Ins and outs of connecting flights

By Gloria Pyszka
This item appears on page 48 of the May 2016 issue.

In the letter “Allow Time to Transit Paris’ CDG” (April ’16, pg. 15), a subscriber expressed surprise that, with only one hour between flights, he missed his connecting flight out of Charles de Gaulle Airport. He mentioned learning from friends, later, the impossibility of traversing CDG in less than two hours.

Travelers should know that the world’s major airports and even some of the smaller ones warrant a reasonable connecting time (for me, a couple of hours) to allow for concourse changes, last-minute delays, going to the bathroom, checking out the gift shops, etc.

I told my husband, Ron, to never again tight-schedule us between flights as he did in summer 2015. I literally ran from the far end of one terminal to the opposite end, and we barely made it, and I’m 76! And that was on two Star Alliance carriers (Lufthansa from San Francisco to Frankfurt, connecting to SAS from Frankfurt to Stockholm).

Within Western Europe, connecting between two carriers that are members of the same airline alliance will take place in the same terminal sometimes, but, even then, the distances can be significant. If you’re connecting to, say, an Asian or Eastern European flight, allow even more time, as you may be departing from another terminal, meaning you’ll have to leave the secure (air-side) area and go through the security check-in line again.

Security check-in lines can be longer at certain times of day, but, actually, you never know when the line will be long. Security checks are becoming increasingly thorough and taking more time.

Travelers might want to check the back section of the airline’s magazine for pictures of the airport concourses so they can see which gates they’ll be arriving at and departing from. And listen for the flight attendant’s announcements. 

ITN readers may think of other hints, I’m sure, on the “Ins and Outs of Connecting Flights.”


Palo Alto, CA

When tickets are being purchased, an airline will not sell them for a flight itinerary that does not meet at least the minimum amount of time between flights for a legal connection. (In the US, the minimum legal connection between domestic flights is a mere 30 minutes.) For international flights, minimum legal connection times vary, depending on the country in which the connection is taking place. Other factors that can delay a transiting traveler from reaching his departure gate also should be considered, including having to change airlines and going through Customs, not to mention unexpected delays. In general, airlines recommend that you give yourself at least two hours for an international connection.