood hotels at Heathrow. Benefits include I get a hot bath, English breakfast, extra sleep, dinner (curry!) and a pint or two and a good night’s sleep. Next day, set off to the next destination rested, fed and ‘watered’ with luggage. My experience of trying to squeeze a tight connection at LHR is often ‘late/lost’ luggage (one trip i was missing luggage for five days), delays, and a very tired and frustrated me. I prefer to relax versus stress, whether it’s a business trip or vacation. FYI – I’m now retired so it’s all about relaxation. Roll on next week to Maui. Best of luck to all fellow travelers.

  86. The other lesson is to avoid the likes of Swiss and Lufthansa at all cost. If something goes wrong, rest assured you won’t get any service. It’s basically their business model.

  87. I booked Finnair to Singapore and BA from Singapore to SYD thinking that I’d be able to check baggage all the way, both being Oneworld, newbie error. Connection was 2 hours.

    The Finnair rep who refused to check-through told me I ‘should have known better than book the BA ticket on the internet’. Not only not helpful, a touch of contempt.

    Fortunately, even arriving 30 mins late at SIN, got through immigration, collected bags, checked in and had 60 mins to spare, but I wouldn’t expect any help from European airline staff.

  88. @MikaelJ

    I think Scandinavia is one of the worst places for empathy or customer service; it doesn’t exist there.

  89. So, what did I learn? Generally I tend to think that most airport agents will work with you, so there’s limited risk. Clearly that’s not always the case, especially in Europe.”

    This is one of the most biased comments I ever read! I am a European flyer and I found helpful agents every day of the week and twice on Sundays. Don’t generalize!

  90. @Lucku as far as I know, Italy is the only European market where the no-show rule is (sort of) not applicable. This means that if you buy a round trip out of Italy and you don’t make it to your outbound flight, you simply need to inform the airline within 24 hours after the time of departure and tell them that you’ll show up for your inbound flight. They need to honour it free of charge.

    I am not sure there’s any document in English but you can find more by googling “agcm italy PS10047”.

  91. If your initial delay on aa was 3hr+ just file for eu compensation. That should cover at least something.

    My opinion on the article; come on your a senior traveler @lucky, lhr is europa’s worth airport when it comes to traffic, holdings and even transit. Planning such a tight connection is a almost certainty of missing your self connect. No need to give out on the airline staff for not bending but simply adhering to the published rules and fare.

    Also delta agents are just as worse so please don’t generalize

  92. @ Flyingdutchsysadmin — It wasn’t three hours, and unless I”m missing something, EU compensation doesn’t apply on non-EU airlines unless you’re departing Europe? It doesn’t apply on a US to Europe flight. As far as the second part of your comment goes, it was a calculated risk. Like I said, if I had been delayed less than 75% minutes I would have made it, and I figured there was a 90%+ chance that we wouldn’t be delayed by that much. I take accountability for missing the flight.

  93. @ Alex — That wasn’t intended to mean that all agents in Europe don’t want to be helpful, but rather that their systems are different and that they’re not empowered to just put people on the next flight when these situations occur. Do you disagree with that?

  94. Lucky, I hope that you at least apply to be reimbursed the non-fuel government taxes and surcharges. It is a pain but it takes a little bit of the sting out of the experience, especially with what LHR charges.

  95. I did not realize that Priceline allows you to cancel by 11:29 PM on the Business Day after ticketing for same day tickets (i.e. cancel until departure). Must the ticket originate in or arrive in the United States? If checked in, will Priceline require check-in to be cancelled? What about on airlines who expressly state that their 24 hour cancellation policy is not available for same day ticketing.

  96. @Lucky

    This is in BA’s Conditions of Carriage:

    “3c4) If you need to change any aspect of your transportation because of events beyond your control, you must contact us as soon as possible. We will use reasonable efforts to transport you to your next stopover or final destination, without re-calculating the fare”.

    So, you see, British Airways isn’t so bad…although you’d probably need to quote this to them to ensure they stick to it haha

  97. All the airlines apologists and bashers can’t you stop being a corporate shill for a second?
    At least the current airline rule of canceling return ticket when missed out bound is ruled against by court, and by every means, it’s a terrible policy to rub salt in people’s wound.
    Shame on you guys, especially that pommy Josh. LHR is piece of giant shit, period.

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