Connecting Flights, Missed Connections, Airline Alliances and Codeshares

Your rights relating to connecting flights and journeys that may involve more than one airline.

Connecting flights

If the flights you are booking involve a connection between the legs of your flight, there are some things you should bear in mind.

  • Are your flights booked with the same airline on the same ticket? If so, and you miss your connection, the airline may book you onto a later flight. This may not happen if the connecting flights are not on the same ticket.
  • Check whether your connections are at the same airport. For example, there are at least five airports local to London but getting between them can take some time.
  • Have you left enough time between flights for your baggage to be moved onto the later flight? If your flights are with different airlines, you may have to retrieve your baggage from one flight and check-in with the later flight.
  • Do you need to add in time to get through immigration and customs between flights?

Missed connections

Many air journeys involve passengers connecting between two or more flights to reach their final destination. If you have a number of connecting flights on the same reservation, also known as a ‘through ticket’, and you are flying with two or more airlines, you are generally entitled to be looked after by the first airline on the ticket. For instance, if you miss your flight connection because the first flight was delayed, the airline operating the first flight should arrange and pay for meals and accommodation.

The entitlements set out above are only available to passengers on a “through ticket” i.e. one reservation reference. If you have separate tickets / reservation references - either because your travel agent has booked your flights or you have put together your own “connections” using separate reservations - these are separate contracts and you will probably have to buy a new ticket if you miss the connecting flight. Some airlines advise of the dangers of this on their websites.

But it can be considerably cheaper to make your own connections. If you do, consider building in extra time to allow for delay, if possible.

If you missed your connection due to a delay on a previous flight, if it was on the same ticket, then you may be entitled to compensation if you arrive at your final destination more than three hours late, unless the delay was completely outside the control of the airline.

If you missed your connection due to a problem in transiting through the airport, for instance due to very long queues at security screening, you will not be entitled to financial compensation under Regulation EU 261/2004.

You should make sure you have receipts for anything you buy and may be claiming for later.

Airline alliances

Airline alliances are agreements between airlines which allow them to co-ordinate schedules and to collaborate on fares and marketing. They enable passengers to book one ticket which covers their flights with multiple airlines.

Code share

A code share is when tickets to one flight are sold by two or more airlines. The flight will have more than one flight code depending on who is operating it and who sold the ticket.

You should be made aware when you buy a ticket that your flight will be operated by another airline. This important for a number of reasons, not least because you need to check in with the airline that is operating the flight, which may be different to the one that sold you the ticket.

Buying a ticket for a flight operated as a code share can affect which rights you have in cases of delays and cancellations. You will have more rights with an EU airline when flying into Europe. For instance, if you have a code share flight, and your inbound flight is with a non-EU airline and is delayed, you will not be entitled to the same rights as you would have if you were flying with an EU airline. Also, you will need to know whose terms and conditions apply when you are travelling, the airline you booked with or the airline that is carrying you. You will need to know this as for example, the baggage allowance may vary. This information is not always clear from the small print, or may not even be included in the terms and conditions. Ask your agent or airline before you book.

If you have booked to travel with a global airline, their website may have details of who they code share with.

When booking flights, consider the following:

  • Check before you book if the airline you are booking with is the airline you are flying with. This should be advised to you on the website or by your agent
  • If you are going to be carried by another airline, check what the differences will be:
    • Will you receive the same leg room?
    • Will your baggage allowance change?
    • Whose terms and conditions will apply when you travel?
    • Who will you need to contact if you need to make any amendments or changes to your tickets?
  • Be aware that on journeys outside of Europe, you generally have more rights when there are delays and cancellations if you are flying with a European airline.