Cutting it Close on Connections

Tracy Stewart, August 15, 2011
Fares from Washington DC:

    Q. I am flying into Los Angeles International Airport from Tokyo on Korean Air, arriving at 9:15 a.m.  I am connecting to another flight departing at 11:10 a.m. on American Airlines to Sacramento.  Do you think two hours is enough time for me to make it onto that domestic flight, given I also have checked luggage? Would Korean Air help me transfer my luggage to American Airlines? Or would I have to claim luggage, go through customs, and reenter American Airlines' terminal and go through the check in process again?

    A. Whenever you transfer from an inbound international flight to a domestic connecting flight, you have to claim your bags and go through customs and immigration. Then you have to check your bags in with the connecting airline. If all goes well and your inbound  flight is on time, it's conceivable that two hours is enough time, but when you do the math, you'll see that you're cutting it close and setting yourself up for stress.

    Figure it takes 10-15 minutes just to deplane a wide body jet depending on the class of service you're flying in (they let the economy class flyers deplane last).  Walking to baggage claim might take another 10 minutes. Waiting for your bags to appear? Typically 15 minutes but it could take longer. Going through passport control? Who knows. It could take anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour. Then you have to change terminals, check in your bags with the connecting airline, go through TSA, walk to the gate, and be in your seat 15 minutes before departure or they might give your seat away.  So is 1 hour and 55 minutes enough time? I'm having heart palpitations even thinking about it. I'd give yourself at least four hours to make a connection like this safely.