What do you do when extreme weather causes your flight to be delayed to the point where you miss your connecting flight? Make the most of it!
After arriving at the airport at 4 in the morning to catch a flight from Larnaca through Athens to Barcelona, I was sitting at the gate waiting for the flight when they announced that fog was going to cause a delay. Initially I'm not too worried because I'd given myself plenty of time to catch my connection, around 3-4 hours. At first the announced delay was only 30 minutes, then an hour, then 2, then over 3. Knowing that I was running out of time, I used the airport wifi to try and see what other flights would be heading out of Athens that day, but I still had hope that I would catch my connection. However, by the time we landed, I only had about 30 minutes to try to catch my flight when we hit the tarmac. When they finally let us off the plane I RAN through the airport as fast as I could. Of course, I made it to the gate just in time for them to tell me that the plane had just pulled away.
So after tearing through the airport to the gate, I had to turn around and walk back through the airport with my tail between my legs up to the airline booth to find out when the next flight to Barcelona is, which it turns out is going to be about 8 hours later. Sitting in an airport for 8 hours sounded extremely unappealing, so I decided to make the most of it, found a luggage storage facility at the airport and took off into the city!
I took the train into the center of Athens and had a lovely lunch while deciding what I could do to make the most out of a day in Athens! After lunch I decided what better way to spend the day than to climb up to the Acropolis?
This also just so happened to be the same day that someone had started a fire (why???) in the hills and it was spreading quickly.
By the time I left the smoke was so thick and black that if the winds had turned we wouldn't have been able to breathe let alone see!
After spending a couple hours checking out the Parthenon and the Acropolis, I headed back down into town to grab a bite to eat, and then back to the airport to catch my new Barcelona connection.
All in all it turned out to be the best missed connection ever!
Here are a few ways to deal with or completely avoid missed flight connections:
Book the connection with the same airline or with a partner airline ON THE SAME TICKET - this ensures that the airline will have to compensate you and/or put you up on another flight. If you book on separate airlines they ARE NOT required to compensate you (I often book separate airlines going to Europe to take advantage of the cheap European flights upon arrival - see my last tip)
If you know you're going to miss the connecting flight before you leave (like my scenario where fog caused the delay) then you can try to rebook yourself either online or by calling the airline.
If you're not going to make the connection and there's a bunch of other people on the plane with the same connecting flight, try to be the first one to get to the airline booth upon arrival (or call the airline from your cell as soon as you land). This ensures that if there's only a small number of seats on the next flight out, you should be able to get one of them.
G**gle an airport map for your arrival so that you know exactly where you need to be.
If the airline is the cause of the delay and it's going to be a long one, try to get them to let you into their lounge. It doesn't always work but if you're nice to them and they feel sorry for you they might let you in. I spent a few hours in the KLM lounge in Amsterdam when I was bumped off a flight. There was some pretty decent food and it was a good place to rest and relax.
Ensure that you have enough time to make your connection - tight connections are doable but can result in a missed flight - be aware that you *might* need to take a later flight out. If it's a domestic flight I don't like to give myself less than an hour, and if it's international I lean towards a 3 hour window for a connection - because many international airports force you to go through customs even if it just for a connecting flight, and I once spent over 2 hours in the customs line alone in Mexico City.
You can book flexible or refundable tickets - this increases your initial ticket price but decreases the cost if you wind up having to change your flights.
Take it in stride, sh** happens, don't let it ruin your trip. Talk to the airline, get your flight rebooked, and make the most of your new-found free time in a different city!
Get the travel insurance! Depending on your coverage they can help with compensation for rebooking.
Keep everything you would need for at least a couple of days in your carryon bag - just in case your bags don't make the new connection - or if they make the connection and you don't.
I often will book an overnight layover for three reasons: first because it gives me a chance to experience a new city for a day, second because you can often find cheap seat sales from one place to another that you wouldn't find otherwise, and third because it ensures that a delayed flight shouldn't affect your travel plans, because it is very rare that a flight gets delayed by more than a day.