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Handling Risks in Connecting Flights

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When you arrive at Chicago/O’Hare late at 9:30 a.m. and miss your connecting flight to New York/LaGuardia, you usually face few worries. With so many later departures to NYC-area airports, you’re nearly certain to get on something, and may not even have to wait very long.

Arrive late at that same airport at 9:30 p.m., and you may have a problem. You may not get to fly out until the next day. There are also extra connection risks when connecting at less busy airports, which of course have fewer flights.

Missed connections to most international destinations can wipe out an entire day of your trip or more, as all nonstop flights tend to depart solely within a few hours of each other at some airports. As an example, in the case of Australia or New Zealand from the west coast, this usually means solely in the late evening.

In these cases, you may have to wait a night plus nearly a full day for your next ongoing flight if you miss the one you booked. 

Of course, I am asking you to allow ample connecting time when a missed connecting flight has consequences. The so-called minimum connecting times allowed by airlines are based on ideal conditions and less stressful times.

However, what if you have no choice? What if the cheapest fare does not seem to allow ample time?

If the cheapest fare involves separate tickets on two different airlines, simply do not buy it. Airline #1 won’t be responsible if you miss airline #2. Airline #2 will not be responsible either. You may be forced to pay airline #2 for a new ticket—at a last-minute price—and lose at least some of the value of your original ticket, if not all, on airline #2. I've seen the consequencies to people who have made this mistake.

If your cheapest fare requires one ticket, even though it may include different airlines, buy it, but consider standing by for an earlier flight from your point of origin. Again, I suggest this when your arrival time really matters. Most, but not all, airlines allow you to standby for earlier flights. See Standby Flight Tips. You usually have to pay a fee, however.

For example, if you’re booked on American from Chicago to Los Angeles with a 75-minute connection to Qantas because that had the cheapest fare,very seriously consider standing by for an American flight that would give you a three-hour or more connection. That 75-minute connection may be "legal" (permitted) by American and Qantas, but it may not be wise. 

All the best for stress-free travel.

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