Answering Readers’ Questions: Who should I fly?

Recently I received a question from a reader:

I’ll be taking my first flight in a few months time, which is both exciting and terrifying. Here is my problem: I am unable to find a direct flight — or even a one-stop flight. Instead, I am faced with two stop flights, which I will be needing to make alone.  Is it better for me to make sure each connecting flight uses one airline but has less time between layovers, or for me to use multiple airlines that have longer time spans between layovers? If I fly with the first option, which would be through Delta, a problem is that one of the layovers is only 35 minutes. Is that enough time for me to get to my second plane? If I fly with multiple airlines, I’m allowed 2 hour layovers, but then have the hassle of dealing with checked bags — and, of course, the fact that the airlines might not work with me if I miss my next flight due to a late arrival.

Wow! That is very exciting. Congratulations on your first flight! And what a complicated scenario for your first time. You have a lot to think about.  First of all, know that you are a capable person and you can absolutely handle this.  I recommend that you take the same airline for all legs whenever you can, for the exact reasons you listed. If you miss your connector due to issues with the previous flight, who knows if they will work with you if the delayed flight is on another airline. Also, if you do have to check bags, it would be a huge hassle to have to pick up your bags and recheck, then go through security again, at each airport.

35 minutes is a tight connection, definitely, but in many airports it’s totally doable. Take a look online and see if you can find an airport diagram, which may make you feel more confident about being able to get from one side to another if necessary. Once you know your gates (which typically happens the day of your flight) you can actually plan your route. For example, here is the DFW airport and information on how to get from one terminal to another.

Good luck!! I hope you have a great and exciting time. And if not, well, I hope your flights go smoothly.


  1. Agree to stay on the same airline if possible. If you know the airports you are connecting in will not require you to reclear security (ATL, CLT, ORD (Domestic-Domestic)) are some that come to mind.

    Also avoid combining airlines that don’t interline with other airlines. Carriers like Southwest and JetBlue don’t “interline” meaning they don’t have baggage relationships with other airlines. You shouldn’t be able to book these carriers on the same ticket as others though, but if you booked a Southwest ticket to MDW and a Delta ticket from MDW you would need to claim your bags and recheck them.

  2. I would say 35 minutes is doable UNLESS you are connecting in ATL. I’ve missed my connecting flights there twice because my inbound was a few minutes late and I had to wait for an inter-terminal train. /debbie downer

    But flying the same airline for the whole trip is key. If something does happen to either your bags or you miss a connection, it will be easier to coordinate activities.

  3. DO NOT CHECK BAGS! This is a recipe for disaster, and with 2 connections, it’s a double recipe for double disaster. Think this way: better to have all of a little bit than nothing of everything. Seasoned travelers avoid checking bags no matter how long the trip. I know it’s a hassle with the baggie and the 3oz liquids and all, but really. What can’t you buy on the road if you really need it?

  4. The trip has yet to happen, but is going to be occurring in the near future. Unfortunately checking bags for this trip is a must, due to not only the length of it, but the fact that there are multiple gifts that I need to be bringing.

    Road warriorette, should I be nervous about my bags getting completely lost? Or should I rest soundly knowing that if they do, they’ll be returned to me in a few days time?

  5. If there is any way you can ship the gifts ahead of time, I would consider that. It will probably cost the same (or less!) as checking a bag two ways would cost (around $50). If that is not an option, then check your bags but make sure you carry on the necessities with you. For example, your glasses, a change of clothes, required medications, toiletries, makeup. Good luck!

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