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Help! Madrid Airport Transfer Times question

Hi all,

We're flying into Madrid (from the US) next week on our way to Rome. The Madrid flight lands at 8:55am through Delta and our connecting flight leaves at 11:25am through Alitalia.

Since the tickets were purchased as separate flights I'm worried that we may miss the connection based on some reviews/knowledge I read about in the last few days. Many people recommend 3+ hours to make a flight! So...

  1. Is 2.5 hours enough time to do a transfer? Will the timeline be shorter since we're already in Madrid?
  2. What's the process of getting off the plane/getting on to the new one? I don't THINK we need to do customs but I think we'll need to get bags from baggage claim...and then go through security AGAIN.
  3. Any advice on how to make this transfer? I don't think we can change flight times so close to the trip and I'm running out of ideas. Maybe ask the flight attendant?

Thanks for any and all advice!

Posted by
6874 posts

You should change the flight to Rome. 2/1/2 hours is not enough time.

Arriving in Madrid you will have to go through passport control/immigration (many erroneously refer to this as customs) first.

Then after that you go to retrieve your bag, then pass customs, and then you will be landside.

From landside you have to go to checkin counter for Allitalia (do you know what terminal that is in?) and recheck your bag get boarding pass and then through security on the way to the gate.

Or since Delta and Alitalia are part of the Sky Team Airlines Alliance, when you check in for your first flight you should ask them if they can combine the separate tickets and tag your luggage so you don't see it until Rome. Either way you will still go through passport control in Madrid.

Posted by
5 posts

Thank you! I'm worried as well about the timeline. I love the idea about calling Delta though -- I'm going to give that a shot.

Thanks so much!

Posted by
2505 posts

If everything goes absolutely perfectly, you’ll make it. That means: arriving flight on time, You are near the front of the plane for prompt disembarkation. Passport control has short lines (flying into the EU multiple times our wait has ranged from 10 minutes to 4 hours-no telling). Then, find your bags, go through customs, find where your flight leaves from, re-check your bags, go through security again. Asking a flight attendant, gate agent or anyone else will just waste time. You purchased an unprotected connection, almost always a bad idea unless you are staying overnight after you land. Hopefully Madrid to Rome was cheap as you need to be prepared to lose these tickets. Look into the fees associated with changing to a later flight (call Alitalia). Look ahead as to when later flights leave so you can rebook on your cell phone if things go sideways. You can shave of some valuable time by doing carry-on baggage only or, if you luck out, having Delta check your bags through to Rome.

Posted by
5 posts


Called Delta and they are baggage partners! This way I can save ourselves the trouble of baggage: they'll transport it all the way to Rome.

Now, with that out of the way: do you think we have a better chance of making it? 2.5 hours is still close but I'm hoping the baggage resolution will solve the problem.

Thanks again for your help! You're saving me a ton of stress...=D

Posted by
5197 posts

Upon landing, if there are any concerns, be prepared to find a representative at Madrid Barajas Airport to expedite things. Hope security and your flights are all moving smoothly, but you could have some options, if not. And hopefully your luggage arrives with you, so waiting for it to be forwarded to Rome doesn’t become anything. But there should be a resolution, if something comes up.

Notifying the check-on desk of your connection, and a flight attendant upon boarding in the USA might help to smooth things.

Posted by
7791 posts

Not having to deal with checked bags in Madrid is a big step toward a successful transfer.

The major issue now is arriving in Madrid on time. Depending on where in the US you are coming from, weather may be your biggest concern.

Research where your inbound and outbound flights are so you can familiarize yourself with where you need to go and how to get there

Good luck!

Posted by
5 posts

Thanks for all the help! The flight is usually on time (and actually landed 40+ minutes early yesterday) so my hopes are going up!

I'll take the advice about informing staff about our transfer and see how they can help. We're gonna pull out all the stops to try and make it (and then NEVER make this mistake again 🤣).


Posted by
203 posts

Hope you make it! A word to the wise based on several delayed flights to or from Europe - I always choose a 3-5 hour layover to lessen the chance of missing a connection.

Posted by
5 posts

Update (in case you're curious): we made it!

-Delta flight was 45 minutes EARLY to arrive
-Alitalia was about 15 minutes late
-We were able to check our bags all the way to Rome

And, since it was so early when we touched down (8am Madrid time) we got to our gate 2 hours early!

Better to be over prepared than under prepared shrug