Flying is difficult these days and unless you are lucky enough to fly direct to your destination you will have to book a connecting flight through another city. Anytime there is a connecting flight you are likely to have problems getting to your destination. Airlines contribute to this problem in many ways but the first problem can occur when you are booking your flight.
When booking a flight from one city to another the airlines will give you all options available to get to your destination. This is the part of the process where you can minimize any problems. When booking you will be shown a grid of the flights and the times. The problem is that many times the connection time is not long enough to allow you to get to your next flight. It is common for the booking screen to show you connecting times of thirty minutes or less. Unless your flight gets in early and the next flight is at the next gate you will most likely miss your flight.
Below is an example of flights from Phoenix to Toronto on U.S. Airways. They give you the “Best Match” flights at the top and then a selection of other flight options. The problem is that the Departing “Best Match” flight only has 46 minutes between flights. This is cutting it very close and there is a good chance that you will not make the flight. It is also the last flight of the night so if you miss the flight you will be sleeping in the Charlotte airport. The airline will not pay for your hotel since they did not directly cause the problem. I would contend that they did cause the problem because they should have never given you that option in the first place.
The Return option is even worse. There are only 43 minutes between flights and you will also have to go through customs. There is no way you are going to make that flight. You are better off looking for other options than what the airline considers the “Best Match” options.
Based on the above example you need to pay attention to what flights you are booking and how much connecting time is between flights. Below is an example of what I would choose for my flights.
The flights that I chose under this scenario give me 1:13 minutes to connect on my first flight. I feel safe with this amount of time. On the return flight I have 2:34 minutes which should give me plenty of time to go through Customs and get to the next flight. Note: On international flights if you checked your bags you will have to pick them up at the baggage claim and recheck them to your final destination. Allow extra time for this process.
TIPS FOR BOOKING A CONNECTING FLIGHT
- Allow at least a one hour minimum time between flights. Add more time for busy airports.
- Allow at least two hours if the connection involves a change of airlines. Allow three hours if you have to change terminals and go back through security.
- Allow at least two hours when flying internationally and you need to go through customs.
- Take an early flight. This will give you more of a chance to get to your destination if problems occur.
- Know where your next gate is and how far away it is from your arrival gate.
- Request a cart if you need assistance getting to the next gate.
If you miss your flight the airlines will try to get you on the next one but most flights these day are flying full you will likely have problems getting another flight.
When you are booking your next flight if you pay attention to the connecting times you will be able to minimize any problems.
Excellent advice, Jeff! I’m such a worrier that I actually book even more connection time if I can (for instance, 2.5 to 3 hours for an international flight where I have to go through customs). It makes for a longer flying day, but I’d rather sit in an airport a little longer than miss my connection. And you raise a good point about the booking engines too–they should NEVER be presenting us with choices where the connecting flight is less than an hour because they have to know there is no way we’re going to make such a tight connection. It should never even be presented as an option. It’s like they’re setting you up to miss your flight. Now, you and I travel enough that we know this, but all those people who don’t fly very often don’t know that, and they’re going to assume that because the airline offers it, it’s doable, when it really isn’t. That aggravates me.
Gray, I think that the average traveler does not pay attention to these things. The airlines really should not give people options that will cause them to miss their flights. When I book a flight I spend a lot of time making sure that I will get to my destination with the least amount of hassle.
Jeff recently posted..Antoni Gaudi’s Architecture in Barcelona
Bethaney - Flashpacker Family says
Lainie from Raising Miro had an absolute horror story about connecting flights when travelling in the US last month. I’m always super careful now after hearing that Expedia.com allowed her to book connecting flights that she had NO chance of making and consequently stranded her and her son at an airport for 24 hours.
Bethaney – Flashpacker Family recently posted..40 Tips to Help You Travel Smarter, Cheaper, Safer, Lighter and, errr… Awesomer!
They should not be allowed to give you options that you will not be able to make. I only book direct through the airlines website because I do not want to have to go through the middle man if there is a problem. This does not mean that they will always help but at least they can not blame it on a third party.
Great advice! I’ve missed quite a few connections because I had less than 30 minutes to transfer in crazy airports like Atlanta! Although that being said I’ll probably still go with the short layover if the flight is way cheaper I’ll take my chances!
Anna recently posted..Koko Crater Railway Trail-Honolulu, Hawaii
That works if you do not have to be somewhere at a specific time and have flexibility. I think in almost any airport 30 minutes is way too short to make the next flight.
This is a good reminder. I try to make sure I have at least an hour between flights, but it’s not always possible. I haven’t had a missed flight, yet, but I have had a panic a couple of times. Welcome to the new world of airlines.
Cacinda Maloney says
Great Article! What did you mean by “The airline will not pay for your hotel since they did not directly cause the problem.” How could they not pay for your hotel since you booked the flight right off their website? I have never had this problem yet… knock on wood…. I have come close, like on my last trip from London to Vancouver, but made it by the hair of my chinny chin chin.
Let me comment you wholeheartedly for these knowledgeable pointers, they are worth digesting for future travel reference. I will be travelling from Jamaica to Abuja, Nigeria but I will transit through the U.S. John F. Kennedy Airport. I will be travelling for the first time, hence this data comes in useful for me. I will be internalizing on what you quote above so that my first time experience to some extend will not be scary.
Since you will be going through customs you will definitely need more time between flights.