DIY flight bookings – Minimum connecting time

bye-bye plane

One way that a journey can go wrong is when you have connecting flights.  One of the most frustrating of these can be when you end up running from one terminal to another to make a connecting flight, only to discover that the flight has already closed!  This can easily happen to you when you make DIY flight bookings with multiple sectors.

Each airline has its own rules but the industry norm is that you must allow two hours for international connections.  An hour is usually enough for domestic and regional connections.  But as we discuss below, sometimes you need to allow even longer.

Here are some of the connecting time factors that are taken account of and that you should take into consideration if doing your own booking:

  • Are you arriving and departing out of the same terminal?
  • Will your luggage be checked through?  (Must be the same airline or an alliance partner)
  • Will you have to pass through customs before connecting?
  • Is the departure terminal in a different airport?  (Such as in Mumbai and Beijing)
  • Will you be connecting between two specific airports such as Heathrow and Gatwick in London.

The airport that you are at can make a big difference too.  Some bookings that look fine on paper are also going to result in missed flights.

Mumbai has a minimum connecting time of 3 hours for international flights connecting with domestic flights.  You need to travel from one airport to a completely separate airport that shares some infrastructure and the same airport code.

If you are flying in from certain cities and then connecting domestically, the delay can be even longer.  For example, connections from Abu Dhabi, Doha, Jeddah and Dubai into Mumbai, all require a minimum of four hours if you are flying onwards in India.

We have specifically mentioned Mumbai and Beijing as both of these have the unusual situation of having two airports that fall under the same airport code.  If you didn’t do your homework on these two prior to your trip with just a two hour connection, there could be a nasty surprise on the other end.

When will the airline not pay for a missed connection?

  • If you have violated the minimum connecting time for your booking.

The airlines call it “MCT” – Minimum Connecting Time.  It is the minimum permissible time between the scheduled arrival of one flight and the departure time of another.

  • If you are not booked on a “through ticket”.

A through ticket is where all the sectors of the booking are on one ticket.  If you are making the booking yourself then you can usually only do this with a single airline but a travel agent can create a through ticket combining different airlines.  This offers certain protections.

Potential for double trouble

If the Minimum Connecting Time is not honoured (and you are not on a through ticket) then you can end up missing the flight, not being compensated, and still having to pay penalties!

Here is how it works: Let’s suppose the first leg of your journey is with British Airways and your connecting booking is on say, Emirates.  If the British Airways flight is late and you miss the Emirates connection, Emirates (who had nothing at all to do with carrying you on the first leg) will not compensate you for missing the flight.  You will also have to pay penalties to get on the next flight because from their perspective, it was your problem that you missed the connection, not theirs.

Even if you have used a travel agent you should always check the minimum connecting times yourself, and whether you have a through-ticket.  Just because you get one confirmation does not mean that it is a through ticket.  Examine the confirmation and check the ticket numbers.  If there is one number, then its one ticket and it is a through-ticket.  If its more than one number, you may not be on a through ticket and that is when would be a good idea to check directly with the agent.

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