Saturday, January 4, 2014

Planning for Connecting Flights

You know you would rather fly non-stop to wherever you are going, but this isn't always possible or you want to avoid the extra cost. If you have to catch a connecting flight or two, you should know something about the airport(s) where you are connecting and what terminals your airline uses. Here are a couple things I recommend that you look for to avoid the possibility that you will not make your connection. I am going to use Chicago's O’Hare Airport (ORD) as an example since I have had bad experiences with using this airport as a connector.

What are the possibilities of delays?

You would think that delays would help you make your connecting flight, but delays could affect your flight to the connecting airport. Air traffic control is sophisticated enough that your plane may not even leave for your connecting airport until there is a time slot available for landing there.

I have sat on the ground at another airport waiting for the plane to get clearance to take off for O’Hare. I found a survey that showed that O’Hare has one of the worst records for delays. Besides being one of the busiest airports, O’Hare often has thunderstorms in the Summer and snow storms in the Winter. Too many times have I been in a plane that was waiting in line to be deiced before takeoff. A less busy connecting airport farther south may be more reliable.

How far apart are your gates?

You would think that flights with the same airline would have their gates near each other at the connecting airport. This is not always true, especially now-a-days with various airlines merging or using regional carriers. Different terminals could be used when one leg of your flight is in a smaller plane or serviced by a regional partner of the airline.

You can do a little research ahead of time. Find your flight numbers and look at today’s flight status (doing this the same day of the week as your scheduled flights may be more accurate). See what gates are being used and find an online terminal map for the connecting airport to see how far away they are from each other. The gates may change for your actual flights, but they should be fairly close to the gates being currently used.

I have hurried from one terminal to the other at O’Hare, through the underground tunnels with the strange streaks of light, for what seemed to be 20 or 30 minutes. Too often, the gate for my connecting flight is nowhere near where I deplaned.

If you can’t avoid an “undesirable” connecting airport, make sure you give yourself at least an hour to make your connection. There is not much worse than spending several hours at an airport arranging new flight plans after missing a connecting flight. If you do get stuck, ask the airline for a meal voucher for your troubles.

Hope your trip is a good one with carefree connections!

1 comment:

  1. We were bummed about our layover in Atlanta. From the airport's website, Jeff had the impression that there was a kid's playground in terminal A. So, we left our terminal (on the opposite side of the airport) to go to A, only to discover that it had been taken down a while ago. I don't know how we got such outdated information, but it was definitely a bummer to discover there would be no play place. It was good exercise though . . .