Rookie Wednesday: Does Delta really have a “Flat tire rule”? Yes! Here is how it works.

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RenesPoints Rookie

Welcome to a weekly feature on the Renés Points blog. Each week this series covers in a “rookie” way either a Delta or travel related theme and attempts to break down to a basic level each topic. You can read up on all the previous posts HERE. Now on to this week’s feature.


OH NO! A flat tire. What now?

Most years I fly hundreds of segments and hundreds of thousands of miles. I have never ever been so late to have missed a flight due to my own error (but I have been very close). My wife has missed one, that is, she made it to the airport before the flight left the ground but so late that they had closed the flight and she did not make it. What happens then? Or what if your car has a flat tire on the way to the airport and you have to change it?

Delta does in fact have a “flat tire rule”. This rule can save you when awful things happen to you and does show Delta is not as heartless as some may think. I confirmed with Delta representative Morgan Durrant that this quote from clubtraveler is still valid. He said in regard to the flat tire rule:

“A customer who in good faith arrives at the airport due to unforeseen delay should speak to an agent. We handle each on a case-by-case basis as every customer’s situation can differ. But many times we can get them on the next available flight.”

Now this is clearly about more than just a physical flat tire. It could be there was an accident on the highway and you were literally parked and could not move for hours. It could be any number of valid unforeseeable things that simply “ate up” the hour or two of buffer you gave yourself to get to the airport (and your gate) in a timely fashion. The key part in the quote is that you did try to make it with time to spare but life got in the way. Then what?

Notice that you will be addressed “on a case-by-case basis”. This means it is up to the Delta folks to evaluate what has happened to you so you had better be nice. Yes, you will be frazzled and yes, by all rights, you could have to simply pay for a new ticket for missing your flight. But if what happened to you is a legitimate unforeseen delay you should not have to pay for another ticket. Delta should be able to get you on the next available flight. However, be ready for some pain. What pain?

  • Flights are full – your wait may be many hours (or days even)
  • You may have to downgrade your seat
  • You may have to fly some crazy route
  • There could be some extra fees you have to pay

Have you noticed how packed flights are. Yeah, we all have. So think about this when you are trying to get Delta to put you onto the next flight to wherever you are going. Don’t get mad at the kind Delta rep that tells you we can get you on a flight tomorrow. Don’t breath a word to them that you are going to miss a day of vacation or whatever because they are doing you a kindness by even going this far. Same goes for your seat. You may have paid for a better seat (or even first class) but now the only thing they can offer is the last middle seat in coach. Again, any seat you do not have to pay for again is perfect – right? You may have been on flights direct A-B and all they can offer you is A-C-B and many more hours on flights. Who cares if they get you where you are trying to go. Lastly, if there are a few bucks in extra fees (or taxes etc.) pay them gladly. These costs are a fraction of what a walk up last minute fare could cost you!


After all, flat tires can happen to anyone (even to Delta jets). The key point to take from this is your life has not ended. Most likely you will not have to pay for another ticket if your delay was legitimate. That is what happened in my wife’s case years ago with Delta in Myrtle Beach. The kind staff put her on a flight a few hours later and, after a long-ish layover in Atlanta, she got home just fine at no extra cost to her. – René


PS – Don’t forget about the AMAZING 70k SkyMiles plus 10K MQMs Delta AMEX card offer ending soon!





  1. I will say a few years back I missed a US Airways flight AUS-PHL-HVN, my phone died and alarm did not go off. And flights to New Haven, CT are extremely limited. Not only did the rep do everything he could to assist me he even suggested I re-route to Hartford. In the end I actually arrived an hour *earlier* than I was even originally scheduled! Fantastic service. Never had this experience with Delta but I will say I always set two alarms now!

  2. the train i was on to the airport broke. called from train to let delta know. they said call back when you are sure the train won’t get fixed in time to make flight. i arrived at airport after plane left. they rebooked me same flight next day. 1st time i ever missed a flight. delta was very helpful. i was gold med. at the time.

  3. Fun Data Point:

    I fly often JFK-PDX for business, in coach. There was this one time, I missed my flight because TSA in JFK was like crazy, and the line took me 50 minutes. Missed the flight literally for 2 minutes (I saw the bridge disconnecting.) Gate agents told me to go to a redcoat/service agent. Went there, explained my situation, they’ve tried to put me on the same flight for the next day, also in coach, and were going to charge me $50. *SOMETHING* happened when I said yes, go ahead, and the machine printed my boarding pass in J, and I had none due to pay. The agent didn’t fully understand why or how.

    My best theory, is that either the card or the travel agent the airfare was paid with, had some kind of auto-insurance for this type of events. Now, how would they know I missed my flight so fast? no clue.

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