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10 May 2022

What can I do if I miss my flight due to queues and delays at airport security?

Compensation, refunds and what to do if you miss your flight at Manchester, Birmingham or Gatwick airport

Security queues at some UK airports have been so long passengers have missed their flights, despite turning up several hours before departure.

Manchester Airport has faced repeated criticism for queues at security with lines stretching out of the terminal. The airport has admitted it will be unable to resolve the problem quickly as it has too few staff.

Other airports have also faced more isolated problems with long queues, including Birmingham, Gatwick and Heathrow.

Can I get a refund or compensation if I miss my flight because of airport security queues?

Probably not. Queues at the security check are the responsibility of the airport rather than your airline. Your airline isn’t liable to pay compensation or refund you if you miss your flight because of long queues at security.  

Unfortunately, it will be difficult to get the airport to reimburse you. No large UK airport has a policy to compensate passengers who have missed flights because of long security queues. In law, passengers could possibly claim frustrated contract and argue the airport is at fault for them missing their flight – but this would almost certainly require going to court.

What about queues at the airline check-in desk?

Some passengers have reported long queues at check in desks and bag drop at airports. This is the responsibility of the airline, even if it has outsourced the service to a third party.

If you have arrived at airport at the time you were instructed to by the airline and miss your flight because the queue at check-in or bag drop was too long you may be able to claim against the airline under the consumer rights act. Again, this is unlikely to be straightforward and may involve a court case.

Find out which carrier you should book with using our guide to the best and worst airlines

Can I claim on my travel insurance if I miss my flight because of long queues?

It depends on your travel insurance policy. While some policies include cover for missed departures not all will cover you if the missed departure is caused by long queues at the airport.  This is not always well defined in the policy either. Insurers often cover extraordinary circumstances for missed departures (such as weather making roads impassable or sickness) but not those things within your control (which may include airport security).

If you do want to claim, it will be crucial to provide evidence that you turned up at the time advised by the airport, or airline. This could be a bus ticket or parking stub that marks your arrival at the airport with a time and date, or a receipt from a shop or restaurant inside the terminal.    

What should I do if I’m about to miss my flight because of queues?

Make a fuss. Most airports will bring you to the front of the queue if your flight is due to depart shortly so try and find a member of staff and explain you have been called to the gate. If you think you are going to miss the flight, contact your airline. 

Here’s what British Airways, EasyJet, Ryanair and Virgin Atlantic say about missed flights:

If you think you are going to miss the flight, contact your airline. A handful of flag carriers will simply put you on the next flight at no extra cost. British Airways for example will try and rebook you without charge. It says:

‘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.’

Virgin Atlantic has a similar policy.

If you checked in and arrived at the airport at the time advised by the airline and long queues caused you to miss the flight this should fall under events beyond your control.

Some airlines, like EasyJet, offer ‘rescue fares’ that allow you to rebook for a fee. To take advantage of this you will usually need to have been at the airport two hours before your scheduled departure time. You should contact the airline immediately for help.

Ryanair’s charge is predictably high. £100 per passenger to rebook a missed flight. Still, this is likely to be cheaper than rebooking on the same day.

Should I claim the taxes back for my missed flight?

You will see some advice suggesting you claim your air passenger duty back from the airline if you miss your flight. All airlines are obligated to issue this refund, but most also charge a fee which costs more than the refund you’ll receive.

You’ll be due £13 for economy class tickets in Europe. Ryanair charges £17 for its Government Tax Refund Administration Fee. Jet2 charges £25 per booking.

Check with your airline to make sure the refund you’ll receive outweighs the charge.