If you’ve ever searched for flights and seen an itinerary that features a mere 35 minute layover to make a connection, you might wonder how airlines decide the minimum connection time between flights. There is a rule in place that determines the shortest amount of time airlines can offer for a connection, known as Minimum Connection Times.
What Are Minimum Connection Times?
Minimum connection times are the shortest amount of time that airlines can offer as a layover between flights. These standards vary by airport, and can also vary depending on the flight. Larger airports require longer connection times, as do international flights where passengers will need to go through passport control/recheck luggage.
Minimum connection times are automatically factored into reservations, so too-short layovers won’t be displayed as an option when you search for flights. (Note that this only applies if you’re booking both legs of your flight on the same ticket—if you’re trying to save money by booking two flights separately, you will be responsible for making sure you can make your connecting flight, and won’t have any protections if your first flight is delayed and you miss your connection.)
How Are Minimum Connection Times Determined?
The minimum connecting times for each airport are determined by airport operating committees or groups of airlines. Sometimes airlines will have their own policy as well for specific airports or individual routes.
The allotted time factors in distance between terminals/gates, security wait times, etc.
How Can I Find out What the Recommended Minimum Connection Time Is for an Airport?
If you’re stressed about a short layover, it can make you feel better to check the minimum connection time for your airport. Many airlines and airports will show this information online.
For example, here are Air Canada’s minimum connection times. You can see that a domestic flight through a smaller airport only requires a 30 minute layover, whereas an international flight from a large airport will require at least one hour.
What Can I Do If I’m Stressed About a Tight Connection?
Meeting the minimum connection time is certainly no guarantee that you’ll make your next flight. If you’re booked on an itinerary with an uncomfortably short layover (or if your original flight is delayed, making for an even tighter connection) and you have concerns about making your onward flight, there are a few things you can do to better your chances.
- Request a seat at the front of the plane to allow you to get off the plane faster.
- Let the flight attendant know that you have a tight connection (especially if your first flight is delayed). They may be able to move you up to the front of the plane toward the end of the flight, and/or make an announcement asking other passengers to remain seated to allow you to be the first off the plane.
- Download a map of the connecting airport and study the route you’ll need to take to get to your next gate.
- Research if shuttle buses are required to move between terminals, and if walking (or sprinting!) would be faster than waiting for one.
- Don’t check a bag—if you’re connecting to an international flight, you’ll usually have to pick up your bag and recheck it before continuing on, which can slow you down. A tight connection also increases the chances of your bag getting lost.
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