When I first left to go travelling alone, I had to catch a connecting flight. The problem was, I had never caught a connecting flight before in my life, so didn’t have a clue what to do! Luckily, I had friends and family that had, that were happy to explain it to me, and it was actually pretty easy. But when I had a look on the internet, there wasn’t much help. And if you don’t know anyone, it can be a daunting experience, so thought this might be a helpful post to do.
If you’re going quite a distance, such as Thailand, Vietnam, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, etc, you will have probably have to catch a connecting flight. Places like Thailand, you can actually get a one way flight, with no connections. But they’re usually a little more money, so more people opt for a cheaper flight and break up their journey a little bit. Places like Australia and New Zealand, you will have to catch a connecting flight, as planes can’t be up in the sky for 24 hours, and to be fair, I wouldn’t want to be stuck on a plane for 24 hours anyway!
When you book a flight, it will tell you if you have any changes, and how long you’re going to be in “layover” for. Basically, this is the number of hours you’ll be at your connecting airport before you have to catch your next flight. It can be as little as 50 minutes, right up to 12 hours, if not more.
What if I miss my connecting flight?
Sometimes your first flight will leave late, due to many reasons that are out of your control. If you have a short layover time, this may mean you miss your connecting flight. DO NOT PANIC! If your connecting flight is booked with the same airline, they will sometimes wait for you, as they can see on their system who is on a connecting flight. They will know your first flight has been delayed, so sometimes it’s cheaper for them as an airline to wait until all passengers have arrived. Emirates and Qatar are one example of this. Many times I’ve been sat waiting for my connecting flight, and the reason for the delay is that a few passengers on a connecting flight have been delayed. It’s actually cheaper for them to wait and delay that flight, than try to get the passengers on another flight.
If they don’t wait for you, for whatever reason, it is their responsibility to put you on an available flight as soon as possible, free of charge. Many big airlines such as Emirates, Qatar, Ethiad, British Airways and Virgin abide by these rules. But some of the cheaper airlines may not abide by these rules, so always check beforehand when booking flights. Getting put onto another flight may mean you have a bit of a long delay at your connecting airport, as the next flight might not be for another few hours. Plus the next flight might be fully booked. Sometimes if Economy is fully booked, but business or first class isn’t, they may upgrade you free of charge. But this all depends on the airline and the circumstances. You are not entitled to this automatically if you miss your connecting flight, so don’t demand it, thinking those are the rules. If your layover is more than 9 hours, most airlines actually pay for a hotel room for you at one of the hotels at the airport, but again, some of the cheaper airlines may not do this, so it’s always worth checking when booking.
If you miss your connecting flight due to your own fault, such as falling asleep in the airport, or leaving the airport for a bit of sight seeing (see point 3 below), the airline hold no obligation to get you onto the next flight, especially for free.
What if my connecting flight is with a different airline?
I’ve never had a connecting flight with a different airline, but as far as I’m aware, it is your responsibility to give yourself enough time to get the next flight. If you are with different airlines, they won’t wait for you, and it isn’t their responsibility to put you on the next flight, free of charge. You will have to pay, and at the airport it’s going to a hell of a lot more than you paid for the original flight! In these circumstances, it’s better to give yourself a layover time of at least 3 hours to be on the safe side.
Can I leave the airport if I’m on a long layover?
Yes, most countries will let you have a temporary visa, so you can go do some sight seeing and so you’re not sat in an airport for hours on end. Dubai and Singapore are two airports that I know for definite you can leave, as myself or friends have done so. The only thing I will say is make sure you give yourself plenty of time. If you only have a layover of around 4 hours, it’s pretty much impossible. Once you’ve gone through immigration, got a taxi into the city, then back again, and checked in again, it’s nowhere near enough time. You will miss your flight. And if you miss your flight due to your own fault, you will have to pay for another flight, and it won’t be cheap. I usually say if your connection time is 8-9 hours, or more, and the city is fairly close like Dubai and Singapore, then yeah, it’s worth it. Bare in mind times as well. If you arrive in the middle of the night, it’s not worth it. If you arrive in the day, then obviously, go exploring!
Can I claim on my insurance if I miss my flight?
If it is your fault, then probably not. Most travel insurance companies will have in small print that it will have to be down to the airlines fault. If you miss an important meeting or something similar, and even if the airline put you on another flight free of charge, you will probably still be able to claim some kind of compensation from your travel insurance. But again, read the small print. Personally, I would just be happy they’ve got me on another flight free of charge, and it wouldn’t be worth all the hassle. But some people love a claim!
What happens to my luggage?
If your connecting flight is with the same airline, they will transfer the luggage for you, so you don’t have to worry about it during your connection. I’ve never known an airline to not do this, but I still always ask at the airport when I’m checking in, just incase. It literally takes 2 seconds to ask. If your connection is with a different airline, then I believe you have to get your luggage, and then check in again with your next airline. Sometimes you can pay for a service so that the airlines take charge of this. Scoot and Tiger Air are an example of this. When I fly from Hong Kong to Sydney, I have a layover in Singapore. I paid an extra £20, and they will transfer my luggage for me, so I don’t have to go check in again and collect my luggage. I have a 3 hour layover, so I would probably have had plenty of time, but it makes my life a bit easier.
What do I do when I get off my first flight?
There will be two ways to go, either through immigration and luggage collection, as you would if you were staying at the destination. Or there will be a sign saying connecting flights. Every time, I’ve gone that way, as my connecting flight has been with the same airline. You will have to go through metal detection again, and get your hand luggage checked. Then you will be through into the departures lounge. It’s usually pretty quick, but I know the one time when I have a short layover and I need it to be quick, it’ll be busy! The only time you will need to go through immigration and luggage collection is if you are told to, and that’s usually if your connecting flight is with a different airline and they aren’t transferring your luggage for you. Always ask when you are checking in, even if you are pretty sure your luggage is being passed onto the next flight for you. You don’t want to arrive at your final destination, and find that your luggage is still at the layover destination.
What about my flight tickets?
When you check in, if your connecting flight is with the same airline, you will get both tickets there and then. Keep this safe, and don’t lose it during your first flight. If your connecting flight is with a different airline, then obviously you won’t get both tickets, which is usually why you’ll have to go through check in again.
The best advice I can give is if you are unsure, ask. The airport staff will be more than happy to answer any questions you may have, and they probably get asked them a few times a day, if not more. So don’t worry. The last thing you want to be doing is stood panicking, not having a clue what to do, or worse, losing your luggage, due to you not realising you needed to collect it at your layover. It’s the airport staff’s job to help you, so let them help you! And finally, don’t panic if anything does go wrong. Like I said above, as long as missing the connecting flight isn’t down to your fault, they will get you on another flight, with no extra charges to you. They will be really helpful and explain everything if the worst happens. Any questions, feel free to post below or email email@example.com