Tips for Short Connections

In a perfect world everyone has around one hour to make their flight connections. It’s usually time to get off your airplane, stop at the restroom, grab a snack, and make it to your new gate in time to board, without feeling like you’re wasting time. But occasionally you have a shorter connection, sometimes much shorter. What can you do to optimize your chances for making your flight? Here are my suggestions.

Choose a seat at the front of the plane for your first flight. It doesn’t matter that you’d rather sit in an exit row toward the back—choose a seat as close to the front as you can. Sometimes it can take 15-20 minutes for the people in the back to deplane, and that could make you miss your flight.

Don’t check your bag. I recommend never checking your bag as a general rule, but especially when you have a short layover. You do not want to chance your bag arriving after you do! If you have no choice, make sure you have the essentials for the morning in your personal item, including your outfit, makeup, and toiletries. I especially recommend avoiding gate-checking during short connection times. If you have to wait 10-15 minutes for your suitcase you will likely miss your flight.

Do everything you need ahead of time. Fill up your water bottle (or grab an extra) before your first flight. Hit the lav before you land so you don’t have to go on the ground. Arrange your belongings for easiest transit on the plane before you get off. Anything to give you an edge during your dash to the new gate!

Bring snacks. The reality of a tight connection is that there’s not typically a chance to stop for food. This makes keeping snacks on hand even more important! Shoot for something relatively sturdy, like a granola bar or piece of fruit.

Wear shoes you can move in. Your favorite heels may look great and be reasonably comfortable, but for quick connections you need to be able to move quickly. When I know I’ll probably have to run for it I’ll wear my Toms during transit and change to my nice shoes when I arrive.

Last week I had a 35-minute layover. I ran off my first flight as quickly as I could and sprinted through PHX to get to the gate. As I arrived I expected for them to be boarding group 4 or 5. Alas, the plane had not even arrived so I had time to grab food and do a little work. Oh well!

Readers, how do you make your flights when you have short connections?


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  1. Try to avoid small regional jets where you are required to gate check bags. In other words check your aircraft types before you book or prior to packing so you know to avoid the gate checking situation. Also with tight connections I think you have a bigger chance of your checked bags not getting to your final destination with you. I don’t check bags much but one trick I use is to ask the bag counter person to put a “priority” tag on the bag even if I’m not flying in a first class cabin. Most will do this as a favor if you explain you have a tight connection and are worried about the checked bag transfer. I’m not sure it helps much but it certainly doesn’t hurt anything.

  2. Wear athletic shoes when needed. I recently had an international-domestic layover in CLT of only 63 minutes with my family of 6 (long story, but this was unavoidable). I knew it would be extremely tight since my wife and I have Global Entry but the kids do not. Needless to say, it was a stressful experience that involved a lot of running – we made it to the gate 2 minutes prior to scheduled departure, and fortunately we were allowed to board.

  3. I like to use apps that show me up to date gate and terminal of my next flight. You can turn the app on while you are taxiing to the gate after you land on your first flight. By the time the door opens you know where you need to go.

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