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Avoid This Dangerous Airline Reservation Mistake

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A Qantas aircraft in flight over an undermined location not shown.

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I flew Qantas into Los Angeles International Airport LAX on Christmas Eve morning. Everyone seemed filled with holiday cheer, but that soon changed for one passenger.

A very friendly person several seats over saved money by booking a separate ticket on Southwest Airlines from LAX to Sacramento, instead of using a higher "through fare" with another airline on her Qantas ticket.

This created a huge problem because she had allowed only 90 minutes for this connection on one of the busiest travel days of the year.

  • Buses had to take us from where Qantas parked to the international terminal.
  • Then we had to stand in a long line to clear Immigration.
  • Then wait and wait for our bags. I nearly never check bags, but had Christmas presents. Overseas rules for carry ons tend to be much more restrictive than those in the U.S.
  • Then we had to clear Customs, which is separate from Immigration, after standing in another long line.

(At some airports, you face an additional step of clearing TSA security before leaving the customs and immigration area. This is in addition to having to clear security again if your connecting flight leaves from another terminal building.)

I had expected holiday crowds; she had not.

By the time her luggage came, she had less than 30 minutes left to clear Customs, reach the Southwest terminal, get a boarding pass and check her bags, possibly go through security in the Southwest terminal, and reach her gate. By that time, of course, even if she somehow miraculously reached the gate prior to departure, her seat had likely already been given to another passenger on this super busy travel day.

By not allowing adequate time, I fear this nice person had a simply terrible day. How many later flights were full, when she tried to use them? Did Southwest honor her original low fare? After all, it was not responsible for the delay of an airline not on its ticket.

In this travel environment, especially during school holidays, you have to cushion your connections. Reality says that 90 minutes to connect to or from an international flight can be grossly inadequate even on a slow travel day, especially in a situation where the connecting airline is not responsible if you miss its flight.

Above: Photo of LAX sign courtesy of LA Inc., the Los Angeles Convention and Visitors Bureau.

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