Short airport connections can be a blessing, but only if you actually make your flight. Follow these tips to avoid being stranded at the gate. Because when it comes to tight connections, every second counts.
Choose an Aisle Seat Near the Front
If you know you're facing a tight connection and you've booked your flight in advance, reserve an aisle seat toward the front of the plane. Even if it costs a little extra, it's cheaper than missing your flight.
If you can't get the seat you want online, skip the automated ticket kiosk and instead check in at the counter, where you can explain your situation and ask to be seated near the front. The earlier you arrive at the airport (and the nicer you are when asking for help), the more likely this strategy will have a positive outcome.
Plead Your Case with the Flight Attendant
If checking in at the ticket counter doesn't get you a seat toward the front, plead your case on the plane. Flight attendants tend to be more sympathetic about missed connections and will often make a concerted effort to help you avoid one. Timing is everything, so ask once all passengers are seated and when your flight attendant isn't too busy. If seats toward the front of the plane are available, your flight attendant should be able to accommodate your request (even if this means moving you for only a few minutes at the end of the flight) so that you are one of the first to deplane.
Learn the Lay of the Land
Download or print a map of your connecting airport that shows all of the terminals so you know the lay of the land before you arrive. Airport maps can also often be found in the plane's seatback magazines.
Look for the airport's baggage carousels if you've checked a bag. And if this connecting airport is your first entry point on an international trip, map out customs and immigration areas as well. Review the map as your flight descends, and then confirm your next flight's gate on the flight monitor.
Don't Check a Bag
Make your life easier by keeping to the essentials for your travel wardrobe. By only packing a carry-on, you'll skip the never-ending conveyor-belt loop (and the time it takes to get your bag if your luggage hasn't been checked all the way through to your final destination). Plus, you'll avoid potentially losing your checked bag altogether.
Sleep at the Airport
On short overnight connections, don't risk missing your next flight by heading to an airport hotel. Instead, look into by-the-hour sleep pods at select airports or buy a day pass to an airport lounge. Options for safely sleeping at the airport are only as limited as your imagination.
Make Every Second Count
Pack a protein bar or another easily portable snack so you don't have to waste time in the terminal searching for food. Similarly, squeeze into the airplane bathroom just before the plane begins its descent so that you can sprint to your next gate with an empty bladder. (Every second counts!)
Go to the Front of the Line
Apply to a preclearance security service such as CLEAR so you can head to the front of the security line. You have to pass the screening process, which includes supplying biometrics samples and registering in person, but you stand to save time at all security lines where the program is accepted. Security-clearance programs are available at select U.S. and international airports.
Give Yourself a Fighting Chance
As a rule of thumb, on domestic routes, you need a minimum of 45 minutes between flights. That's because you don't have to go through security, customs, and immigration. But the 45-minute rule only applies under ideal circumstances; if your connection takes you to a notoriously troublesome airport during the winter months (we're looking at you, Chicago O'Hare), try for a flight with at least a 75-minute layover. Not even these tips can save you if you don't give yourself at least some time between flights.
International flights are a whole different animal. You'll probably have to check in at customs and immigration after your initial disembarkation, even if you're not yet in your final destination. Before booking, verify that you'll have a layover of at least two hours in order to go through the obligatory airport transactions. Give yourself even more time if you've checked a bag that needs to be rechecked post-customs.
Missing a connecting flight is easier than you think. Gate doors typically close 10 to 30 minutes prior to a flight's scheduled departure. Once closed, the airplane door won't open to board a late passenger. So, head to your gate at boarding time and not departure time. As obvious as that sounds, we've known people to miss flights because they didn't properly differentiate between the two.
Get on the Phone Immediately
If the flight has already taken off without you or you know you won't make it to the gate on time, get on the phone with the airline immediately. They should reschedule you on the next flight at no cost if the connection time was unreasonably brief. Ask for compensation, such as a flight voucher, if you feel you've missed your connecting flight through no fault of your own.
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This article was originally published by SmarterTravel under the title 10 Tips for Tight Airport Connections.