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Tips for Making a Connecting Flight

The hassle-free way to transfer at an airport.

Never beaten on price

We can get almost anywhere in the world nowadays thanks to the connecting flight. Yet the thought of a tight transfer can make even the most seasoned of travellers break out into a cold sweat. Stray luggage, a stressful hike through miles of airport, jam-packed monorails, sluggish shuttle buses, and the ultimate nightmare of missing a flight.

Luckily we've got these top tips for making your connecting flight.

Tips Before You Book

Know Your Minimum Connection Time

... and add some contingency. The minimum time necessary to transfer flights at your particular airport could be anything from 45 minutes to two hours or more if you need to get to a different terminal and/or clear security. If navigating a busy or large airport, and in peak times, allow plenty of extra time. Four hours is usually the maximum connection time allowed by an airline if both flights are with them.

If you're booking through a travel agent they should have accurate information on minimum connection times. Often when booking your own flights, airline systems will automatically account for connections, but not always if you're flying with different airlines.

Don't forget to check your boarding times rather than just the departure time, as the gate could be closed 30 minutes before the flight is due to take off.

Fly Early

As at the doctor's surgery, the later your flights are scheduled the more likely they are to be delayed - and the more likely your connecting flight could end up the following day. You don't want to be organising last-minute overnight stays at the airport because of a delayed or missed connection.

people in airport

Fly with One Airline or Alliance

With one airline, booking should be more straightforward and departure gates should be closer together at the airport or at least easier to reach than with unassociated airlines. And if your flights are on a single ticket with one airline, when you miss a connection it is obliged to send you on the next available flight at no extra cost.

Different airlines only have responsibility for their flights and do not have to cover the cost of missed connections, so take heed!

Travel on One Ticket

Again, if you're flying on two separate tickets (usually this will be with different airlines but not always) if you miss your connecting flight due to the first flight being delayed, the airline could cancel your seat on the second flight and expect you to buy a new ticket for the next available flight. You will also need to do the whole security and baggage thing twice if you are flying to your final destination on two separate tickets.

If it's absolutely necessary to fly on separate tickets, then it's worth allowing 24 hours between your flights to allow for any delays.

Avoid Hectic Hubs

Airports including Paris Charles de Gaulle, Chicago O'Hare and New York's JFK have terrible reputations for flight delays and general disorganisation. You'll usually have some choice so it's best to do a little research on the most efficient airports for your connecting flight.

Tips Before You Fly

Grab an App

Before you go, search out handy travel apps (including your own airline's) designed to help your journey through the world's airports go as smoothly and speedily as possible. GateGuru, Hotel Tonight, Seat Alerts, LoungeBuddy and Airport Maps are just a few.

woman using smartphone in the airport

Canny Baggage

There's always the risk that checked baggage will go on its own little holiday without you if you miss your connecting flight, or even if not. Flying with hand luggage only is your best bet for a stress-free transfer. Stow it in the overhead locker directly above or in front of you on the plane so you won't need to battle the baying crowd to retrieve it when you land.

Some travellers hate the thought of lugging bags across terminals and don't want to see their suitcase until the final destination... if so, just be sure to check that you won't need to pass immigration and security, claim your baggage and re-check it in at the transfer airport anyway.

Buy the Right Travel Insurance

You should always buy suitable travel insurance for your trip as soon as you've booked your holiday. This will then cover you for various unforeseen events, often including cancelled or delayed flights and expenses after a certain amount of time. Check the small-print!

Tips the Day You Fly

Check in Online

Many airlines require this now, but even if they don't it's the best option for a quick and calm airport experience.

Bag a Front Seat

Not quite shotgun, but if possible reserve a seat near to the front of the plane on your first flight. If necessary, speak to one of the airline team in departures and let them know you have a connection to make. You'll definitely have an advantage when it comes to leaving the plane and dashing towards your next flight. If you're travelling with others, makes sure you're all sitting together so you can exit en masse.

Airport Connection

Spend a Penny

To really fine-tune your transfer, use the loo on the plane on your first flight just before landing so you don't waste any precious time answering the call of nature at the airport.

Carry Snacks

Loading up with food and drinks after you've passed security at your first airport means you won't need to look for refreshments when you arrive at the airport for your connecting flight.

Take it in Stride

If the worst happens, try not to get too stressed. Take a few deep breaths, stay calm and focus on what you need to do. Ranting and foaming at the mouth is unlikely to get you to your destination any faster. Be nice, and ask for help.

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Written by Maxine Clarke: a writer, mummy, missus and campervan-lover. Used to travel, now enjoys a good holiday! Follow her on Twitter.