What to Do If You Miss Your Connecting Flight and Your Baggage is Delayed.

by | Jun 2, 2024 | Latest Posts, Travel Tips | 4 comments

Especially when it comes to overseas travel, complications and disruptions can easily occur. The stress from missed connections, delayed or lost baggage, and dramatic airport security delays can make you second-guess your decision to take this trip.

Don’t go there. 

Remember how much you invested in making this trip happen: the cost of your flight, the hours planning your itinerary, and the excitement packing for that well-deserved vacation. Your destination is still calling. I had to remember this when I thought I would lose my mind at JFK Airport in New York recently. As a result, I learned a few hard lessons about booking, airport travel, and what to do if you miss your connection or your baggage is delayed.

In this article, I will share some tips to help you reach your destination safely, more efficiently, and with minimal stress. Most of these are based on my recent experience during this 35-hour journey to Kerala, India from Arizona, USA.

Woman missed connecting flight, laying down at gate checking boarding pass.

In early April, I crammed My life and business into storage units and embarked on this epic journey to visit my parents’ homeland. I wanted to dive deeper into my culture, study more Ayurveda in Kerala, and surrender further to the world of yoga and hippie vibes in the laid-back beach areas of Goa. I traveled solo, of course, but much of it involved connecting with colleagues, and business contacts…. and meeting family for the first time.

I accomplished all of them, barely.

When The Airport is in Chaos..

On my way to India, I missed my connecting flight to Abu Dhabi at JFK Airport. I originally had a two-hour layover but my American Airlines flight departed Phoenix late, which led to a shorter transfer time from Terminal 8 to Terminal 4. A group of passengers around me were also getting anxious. The cabin crew would not allow us to de-plane first when asked and instead, assured us we would be fine since the AirTrain would get us to our terminals in time.  Airport personnel directed us to the train platform as we ran through the terminal. We finally arrived and found yellow caution tape across the sliding doors. It was closed for repair.

 More than twenty minutes were wasted running to the Airtrain and then back to get to the Airbus platform. I started losing hope when I saw a massive crowd waiting for terminal buses and  I had no choice but to wait. Almost 30 minutes later the bus dropped me off at Terminal 4. The delay at TSA was a nightmare on many levels.

In the end, my Etihad Flight departed without me. I lost even more time in my panic trying to figure out what to do, and eventually, an American Airlines agent rescheduled me on a different route. But it involved me running back to Terminal 8 (via the Airbus again) because Qatar Flight 706 was leaving in one hour and twenty minutes. After another frustrating delay at TSA and an incorrect gate number on the display board, a fellow passenger and I raced across that entire terminal from Gate 14 to 47 in what seemed like record time . We just made it before the doors closed. 

Why Am I Telling You This?

Because, this ordeal taught me many lessons and hacks which could help your future travels, both domestic and international, go much smoother!

My adventure didn’t end there. I landed at Cochin International Airport in Kerala, India over 7 hours later than planned….. but my baggage didn’t. On my first trip to India, I arrived with a half-filled carry-on but no flip-flops, no bikini, hardly any toiletries, and definitely not enough clothes. Not one airline could find my luggage for several days.

I sorted these tips into all phases of a trip, from planning to post-arrival!

Planning

Avoid booking flights with short layovers in notoriously busy and chaotic airports. My 2-hour layover at JFK was not enough considering the unexpected shutdown of the Airtrain. 

Try to book directly with airlines vs resellers. My trip to India was booked with Expedia and this posed some delays in troubleshooting my situation at JFK. I do believe that if I booked directly with an airline, I would’ve avoided some of the hassles. 

Share your itinerary with trusted friends or family. You may need them on standby to make calls on your behalf if you are stuck in a missed flight situation, especially in a foreign airport. In this case, you will have airport WiFi to message your friends back home but in some foreign airports, you are not allowed to make WiFi calls such as through WhatsApp or Telegram.

Invest in the Global Entry Pass. Not only does it include your TSA Pre-check but you will be thankful when you land in America upon your return and breeze through customs, bypassing those long immigration lines. Make sure your Global Entry or TSA Pre-Check is registered with your booking.

Before Leaving For The Airport…

Take photos of your luggage and tags, and list any markings plus the contents of each bag in your notes app. Make sure ID tags are attached securely.

Organize your items for documents securely in your bag for easy access. Make sure you have a pen and a small notebook or post it stack for emergency notes.

Pack your chargers, power banks, coins, and jewelry in one ziplock, separate from your liquids bag. Some foreign airports require you to remove all these items from your carry-ons.

Record airline phone numbers and booking IDs separately – on your phone and paper. In case your phone dies or you lose it, you will need this info! 

Have all your airline apps downloaded with notifications turned on and check the status of airports and flights online using Flight Aware.

Dress strategically: Wear your heaviest but comfortable clothes with slip-on runners or walking shoes with good traction (in case you need to sprint to your gate). Many airlines have a strict max weight on your carry-on (7 kg or 15 lbs), and some airlines do not allow a separate personal item. Wear a cross-body expansible purse or bag to hold your heaviest items such as cell phones, and power banks. Swing it around your back under a jacket or pullover when you check in at the counter. hey may weigh your carry-on. This is a little sneaky but it has worked for me each time so far.

I covered many of these preparation tips in my last blog and you can find the link below this article in Resources.

TSA PreCheck Sign at Airport

At The Airport…

If you are traveling on multiple airlines, foreign airlines do not print boarding passes with your TSA Pre-check status for transfers at US Airports. When you check in to your departure airport, inspect all the boarding passes for the TSA Pre-check status. You may have to go to the domestic airline’s counter at the transfer airport coming home and get a new boarding pass printed with Pre-Check status.  Not being aware of this was one of my issues at JFK Airport and I was not allowed to enter the TSA Pre-check line.

Try to have both the electronic boarding pass and printed boarding pass as backup and for versatility when boarding the plane. Some international flights do not allow online check-in. In this case, take photos of all your printed passes as a backup. 

Snap a photo of your baggage tag number. It is attached to the back of your last boarding pass. You will end up memorizing this in case you have to report the bag missing. But it’s a good idea to have an image as a backup.

At security checkpoints, make sure you empty your pockets of metal items before walking through the screening unit. Having to remove these items from your pockets and send them back in a separate tray raises the risk of leaving them behind when you’re rushing to your gate. 

Check the flight display boards regularly for updates on gate announcements. Gate numbers tend to change unexpectedly and are not always updated as quickly on the airline apps.

You Have a Feeling You Will Miss That Connection.

If you are still in flight and just know your transfer time is going to be even shorter when you land, be persistent with the flight crew. Ask them to arrange for you to deplane first and get assistance transporting you to your gate. 

You Missed Your Connecting Flight.

Don’t waste time. Instead of calling the airline whose plane you missed (like I did) call the originating airlines first to see if they can re-book you on another flight. If you booked your trip through a third party like Expedia, they may not be able to help you. Go to the airlines’ customer service desk and ask them to call reservations. If this happens late at night, as in my case, you may have limited options. This is when you may need your friends and family to step in and make calls. Post a tweet, do whatever you need to do to get re-booked. At JFK Airport, I was fortunate to find a help desk with a friendly and knowledgeable Port Authority agent who guided me through the process.

Your Baggage Did Not Arrive.

I was told that it is the responsibility of the final carrier airline to get your bag to your destination. I’m not sure this is the case when you have been re-routed to different airlines on short notice. 

First, when transferring through foreign airports and switching airline carriers along the way, you will be told to wait until you reach your final destination to confirm that your bag has not arrived. This mainly applies if you were rescheduled on a different route and airline due to your missed connection. 

I was told that it is the responsibility of the final carrier airline to get your bag to your destination. I’m not sure this is the case when you have been re-routed to different airlines on short notice. 

Don’t trust the airline’s apps to track your bag. The Etihad airline app (the flight I missed) indicated my bag was on its way to Abu Dhabi while I was traveling on Qatar Airways to Doha. That was not the case

Airport Baggage Official Filing a Report
Filing the PIR Report at Cochin International Airport, Kerala, India.

File the PIR Report – And Get the Reference Number.

If your baggage is delayed, this is important and knowing these steps can help locate your bag more efficiently.

File a report with the airport baggage services agent and have your final boarding pass and bag tag handy. This is called a PIR report (Property Irregularity Report) and it is used by all airlines to check the status of your bag. This is where you will provide a list of the contents and identifiers on the bag. Under the stress and jet lag, you may not remember much so those photos you took earlier will come in handy. Make sure you get the PIR report with the reference number before you leave the airport. The airport agent failed to write down my reference number on my copy and of course, I didn’t know about it. So I had to return to the airport the next day to obtain this number from Air India Baggage Services. It was faster than trying to get them on the phone.

Before you leave the airport, Get the phone number of the airline baggage office and the airport itself. Make sure they have your hotel’s phone number and address. Once you leave the secure baggage claim area, you will be in the area where you can exchange currency and purchase your SIM card. If you choose to do so or have an e-SIM, call the baggage office and give them your local number for easier communication and updates.

It doesn’t hurt to open a case file with your originating airline if you are not sure your bag even made it on the second flight. I opened a case with Air India. But when I tried to file a claim with American Airlines it was a struggle because the first agent I talked to denied responsibility and pointed the finger at my final carrier.

I was told (by American Airlines) that it is the responsibility of the last airline carrier to bring your bags to your final destination. But in my situation, there was a chance the liability lay with my first carrier (AA).

Almost one week after I arrived in Kerala, India, American Airlines at JFK Airport called me to inform me my bag was sitting in their baggage office. It never left the U.S. Two days later, it was delivered, but I had already left Kerala and was traveling through another state (Goa).

Thankfully by the time I picked it up 15 days later, it was intact with no damage, except for my supplements from heat exposure in storage.

One Last Thing…

Breathe and hydrate. When we are in rush and panic mode, we forget these important things needed for a safe and enjoyable trip. You will arrive at your destination but you don’t want to arrive depleted and sick. Remember, you planned a “vacation”!

Melanie Dias, DC

Have you been stranded at an airport due to a missed connection? Lost your baggage? Please post a comment below and share any tips I missed in this article. Thank you for joining me on this restorative journey! If you enjoyed this article, please consider signing up for my newsletter and following Restorative Travels on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube

Resources:

U.S. DOT: Resources for Consumers: https://www.transportation.gov/lost-delayed-or-damaged-baggage#maximum%20limits%20on%20liabilities

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4 Comments

  1. Robert J. Wood

    That’s good info. What a challenge in travel you had.

    Reply
    • Dr. Melanie

      Thank you, Robert! Yes, however, with those challenges I can prepare better for future travels and troubleshoot these situations more efficiently if things go wrong again. Especially for travelers going abroad for the first time, this article could be very helpful!

      Reply
  2. Deb W.

    Such a detailed descriptive story to help everyone who has ever traveled on a plane! This is valuable information, even if you don’t travel overseas. Read. Remember. Don’t get caught in these travel nightmares by merely learning from someone else’s unfortunate events!

    Reply
    • Dr. Melanie

      Thank you, Deb! You are right. Even missing connections on domestic flights can lead to headaches. Thankfully with today’s technology, getting updates on the status of flights and baggage is easier. The bigger challenge lies with long-haul travel to foreign countries (ie: the language barrier, slower service, etc.). And this requires more patience and a different level of expectations. 🙂

      Reply

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