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What’s the Best Layover Time to Make Your Flight?


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If I had a dollar for every time I thought I might miss my flight because I didn’t book a long enough layover, I’d probably be able to buy myself a steak. Short layovers can be a good thing; but too short and you may miss your connecting flight.

You think I would have learned my lesson the first time, but it’s still a struggle putting it into practice. I can’t stand horribly long layovers—who isn’t bored out of their mind?—but it wasn’t until I was huffing and puffing (sprinting would be more like the word) through Singapore’s Changi airport with another random passenger that I decided it was time to stop.

What sucks is that there is no standard rule for what a minimum connecting time is. Not only does it vary from airline to airline, but it depends on the airport you’re at and how far the terminals are from each other. I think it’s pretty safe to say you’ll need about 90 minutes to connect to most flights; however, 45 minutes is seriously pushing it unless you’re in the most efficient of airports. However, airlines usually won’t sell you a ticket if they’re not confident they can get you to your next flight. Usually.

If you’re on a single itinerary with one airline, the airline should know that you’re coming. In some cases, they will hold the plane for you… but sometimes they won’t. The gate attendant’s job is to get the plane out on time, because when there are delays and a plane arrives late, it costs the airline money (a big round of applause for a huge “duh”) and it affects those really important operational statistics that airlines are oh so concerned with.

If you’re transiting through a major country like the United States or Australia, be aware that you’re going to have to go through customs and security at the first city you land at before you can continue on to your final destination. (Please note that not all countries do this; just some. Singapore is another example.) This wasn’t something I learned the hard way, since I usually stop at Los Angeles when I go home. When I flew to Texas from Beijing, with just two hours at SFO, I probably ruffled a few feathers at security checkpoints. Fried and frazzled, I barely made it to my gate. In this case, two hours would be the minimum time I suggest.

There are a couple things you can do if you’re running short on time, literally. You can tell the person checking you in, but that won’t help much except maybe getting a closer seat to the front. The flight attendants do have a list of those making connections, though, and once you’re seated you can alert someone on the plane.

In some cases, they’ll move you up just right before the plane starts descending. (If you’re lucky, you might be able to sit in first class for 15 minutes!) There have been stories that, on occasion, an airline representative will be at the gate when you land to help you get to your gate, with one of those mini-cars to help you. Don’t count on it though – you just might have to high-tail it.

Please note: I am not an expert on which countries require you to go through security when transiting — this is often required when *entering* the country, not leaving it, usually. To my knowledge, U.S., Canada, Australia and Singapore require you to clear customs at the first port of entry. For travel between Europe, customs and security protocol may vary if you are traveling within a country that is part of the Schengen zone.

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  • Vaibhav Gadodia

    I tend to keep at least 2 hours layovers as a rule. The only time I would go for a shorter layover is if there are multiple flights from the connecting airport to my destination on the same day of travel. This way if I miss my connection, the airline will automatically put me on the next one.

    This normally is only possible if you are flying on busy routes or within the continent (within US or Europe).

    I feel that this is another reason you want to be a status holder with the airline you travel on. This way if your layover is long, you can just go and chill in the airline lounge (which are mostly very nice in Europe).

    • Erica Ho

      @Vaibhav, it’s definitely no fun finding out that the next flight… is in two days. I’ve had that happen.

  • Vaibhav Gadodia

    @Erica – absolutely. That is why this has to be planned ahead of time – much ahead of time :)

    BTW, it is great to see this blog.

    • Erica Ho

      Thanks!

  • Kait

    I have a flight from Milwaukee to Seattle, with a 2.5 hour lay over in Las Vegas. I’ve flown by myself, but just not with lay overs. I’m not sure what to do. Do I have to go down to baggage claim in LAS to get my bags and go back through security? Or will I not have to worry about that and will get my bag in Seattle? Do I just go straight to my next gate? How do I know what gate to go to? HELP!

    • Erica Ho

      Hey Kait, you only have to get your bags at the first stop in the States for incoming international flights.

      Just enjoy your layover without your bags ;)

  • Meagan

    I have a flight from Manchester England, to Houston Texas with a 1 hour and 10 minutes for a layover in Paris, France. Will this be enough time? I’m flying with Air France the entire trip. It says I’ll land in terminal 2E and depart from terminal 2E in France. I know I don’t get my bags or anything, but will this be enough time?

    • Erica Ho

      Meagan, it might be a bit tight but I think you should be fine.

  • katia

    I have a question about my checked bags as well. If I am leaving st. louis and connecting in dallas before heading to Paris do I need to get them? what about the return home?

    • Erica Ho

      You don’t need to pick them up in Dallas, but you’ll need to on the return home.

  • Steph

    Erica,

    I am flying from the States to Berlin, with a layover in another German city. I am looking at layover times and most are only an hour and minute change. I see there are some that are two hour layovers. Will I need to go through customs/security once I land in that other German city? If so, I will really have to look for a two-three hour layover. Thanks for any advice!

  • Steph

    Also, when flying within Europe, do you have to go through customs each time you go through a different country? i.e. from Hungary connecting through Germany to go back to the States?

    • Erica Ho

      Steph, I think it actually depends on the airport that you’re passing through. Some airports will do extra screening (like SIN or IST) but most likely, you won’t have to for the European ones. (Don’t forget to give yourself a little leeway if the first flight is delayed, too.) I would say, though, two hours is probably adequate.

  • Ria

    Hi, I’m flying with Air France to Bologna, Italy from India with a 1 hr 50 min layover at Paris. Will it be enough? What tips would you give for a newbie?

    • Erica Ho

      Don’t see a problem, Ria!

  • John

    I have a really short layover at Shanghai Pudong Airport in January of 2 hours. I’m not sure if the luggage will be checked all the way to the final destination, but I do know that all the flights are with the same airline, although the flight numbers differ. Will 2 hours be enough time in January, a busy month?

  • John

    The airlines name is China Eastern Air.

    • Erica Ho

      You should be fine if all the flights are on the same itinerary. Generally, I totally wouldn’t stress over anything if unless it was <50 min connection.

  • A.Try

    Hi Erica:

    I see from your posting that you’ve been to Beijing Airport , I am flying from ORD to PEK to MNL. I arrive in PEK Terminal 3 at 11:30 PM and my Philippines Airline Connecting flights leaves at 01:45 am at Terminal 2. That gives me 2 hour and 10 minutes to complete the connection. Will that be sufficient?

    Thanks!

    • Erica Ho

      Beijing is massive, but you should be fine. You’re only doing a transfer.

  • A.Try

    thanks Erica…any idea how much time I need to clear Terminal 3 so I can board in Ternimal 2 in PEK. I am looking at PR (Philippine Airlines) international flight policy and they close their gate 45 mins before departure.

    • Erica Ho

      Terminal 3 is huge. I’d probably do 60-90 min to be safe.

  • Alan

    I’m returning in April from London Heathrow to Columbus, OH with a stop at JFK… The trip is all on American Airlines, but the JFK to CMH leg is operated by American Eagle on an Embraer RJ145. The flight from London is scheudled to land at 1:30, the flight on to Columbus departs at 2:55. It is the best I could do — and would be happy to sit in the airport for a couple hours rather than be so rushed. I plan on NOT checking any bags, to avoid having to claim my bag before hitting customs at JFK… is it possible??

    • Erica Ho

      Depends on customs.

  • Michelle

    I am flying from Atl to Rome. I have a 55 minute layover in Amsterdam. Is this enough time? Do I have to go through customs/security in Amsterdam, before I can board my flight to Rome?

    • Erica Ho

      Should be? They’re both countries in the EU, and you’ll most likely clear customs in Rome.

  • Ingrid

    I have a connecting flight from ICN to BKK and the layover is only 45 minutes. Would that be enough considering the time during security check point? I’ll be flying from Atlanta so there’s a possibility that there will be some delay so if that happens, what should I do?

    • http://maphappy.org/ Erica Ho

      I don’t know if you’ll have to go through security, but man, that’s one tight layover… You can still probably make it depending who your airline is and where the terminals are, though.

      Start looking at ICN airport maps?

  • pattie

    I’m flying on Delta in July from Atlanta to Dublin. My layover in JFK (Kennedy) is two hours. Is that enough time to go through customs and change planes? Should I just bite the bullet, and change my itinerary to allow a longer layover? I’m hearing horror stories about JFK, and don’t travel often…..

    • http://maphappy.org/ Erica Ho

      Two hours for a customs change is tight. I’ve missed a two hour customs connection once at LAX and that’s because the incoming flight was half an hour late…

      • pattie

        Thank you so much, Erica. Any idea how much Delta will charge me to leave Atlanta earlier, so to make more layover time? (I couldn’t tell when I was making the reservations how long the layover was. Mad at Delta about that :)

        • http://maphappy.org/ Erica Ho

          Hey Pattie — misread your comment earlier. You’re LEAVING the country, so you do not have to go through customs at JFK. It’s only when you come back you have to worry about this!

    • Hk2014

      Did you go through customs on your way out of US?

      • http://maphappy.org/ Erica Ho

        No.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Mikko.Vittu.Perkele Michael Porcelli

    I am flying to Turkey with a 3 hour layover in Germany. All of the flights are Lufthansa Air. Will this be enough time to go through security and make it to my connecting flight on time?

    • http://maphappy.org/ Erica Ho

      Three hours is a lot. You also don’t need to go through security every time you transit through a country, just certain countries.

      (I don’t have a definitive list.)

      • http://www.facebook.com/Mikko.Vittu.Perkele Michael Porcelli

        Thank you so much! This and your other posts are very helpful to someone like me who has not left the country in a few years and is planning trips to the Middle East and Southeast Asia!

  • Niranjan

    Hi, I am flying from Mumbai to Koh Samui on Bangkok airways. The stopover is at Bangkok with change of plans involved eventhough the airline is same. Will 1.5 hrs time between the flights be enough for completing the formalities and catch other flight?

    • http://maphappy.org/ Erica Ho

      Should be fine.

  • David Muñoz

    Hi, I’m flying from Mexico City to NYC with a layover of 1h and 55 minutes at DFW. I know that I have to go through customs, is that time enough to make it to my connecting fly?

    • http://maphappy.org/ Erica Ho

      Probably.

  • trent welsh

    i am leaving berlin and have a 45 minute layover in munich then onto canada and finally the US. will i have to clear customs in munich and if so is this schedule even possible?

    • LHD

      surely you would take care of anything you need in Berlin?

  • Eileen Everhart

    We are flying from the US into Rome and then off to Dubrovnik. Will two hours be enough time to make a connection?

    • http://maphappy.org/ Erica Ho

      Probably.

  • kelly m

    If I am flying into JFK from Rome with a 1 hr 50 min layover for my next flight with the same airlines, will this be enough time?

    • http://maphappy.org/ Erica Ho

      Yup, probably.

  • J

    Hi Erica! I’m flying from New Orleans to Tokyo with a layover in DFW that is only 1hr 20 mins. It’s all booking through American Air, but the Tokyo leg is operated by Japan International. Will that be okay?? Thanks for your help!

    • http://maphappy.org/ Erica Ho

      You’re fine.

  • ronhar47

    Hi Erica. I am flying from DFW to BCN with a 50 minute layover at JFK. This does not seem like enough time. What is your opinion?

    • http://maphappy.org/ Erica Ho

      You can call the airline and ask them about the connection if you’re not sure. Depends on where terminal the BCN flight is in relation..

      • ronhar47

        Arrive gate 42 – depart gate 45 – American Airlines

        • http://maphappy.org/ Erica Ho

          I’m not an expert on JFK, but the key word here is *terminals.* Think AA uses only one terminal there, but this is where the airport’s website comes in handy.

  • AK

    I am flying from Baltimore to Paris (CDG), with a US Airways Express flight from Baltimore to Philadelphia. My layover in Philadelphia is 1 hour. Is that enough time? I have heard that the US Air Express flights tend to be delayed. After I booked that flight, I realized that there is an earlier flight (Balt -> Philly) that would have given me extra time, and I am considering trying for stand by on the earlier flight just in case. Any advice on whether it is worth it to try for the standby or switching to the earlier flight? Thank you for your help!

    • http://maphappy.org/ Erica Ho

      I’d check on time ratings on flightaware.com for that flight you’re worried about.

  • monique

    Hi Erica, we have a flight from tokyo to perth australia, with a 55 minute layover in singapore. Is this enough time? It was booked through singapore airlines, so I would think so…but does seem very short to change planes. Thanks

    • http://maphappy.org/ Erica Ho

      It’ll be tight but Singapore is efficient.

      • Alex Covington

        I am considering booking a flight from Dubai to Bali with a 1hour 15minute layover in Singapore through Qatar Airways. Im assuming if 55 minutes is enough I won’t miss my connecting flight to Denpasar? How long will it take to get thru customs?

        • http://maphappy.org/ Erica Ho

          For Singapore, it’ll be tight but maybe doable if you hightail it. It also depends on how far the terminals are apart from each other, Singapore is surprisingly pretty big.

  • Ryan

    Hi Erica, We are flying Air Asia from Yangon to BKK and then heading from BKK to Kolkata with a 1hour 40 minute layover. Seems tight….what are your thoughts??

    • http://maphappy.org/ Erica Ho

      Seems fine.

  • Linda

    Thanks for the info! I will have a 2.5 hr connection in Changi Singapore airport. Will this be enough time for me to leave the airport to see the infinity pool at Marina Sands Resort? :) Thanks!

    • http://maphappy.org/ Erica Ho

      No.

  • Arlene

    Hi Erica! I am flying out of Manila, Philiipines to Seattle, Washington via Korean Airlines. There is a short layover in Seoul of 1 hour 5 minutes. Will this be enough time?

    • http://maphappy.org/ Erica Ho

      Maybe? That’s tighter than I like but possibly doable.

      • Ann

        I have a flight to SFO also coming from Hongkong. And the layover time is only 50 mins. Also on Korean Air. I tried to re-check the flights but usually, Korean air pairs the itinerary and you can’t interchange flights. I can’t pick one flight going to seoul layover from hongkong and then another flight going to SFO. It’s always in pairs.

        With this regards, I should trust that Korean Air would get me to Seoul on time or else me (and a hundred of others who took that itinerary) would be very disappointed (and they would have to book us another flight AND a hotel!)

        So fingers crossed. Here’s hoping Korean Air will live up to their itinerary!

  • Richard

    I am wonder if I have enough time for Chicago to Beirut via Montreal and Geneva.
    Each stop layover time is one hour. Should I have extra time for custom and security protocol? Also I does not have to bring luggage.

    • http://maphappy.org/ Erica Ho

      It’s mostly the return flight you have to worry about.

  • Mattias

    Hi! I flying from London to Denver with a 2 hour layover in Washington. Is it enough time?

    • http://maphappy.org/ Erica Ho

      Maybe?

      • Matthew

        On United yes because they have their own customs for themselves and their partners.

  • Usama

    Seems like you’re answering everyone’s queries so I might as well give it a shot myself. I am going to be flying to Lahore from Toronto. On my way back I have stops at Frankfurt and Istanbul with layovers of 1 h 15 min and 1 h 10 min respectively. You think that’s sufficient? thanks :)

    • http://maphappy.org/ Erica Ho

      It’s not ideal but it’s doable.

  • Kendav

    Hi, I’m flying man to mco with a 2hr 9min layover in phl. Have I got enough time?

  • Hannah

    Australia to Edmonton.

    Will i have enough time if the layover at Vancouver to edmonton is 1hour 40minutes??

    • http://maphappy.org/ Erica Ho

      Not familiar with the process with Canadian customs is…

  • JA

    Hi,
    US citizen flying into Beijing (never been to this airport before) to connect to a flight to Ho chi minh on the same airline, Air China. Have one hour and ten minute layover, is this enough?
    Air China website is pairing these two flights together and cannot seem to break it up to allow for a longer layover and still get the same price. Would prefer to use the same airline for the both legs as I will not have to worry about luggage then.
    THank you!

  • Gabrielle Hasenyager

    Hi there, I will be traveling from Seattle to Orange County on December 20th with a one hour layover in San Francisco. It’s just my friend and me traveling through United and we don’t have excess luggage to carry nor do we have other people that might slow us down. Is this possible?

    • http://maphappy.org/ Erica Ho

      Yes.

  • Etai Hugi

    Hi Erica, great post (!) Extremely important for those of us who travel on transit.. I have a flight from Tel-Aviv To Istanbul which continues to Maldives with 1h 30m layover at Ataturk Airport.. the Aviation company is Turkish on both flights.. I do not familiar with this airport :| can you please kindly advice if the time in between is reasonable? Many Thanks!

    • http://maphappy.org/ Erica Ho

      I remember transit being particularly annoying, but you should be fine. If your flight is quite delayed you should definitely be entitled to some compensation per EU law as well.

      • Etai Hugi

        Many Thanks for your kind help! ^-^

  • Hk2014

    Denver to Hong Kong 2hr10min layover in SFO… you think that’s fine?

  • Clare

    I will be flying from Seattle to Tokyo to Fukuoka. My layover in Tokyo is only an hour and fifteen minutes long. Will this be sufficient?

    • disqus_3r7DLGYWI8

      Tokyo is not a big airport at all. An hour should be good. They only have two terminals and a train that connect between the two and it runs i would say on average 15 mins between trains and about an average of 5 mins from one terminal to the other. Again i am estimating, It has been a few years since I have been in that airport. If you still need this information too

  • Tabitha

    Hello Erica,
    I have one hour in Narita to catch flight to LA. Never been in Narit airport before. What do you think? I recall that flights bound for the states have additional security checks to go through even for transit passengers coming off another international flight. Pushing it?

    • http://maphappy.org/ Erica Ho

      You might be okay. I don’t think Narita is one of these… I think the bigger risk is if your incoming flight is in late and reduces the time you have to connect.

  • Rowanna

    I have a from manchester Uk to charles de gaulle ariport then onto San francisco, with 1hr 50 mins layover at Charles de gaulle. Is this enough time

    • http://maphappy.org/ Erica Ho

      Should be fine.

  • Sarah

    I am flying Okinawa to Calgary, stopping through Narita and changing airlines. Is 2 hours enough time when traveling with a dog and going through security over again?

    • http://maphappy.org/ Erica Ho

      Sorry, Sarah – I have no idea what you’ll need to go through with a dog!

  • Alok

    Hi I have a flight from kolkata to sfo with china eastern airlines I have 1 hrs 45 min connecting time from shanghai to SFO …..will it be enough ????

    • http://maphappy.org/ Erica Ho

      Most likely.

  • Caldwellgirl

    I’m flying Kuala Lumpur to Hong Kong to San Francisco. Wanting to book a layover in HKG with 1hr. 50 min. layover. Is that enough? I stay with Cathay Airlines till SFO. Do I go and get my luggage and reticket in HKG?

    • http://maphappy.org/ Erica Ho

      Nah, it should ticket all the way through. That’s plenty of time for HKG.

  • http://maphappy.org/ Erica Ho

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