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Minimum connection times?

Montreal, Canada
posts: 518
reviews: 42
Minimum connection times?

Hi all.

Planning a trip for 2 people to Hawaii in the beginning of october and I've been looking at all the flight options.

We're leaving from YUL and going to LIH (Kauai, Hawaii) on a friday morning, then leaving from OGG (Maui, Hawaii) to YUL on a sunday (over)night flight. We have the "luxury" of clearing US immigrations and customs at Montreal before leaving, so we're flying all-domestic flights. It's probably going to be 2 stop flights all the way around as 1 stop flights have very tight connection times. Will probably be flying with United.

I have the choice between all those airports : EWR, ORD, LAX, HNL, DEN, IAD.

Preferred route : YUL - EWR - HNL - LIH for a longer flight between EWR and HNL in a bigger plane, as suggested by some members on TA forums.

2 questions here :

1) What would be the minimum connection time for any (or all) of those airports? I'm assuming here we don't change terminal (United usually specifies when we change terminal) and don't have to go through security?

2) Any airports better to avoid at all?

Thanks for your input!

Aero.

Portland, Oregon
Destination Expert
for Air Travel
posts: 17,401
reviews: 5
1. Re: Minimum connection times?

The issue with EWR is that most flights from YUL arrive at Terminal A, and the HNLflight departs from TermC. That would require an inter-terminal shuttle bus which I haven't used but I'd expect to allow 20-30 mins extra. There was one YUL-EWR flight today that arrived at TC (out of eight). If that happens to be the flight you would need then EWR should be fine to connect. Air side at TC is actually very modern and spacious. You may have a 10-12 minute walk between gates.

I usually want to allow 2 hours between flights to absorb a delay on the inbound. Remember that there's only one daily service to HNL from EWR.

Of the others, ORD, LAX and DEN also have walkable connections. As per the experience, I'd rate DEN, then ORD and finally LAX at the bottom. (Pray for me; I have a 5 hour layover at LAX next week!!)

UK
posts: 42,038
reviews: 88
2. Re: Minimum connection times?

What would be the minimum connection time for any (or all) of those airports?

----------

Is this the question you mean to ask? Because if you book a flight with a connection, then the airline won't allow it to be scheduled below the MCT so you don't need to know it.

If you are booking separate flights, then the "MCT" you should allow for your own itinerary would always be many many hours and would need to cater for schedule changes as well as delays. Many people would say, arrive the previous day.

Or did you mean, what should you prudently allow even if its the airline making the connection? Hard to say, depends on you, you could allow one extra flights distance, eg if flying a-b-c take the a-b flight before the one that airline first suggests. I am personally never happy with any connection less than 2 hours, and for connections which involve US immigration,usually never less than 3 and probably 4 hours at present .

Montreal, Canada
posts: 518
reviews: 42
3. Re: Minimum connection times?

@ USBusinessTraveller : it's a good idea to check the EWR website for terminals... thanks.

@ oeintheuk : this baffles me. I'm booking through United only for the whole fare. I'm not booking all the legs on their own with different airlines. Yet they offer trips with a 40 minute connection. If we arrive late at airport B and miss the flight to C, will they arrange for the next trip, pay our hotel expenses overnight and even pay for our missed night at our hotel in Hawaii?

"Or did you mean, what should you prudently allow even if its the airline making the connection"

What do you mean by "airline making the connection"? Is it if I book one ticket through the airline instead of 3 different tickets?

If yes, then yes this is what I meant.. as much as I would love to get all the shortest connections, something tells me having two 40 minutes connections is not reasonable even if booking one ticket.

Aero.

UK
posts: 42,038
reviews: 88
4. Re: Minimum connection times?

OK, so what you are asking is, is it prudent to allow very short connection times even if the airline allow it.

To answer your question, "If we arrive late at airport B and miss the flight to C, will they arrange for the next trip, pay our hotel expenses overnight and even pay for our missed night at our hotel in Hawaii?" the answer is "yes", "probably" and "no" :-)

So, what is pruduent to allow really depends on your attitude to risk, It also depends what the "recovery action" is and the repercussions. Coming back, you may allow a shorter connection than going because you merely just get home later rather than miss a day of vacation. I'd also allow a shorter connection if there were several more flights from B-C that day, than just the one.

Myself, I don't like any connection under 2 hours almost anywhere, but you may have no option, it depends on the schedules. And of course, booking some time in advance, schedules can change, which is another reason to book a longer connection, a 40 minute connection can be rescheduled out of existence with a trivial change, a 2 hour much less likely. Last year I had a 2:45 international connection in Chicago I was unhappy about but little option other than to accept, then schedules changed, luckily for me that turned into a 4:30 so it was no problem, but had it gone the other way to 1 hour I probably wouldn't have made it.

So I agree with you about being uneasy about 40 minutes, I wouldn't accept schedules with a 40 minute connection, even a trivial on the day delay will mean you'll miss it, and even if you can run to the gate, your luggage cannot. But there is no rule or guarantee about longer connections, it all depends what happens on the day.

Sunnyvale...
Destination Expert
for San Jose
posts: 5,724
reviews: 96
5. Re: Minimum connection times?

I've had more negative experiences at ORD than LAX. I avoid ORD every chance I get, even if some plane I want to get on is coming from ORD.

LAX usually saves me when my travels are mangled. I've gone through there so many times, unplanned, it's weird.

For missing connections, the best idea is to have travel insurance that will cover hotel/meal expenses. Whether an airline will help you at all is all according to the fine print and its permutations. Universally, they all still help you get distressed traveller rates at hotels (correction--the airport info booth will, as the airline agents themselves might be a bit useless and unavailable when there's all sorts of travel chaos happening), but beyond that, you're often on your own and what any travel insurance will cover for you.

40 minutes is tight. In flyertalk forums, there's interesting discussions by a fellow that goes by "aluminumdriver." I think that he is a United Airlines Airbus pilot. A very recent discussion was about protocols of when to giveaway people's assigned seats, when to shut the jetbridge doors, etc. When you add it all up, 45 minutes really is a minimum for a person making a flight. Luggage takes longer. Why an airline will schedule connections tighter than that is beyond me.

Italy
Destination Expert
for Livigno, Lombardy
posts: 39,242
reviews: 139
6. Re: Minimum connection times?

We had 50 minutes connecting time in Philadelphia and were quite worried as we knew we would have to pick up our lugagge to go through another security check but we made it without a problem, however I wouldn't like the stress of worrying if we would make the flight or not again and in the future would prefer at least 90 minutes.

South Pole
posts: 15,408
reviews: 39
7. Re: Minimum connection times?

i fly united exclusively to/from and around the usa.

i never book flights based on their MCTs.

i know the airports i fly thru and make the bookings accordingly.

sometimes i am happy with 40 mins eg. denver but others i allow 2 and sometimes 3 hours.

and it can also depend on what flights are available if i miss a connection.

united transfers in lax are all in the secure area (unless u arrive internationally) and they are quick.

at ord they use 2 terminals. there can be quite a walk from one gate to another.

denver is a dream to connect thru.

Nashville, TN
posts: 4,525
reviews: 8
8. Re: Minimum connection times?

"Because if you book a flight with a connection, then the airline won't allow it to be scheduled below the MCT so you don't need to know it."

Joe in the UK, this falls under the old GIGO (garbage in, garbage out) concept. I was a travel consultant for over 14 years and have seen numerous cases where flights listed in a GDS did not meet MCT. Someone has to input the data and we all make mistakes. It's always a good idea to verify the MCT as (in a lot of cases) the airline is going to want you to prove it was their error and not a booking error made by the traveler.

UK
posts: 42,038
reviews: 88
9. Re: Minimum connection times?

It's always a good idea to verify the MCT as (in a lot of cases) the airline is going to want you to prove it was their error and not a booking error made by the traveler.

-------

The airline is doing the routing, not the OP. there is no way the OP can be suspected of making a mistake,and certainly not need to prove it, the mere fact they booked a-c on a single ticket proves it !

Edited: 3:51 pm, April 04, 2013
Nashville, TN
posts: 4,525
reviews: 8
10. Re: Minimum connection times?

"The airline is doing the routing, not the OP. there is no way the OP can be suspected of making a mistake,and certainly not need to prove it, the mere fact they booked a-c on a single ticket proves it !"

As stated, the people inputting the data can and do make mistakes. I have seen flights listed in a GDS with MCT's that did not meet the MCT criteria. I have spent hours on the phone with airlines proving to them that the information they had entered in the GDS and on their sites did not meet MCT. Why was this done, to keep our clients from having to purchase new tickets at their expense. Yes, at times you do need to prove it to the airline.