How Do Connecting Flights Work? What You Need to Know

July 28, 2021
Maile R

'How do connecting flights work? Connecting flights aren’t just for business travel anymore. Find out how to make connecting flights work every time.'

When it comes to seamless travel, all possible situations should be at the forefront of your list of priorities.

Air travel can seem simple: Just get to the airport and board your plane, and end up at a new destination.

That is not always the case.

Air travel in and of itself can be a stressful experience when flying direct. When flying on a connecting flight, passengers can be left feeling frazzled and rushed.

What are Connecting Flights?

What Are Connecting Flights?

Often, when traveling, booking a direct flight is not an option. You may be on connecting flights due to the size of the airport, the destination, and the flight carrier. As a result, travelers have to anticipate a connecting flight.

There are different styles of connecting flights. These include taking a connection through the first flight/original airline or a partner airline, flying with multiple airlines, or entering international terminals and different airports.

So How Do Connecting Flights Work?

When traveling on a connecting flight, there can be a lot of moving parts in play. Create a plan and research before booking the trip. Once landing and disembarking, you will need to locate the departures of your next flight.

This process can be as simple as finding that the gate is nearby, but when it comes to larger airports or if you are switching airline carriers, this can be a nightmare.

Before departing on any trip with a connecting flight, be sure to either have one ticket printed for both flights-or use a mobile pass. If both flights are on one ticket, you do not have to leave the terminal and go through security again, giving you more time to make your flight.

The mobile pass with added text alerts provides notifications if there is a delay on your itineraries or a last-minute gate change. Searching for your flight number and gate on the airport displays when you're already in a rush is frustrating.

Often, the flight attendants can provide information on the gate number for the connecting times if it is through the same airline or a partner airline.

When it comes to baggage, any checked baggage is transferred to the next plane directly by ground support crews at the airport. Those who choose to fly with carry-on baggage simply take it from the overhead and move it to the next plane as they board it. For those making shorter trips - or travelling lightly - this can be the best option as you do not need to wait for a bagged claim once you reach your final destination.

How to Book Connecting Flights with Different Airlines

How to Book Connecting Flights with Different Airlines - SkyGoFly

Booking connecting flights separately can be done in different ways. When using a trip or third-party website once entering your destination, you have the option of selecting 'multi-city' rather than selecting the 'round-trip' option. 'Multi-city' brings up different available domestic flights and airline carriers that will be arriving and departing from the connecting airport to reach your destination and return home.

Connecting flights with different airlines can also be booked as single flights directly through the airline's official website. There are times when booking connecting flights through a different airline is necessary if there are no flights available through a single airline available for the time or date you need.

Do You Have to Go Through Security on Connecting Flights?

So do you have to go through TSA on a connecting flight? This depends.

When booking a connecting flight with different airlines, if the connecting flight is not on the same ticket, you will have to leave the terminal to retrieve your checked baggage. After retrieving all the bags, they must be re-checked. This process is important to keep in mind because if you have multiple tickets, ground support has no idea that your bag is supposed to continue and will unload it at your layover airport. Once baggage is checked, the next step is locating the new terminal or gate for your alternative ticket and going through the TSA security checkpoints again.

Another instance where you will need to go through security on connecting flights is when flying internationally. International terminals are in a different area of the airport entirely. You will need to change your luggage and go through the TSA security checkpoint after presenting your ticket and passport.

What Are The Connecting Flight Procedures?

When booking a connecting flight there are rules of thumb to follow.

Connecting flights procedure:

  • Check into both flights (first airline and second airline) if flying on 2 legs
  • Account for time and flight delays when booking
  • Fly on a single ticket if possible, and if not plan for TSA security time
  • Purchase airline insurance if you experience a delay and miss your flight
  • Fly on a single ticket if possible, and if not plan for TSA security time
  • Know the size of the airport
  • Get to your gate in as much time as possible

What is the Minimum Time Between Connecting Flights?

The minimum time for connecting flights can vary. You need to account for the possibility of a delay while selecting connecting flights with short layover times.

While that may seem attractive it can result in missed connections, thus increasing travel times significantly.

Ask yourself, how large is the airport? Am I switching airline carriers? Do I need to go through TSA security checkpoints on this flight? If you do need to leave the terminal, give yourself a significant amount of time in between flights. In busier travel seasons, TSA security lines can set you back over half an hour before you even have to find your gate.

For connecting flights where you are not flying with different airlines, give yourself at least thirty minutes in-between. For any flight where you will have to go through security again, give yourself at least an hour and a half to two hours, especially if you are checking baggage. Extra time gives you a safety net to make your flight.

Why are Connecting Flights More Expensive?

Booking connecting flights that have you switching airlines is typically more expensive. The price increase is due to you purchasing tickets through each airline, which means that you are paying the added fees for both flights. Even at times when you are not switching carriers, with longer flight times, there can come higher prices.

Often the idea of travel seems simple, but it can be more complicated than simply boarding one plane to reach a destination. However, once executing connecting flights, it can become second nature for future travel.

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