When you travel by plane and you have a connecting flight, airlines typically take this into consideration giving passengers enough time, based on their calculations, to reach their next flight. This minimum connection time can vary depending on the flight type (domestic to domestic, domestic to international, etc.) and by airport size. Every airport has its own minimum connection time lists. If, for example, you book a connecting flight with the same airline, then the reservation system should utilize the airport information to determine how much time is needed to change from one plane to another.
In theory, this sounds really easy and simple, however, if you have ever worried about reaching your connecting flight due to delays or tried sprinting through a busy airport than you will know what we mean when in regards to a connecting flight and most passengers end up missing the next take off. There are many factors to consider when you look into booking a connecting flight, because it may be cheaper, or include a destination you may want to have a layover in. Nonetheless, it is your responsibility to plan your itinerary accordingly, to ensure that even when you have a connecting flight that the transition goes smoothly.
We have compiled a few factors to consider so that you have enough time to hop off one plane and hop on the next without any hassles.
Logically, it will take you more time to reach your next gate at a larger airport versus a smaller domestic one where you might just walk to the gate next door. If you are traveling through a large airport or a hub, then make sure you leave enough time between your arrival and next departure to ensure that you are able to get through the busy airport traffic and reach your next gate.
Whether thunderstorms, winter snow, or any other unexpected event, airlines and ground crews plan accordingly, however, things can happen unexpectedly. Your plan may suddenly need de-icing, causing a delay in departure from your first flight meaning you won’t even make your connecting flight at the next airport. Take into consideration where the airport is located and what type of season it is. Add in extra time between flights to cover any potential unwanted weather delays during your trip.
Grabbing a Quick Bite
There are travelers who don’t like airplane food, or follow a special diet and may need to eat in between flights. AIrport terminals, depending on your location often can offer a wider variety of eating options and if you are such a traveler you may want to add in some extra time, in case you don’t want to pack in snacks for a long-haul flight. If you already know upfront that you will need to eat on the ground, add an hour or so to your layover to ensure a smooth transition.
When you book a flight that includes a connection, typically most online search engines, agencies and airlines automatically adjust connecting times based on the airport (as previously mentioned) however, if you booked to travel on two different airlines, then you are responsible to ensure you have enough time between those two connecting flights. Airlines, in this case, do not need to help you resolve any problems if you have not allowed enough time between the two flights. Say you have a three-hour slot, that is different than having a 15min slot between your flights. Ultimately its also down to logic and customer service at those given airlines.
Albeit most airports have a separate terminal for connecting flights, some may have you walk through security screenings again before allowing you to go to your connecting flight’s gate. An example would be in London Heathrow. All connecting passengers with destinations on international flights need to go through security between two connecting flight destinations. Ensure that you allow for extra time in order to clear security.
Customs and Immigration
Aside from security, you may need to go through a countries customs and immigration and this can vary by country. If you travel a lot then you know this procedure can take anywhere from a few minutes and simply walking through the “no items to declare lane” all the way through a couple hours, depending on location and airport, the time, month of travel and various other factors. If you know that your layover is in a country with customs and immigration between your connecting flight then ensure you add at least an hour/hour and a half to the minimum connection time for your itinerary. This also includes the airline suggestion upon booking. Should the connection time between flights only be an hour, then try to adjust the flights to allow for a second hour in case you do go through customs and immigration.
(Tip: If you are connecting via an airport you are unsure of, especially in a country you have never visited before then do a google search or you may even call the airline customer service to ask about customs processes so that you are not surprised upon arrival. Click here to view a list of all airlines and their customer service support.
In case you need to travel with a wheelchair, allow for sufficient extra time. Your airlines should arrange wheelchair assistance for you if you ask for it, however, you may need to wait for an attendant to arrive at the check-in counter or transfer gate to assist you from point A to point B. This will take additional time and if you are connecting somewhere and need the assistance, then schedule in extra time.
If you are traveling with small pets that are allowed in the cabin or a service animal, then in-between flights you may want to ensure it has the opportunity to relieve itself and have a bathroom break, and/or something to eat as well. Many airports have an area especially for this, however, typically limited to one specific spot. So you may need to zig-zag through the airport to reach it only to find that your next flight’s gate is on the other side of the airport. Ensure you get a hold of an airport map and know where you need to take your pet or service animal allowing for extra time in the process.
If you have connecting flights, you will want to have enough time in between flights to allow your baggage to travel with you to avoid any surprises at your destination. If the time between connections is too short, the ground crews may not be able to get your luggage out of the cargo from plane A and onto the cargo of plane B quick enough, only to potentially frustrate you. Keep this in mind when booking connecting flights, and also carry any essential medications and other items (keeping carry-on limits in mind) in your carry-on baggage.
Connections can be an enjoyable experience, whether its a short break to stretch out your legs and walk before your next flight, grabbing something to eat, or even a whole nights layover to potentially enjoy a quick city hop visit, or if planned wrong can be a nightmare with missed flights and lost luggage due to short connection times, delays and other factors. Plan your trip accordingly and avoid the stress of a bad layover.
Are there any other things to consider that you may want to share with the community?