Connecting Flights Checklist


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You have a connecting flight, and your travel date is approaching.

If you are an inexperienced traveler, you might find this whole travel ordeal overwhelming. What to take into account before traveling? Do you need a visa? What if there are transit restrictions? How not to miss your connecting flight? What if you do miss connection? What else should you be prepared for?  

This article answers commonly asked questions about connecting flights. So, even if you don’t need it now, save the guide for later!


Did you miss a connecting flight? File a compensation claim online.


Chairs next to a gate at Singapore Changi Airport
Chairs next to a gate at Singapore Changi Airport

1. Save This Connecting Flights Checklist

Save this connecting flights checklist for later.

It covers everything most may need to know about connecting flights.

2. Find Out If You Need a Visa

Most likely you don’t need it.

If you have an airline-protected connecting flight, not self-transfer connection with separate flights, most probably you won’t need a visa/transit visa for your layover. You will be staying at a transit area in the airport, and you won’t be going to the landside (public access) zone of the airport.

You will be checked in for all your flights. That means you will have all of your boarding passes for all flights. Your hold baggage will be checked all the way to your final destination. You won’t need to go to check in counters to get new boarding pass and / or to recheck your baggage.

So, there’s no need for you to leave the departures terminal (transit zone).

And if you don’t leave it, you don’t have to go through passport control.

Exceptions

However, there are some exceptions. For example, if you are transiting through the US, Canada or Australia, you need to fill in special form online (ESTA, eTA or ETA, respectively). It’s not really a visa, but you must have it, even if you are a transit passenger. If you don’t have this, you won’t be let on the plane.

Self-Transfer Flights

If you have a self-transfer flight, you may need a visa for connection.

If a country requires a visa for entry, then you will need to apply for a visa before your self-transfer flight. Unless you can get it on arrival (sometimes you can).

Because when you have a self-transfer, you are entering the country — you can’t stay at the departures terminal. You need to go through passport control to access landside area of the airport, where check in counters are located. Since self-transfer connecting flights consist of multiple separate flights, you need to check in for each flight. You can’t do it at a departures terminal.

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3. Check Entry Requirements and Transit Restrictions

Even if the country you are transiting through, doesn’t require a visa for entry, there might be other entry requirements or transit restrictions. 

Many countries allow transit passengers stay at the airport up to 24 hours without a visa. If the layover is longer that 24 hours (then it’s called a stopover, not a layover), you might need a visa.

Always check the rules for your transit country before you travel.

Mostly everything is super simple (and there are no restrictions):

  • if you don’t need a visa or if it’s easy to get it
  • if you stay for up to 24 hours

4. Don’t Miss Connection

How long is your layover? 1 hour? 2 hours? Or more?

If it’s long, more than 2-3 hours, it doesn’t really matter if you know the layout of the airport. You’ll figure it out once you land. Of course, you can always check the airport map, but it’s not really necessary.

However, if you are strapped for time, you’ll need to know which terminal your next flight departs from, and how to get there. If it’s a very large airport, terminals might be connected with a train or bus. Check how frequent the services are. If it’s not frequent, you may need to take a taxi. So, just in case, check out where the taxi stands are located.

There are apps dedicated to airport maps and layouts, but not always you need a special map. Try using Google Maps to see the layout of the airport you are transiting through. Or even better – the official website of the airport.

4.1 What If You Miss Connecting Flight? What Happens Next?

You have an airline-protected connecting flight, and you miss connection.

Sometimes it happens. If you miss your connecting flight through no fault of your own, the airline must assist you. If your previous flight was delayed or cancelled, and you missed your connection because of this, contact the airline and ask for help. Go to the information counter and tell them about your problem. The staff will tell you where to find your airline’s representatives.

In most cases, it will be an office or a counter at the public access area of the airport. All you have to do is to tell that you’ve missed your flight due to delay or cancellation of the previous one, and you will be booked on the next available flight. If the flight departs on the next day, very often you are entitled to a free hotel stay and free transfer to the hotel, as well as at least one or two free meals. In Europe, this is called a right to care. It applies also to non-EU airlines.

What about luggage? You don’t need to worry about it. The airline will take care of your bags. They will be located and put on the new flight you are taking.

4.2 What If You Miss a Self-Transfer Flight?

If you have a self-transfer flight (two or more separately booked flights), the airlines are not responsible if you miss your connection due to delay or cancellation of the previous flight. It’s not an airline-protected connecting flight. With self transfer, most of this is your responsibility.

Here’s what happens if you miss your self-transfer:

  1. You have to buy a new flight. You may have two flights from the same airline, for example, Ryanair. These may be flights from different airlines. In both situations, these are separately booked flights, and no airline is responsible for the connection — if you make it on time or not.
  2. You take care of baggage. This is the same with all self-transfer flights and always. You take care of your baggage yourself. You collect and recheck it at every airport. If the other airline has different baggage rules, you have to comply with them.
  3. You may have a right to care. Let’s assume, your first flight is delayed. If it’s delayed for more than 3 hours, in some cases, the airline has to offer you assistance at the airport. This is called right to care. With European airlines, it applies to all flights to and from the EU, UK, and EEA, with other airlines — flights departing from the EU, UK, and EEA.
  4. You may have a right to compensation. Not because you missed connecting flight, but because your flight was delayed or cancelled.

Read more:

Carry on baggage - backpack
Packing the carry-on bag

5. Know What Are the Restricted Items

There are certain things that are not allowed in cabin bag.

And there are certain things that are not allowed on the plane at all.

For example, full-size toiletries are not allowed in carry on. You are only allowed to pack travel-size toiletries (liquids, creams, gels and pastes) in bottles and containers that are no bigger than 3.4 ounces (100 ml). And you can’t bring any guns, self-defence items, knives or any other sharp objects on the plane at all.

Don’t bring any restricted items to airport security.

Otherwise, you’ll be asked to throw them out.

6. Pack Light

Don’t forget that airlines have baggage limits. 

Don’t overpack and bring more than you are allowed to.

Weight and measure your bags before leaving for the airport. Make sure they don’t exceed the allowed weight and size. Whenever possible, choose a smaller cabin bag. Because going through security with a smaller cabin bag is more convenient and reduces waiting time.

7. Pack Essentials in the Carry On Bag / Suitcase

Always pack valuables, electronics and other essentials in your carry-on bag.

Also, pack a change of clothes in your carry on bag. If your luggage gets delayed for a day or two, you’ll have a fresh set of clothes. 

Baggage can get delayed due to mishandling. If you have a connecting flight with multiple stops, and/or connection time between the flights is short, your bag could get easily delayed, and arrive a day or two later than you. This is why it’s always a good idea to carry essentials and a change of clothes in your carry on.

On a Tap Air Portugal Plane
On a Tap Air Portugal Plane

8. Check Flight Status Online 

Before leaving for the airport, check if your flight is going to be on time.

You can check flight status online using real-time flight trackers such as Flightradar24. Alternatively, you can also use a website of an airport.

If your flight is delayed, contact the airline to find out how long will be the delay — will it affect your travel plans? Will you miss your connecting flight? If yes, ask the airline what are your options right away. In most cases, you will be booked on the next available flight. 

Is Check-In Delayed?

Another thing to take into account – check-in time.

If check-in is delayed too, you can stay at home or hotel. If check-in is delayed, there is no point in going to the airport too soon. Your flight may also get cancelled. If that happens, it will take at least a few hours for the airline to find a solution for all its affected passengers.

9. Arrive at the Airport in Time (Better — Early)

Arrive at the airport in time for your flight.

It’s better to arrive a little bit earlier than the recommended 2 hours. If it’s a peak travel time, 2 hours is barely enough. So it’s better to give you plenty of time. It’s better to be early than having barely enough time. If you end up at your gate too early, grab a cup of coffee or tea, or a slice of cake. You’ve earned it!

Usually, 2 hours is enough for domestic and short international flights. And 3 hours is enough for intercontinental flights. However, before you travel, check airport’s website (or news) to see if there are no huge lines and congestion at the airport. If there are lines, you’ll want to arrive earlier than normally. 

10. Check in Online to Save Time

Check in for your flight online.

Especially if you are traveling with a carry on only. It will save you time. If you have checked in online (and you don’t have any bags to check in), you can go straight to security and to your gate. 

If you are traveling with checked baggage, we still recommend you to check in online. There are several benefits of online check in, such as the option to choose the seats before reaching the airport and saving time on check in procedure at the airport.

If you have checked in online, use baggage drop off desks at the airport (if available). It’s often faster than waiting in the “regular” check-in line.

11. Know the Airport Security Rules 

There are certain rules when it comes to airport security.

The basics are the same all around the world.

When going through airport security, in most cases, you’ll need to:

  • take out laptop, tablet, etc. (all electronics bigger than a phone)
  • take out power banks
  • empty your pockets
  • take off anything with metal in it (for example, a belt, watch).

You have to put them in a tray, or several trays.

We recommend you to take out all of this while you are still in line. Or at least to prepare for that, by recounting all the items that you are going to take out of your bag and pockets. Don’t be that one person who holds up the line!

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