If you don't live near a major city with a large airline hub or if you are planning a long-distance international trip, you probably have to make a connection or two in order to get from point A to point B. Booking a flight with a lot of connections often means a cheaper overall fare too, but whenever there's a connection, there's also a chance you could miss your flight. However, there are many precautions you can take to avoid a missed connection.
Book a Direct Flight
Unlike a non-stop flight, which literally means the plane won't stop until you reach your final destination, a direct flight makes a stop, but you don't have to get off the plane. You might not get to your destination as soon as is possible, but at least you won't have to worry about switching planes.
Don't Book Flights on Separate Airlines
Some travelers book flights on two separate airlines to get lower fares, but you should resist this temptation. If your first flight is delayed or cancelled, the second airline won't honor your ticket by offering a refund or putting you on another flight.
Choose the Right Airline Hub
Some hubs are better than others, so you should consider what airport you will be connecting in when booking your flights. Delays at a busy hub can ruin your whole trip, so if a better alternative is available, you should opt for it. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation's statistics, the airports with the most delays include Philadelphia International, Dallas/Fort Worth International, Boston Logan International, JFK, George Bush Intercontinental, Denver International, LaGuardia, Chicago O'Hare, Newark-Liberty International, and San Francisco International.
Avoid the Last Flight of the Day
It takes only one disaster, weather or a mechanical issue, for example-, to cause a flight delay or cancellation. No matter what the cause, if you miss that last flight of the day, you will probably be staying at your location overnight. When making a lot of connections, get an early start and give yourself plenty of time to get to your destination.
Choose an Aisle Seat Near the Front
When you're in a rush, every second counts. When booking your flight, choose a seat in the front part of the plane, and make sure it's an aisle seat so you can make a quick getaway if necessary. If a seat isn't available online, you can try asking the gate agent to make a seat change.
Check in Before Arriving to the Airport
These days, anyone can print a boarding pass from the comfort of their home or download it to their phone. So why waste time at the airport checking in via skycaps, kiosks, or ticketing agents? Plus, if you need to make changes, you'll find shorter lines at the customer service counters and gates past airport security.
Don't Make Tight Connections
When booking a connecting flight, make sure not to cut it too close between flights. For example, leaving only a half hour between connections is not a good idea. Flights often take off late, or you may find yourself landing at a large airport where you have to change terminals. So when booking a flight, make sure you have at least an hour to connect on domestic flights and two hours for international ones.
Don't Check Luggage
There are some connections that actually force you to leave security and check in again at another terminal. If you’ve checked luggage, it means that you will be wasting precious minutes waiting for your bags and rechecking them. In addition, it can be harder for airlines to accommodate a passenger since they may not be able to guarantee that their luggage will arrive at the same time.
Look at a Map of the Airport
If you have a tight connection, you can use an airport map to orient yourself before you arrive. If you can find out which gate you will be arriving in and leaving from beforehand, you can plan your route efficiently and not waste time reading signs or asking for directions. Not sure where to find a map? Check the airport website.
Have Your Documents Ready
When switching planes, have your documents like passports and boarding passes easily accessible. You don't want to waste precious minutes during a tight connection looking for your boarding documents.
Double Check Flight Displays
From the time you board a flight to the time you deplane, the gate to your next flight may have changed. If the flight attendants don't do a gate check announcement upon landing, go to the nearest flight monitor display to ensure that you end up at the right gate. The last thing you want to do is waste time walking in the wrong direction.
Ask a Flight Attendant for Help
If you know your flight connection will be tight, ask for help from the flight attendant. They may be able to move you up or help clear the aisles if you have to make that run. It's also a good idea to let your fellow passengers know that you're trying to make a tight connection, so they can let you pass.
Consider Sleeping in the Airport
If you've missed your connection and the delay was due to something outside of the airline's control (like the weather), the airline doesn't have to provide you a hotel if the next flight isn't until the morning. Your two choices are to pay for your own hotel near the airport, or sleep at the airport.
Talk to a Human
If you miss your connection, the first thing you should do is visit the closest ticket counter and speak with an agent. Explain your predicament and they will help you get booked on a new flight. You may even get some perks like a seat toward the front of the plane, which can save precious minutes.
Use Your Smartphone
Most airlines have text message services that give you flight status alerts. You can use these to keep track of your flights, since the airline will notify you if the flight is delayed and let you know about gate changes. If you choose not to use the text service, at least make sure you have your airline on speed dial to call them in case the worst happens.