Flight Connections - Why You Need at least 90 Minutes
If you hate layovers and flight connections as much as I do, you should read this. I'm not talking about 8, 12, or 16 hour layovers where you can go out and see the city. I mean the 2, 3, or 4 hour flight connections where there is just enough time to get bored, but not enough time to do anything fun. I work hard to avoid long flight connections or make them as short as possible. Let me share a story from Spain and why it's supremely important you have at least 90 minutes for a flight connection. Especially for international flights.
Let me paint you a picture. After a glorious week in Spain, soaking up the culture and the food, we packed our bags for home. Our scheduled departure was December 23rd… not the worst day in the year to travel, but certainly not the best. We had to be home by the 24th to cook a traditional Christmas dinner for parents and grandparents. Being seasoned travelers, we knew we'd make it home without a hitch.
Leaving on a Jet Plane
We left Barcelona early in the morning and headed to Heathrow to catch our connecting flight to Raleigh. Yes, RDU has a direct to Heathrow (and Paris). We are moving on up in the world. But I digress. We only had 45 minutes for our connection at Heathrow, but we saw our gates were in the same terminal and new we could make it. Right?
After seeing Parliament, Big Ben, and the big ferris wheel from above, I felt confident about my first experience at Heathrow. Once we landed, it took them nearly 10 minutes to get our gate ready, more time to deplane, and even more time to walk through passport control. At this point, we were running and sweating to get to our gate.
Then, we hit a checkpoint. Not security, but a checkpoint where filed into lines and created organized chaos based on destination. Since we only had a few minutes left to make our flight, the desk agents were making last call for passengers to RDU. We bustled through the checkpoint and with a desk agent, we started to make the way to our gate. Now that we had an official American Airlines representative with us, we knew we wouldn't miss our plane.
We only got escorted to security. What? What's that you say? Yes, after having gone through security in Spain, and now a checkpoint where we had to show passports, tickets, sign away our first born child, we had to go through security again. This time, our friendly desk agent started arguing with the security checkpoint officer. The argument: the desk agent wanted us to go through expedited security for First Class passengers while the officer wanted us to wait in the 45 minute long line for economy class.
So I made a break for it.
True story. I ran right past the security officer who quite loudly yelled at me while my husband and parents looked at me with shock and awe. Despite being yelled at, I suppose the officer wasn't going to choose my family as the battle he would fight that day because he eventually just shrugged and let them through. I went to one security line and my hubby and parents went to another. They made it through at lightening speed and I was left to fend for myself in the security line. Instant karma.
Run, Megan, Run
After FINALLY making it through security, I ran to our gate. I ran for at least a mile. Again, true story. My family disappeared. I panicked, assumed they boarded the plane and fought to no avail to hold the plane for me. (Mom says I have an active imagination). As I panicked and thought of every worst-case scenario, I got to the gate and saw them boarding a bus. (Side note, they caught one of those airport vehicles so they didn't have to run.) As the bus doors closed, I yelled (or screamed?) for them to hold the bus. There was a petite woman discussing something with the door agent. The door agent halted the bus and the doors opened so she could board. Seeing this, I ran full tilt toward the bus and my family. At the last moment, that petite woman stopped and I plowed into her.
My frantic, crazed American self trying to catch a bus to the plane sitting on the tarmac must have made the agent's day, because he let me (and the woman I nearly took out) on the bus. I apologized to her. We laughed. She probably hates me to this day.
We made it on the plane and we knew we would be home in time for Christmas. Then we realized the plane didn't have TVs in the seat in front; just hanging from the ceiling of the craft. But that's a story for another day.
So, no matter what anyone tells you about needing time to get your bags to your plane or having enough time to use the facilities and get a snack, they're only telling you half the story. The real reason you need 90 minutes minimum for a flight connection is so you don't jump security, get yelled at, run a mile, and nearly kill a woman just to make it to your plane. It might not work out as well for you as it did for me. And believe me, I won't test that theory.