Many people pay a premium to avoid having a connecting flight on their itinerary. It reduces stress and minimizes the hassle of flying. But what about those times when you have to catch a connection? Learn some of the secrets to handling flight connections to ensure your next trip goes as smoothly as possible.
Book Your Flight Early in the Day
Unless weather causes an issue, things often run more smoothly in the morning. One maintenance delay, however, can affect flights for the remainder of the day. Flight crews can potentially run out of time to legally operate a flight, and schedules run amuck. To ensure the first flight of your trip arrives on time, try to fly as early in the day as possible.
Allow Enough Time for a Connection
Each airport publishes a recommended amount of time to allow for connecting flights. Sometimes a great deal on a fare might include a tight connection. You should avoid this at all costs. Not only will you probably have to run to make the second leg of your trip, but your bags might not make the connection either. Minimum connection times at airports in the United States vary from 30 minutes to two hours. If you're making an international connection, times range from one to three hours. When booking your flight, try to give yourself time beyond the minimum.
Avoid Hacker Fares
When you book connecting flights for a trip, they are typically part of the same itinerary, even if you are traveling on more than one airline. Many airlines have code-share agreements with partner airlines. For example, you might fly from Los Angeles to London, connecting in New York, and book your flights with British Airways. United, Delta, or American might operate your flight from Los Angeles to New York, but it will have a British Airways flight number on your itinerary. With everything on one itinerary, it's easy for the different airlines to see any delays to your trip. Sometimes they might hold a flight or have assistance waiting at your arrival gate to help you to your next flight. When you book the legs of your trip separately, which is how hacker fares work, it's much easier, and cheaper, to re-book another flight if you miss your connection.
Choose Seats Near the Front of the Plane
If you are flying coach, try to choose seats as close to the main exit of the plane as possible. When there is a single exit, it's often at the front, as you probably know. Some airlines charge extra for the economy seats closest to the front of the aircraft, or they fall into a premium economy category. If you are willing to spend the extra money for these prime seats, you can quickly exit the plane and head to your connecting flight without waiting for scores of passengers to pull their carry-on bags and shuffle off the plane. This can provide you an extra 20 minutes or more to get to your connecting flight, which can be valuable if you have a maintenance or weather delay.
Avoid Notoriously Frustrating Airports
Many of the world's largest and busiest airports can be extremely frustrating when you need to connect. Large crowds can make even the best-designed airports seem confusing and hard to maneuver. In other cases, the world's busiest airports require trams and trains to connect to other terminals or concourses because of their massive size. Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) protocols in the U.S. and advanced security directives in other countries can also make connections a challenge, and long lines add to the frustration. You might not always be able to avoid airports like LAX, LaGuardia, or London Heathrow, but you should always opt for the smaller, less busy airport when you have options.
Plan Your Connection Route
Take the time to look at a map of your connecting airport to get an idea of the layout. The day of your flight, take the time to revisit the airport map to pinpoint your arrival and departure gate and plan your route from one to the other.
Inform Your Flight Attendant
Sometimes you won't be able to book an early flight. You might have to book legs of your trip separately. You might have a tight connection. Or, you might have a seat at the back of the plane. Even after that, you might have to go through one of those frustrating and confusing major airports. If you are traveling on the first leg of your connecting flight and you think you might run late for your second leg, speak to one of the flight attendants on your flight. They might be able to move you to seat closer to the exit or call ahead to the gate and let them know they have a "runner."