A Guide to Connecting Flights (2024)

A Guide to Connecting Flights (1)

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Everything You Need to Know About Connecting Flights

When you're searching for flights, you may have noticed that sometimes the only way to reach your destination is through purchasing a connecting flight. But what does that mean? And why are connecting flights cheaper than direct ones? Find out the answer to all your connecting flight questions with Alternative Airlines.

A Guide to Connecting Flights (2)A Guide to Connecting Flights (3)

What is a Connecting Flight?

Connecting flights are flights which require passengers to leave the plane and board a different aircraft in order to reach their final destination. For example, imagine you are flying with Lufthansa from London Heathrow to Shenzhen in China. AsLufthansadoesn't operate direct flights from London Heathrow to Shenzhen, you will need to depart the aircraft in Frankfurt and board a newAir Chinaflight at Frankfurt airport in order to reach your destination. This flight is called your connecting flight.

Connecting flights are often parts ofinterline agreements, in which airlines agree to handle passengers whose flight itinerary involves travelling on multiple airlines. Want to know about other airline industry terms, why not read our guide to commonairline lingo?

A Guide to Connecting Flights (4)A Guide to Connecting Flights (5)

How do connecting flights work?

If you’ve booked on a single ticket, then the connecting procedure is super easy. There might be multiple flights, one after another, but they have been booked as one. After you’ve checked in your baggage, it will be passed between flights automatically, ready for you to pick-up when you land after your final flight. When you land after flight one, all you’ll have to do is disembark and move through the airport to the gate of your next flight departure. You won’t need to do anything regarding your baggage.

However, sometimes it’s not possible to do this, especially a connecting flight with a low cost airline. You’ll need to pick-up your luggage, then check it in again for the next flight.

Top Tip:A wait at the airport between two connecting flights is called alayover. For more travel advice, check out our guide todealing with a short layover. Or, remove the stress and extend the length of time between your connecting flights. For more inspiration, check out our blog:How to plan the perfect long stopover.

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Connecting Flights FAQs

Are connecting flights cheaper than direct ones?

Connecting flights are normally cheaper than direct or non-stop flights as some passengers are willing to pay more for the convenience of catching a direct flight. However, when booking a connecting flight, it is important to factor in the costs you might incur during your connection. For example, if you are going to be in the airport for an extended period of time, you may have to purchase food and drink. As well as this, if you are required to change airport in order to make your connecting flight, you may need to pay for the cost of transport between the two airports. For more information on getting the best flight deal, please visit our blog on "The Cheapest Day to Buy Flights."

What happens with connecting flights and baggage?

When connecting flights are purchased with the same airline, or with airlines that have interline agreements (e.g. Lufthansa and Air China) your baggage will normally be transferred directly onto the second flight. If your connecting flights are within the USA or Canada, you may be required to collect your baggage and then check them in again. The best way to know what will happen to your baggage during your connecting flight is to contact the airline you are flying with or ask the airport staff when checking in luggage for your first flight.

What happens to my baggage on connecting flights that were booked separately?

If you have booked your connecting flights independently, the airline is under no obligation to transfer your baggage to your connecting flight. In this case, you will need to collect your baggage after your first flight and re-check your baggage before your connecting flight. For this reason, it is important to make sure you have plenty of time between connecting flights that were booked separately.

What's the minimum time you should leave between connecting flights?

Although it's difficult to say exactly how much time should be left between connecting flights, you should always try to have at least an hour for domestic connecting flights and at least two hours for international connecting flights. However, factors like the size of the airport, the season and whether you have booked with the same airline will affect how much time you will need during your connection. Passengers requiring special assistance at the airport may want to leave even longer.

Do you have to go through customs on connecting flights?

If you have booked international connecting flights, you will normally have to go through customs and immigration at the connecting airport. This is particularly true of the United States and Canada. For example, if you are flying from London to Mexico City with a layover in Miami you will have to go through customs and immigration in Miami even if you are not planning to stay in the United States.

Are connecting flights more expensive?

Connecting flights are generally not more expensive than direct ones. In fact, they are generally cheaper as some passengers may wish to pay more in order to get to their destination quicker with a direct flight.

How to book connecting flights with different airlines

Booking connecting flights with different airlines is easy with Alternative Airlines' multi-stop flights tool. To find out how to book your flight with multiple itineraries please visit our page on multi-stop flights. This tool makes it easy to arrange connecting flights with long layovers so you can discover a bit more of the destination you're passing through. However, please be aware that if your connecting flights are booked separately the airlines are under no obligation to transfer your checked baggage to your final destination. Nor to compensate you if you miss your connection due to the first flight being delayed.

A Guide to Connecting Flights (2024)


How to go through connecting flights? ›

If you've booked on a single ticket, then the connecting procedure is super easy. There might be multiple flights, one after another, but they have been booked as one. After you've checked in your baggage, it will be passed between flights automatically, ready for you to pick-up when you land after your final flight.

Is your luggage automatically transferred on connecting flights? ›

When layover flights are booked with the same airline, your baggage will be automatically transferred through to your final destination. However, if the two flights are with different airlines, you may have to claim and re-check your baggage during your layover.

Is 1 hour and 15 minutes enough for connecting flights? ›

What is a good connection time? Travel advisers say there's a lot to take into account when booking connecting flights, but a general rule of thumb is 60-90 minutes between domestic flights and at least two to three hours for international itineraries.

Is 50 minutes layover enough for connecting a flight? ›

The recommended layover time for domestic flights is normally one hour. However, as previously stated, you may require longer if your flights are booked with two different airlines, if you are traveling to a very busy airport or if you require special assistance.

Do I have to check in again for a connecting flight? ›

No, you do not have to check-in again at the transit airport as both boarding pass and checked in baggage will be through checked in till the final destination issued from the point of origin, however every passenger is required to collect their baggage at the first port of entry into India, clear the relevant customs ...

Do you have to go through airport security again for connecting flights? ›

For connecting domestic flights, you almost never have to exit and reenter security, though there are some exceptions at airports where the terminals aren't all connected. For domestic-to-international connection, it's still pretty rare that you have to exit and reenter security, even if you're changing terminals.

What happens if you miss a connecting flight due to delay? ›

In most cases, US airlines will put you on the next available flight for free. (Even some ultra-low-cost carriers, like Spirit and Allegiant, will rebook you on the next flight for free if the missed connection is due to a flight delay.)

How long will a flight wait for connecting passengers? ›

Besides this, when you purchase a connecting flight ticket with your preferred airlines, then in such conditions, a general thumb rule says that; for domestic flights, the time is around 60-90 minutes, and suppose you have an international connecting flight ticket, then it will take approximately 2-3 hours, and it ...

What is the minimum connection time for international flight? ›

Two to three hours is the minimum recommended time for an international layover, but more might be needed. Sally French is a travel rewards expert who joined NerdWallet in 2020.

What is the difference between a layover and a connecting flight? ›

One of the main differences between layovers and connecting flights is the duration of the wait. Layovers are generally shorter, ranging from a few minutes to a few hours, while connecting flights can be several hours or even overnight.

Do you have to go through immigration for connecting flights? ›

If you have a connecting flight but you purchased separate tickets, you will usually need to go through customs and immigration to pick up and recheck your luggage for the next flight.

How much layover do you need between flights? ›

A short layover is usually 1-1.5 hours for domestic flights, as you will not have to go through security. For the above reasons, a 2- to 3-hour layover is a good time to calculate for international flights. But often, flights come with 4-7 hours or even 10 hours and longer in this case.

How to prepare for connecting flights? ›

Tips Before You Book
  1. Know Your Minimum Connection Time. ... and add some contingency. ...
  2. Fly Early. ...
  3. Fly with One Airline or Alliance. ...
  4. Travel on One Ticket. ...
  5. Avoid Hectic Hubs. ...
  6. Grab an App. ...
  7. Canny Baggage. ...
  8. Buy the Right Travel Insurance.

Do I need to recheck in my luggage on a connecting flight international? ›

At the connecting airport, you will need to collect and re-check in your baggage. (Even if your final destination is printed on your baggage tag, it is still necessary to pick up your luggage.)

What happens if my first flight is delayed and I miss my connecting flight? ›

The airline may choose to accommodate you by booking you on another flight, but that's their discretion, and you may be on the hook for change fees or even fare differences. If you miss a connection because your first flight was delayed, you're entitled to compensation depending on what caused the delay.

Do connecting flights have to wait for you? ›

Do connecting flights wait for delayed passengers? Most airlines will try to accommodate passengers from a delayed inbound flight, but it's not guaranteed. Flight attendants might notify the ground crew of connecting passengers, but airlines typically won't delay a departure for a small group.


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