Self-Transfer Flights


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Let’s talk about self-transfer flights!

Some people call them connecting flights, and it’s kind of true. That’s why we also talk about them here. But there’s a big difference, a huge difference, between self-transfer connecting flights and proper airline-protected connecting flights, and you should know about it. In short, with self-transfer flights you’re less protected. Unless you have a good insurance.

Book protected self-transfer connection with Kiwi.


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


Ryanair airplane
Taking a self-transfer flight with Ryanair

1. What Is a Self-Transfer Flight?

What is a self-transfer flight?

To put it simply, it’s DIY connecting flights. You buy two separate flights to get to your destination. It can also be more than two flights. It can consist of three, four or five flights. But since it’s a DIY connection, it’s fully your responsibility. If something happens, if one flight is delayed and you miss next flight, this is your responsibility (not any of the airline’s) — that’s the biggest risk.

With self-transfer flights you’re always less protected. Unless your self-transfer is insured — for example, kiwi.com sells protected self-transfer flights.

You also check in for every flight separately. And you check in your baggage at every airport, not just once for the whole journey.

Self-transfer flight meaning? To put it simply, it’s a DIY connecting flights. You check in for every flight separately. You check in your baggage at every airport. And it’s 100% your responsibility to make it for the next flight.

Comparison: Connecting Flights vs Self-Transfer Flights

1.1 How to Get Boarding Passes?

There are two ways to get online boarding passes.

It depends from how you booked flights:

  1. You booked flights one by one. In this case, you will have to check in separately as well. Don’t forget that check-in will start at different times for these flights, as they depart at different times. You can do it only on the website or app of your airline.
  2. You booked flights as a single journey. Sites like Kiwi offer such an option. In this case, you might be able to check in at once. In some cases, Kiwi does check-in on your behalf.

Read more: Boarding Passes for Connecting Flights

1.2 Self-Transfer Flight, Example 1

For example, you want to fly from Riga, Latvia, to Fez, Morocco.

There are no direct flights from Riga to Fez. Or it’s just very expensive. Or there aren’t options on dates you want to fly. Whatever the reason, you know there should be other options, and there are other options.

  1. You can fly from Riga to London, with Ryanair.
  2. And then a few hours later, or on the next day, you can fly from London to Fez, again with Ryanair.

It’s a self-transfer. This journey is a self-transfer. You may want to travel one-way. Or you may book a return trip: Riga – London – Riga and London – Fez – London. In any case, this whole journey together is a self-transfer connection.

1.3 Self-Transfer Flight, Example 2 (Less Common)

Sometimes there are more complicated itineraries.

And sometimes your whole journey consists of both a fully protected connecting flight (consisting of two or more flights) and a separate flight. Let’s say, you want to fly from Riga, Latvia, to Krabi in Thailand.

  1. You find a connecting flight from Riga to Bangkok via Helsinki, Finland. It’s a proper, airline-protected connecting flight from Finnair. It consists of two flights.
  2. But for the final leg you have decided to fly with Air Asia. And you book a separate flight from Bangkok to Krabi.

Until Bangkok you have an airline-protected connecting flight. If first flight is delayed or cancelled, and you can’t make it to the next flight in time, Finnair takes care of that. In most situations they will put you on another flight for free. However, the last leg, Bangkok – Krabi leg, includes a self transfer layover.

The final stretch it’s fully your responsibility.

1.4 One Airline, Two Separate Flights

This too is a self-transfer.

And this too is less safe than “proper connecting flight”.

Although, when both flights are booked from the same airline, in some cases, you may get a better treatment in case of delays, cancellations, missed connections, etc. It depends from the airline and from their policies. When a problem happens, and you can’t make it to your next flight, it’s worth contacting the airline and asking for help – they might be able to assist you.

At the same time, not all flights with different airlines are self-transfer flights. Sometimes they are airline-protected connecting flights. You can learn about the differences here.

2. Baggage on Self-Transfer Connecting Flights

With self transfer, baggage transfer is your responsibility.

This is your responsibility to collect baggage at every airport, in every place you’re stopping at. And this is your responsibility to recheck baggage for every single flight. In this case, baggage transfer isn’t done by airport employees but you yourself. And that takes time. You have to take that into account when planning your layover times. Collecting baggage, going through the immigration, then checking in the baggage again and going through the security one more time, … — all of this adds up.

That’s one of the biggest drawbacks of DIY transfers.

And, of course, your baggage may also get delayed.

Read more:

Hong Kong Airport transit

3. How to Book Safe Self-Transfer Flights?

There are two options – insurance and insured connections.

First means buying a flight and then buying an insurance covering flight disruptions. In this case you buy travel insurance separately. You may also have it included, for example, with your credit card. So, you don’t necessarily buy it anew, you have it already. In both cases you’re protected, and will be paid for your lost flight.

In short, Kiwi doesn’t just give you a protection (they don’t just pay for your lost flight), they also provide you with assistance.

Second best option is insured connections. Flight booking website kiwi.com sells insured self-transfer flights. They call their insurance Kiwi Guarantee. You can read more about it on their website. In short, it doesn’t just give you a protection (they don’t just pay for your lost flight), but it also includes assistance. You let them know of the problem and they take care of your travel arrangements — they provide you with a new flight, which is pretty awesome.

Read more: Are Self-Transfer Flights Safe?

3.1 When to Buy Travel Insurance?

Right after you have bought a flight is the best time.

Because, you see, you’re getting it to be protected against flight changes. And flight changes may happen at any time on any day. They may happen also one day after you have bought a flight. Tomorrow the airline may decide to reschedule your flight, and it may not work for you anymore. That’s why it’s important not to postpone that.

Isn’t it going to be crazy expensive? No. Because you don’t have to buy it for the whole period starting from today. No, no, no. Your insurance should be only valid for the duration of your trip. It’s just that you should buy it as soon as possible. You see, when it comes to flight changes, the insurance starts working from the moment of purchase (not from the starting date).

3.2 Do You Need Travel Insurance With Kiwi?

Yes, absolutely.

Because Kiwi Guarantee isn’t a complete travel insurance. Kiwi Guarantee protects only in case of flight delays, cancellations and trip interruptions. It doesn’t protect you in case of health problems abroad, same as it doesn’t give you any protection in case of lost travel documents, problems with car rental or any other problems not directly related to flights booked from Kiwi.

At Changi International Airport in Singapore

4. Passenger Rights in the EU/UK

In the EU and the UK, in some situations you can get compensation from airline. In some situations you can get free food and free hotel room. And then there are situations when you can get both. This applies to self-transfer flights as well. Although, you should remember that with self-transfer every flight is considered as a separate flight (what it actually is).

With EU and UK airlines this applies also to flights from non-EU / non-UK destinations. With non-EU and non-UK airlines, these rules apply only to flights departing from the EU and the UK.

There are similar rules also in other countries.

Read more: Regulation (EC) No 261/2004, Regulation UK261

4.1 Right to Compensation

Here are situations when you can get compensation:

  1. Flight is delayed for 3+ hours (you arrive 3+ hours late)
  2. Flight is cancelled less than 14 days before the flight
  3. You’re denied boarding due to overbooking

It must be due to fault of the airline, not something unavoidable.

You can claim compensation yourself by contacting the airline.

Alternatively, you can hand over the case to flight compensation company.

4.2 Right to Care (Free Hotel, Free Food)

The same laws give you a right to care from airline.

In this case, it doesn’t matter what’s the reason of the flight problem, as long as it isn’t your fault. If you have to wait 3 or more hours at the airport, the airline has to take care of you by providing meals and drinks “in reasonable relation to the waiting time”. What it means is that they should give you at least a bottle of water or any other drink, and a sandwich or bun.

If the problem is bigger (if you have to wait longer than a few hours and if it’s during the night), free hotel room should be offered. Your airline has to take care of that. Get in touch with the representatives of your airline, if they haven’t contacted you.

With EU and UK airlines this applies also to flights from non-EU / non-UK destinations. With non-EU and non-UK airlines, these rules apply only to flights departing from the EU and the UK.

GET FLIGHT COMPENSATION

File a Claim Online

5. Changing Airports During a Layover

What if you have to change airport between flights?

First of all, plan accordingly. You will have to leave the first airport, possibly go through immigration. Then you’ll have to travel between the airports. And then — do all the airport procedure one more time. The latter is usually easier if it’s a domestic airport, not a big international airport, but anyway it’s still better to leave yourself at least 2 hours of time for this.

Layover is that stop between flights.

Read more: Changing Airports: Things You Need to Know

6. Self-Transfer Flights: Frequently Asked Questions

You can add your questions in the comments.

We will publish and answer the most popular questions.

How to Book Self-Transfer Flights?

Booking connecting flights separately comes with a risk.

However, it is possible to make things much safer — if you book an insured self-transfer flight. One of the options is to buy an insurance yourself. You buy flights first, using whatever website or app you like the most, and then you buy a travel insurance that covers flight delays, cancellations and travel interruptions. Another, easier option, is to buy flights that come with an insurance.

For example, kiwi.com sells insured self-transfer flights.

With Kiwi you get your flights and insurance all at once.

Another reason to choose Kiwi is the simplicity. With Kiwi, same like with some other flight booking websites, you can get it done with one reservation. You get all your flights and insurance at once. It saves your time.

Read more: How to Book Connecting Flights?

How Do You Know It’s a Self-Transfer Flight?

How can you tell it’s a self-transfer flight?

Mostly, it’s written somewhere. For example, here’s how you can see it on Skyscanner, a popular flight search website — for this demonstration, I was searching for flights from Riga to Marrakech, and then I clicked on one of the top results that looked like self-transfer to me.

Self-transfer flight to Marrakech, Morocco

And it is a self-transfer. Here’s how you can tell it.

  1. First of all, there’s a change of airports. That alone is a 100% guarantee that it’s a self-transfer connecting flight.
  2. Second, right below the flight itinerary it says “Self-transfer”. This is how you know that it’s a self-transfer.

Another thing to look at — low-cost airlines. Most of low-cost airlines don’t offer connecting flights. Yes, you can buy several flights from Ryanair or Wizz Air. But they aren’t connecting flights. They are separately booked flights. So, if at least one of the airlines is a lowcoster, like Ryanair in this example, it’s almost 100% clear that it’s a self-transfer flight.

One more — you’re making several bookings. That’s also a clear sign that it’s a self-transfer. These can be several flights from the same company, these can be flights from a full-service airline, but still in most situations it will be considered a self-transfer. The airline won’t treat it as a proper airline-protected connecting flight. You’ll have to check in for every flight yourself, and you won’t be as protected either.

I’m Not Changing Airports. That Means I Have a Connecting Flight, Right?

This fact alone doesn’t mean anything.

Read the previous question and answer.

It can be both an airline-protected connecting flight, as well as a self-transfer flight. What matters is how have you booked your flights – was it a single booking or several reservations? Did you pay attention to the small print?

What Happens With Baggage on Self-Transfer Flights?

You have to collect it and re-check at every airport.

If you’re traveling with checked baggage, that’s one of the biggest drawbacks of self-transfer flights. You have to wait for baggage and then wait in the line to check it in at every airport you’ll be traveling through. Take this into account when planning your itinerary — these things take time, sometimes hours.

If My Flights Are Booked Separately, Am I Considered a Transit Passenger?

You shouldn’t assume that. Because sometimes the answer is yes, sometimes no. It depends from the laws of the country you’re passing through.

Take into account that these laws change constantly. Another thing to remember is that rules regarding transit passengers differ wildly from country to country.

For example, during the pandemic there were countries that looked only on the duration of your stay to determine whether you’re a transit passenger or no. At the same time, there were others, who were very strict with everyone, including those who had an onward ticket a few hours later — requesting them to fill in health questionnaires and comply with arrival procedures.

Do You Need a COVID test for Self-Transfer Flight?

You might need a COVID test for self transfer.

It depends from the rules at both your final destination and the country you will be transiting through. If the country you will be transiting through considers you as a transit traveler, who isn’t entering the country, you have to comply only with the entry rules of your final destination.

When in doubts, double-check this with your airline.

Do You Need a Visa for Self-Transfer Flight?

Do you need a visa for connecting flight?

If it’s a proper airline-protected connecting flight, mostly you don’t need a visa for international connection. However, there are countries that require a visa for layover. Two countries requesting a visa even for transiting passengers are the US and Canada. Same way, nationals of some countries are required a visa to transit through the airports of any of the Schengen area airports (European Union) — yes, even if don’t plan to leave the airport.

With self-transfer you have to check the entry rules of EVERY country you’ll be going to pass through. Because you may have to go through immigration at every single airport you’ll be stopping at.

Read more: Do You Need a Visa for Connecting Flights?

Will You Need to Go Through Immigration at Every Airport?

You might have to do that.

That’s why you should always prepare for that — as if you’re traveling to that country. Check their entry rules. Make sure to take into account the time usually needed to pass through the immigration at the particular airport. For example, for JFK airport in the NYC, we would recommend you to have at least 4 hours between flights.

Will You Need to Go Through Airport Security Twice?

Most likely yes.

If you have two separately booked flights, chances are you will have to go through security twice. Yes, just to get to your other flight, and even if you don’t have checked baggage. If you have checked baggage — you will definitely have to go through security at least twice (once for every flight).

If you have checked baggage — you will definitely have to go through security at least twice (once for every flight).

How Much Time Do You Need Between Flights?

We recommend minimum 2 hours.

If you have checked baggage — at least 3-4 hours.

If you will be going through immigration — 4+ hours.

What Happens If You Miss Your Flight? (Any Of Your Flights)

Normally, if you miss connection flight, your airline takes care of that. However, if it’s a self-transfer, most likely it will be considered your responsibility, unless it’s due to the fault of this particular airline that you have missed their flight.

If you’ve missed connecting flight due to delay of the previous flight, with self-transfers, it’s 100% responsibility. If you’re still interested to fly, you have to buy a new flight yourself. A travel insurance covering these kind of flight disruptions may pay for some or all of these expenses, though.

What if you forgot that you are flying today?

There’s nothing much you can do about it. See, if you can still make it for your other flight. You can also book a flight at the airport.

If you’ve missed connecting flight due to delay of the previous flight, with self-transfers, it’s 100% responsibility.

If any of your flights is delayed or cancelled due to fault of the airline, in some situations you will be entitled to flight compensation from the airline. This doesn’t change the fact that now, at first, you will have to handle the situation yourself, or with a help of your insurer (if you have a travel insurance).

Read more: Missed Connecting Flight Due to Delay 

Can You Get Compensation For Missed Connection?

Missed connection compensation, does something like this exist?

Yes, a thing like this exist, and sometimes missing a connecting flight (if it’s due to fault of the airline, and if as the result you reach your destination 2-3 or more hours later than planned) you can also get a compensation from your airline. In the EU and the UK, you can get paid up to 600 euro for flight problems like this.

But, again, with self-transfer flights, things aren’t as straightforward. Self-transfer flights are DIY connecting flights. These are separately booked flights. Accordingly, you should be looking at them as separate flights.

If any of your flights is delayed or cancelled due to fault of the airline, in some situations you will be entitled to flight compensation from the airline. In the EU and the UK, you can get paid up to 600 euro for flight problems like this.

If any of your flights is delayed or cancelled last-minute, and if it’s due to fault of the airline, in some situations you will be entitled to flight compensation from the airline. We talk more about it here.

Can You Stay at the Airport Overnight?

Yes, as long as the airport is open during the night.

For more information on the topic and the situation in different airports around the world, check out the Guide to Sleeping in Airports. This website has saved me on more that a few occasions.

What about you? How do you book self-transfer flights? Do you do it directly or with flight booking websites? Do you buy travel insurance?


4 responses to “Self-Transfer Flights”

    • If it’s a self-transfer, and if you’re stopping in a country where you need a visa – then yes. Because most likely you will have to go through immigration control on a self-transfer connecting flight.

    • You might need a COVID test for self transfer.

      It depends from the rules at both your final destination and the country you will be transiting through. Check the rules before you book a flight (or at least before you fly, minimuma day or two before the flight).

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