Please sign in to post.

Why do airlines not give enough time at layover?

I want to travel back home from Rome to Indiana. I’m looking at flights on Delta, flying nonstop to JFK. There are 2 I’m interested in. One has a 1 hour 30 minute layover. The second is 6 hours, which is so undesirable. I’m guessing 90 minutes isn’t time enough to get thru customs and catch our flight home. Why would the airlines even offer this? Is it a bait and switch tactic?

Posted by
149 posts

The problem isn't that the layover is too short. The problem is that the gate to Indianapolis--where I'm guessing you are going--is a million miles from where you will disembark the flight from Rome and customs.

It's a problem in Atlanta, also.

Considering how things are here in Indiana with Covid you may want to extend your stay in Italy.

Posted by
6849 posts

Their computer algorithms confirm that tight connections are physically possible for a set threshold of passengers (this is based on actual data for connecting travelers), and they can live with inconveniencing the rest who are unable to make the connection (those people will depart regardless, but on a later flight). It’s not bait and switch per se (the airline contract is still fulfilled), but rather scheduling optimization to maximize revenue.

It’s important for each person to be truly Ok with a given connection, regardless of whether an airline indicates it’s physically possible. What’s physically possible may not be at all desirable.

Posted by
805 posts

Agnes, so I’m still confused. If all passengers have to go thru the same reentry process, same timeframe, how is it better for one passenger than another?

Posted by
1117 posts

Some can run, others can't.

Some have checked luggage that needs to be picked up after immigration and before getting on that connecting flight, others have only their carry-on.

(I can never remember when and why and in which direction my luggage is checked through or when I have to pick it up in between, so I may have got that wrong.)

What I find useful is what the German railroad has on their website: They assume a standard minimum time for changing trains, but you can change that when you are doing a search. For instance if you have a lot of luggage, or if you have a person with you who is not quite as fast, or if you come from a train that tends to be always late, you can set that to "minimum 20 minutes" or "minimum 35 minutes" or whatever. Would be nice if airplane websites had that too.

Posted by
3133 posts

The airlines are assuming some number of passengers that may be lower than the actual numbers. They are assuming that the plane arrives at the gate on time and probably assuming that there's not much wait at immigration. In other words, the airlines are assuming a best case scenario for all the above.

Posted by
805 posts

Hmmm…. Well, we will have carryon only and we can run. We actually did that once and just made the flight home. The airplane from Rome was late taking off was the issue. They didn’t even check our stuff at customs, just let us all though. It’s been too long so I don’t recall how much layover time there was, we flew into Detroit. I want to book that 90 minute layover, but it does make me nervous.

Posted by
7410 posts

If all passengers have to go thru the same reentry process, same timeframe, how is it better for one passenger than another?

Hardly any of the passengers on that Indiana-bound flight will have been on the Rome-JFK flight. So hardly any of the passengers for that Indiana-bound flight have to go through immigration and make the trek to the Indiana gate.most will be either just flying from NY, or making another domestic connection, etc.

(It’s the same for me flying into whatever hub airport in the States and then getting my Tulsa-bound flight.)

I actually find Atlanta, with its automated tram system that runs below its parallel terminals, quite easy and fast to get through when I am changing. Yeah it’s a big airport, but it is well thought out.

Posted by
13382 posts

Actually I suspect you can make that 90 minute layover if you get a seat at the front of the plane, are well organized, have no luggage to recheck and Global Entry would help. I would give it a try if it were me. Worst case is you hold up in a bar till the next flight.

Posted by
6499 posts

This is a good reason to evaluate connecting airports when choosing itineraries. I avoid Atlanta, because of one experience where multiple international flights arrived at once, and our two checked bags took two hours after landing to come, literally the last ones up the ramp. That three-hour layover had seemed adequate but disappeared, and we got to our next gate just before they closed the doors. Then there are times when it can take 15 minutes or more just to get off the plane.

Posted by
8251 posts

I'd take Atlanta over JFK, too. It's much easier to connect between terminals.

How to make a tight connection: Do you have Global Entry to get through passport control more quickly? Global Entry inclues security pre-check, a time and hassle saver. Pay for seats further forward on the transatlantic leg to get out of the plane more quickly. Since you have to claim and recheck your checked suitcases right after passport, Premium Select class gives your luggage priority tags--same as business class.

Posted by
13382 posts

I just quit going any place Turkish Air wont take me. At least for the time being. They run such a slick operation that it isnt much, if any, more time consuming than 3 years ago. The Istanbul airport where all the flight changes occur is huge, but easy to navigate and again, very well run. Of course to get to an airport in the US served by Turkish Air it is a 3.5 hour drive for me. Still worth it.

Posted by
1117 posts

Hardly any of the passengers on that Indiana-bound flight will have
been on the Rome-JFK flight. So hardly any of the passengers for that
Indiana-bound flight have to go through immigration and make the trek
to the Indiana gate.most will be either just flying from NY, or making
another domestic connection, etc.

That absolutely makes sense, much more than my explanation (mine would make most sense if all passengers were to catch the same connecting flight, which is obviously not the case).

And there might be other international flights that arrive giving people a 2 hour layover, or a 1 hour 45 minute layover etc. . They can't all land at the same time. So the connecting flights can't be all planned around that one departure time.

Posted by
6849 posts

Generally, all the various flights are like a giant jigsaw puzzle. It wouldn't be possible to give everyone a very comfortable 3-hour, 4-hour, or whatever connection without making somene else on another flight worse off and having fewer total flights in operation (because landing slots and regulations put an upper bound on whatever that maximum number can be). In addition to what's been said already, airlines also know that most people would prefer shorter versus very long connections so they have fine-tuned and fine-tuned and fine-tuned and have figured out that 90 minutes (don't quote me on the actual number though) is probably the minimum for an international flight. That's supported by their statistics (they don't want people to miss their connecting flights either, or at least the least number possible), and the demand for certain connection durations based on actual ticket purchases.

I think people would go nuts if they had only to choose between 7 hours or 9 hours of connection time without having also the opportunity to choose a really tight connection for those who would still prefer that. Keep in mind that the airline will get you home no matter what, so missing a connection is an inconvience for most people, not a deal breaker (unless they have work or family or other obligations which don't leave them with any flexibility, of course). And as has been said earlier, the entire plane of passengers you will be on during your return will have different connecting times than you - some will have 90 minutes and others much longer (I wonder what the percentage breakdown would be but I don't have access to airline data). Similar to prices people paid for their tickets - they are all over the board. Hope that makes sense.

Posted by
210 posts

I always fly into the airport from which the international flight leaves.
I have spent the night in JFK, Dulles, Boston, and Charlotte. There have been many occasions where I would have missed the international flight if I had tried to make all the connections on the day of the flight.
My international travel in time, cost is far too valuable. I usually stay at a Hilton property the night before the international connection.

No stress, and worry is for me well worth a night in hotel near the airport.

Posted by
10914 posts

Actually. Lulu, I hate to break the bad news.....but....the airline has it out for you. They want to make your life miserable.

Just kidding.

As has been stated previously, the vast majority of people on your flight from JFK-IND will not be independent travelers. It has to do with demand, gate availability, aircraft and crew availability, etc.

They might feel that if you don't have to change terminals, you should be able to do it in 90 minutes. Of course, if you miss that flight, and it's all on one ticket, the airline is obligated to get you to Indianapolis on the next available flight. (Assuming you book with the airline. If you book with a third party, you might think it is all on one ticket, but it may not.)

I recently had a choice of flights at either 7 AM or 7 PM. I'm taking the train. (Not in the USA.)

By the way, it's not bait and switch. Bait and switch is when they offer something at one price and then say it's not available at that price when you go to buy it.

Posted by
8394 posts

I’m guessing 90 minutes isn’t time enough to get thru customs and catch our flight home. Why would the airlines even offer this?

Dealing with passengers who have missed a connection is an added expense for an airline, so it stands to reason they are not going to create situations that produce large numbers of missed connections.

I would definitely use the lav on the inbound flight as close to landing as possible, as you may not have time for a potty stop between planes

It's not an evil plot to make passengers miserable

You do not say when your trip is but for a random date in May I see these options:
1- 2h 15m at JFK
2- 2h 45m at ATL
3- 4h 55m at BOS

I see the desirability of getting to IND by 530PM, vs 10PM for all the other choices, but if you are going to be worried about it, just plan a more relaxed connection and be resigned to the 10PM arrival at IND

Posted by
805 posts

Thank you mall for your detailed explanation and suggestions. After discussing them with my hubbie, we decided to take a chance on the 90 minute layover. Chances are it will change anyway between now and then. We only have carryon and can run. If we miss it, we will just have to be resigned to the next flight.

Posted by
3559 posts

Do you have global entry? It can save 90 minutes.

Do you know how to take the Delta jitney between terminals 2 and 4 if necessary?

If necessary there’s an interim Delta flight from LaGuardia that gets you home after 7, if you don’t mind the hassle of switching airports. BTW American often on one ticket has flights in and out of the 2 different NYC airports.

Posted by
10914 posts

Do you know how to take the Delta jitney between terminals 2 and 4 if necessary?

When Covid started, Delta got rid of the shuttle buses since Terminal 2 shut down and they consolidated all their flights into Terminal 4. Even the shuttle from Gate 53 was gone. Do you know if they restarted service?

Posted by
10914 posts

It was on the website when I was there a few months ago but the staff told me it stopped a year earlier with no plans to bring it back

It's a LONG walk from Gate 53 to the Air Train.

Posted by
206 posts

In theory the airlines will not list a booking that does not meet the minimum connection time for a given airport. But those minimum times are based on average travellers and may be based on average times between gates. They also assume flights arrive on time.

It is true, if you have a connection with the flights all on one booking the airline will get you on the next available flight. BUT, if you have a premium seat (1st, Premium Economy, Business, etc.) and you miss the connection, the next available flight may see you back in economy. In that case you are only due refunded the fare difference.

If I were booking an international trip today and booking PE or business, I would allow at least 2 1/2 hours per connection, particularly to make the long hop over the pond.

Posted by
1877 posts

If you were flying Delta to Atlanta you would have lots of options, but if you are going someplace with fewer flights you generally get options like Lulu is whining about.

And no, it's not a "bait and switch" But it's also not a "transport on demand" so if you live someplace where there are only a few flights a day you may not have the perfect option. The truth is your flight was not scheduled ONLY to be convenient for someone flying from your town to Rome, so for everyone else on the plane that first flight could be the PERFECT connection.

Posted by
8251 posts

True Carol. In NY City, those Delta NYC to IND direct flights are split between JFK and LaGuardia, giving someone arriving at JFK from overseas fewer options than if arriving via ATL.

I know the Paris to JFK flights are cheaper than the ones to Atlanta, so perhaps that’s true from Rome, too. Even so, for Indianapolis, I’d choose in descending order Detroit, Atlanta, Boston, NY, MSP. And then there’s the aircraft to consider!