Minimum connection time and the risk of separate bookings

From time to time the need to have two separate bookings for flights on the same day will arise. It may be a case that the two airfares cannot be booked on the one booking, or it’s cheaper to purchase separate flights from different airlines. If two flights are on the one booking, often they are protected, so if one flight arrives too late the airline has the responsibility to make good any missed connection. When they are on separate bookings, it’s the traveller that has the job of sorting out the mess when things go pear shaped, and it got one of our members asking some questions.

We’ve booked Sydney to Hong Kong flights on QF127 (premium economy sale fares) but after booking, we’ve realised that it would be best for our itinerary to fly straight to Beijing that evening. The flight arrives in Hong Kong at 17:45. There is a CX/KA flight at 7pm, and an Air China flight departing at 8pm…. Can I “add” this flight to my existing booking – I understand it will be too late to get connection protection? What would be a safe connection time between two separate bookings.

The honest answer to the question as to what is a safe connection time is that there is no safe time. Delays can happen that result in flights arriving anything from a few minutes late to days late. But there are a few things you can do to determine the possibility of a delay and how long it will be. The first one is to check the current on time performance of the first flight. Getting an idea of what time it normally arrives, versus the time the airline expects it to.

checking flightaware the latest QF127 has arrived in the last 13 days is 1738 – other days it has been as early as 1600, and the usual arrival is somewhere between 1620-1640. That would give plenty of time for the 1900 flight.

If there are delays, the long ones are often the easiest to deal with. These lengthy delays are usually known before departure. So with some notice, you can make alternate arrangements. For the more troublesome short delays, allow for a few hours between arrival and departure. This gives you plenty of time should something go wrong.

The other issue will be baggage. A significant amount of time is required to collect baggage from a carousel after clearing customs formalities, and then to recheck it. One of the benefits of flying two airlines in the same alliance, is that often they will through check your bags to a destination, even if the flights are on separate bookings. Then it’s a simple case of just going through security at the transit area and heading to the gate of the next flight if time is tight.

If you can book a series of flights on the one ticket, it can save some stress. But if circumstances mean two tickets are required, then plan for possible problems. If you’re not sure of what to plan for, you can always ask our members HERE. The chances are someone has been through a similar experience.


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