We’ve all been there. Dashing through the airport, suitcase wheels screeching, coat flying. Arriving sweaty and anxious at the gate, will you make it? It’s the ultimate sign of a too-short layover.
Just so you know, the airlines no longer hold a flight even when they know you are coming (you checked in for the prior flight after all). If you’re lucky, the flight attendants will ask passengers to stay seated so those with tight connections can make their next flight. The last time I saw that happen, everyone stood up anyway. It’s a me-first mentality out there whether you like it or not.
No one is going to help you if your layover is too short. It’s all up to you.
So how can you determine, before you book that flight, if your layover will be too short? Read on to find out!
The rule of thumb isn’t super useful, but here it is:
Neither of these is helpful, however, because determining whether a layover is too short isn’t that simple.
If you’re booked on more than one airline, you could be out of luck.
In America, the airlines rent gate space from the airports and the airline is in charge of allocating the gates, so they determine how many flights will happen at each gate on any day. The airlines also know their schedules better than anyone, so they set minimum connection times for the flights.
If you’re traveling on more than one airline, however, your next gate may be all the way across the airport (this is where you get your steps in!)
Takeaway: If you’re traveling on more than one airline, give yourself a longer layover to be on the safe side.
If you’re checking luggage, the baggage handlers need time to unload the entire cargo space and transfer your luggage to the new plane.
Takeaway: If you’re checking luggage, give yourself a long layover.
The cruise ship will sail on time. If you have time-bound plans, such as meeting a cruise ship or tour company, give yourself a longer layover. Lots of customers miss their cruises because of issues with connecting flights – even when flying the same airline on all flights.
Takeaway: If you have time-bound plans, give yourself a longer layover.
Toddlers are speedy escape artists when they’re having fun, but they’re not so fast when you need them to be. Neither are your great-grandparents. Some folks need a little more time to get from point A to point B.
Takeaway: If you’re traveling with folks who move a little slowly, pad your layover.
Heaps of people get in trouble and miss their connections because they forget to factor in immigration and customs. Anytime you fly internationally, you have to go through customs and immigration.
Even worse – you have to claim and re-check your luggage to make your connection!
Pro tip: Installing Mobile Passport on your phone can speed things up!
You can’t plan for bad weather, someone forgetting to pick up the flight attendants, or the aircraft needing emergency repairs. You can, however, select the perfect layover time.
Here’s a handy checklist:
If the time you’re seeing for your next trip looks long, consider what type of traveler you are. If you have TSA PreCheck and Mobile Passport/Global Entry, always carry your luggage on board the plane, and you’re fit, you can shave off some of that time.
Damian Tysdal is the founder of CoverTrip, and is a licensed agent for travel insurance (MA 1883287). He believes travel insurance should be easier to understand, and started the first travel insurance blog in 2006.