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What to Do When You Have a Connecting Flight (+ Tips)


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How to do connecting flights?

What to do when you have a connecting flight?

When booking a flight, at times it appears that the only way of reaching your destination is through purchasing a connection. Although direct flights are a delight, sometimes they just aren’t available or the cost to fly is higher than we’d like. When you need to take connecting flights and transfer your luggage, it can be intimidating! Don’t stress though—this guide will provide all of the information needed so that both you and your bags make it safely onto your next flight.

Read on to learn more about flights with transfers.

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

Air Baltic Transfer Centre in Riga Airport
Air Baltic Transfer Centre in Riga International Airport

What Is a Connecting Flight?

If there’s more than one flight leg, it’s a connecting flight.

A connecting flight is a type of flight route where travelers depart from one airport to their destination with an intermediate stop (or layover) at another.

Connecting flights visual demonstration
Connecting flights

A is a place of departure. You’re flying from there.

C – layover airport. This is where you are stopping on your way. You change planes here. Layover meaning the stop between flights. That’s why sometimes connecting flights are referred to as layover flights. Because these are flights with a layover. Sometimes there are several layovers. Having more than three layovers is not common, mostly there are up to two layovers.

B – your final destination. The final airports you’re going to.

Learn more about connecting flights here.

1. How Do Connecting Flights Work?

How does a connecting flight procedure look like?

Generally, it’s very straightforward. After you arrive at your stop-over destination, you will need to navigate through the transfer area to reach the gate for your next flight without having to go through check-in because you’ve already have checked in for all of your flight legs. And you have all of your boarding passes, since they’ve been given to you when you checked in for all of your flights.

Baggage and connecting flights, what’s the procedure? How do connecting flights work with luggage?

Well, that’s easy. In most cases, your bag will be transferred directly onto the second flight – no need for any additional baggage handling on your part! This is done by the airport staff. But it’s always a good idea to confirm your bag’s logistics when checking in for your flight. Is it going to be sent to your final destination, or you will need to recheck it?

Read more: How to Book Connecting Flights?

2. What Is the Difference Between a Connecting Flight and a Self Transfer?

Connecting flights vs self-transfer flights.

How self connecting flights differ from connecting flights?

Unlike traditional connecting flights, which are booked through a single airline and are airline protected, self-connecting flights require travelers to book separate tickets for each part of their journey.

To put it simply — these are kind of DIY connecting flights. You are less protected on a self-transfer flight.

Learn more: Connecting Flights vs Self-Transfer Flights

3. Do You Need a Visa for Connecting Flight?

Have you booked a connecting flight and wondering, if you need a visa?

The good news is – in most cases you don’t need a visa for connection. But it’s a good idea to always check the entry and visa requirements for the country you are transiting through, just before booking a connecting flight. Even if you have an airline-protected connecting flight.

Learn more here.

Hong Kong Airport food court area
Hong Kong Airport food court area

What to Do When You Have a Connecting Flight: Connecting Flights Checklist

How to catch a connecting flight?

How to change planes for a connecting flight? How not to miss your connection and arrive safely at your destination?

Here’s a great checklist of steps to take during a layover to make your connecting flight:

  1. Check the airport departure board to confirm the departure time and gate number for your connecting flight. Make sure there are no changes in the schedule that could affect your travel plans.
  2. If necessary, collect your luggage. Sometimes, even if it’s a connecting flight, you might need to collect and recheck your baggage yourself. However, mostly, if it’s a connecting flight, your luggage will be sent to your final destination.
  3. Be prepared for security screening. Even though it’s a connecting flight, you might need to go through airport security again. Be prepared for it by removing any metal items from your pockets and placing them in your carry-on luggage. Also, make sure you have any required documentation, such as passports or visas, ready to present to security officials.
  4. Locate the departure gate quickly to avoid missing your flight. Follow the signs to your connecting gate, and if you are unsure, ask an airport staff member for assistance. Be mindful of the time and the distance between gates, and be sure to allow yourself enough time to make it to your connecting flight.
  5. Recheck your flight information. When you reach your connecting gate, double-check your flight information to ensure that you are at the correct gate and your flight is still on schedule.
  6. Have all necessary documents like passport/visa ready at hand. If you have an airline-protected connecting flight, most likely you don’t need a visa. But make sure you have your travel document and boarding passes ready.
  7. Charge your devices. Use the layover to charge your devices, including your phone and laptop, so that you can stay connected and entertained during the flight. Because there might not be a chance to do it on the plane. 
  8. Grab a snack or meal. Take the opportunity to grab a bite to eat or a beverage, especially if you have a long layover. Be sure to check the time and ensure that you have enough time to make it to your connecting flight.
  9. Take advantage of airport amenities. If you have a long layover, take advantage of airport amenities such as restaurants, shops, and lounges. This can help pass the time and make your travel experience more enjoyable.
  10. Be prepared for possible delays and layovers that may affect your plans. 
  11. Board your flight. Once your flight is ready to board, make sure you have your boarding pass and identification handy. Follow the instructions of the gate attendants and board your flight when it is called.

By following these steps, you can make your connecting flight stress-free and arrive at your final destination on time. Remember, preparation and planning are the keys to a smooth and successful travel experience.

What if You Have a Short Connection Between Flights?

What to do if you have a very short connection time?

If it’s an airline-protected connecting flight, you don’t have to worry about missing your connection. When an airline plans connecting flights, it takes into account the minimum connection times.

But still, it’s a good idea to be prepared if you have a very short layover. This is how you can make sure you don’t miss your connection:

  • For a quicker exit, it is recommended you select an aisle seat towards the front of your aircraft.
  • Opt for bringing only carry-on luggage to avoid having your baggage delayed due to short connection times.
  • If you have internet onboard, use a smartphone app to track flight delays while you’re still in the air.
  • Ask to be seated near the front. If your flight is delayed, and you could miss a connection because of it, inquire with the cabin crew if they can help move you up closer to where descent will begin; this way, you can save 10-20 minutes in total travel time!

Connecting Flight Missed Due to Delay or Cancellation

What to do if my flight is delayed and I miss my connection?

This is one of the most common questions we get. If it’s an airline-protected connecting flight, you don’t have to worry. You will be booked on a new flight free of charge. In addition to that, you will get certain services for free from your airline (like, free meals and, if necessary, a free hotel stay).

Also you might be entitled to missed connection compensation.

Learn more here.

We hope that now you know what to do when you have a connecting flight. If you still have questions about connecting flights, ask them in the comments. Good luck with your travels! Have a safe journey!

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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