I Just Had a Flat Tire. Again. Is There a Flat Tire Rule?

T here it was, flat as a pancake this morning: the rear tire on the driver’s side of the car. I had to get it fixed, as I have appointments later today.

Fortunately, this did not happen in the middle of nowhere in South Africa on my way to Lesotho. Rather, I was less than a mile away from a business which sells and repairs tires; and because I am a regular customer of this place who has purchased tires from there in the past, the repair was performed free of charge…

…but this had me thinking about what would happen if you had experienced a flat tire on the way to the airport in the vehicle in which you were driving or being transported?

Is There a Flat Tire Rule?

You will see many discussions on FlyerTalk pertaining to something known as the flat tire rule — such as this discussion or this discussion as only two of many examples — which is where you are automatically booked on the next flight in case you inexplicably miss the flight on which you were supposed to be a passenger.

Generally, there really is no official policy as a flat tire rule; but airlines do have differing policies as to what to do in the event a customer misses a flight. I am loathe to list those unconfirmed policies; but suffice it to say that on the extremely rare occasion where I actually missed a flight, I was either automatically “protected” on the next flight or accommodated with no problem or hassle — but then again, I may have lucked out, as circumstances are not always ideal for a “flat tire rule” to be implemented. Inclement weather; irregular operations; the time and day of the flight; and the destination are a few of myriad factors which could impede upon you arriving at your destination as soon as possible should you miss your flight.

One experience which comes to mind is when I was driving on an interstate highway on my way to the airport. I would have arrived with plenty of time to spare; but a crash involving two tractor trailer trucks squashed that possibility from happening. Law enforcement officers completely shut down the highway until the accident was cleared; and I arrived at the airport having already missed my flight. When I showed up to check in to the flight before passing through the security checkpoint, I was informed by an agent for the airline that I was already booked on the next flight out. No effort on my part was necessary; and other than arriving on the next flight, everything else occurred as normal.


While there may not be an official “flat tire rule” amongst airlines, their staff or technology will usually accommodate you in the event that you missed your flight — typically if you notify representatives of the airline within two hours of missing your flight; and preferably in person at the airport.

Still, do not take this “policy” for granted, as it is inconsistent not only amongst airlines; but also amongst employees working for the same airline — a version of hang up and call again may be in order here. Also realize that not all airlines have policies lenient enough to unofficially have a “flat tire rule” in the first place…

…and if your flight is the last one of the day, the chances of a “flat tire rule” policy being honored significantly decrease. Try to book a reservation on an earlier flight if you want a chance of taking advantage of the “flat tire rule” should you encounter an unexpected problem which prevents you from arriving on time for your flight.

Depending on the circumstances, missing your flight can be quite stressful and frustrating — especially if circumstances are not in your favor. Manage your expectations and realistically maintain your perspective. Retain your composure and treat the employees of the airline respectfully and nicely. You might be surprised at how far simply being polite and civil will get you.

Meanwhile, the flat tire on my car is now fixed; and I can now safely travel to my appointments and meetings…

6 thoughts on “I Just Had a Flat Tire. Again. Is There a Flat Tire Rule?”

  1. A says:

    I missed one UA flight by literally a minute the agent refused to check my party in because we arrived 44 minutes before the flight took off. He was such a pain. I called the 1K phone number and was rebooked in under 2 minutes. HCUA without a doubt.

    I was flying home from Spain last year on BA and literally discovered when checking in that someone opened my back pack and stole my passport wallet out of the front compartment (the old school Jansport). It had been sliced open. I almost started crying. Anyway – the agents were amazing. I had a new passport a few hours later and was on a later flight still in business. Airlines really want to help out, unless you are flying an Ultra Low Cost Carrier (just another reason to avoid). On my future int’l trips my passport and a debit card are going to be ducked taped to me (lol).

  2. Mark says:

    i agree with “A” generally, but where i don’t think that mindset necessarily holds true is when you are on a flight booked with miles, ESPECIALLY partner miles. i’ve seen it go both ways. AA staff were very accommodating when my mom missed a flight out of PIT booked with avios due to very bad traffic on the highway feeding the airport. But, in another episode, I was given no options when I called Air Berlin to inform them that I would not be making a flight from JFK to DUS a few hours away, also booked with avios. and there was another JFK-DUS flight I could’ve made later in the evening. They said that it was BA’s problem to fix for me, and when I called BA, they said they would not put me on any flight, on anyone’s metal, unless it had award space. Showed up at the airport having missed the original flight thinking someone there would be more accommodating, to no avail. Luckily that was a “for fun” trip, but now I am very hesitant to use Avios for business travel b/c BA was useless there.

  3. Jay says:

    Get some Fix-a-Flat and throw it in your trunk. The stuff will get you going again in minutes.

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      I actually had some, Jay; but the cans were too old.

      That is the problem with products like that: they are great in a pinch; but replacing them regularly can be costly.

      I am a member of an automobile club which has roadside assistance, though. I may not use the roadside assistance service much; but at least membership comes with discounts and other benefits, so it is not a waste of money…

  4. wowwee says:

    damn… your rims are busted too! how did you get hose massive dents?! at 2 different places to boot!

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      That was from a lurking pothole which hid itself quite well, wowwee.

      That was not fun…

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