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Reasonable Time Allowance for Connecting Flights

I've begun looking for October open jaw flights from Cleveland to Venice/Milan (or Turin) on Delta. A number of the flights have what seem to be quite short connecting times, such as 55 minutes at JFK or 45 minutes at Atlanta for departing flights. We don't have much travel experience so I'm uncertain if these are reasonable. If not, I'd appreciate some idea of just what would be reasonable connecting times. I'd also appreciate reasonable connecting times for our return trip.

Also, for what it's worth, I've found that the prices shown on Delta's site are considerably less than what Google and Kayak have been displaying for them.

As always, I appreciate all of the help you folks provide.

Posted by
6866 posts

I wouldn't check any luggage with those short layovers. I have done a layover of 60 minutes at Chicago's O'Hare for an international flight and made it but longer time would be much better. Your flight may take off late and cause you to miss the connection. JFK and ATL are huge and very busy airports.

Posted by
6772 posts

If you've flown domestically, think how many times the plane arrives a half hour or so late. It's not unusual for a number of reasons - weather, late departures, mechanical issues, lots of existing air traffic, etc. So by the time you're arriving, you need to immediately run to your connection because it's already boarding. You are also risking your luggage not getting transferred to your connecting plane. Yes, 45-55 minute connections at the largest, busiest US airports (where the gates can be quite far apart) are a recipe for stress and missed connections. I would personally not do a connection shorter than 1.5 hours and I actually prefer more time because it gives me a chance to sit down somewhere and eat before boarding the next plane.

Posted by
5099 posts

I'd much rather have an extra hour or two (or three) to kill at mu connecting airport, than stress out over making a sprint to the gate and risk missing the connection. I've done both (and I've missed connections). It's so much nicer to skip all that stress.

Exactly how long is a comfortable time for a connection involves many factors: which airport, which gates you will/might use, time of year (weather, holiday crowds, etc.), time of day (rush hour?), the airlines, what your baggage is like, and -- most critically -- what exactly would be the impact if you miss the connection (which has its own set of variables).

Like so many things in life, there's no simple, single answer that applies for everyone in all situations.

Posted by
4897 posts

I wouldn't want such short connection times at airports like those.

Posted by
931 posts

I do not like those short connection times and have been glad many times that I didn't go for those as we would have missed our flight. I really prefer at a minimum 1.5 hours and can easily deal with up to 3-4 hour wait times.

Posted by
1038 posts

I would be looking for connection times of 2-3 hours for these flights. In the case of missed connections, the airline will put you in the next flight, but since you are talking about a journey to Europe, the next available flight might not be until the next day.

Posted by
3500 posts

55 minutes at JFK or 45 minutes at Atlanta

Either can be done if everything goes perfectly and your first leg arrives on time. But having said that, we wouldn't even think of trying either. Atlanta (our "home" airport) is large and depending on the arrival and departure gates you will be going at a dead run the whole way. In addition, you will arrive at a domestic terminal and have to take the "plane train" to the international terminal. If you do have a connection in Atlanta, the food choices at the international terminal leave a lot to be desired. Much better choices at the terminal before that one. Trust me, you do not want a Varsity Chili Dog before a long flight.

We avoid connections in JFK if at all possible. Others will disagree, but it seems like JFK is "fubar" -- (fouled up beyond all repair).

Our thinking is that we are better off having a longer connection and enduring a little boredom that stressing out over short connection times.

Posted by
3932 posts

I won’t book a flight that’s less than two hours for connections when I’m traveling to Europe. I would rather walk around the boring JFK airport and read a book for a couple of extra hours than miss one valuable day of vacation in Europe.

Usually on the Delta website, you can set the connection time number line in the left column to two hours, plus, to have better options.

By the way, Venice is wonderful to land at their airport because you can see the islands from the plane - so beautiful!

Posted by
2992 posts

We found even with a 2.5 hr layover at JFK, we spent the entire time in the passport control line. We barely made it to the plane. I'd be uncomfortable with 45-55 min. timeframe.

Posted by
1217 posts

The airlines have what they call a minimum legal connection time that they use to determine if they will sell you a ticket with specific flight combinations based on odds of a successful connection in average conditions. That list of times is not widely circulated because it typically contains a bunch of different variables ("except for 787 aircraft arriving at Kuala Lumpur, Denpasar, or Changi Airports on Tuesdays and Wednesdays in months with R in them") but you can often find relevant parts of it in assorted places on the 'web like Flyer Talk's hub airports threads.

Frequent flyers also refer to the 'minimum sensible connection time', which typically is a lot more of a time buffer between flights.

My risk tolerance for short connections is highly variable and based on 'so what happens if I miss a flight?' I will gladly go a 40 minute domestic to domestic connection in ATL if A) the price is right B) my first flight is getting in by 1:00pm or so leading to C) I've got 3-5 other flights that day I could be rebooked onto if I miss my original connection.

I have a lot lower risk tolerance if I'm trying to connect to the last and/or only flight of the day to a destination. I've currently got a ticket for Zurich next summer where I wouldn't take less than a 3 hour layover connection in Atlanta because there is only one daily non-stop from Atlanta to Zurich and I have extended knowledge of the ATL's tendency to have summer thunderstorm delays.

I've done right at the MLCT coming home from Europe (took it to make a frequent flyer ticket work for a reasonable number of miles) Despite a number of small ICE and TSA delays, we made it to the next gate with time to spare, but it was still stressful and I'd really want 2:30 or so to clear immigration at a large hub.

Posted by
129 posts

A follow-up question, if I may.

I find the idea of connecting through JFK a bit intimidating. As I mentioned, we are fairly inexperienced travelers, domestic and international. With that in mind, is there a connecting airport you could recommend? We would most likely originate from Cleveland or Detroit.

Posted by
1179 posts

I looked at Google flights and it shows Detroit to Venice via Schiphol (AMS).

I find Schiphol to be a very easy airport to traverse. It has lots of people to help you and there will be more flights to Venice if something goes wrong. There’s also plenty to do there while waiting.

There’s also flights through Paris (CDG) but that’s a rats nest of twists and turns and terminals. And busses to/from planes. Ick.

PS Some of my family is from Defiance area.

Posted by
1549 posts

If given a choice, I would much rather have my first leg land me in Europe. If you miss your European connection, you’ll be put on the next flight to your destination. For US to Europe flights, the next flight may well be 12 to 24 hours later, or may involve addition connections.

Planes are delayed for a variety of reasons, and even a long layer can turn into barely making your connection. 45 minutes to an hour connection is cutting it way to close to get on any international flight.

Posted by
6772 posts

If the price is the best going through JFK, I wouldn't actively avoid it. If you give yourself a large time cushion (2 hours plus), you should be ok. But if price is not the deciding factor, then connecting in Europe in an airport like Amsterdam's Schiphol (AMS) or Munich or Frankfurt is preferable. You're going to be limited on where you can connect based on the airline, so I wouldn't worry too much about it. Even if you're inexperienced, the only way to get experience is to actually go through a large busy airport at least once in your life. The signage will be clear no matter what airport you end up connecting through. I too prefer to connect in Europe but I'm not sure coming from Cleveland that you'll get that choice (you'd probably connect through another very busy airport, Charles du Gaulle in Paris, if you go through Detroit).

Posted by
3500 posts

If given a choice, I would much rather have my first leg land me in Europe.

Karen makes a very good point. Even if the plane is late arriving, you will have many more options to get to the final destination. If push came to shove there are always trains if you have to.

Posted by
1217 posts

Frankfort generally has a reputation of being a bit tough, while Amsterdam is a bit easier. I also like Detroit- yes, you may have to walk a bit if the plane train is down but the exercise is good for you and it's an easy layout.

On the US side, Atlanta is way too big, but has a nice logical layout and common airside area so you never have to go through security again to make a domestic-domestic or domestic-international connection (international-domestic requires security again because you have access to checked bags that may contain items forbidden in the plane cabin when you clear immigration and customs)

Posted by
2992 posts

We fly Delta departing SeaTac and have found that a 3 hour layover at Schiphol is well organized and less stressful.

Posted by
2452 posts

An advantage of flying a European airline is that both your flights will be EU261-protected.

Btw, it's Frankfurt, not Frankfort.

Posted by
3 posts

We are new travelers as far as Europe’s goes. I too had same concerns. In the end we opted for flights with 3 1/2 and 4 hour connections, rather be able to find my gate at my leisure, especially in a foreign country. We connect in Paris, why not enjoy some croissants while waiting!

Posted by
3176 posts

As I mentioned, we are fairly inexperienced travelers, domestic and
international. With that in mind, is there a connecting airport you
could recommend? We would most likely originate from Cleveland or
Detroit.

Connecting on a DL flight in Detroit (DTW) is easy. Make sure you leave at least 2 hours in DTW because your inbound flight could be late and if you miss your transatlantic flight, chances are that it will be the only flight of the day to you Italian destination. You might have to spend the night at DTW and it would be on your dime if the delay is because of weather or some force majeure.