How much time do you need to make your connection? It's hard to say...
I have an 18 year old bone to pick with a certain travel agent in Kingston, Ontario. As a naive (some might say angelic) first year university student with virtually no travel experience, I eagerly put my blind faith in the itinerary given to me when I presented myself in their office to book my holiday flight home. With just a 45 minute layover in Toronto's Pearson airport, I thought I had won the lottery. Who would ever want more time? Ha! I learned the hard way that the 45 minute layover is synonymous with disaster. Let's just say I got my cardio that day -and I vowed to be master of my own travel game.
Readers often ask me if they can make a connecting flight within a certain time frame. Unfortunately, it's an impossible question to conclusively answer. There are so many variables for every traveler and airport. But I can share my best strategies and advice for making the most of a tight connection and improving the odds of catching your next flight. So tighten your shoelaces and prepare to abandon all moral principles! This is how you make it through an airport in record time!
Pay and pick
Want to save up to an hour of time? Pay a little extra to pre-select your seat at the front of the plane. Sitting as close as possible to the front exit has been our number one strategy for successfully making tight connections. Back of the plane passengers are delayed up to an extra hour as they wait for everyone else to exit. The seat selection fee is well worth the time you save, every time.
Prepare for battle
As soon as the seat belt sign is turned off at the gate, you should be on your feet and ready to move! Organize your gear before you land. Put your jacket on, tie your shoes, and get ready to run.
Speaking of tying your shoes.... Stilettos are a fine choice for most occasions, but they're not up for an airport battle. Running shoes are the way to go! And with a little luck, you'll know exactly which way to run once you exit the plane. Most airline magazines have a map section towards the back that gives the layout of the major airports on their routes.
Ask for help
If your connection woes are the result of a delayed first flight, ask the flight attendants if there's anything they can do. They might let you switch seats to the front so you can get off the plane right away. They might have insights into corresponding delays at your destination. They might be able to announce gate changes.
If your connecting flight is with the same airline and part of one flight path and there are many passengers in the same situation, the connecting flight MIGHT be held until you arrive. But probably not. I've never been lucky enough to have this happen to me! Bottom line: be courteous and hope for information, not miracles.
The first thing I do when I get off the plane is double check the gate information so I don't accidentally run in the wrong direction. (Actually, I've ran in the wrong direction a number of times but that's just me!) Departure and arrivals gates change all the time, so it's smart to take a minute to double check your directions. There are apps that alert you to gate changes as well so if you're technologically inclined, check some out.
Surrender to security
Are you flying into a international terminal and then switching to domestic departures? Does your terminal change require you to go outside? Are you switching airlines? These are just some of the reasons you can be asked to go through security again. So be ready to abandon that water bottle and show your papers at a minute's notice!
I've never managed to master the rules of why I have to go through security in some circumstances but not others so my default expectation is security, security, security. All the more reason to sit at the front of the plane! And if you're combining security with a visit to customs, well that's all the more reason to......
Be the airport a$%
Hey, I told you to abandon all moral principles! Those aren't little old ladies in front of you - they're obstacles. Move aside, Grandma!
KIDDING! It's never okay to risk the safety and security of others and it's never okay to be an airport a$%. But it IS okay to run like heck and it IS okay to call out a polite "Coming through! Excuse me!" when making your way through a crowd.
Considering that every person you pass on route to customs represents 5 minutes saved in the line, it's well worth making a spectacle of yourself. I think people expect to see all kinds of chaos at an airport. Running like a deranged - yet courteous - wildebeest is acceptable, even expected. Find your spirit animal and GO!
You know I'm gonna say it.... PACK LIGHT!
For the life of me, I can't really keep track of all the checked luggage rules when it comes to connections. Do you have to go to the carousel? Will they just forward it through? Do you need to collect and recheck? What if your flight is a code share? What if you're connecting through a different country? It's madness, I say. Madness!
All of this is nothing compared to the trouble you'll face if you ARE supposed to collect and recheck your luggage - but it doesn't arrive. It's virtually impossible to travel without your checked luggage, so if your connection gets rescheduled and you beg your airline to bump you to an earlier flight with a code share partner, you better have your suitcase in hand.
There's an argument to be made against carry on luggage, as the extra weight can prove unwieldy as you dash through the airport, but I think the pros outweigh the cons here. Plus, you can use that swinging pack to knock people out of your way as you run. (KIDDING!)