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How Much Time Do You Need Between Connecting Flights?


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How much time do you need between connecting flights?

It depends on the circumstances and the airport you are flying from. Generally, allowing at least two to three hours between connecting flights is recommended in order to ensure that you have plenty of time to make your connection and go through security, and locate your next gate.

In this article, we will discuss this question in detail.

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Lufthansa plane waiting for passengers

1. What Is Layover Time?

Layover time (or connection time) refers to the amount of time you have between connecting flights when traveling from one destination to another. It is the time spent in the airport during which you are not on board a plane.

In our articles, we use these two terms pretty often.

For example, if you are traveling from New York City to Los Angeles and you have a connecting flight in Chicago, the layover time is the time you spend in the airport in Chicago between the two flights.

2. How Much Time Do You Need Between Connecting Flights?

How long do you need between connecting flights?

The amount of time you need between connecting flights depends on several factors, such as the airports you are traveling through, the airlines you are flying with, the distance between your arrival and departure gates, and the time of day you are traveling.

As a general rule, it is recommended to have at least 2 hours between connecting flights to allow for potential delays, unexpected circumstances, and the time it takes to navigate through the airport.

2.1 International Connections, US Airports

If you are traveling internationally, you may need more time between connecting flights to allow for  security checks and changing terminals. Some airports may require you to go through immigration process, and even collect and recheck your bags. It’s very common in the US. However, it is not a common practice anywhere else in the world.

So if you are connecting via a US airport, it’s better to have more than 2 hours between the flights. Lines at passport control are often long, and most major US airports are very busy. You’ll probably need more than 2 hours to clear immigration, collect and recheck bags and navigate between the terminals.

2.2 International Connections, European Airports

For most European airports, 2 hours between flights is enough.

More — if it’s a self-transfer flight. More on this below.

2.3 Domestic Flights

Layover times for international flights are longer than that of domestic flights. If you have a domestic connecting flight, it’s recommended to have a layover of at least 1 to 2 hours.

What if you have booked a flight with a short layover? Don’t worry, it’s possible that you will make it! Airlines will sometimes schedule shorter connecting times on certain routes where they know that delays are less likely. These flights they exist for a reason – airlines know that most likely you will make it just fine.

3. Layover Time for Self-Transfer Flights

Self transfer means separate flights.

A self-transfer flight is a type of flight itinerary that involves booking separate flights to create a connection between two destinations. It’s a DIY or self-made connecting flight. It’s not airline protected, and it’s your responsibility to make the connection. So make sure to allow plenty of time and be prepared!

Keep in mind that as self transfers are not airline-made, you will need to collect and recheck your baggage, and check in for your next flight. In order to collect the luggage, you will need to leave the transit zone to collect your bags. Once you leave the transit area of the airport, you can’t get back. You’ll have to go through immigration. 

If you don’t have checked luggage, and if you have already checked in online, you can head straight to your gate after that. But if you haven’t checked in, or you have checked bags, you will need to go to a check in desk to check in for your next flight. 

Keep in mind that you might need to have a visa for your self-transfer flight.  Especially, if you are traveling through the US.

As you can imagine, all of this takes time. If you are booking a self transfer, make sure you have enough time for collecting your baggage, immigration, checking in and navigating between the terminals. 

3.1 So, How Much Time Do You Need for Your Self-Transfer Connection?

The recommended amount of time for a layover in a self-transfer flight depends on various factors such as the airport’s efficiency, the distance between terminals, the time required for immigration and customs, and the reliability of the airlines involved. 

As a general rule, it’s recommended to have a layover of at least 4 hours for international self-transfer flights and 3 hours for domestic self-transfer flights.

As a general rule, it’s recommended to have a layover of at least 4 hours for international self-transfer flights and 3 hours for domestic self-transfer flights. This allows enough time for you to disembark from the first flight, collect your luggage (if needed), clear customs and immigration, check in for the next flight, and pass through security. If there are no delays, you will have some spare time for a meal or a drink at a cafe.

Do you have any more questions about connecting flights and minimum time between connecting flights? Ask in the comments.

Featured photo by Pixabay from Pexels

About the author:

Co-founder and Editor at Connecting Flights Guide

Una is an organized globetrotter and foodie who’s been living a digital nomad lifestyle since 2013. She always starts her day early with a good book before diving into work. Apart from traveling and aviation, her other passions include gym, hiking and cycling. Una is also a strong proponent of AI technology. She firmly believes in its potential to simplify life and has often advocated for its wider adoption in our day-to-day activities. Her favorite airlines are Qatar Airways, Emirates, and KLM.


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Connecting Flights Guide

Your go-to guide to air travel rules and regulations. Connecting flights, self transfer, onward tickets and more – we want you to understand air travel better

This article may contain compensated links. Learn more in our disclaimer.

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