When you have multiple flights on an itinerary, it is always a game of roulette. If the connecting flight is hours away, you have a long time waiting in the airport. Alternatively, if the time between flights is too short, you might miss the next service.

Airlines offer various connections when you’re booking. Some can be quite short, others fairly ample, but you never really know what is best. Here are some tips and best practices I’ve learned over the years.

A Short Connecting Flight

Airlines in the United States are especially happy to give connections as short as 45 minutes. It means you need to land, get off the plane and go to the next flight immediately.

On domestic US itineraries this is possible, as airlines schedule flights in waves. Everyone lands, changes planes and off you go again. It all works quite well in practice, but I find that quite stressful as minutes count.

Throw in any kind of weather and your connecting flight leaves without you and you have to take the next plane. That’s fine if there are multiple flights per day to where you’re going, but otherwise you’re in for an adventure of trying to get where you need to be.

In Europe, you will rarely see connections offered that are this short. It’s a different world altogether. Personally, I would avoid a 45 minute connection like the plague. Who needs the stress and worry?

A Long Connection

Three hours, four hours, six, eight – you can put a lot of padding in between flights if you really want to. This allows you to truly relax and take your time. As Cunard Line once advertised, getting there is half the fun.

That being said, unless you have a brilliant airline lounge to visit, such as Qatar Airways’ Al Mourjan Lounge in Doha, Cathay Pacific’s First Class Lounge in Hong Kong or the Qantas First Class lounge in Sydney, airports are very boring. Sitting around for hours in a glorified shopping mall is no fun. Unless you like shopping, that is!

The Perfect Connection

It’s all a bit three bears at this point, but the perfect connection time is two to three hours. You have plenty of padding so that if your flight is an hour delayed, you need not worry as you still have one or two to play with. It also means you don’t have to wait around bored in an airport.

I usually always book a two to two and a half hour connection ideally. That way I don’t have to worry about delays and I also don’t have to wonder what I am going to do for hours on end waiting around.

Overall Thoughts

Airports around the world have what is called MCT, the Minimum Connecting Time. At some airports it is 45 minutes, at others it varies. For example at London Heathrow it depends on whether you have to change terminals or not, because that can take plenty of time on its own.

At the end of the day it’s all about knowing the airport you are flying through and your appetite for risk. I think two to three hours is perfect and I would recommend that to anyone.

What say you? Do you like to take your connecting flight immediately and love the risk? Or are you a person who likes the padding and relaxed mind of the longer connection? Thank you for reading and if you have any comments or questions, please leave them below.

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Fast food by Marek Slusarczyk via Wikimedia Commons.