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A Guide to Connecting Flights

Everything You Need to Know About Connecting Flights

When you're searching for flights, you may have noticed that sometimes the only way to reach your destination is through purchasing a connecting flight. But what does that mean? And why are connecting flights cheaper than direct ones? Find out the answer to all your connecting flight questions with Alternative Airlines.

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What is a Connecting Flight?

Connecting flights are flights which require passengers to leave the plane and board a different aircraft in order to reach their final destination. For example, imagine you are flying with Lufthansa from London Heathrow to Shenzhen in China. As Lufthansa doesn't operate direct flights from London Heathrow to Shenzhen, you will need to depart the aircraft in Frankfurt and board a new Air China flight at Frankfurt airport in order to reach your destination. This flight is called your connecting flight.

Connecting flights are often parts of interline agreements, in which airlines agree to handle passengers whose flight itinerary involves travelling on multiple airlines. Want to know about other airline industry terms, why not read our guide to common airline lingo?

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How do connecting flights work?

If you’ve booked on a single ticket, then the connecting procedure is super easy. There might be multiple flights, one after another, but they have been booked as one. After you’ve checked in your baggage, it will be passed between flights automatically, ready for you to pick-up when you land after your final flight. When you land after flight one, all you’ll have to do is disembark and move through the airport to the gate of your next flight departure. You won’t need to do anything regarding your baggage.

However, sometimes it’s not possible to do this, especially a connecting flight with a low cost airline. You’ll need to pick-up your luggage, then check it in again for the next flight.

Top Tip: A wait at the airport between two connecting flights is called a layover. For more travel advice, check out our guide to dealing with a short layover. Or, remove the stress and extend the length of time between your connecting flights. For more inspiration, check out our blog: How to plan the perfect long stopover.

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Connecting Flights FAQs

Are connecting flights cheaper than direct ones?

Connecting flights are normally cheaper than direct or non-stop flights as some passengers are willing to pay more for the convenience of catching a direct flight. However, when booking a connecting flight, it is important to factor in the costs you might incur during your connection. For example, if you are going to be in the airport for an extended period of time, you may have to purchase food and drink. As well as this, if you are required to change airport in order to make your connecting flight, you may need to pay for the cost of transport between the two airports. For more information on getting the best flight deal, please visit our blog on "The Cheapest Day to Buy Flights."

What happens with connecting flights and baggage?

When connecting flights are purchased with the same airline, or with airlines that have interline agreements (e.g. Lufthansa and Air China) your baggage will normally be transferred directly onto the second flight. If your connecting flights are within the USA or Canada, you may be required to collect your baggage and then check them in again. The best way to know what will happen to your baggage during your connecting flight is to contact the airline you are flying with or ask the airport staff when checking in luggage for your first flight.

What happens to my baggage on connecting flights that were booked separately?

If you have booked your connecting flights independently, the airline is under no obligation to transfer your baggage to your connecting flight. In this case, you will need to collect your baggage after your first flight and re-check your baggage before your connecting flight. For this reason, it is important to make sure you have plenty of time between connecting flights that were booked separately.

What's the minimum time you should leave between connecting flights?

Although it's difficult to say exactly how much time should be left between connecting flights, you should always try to have at least an hour for domestic connecting flights and at least two hours for international connecting flights. However, factors like the size of the airport, the season and whether you have booked with the same airline will affect how much time you will need during your connection. Passengers requiring special assistance at the airport may want to leave even longer.

Do you have to go through customs on connecting flights?

If you have booked international connecting flights, you will normally have to go through customs and immigration at the connecting airport. This is particularly true of the United States and Canada. For example, if you are flying from London to Mexico City with a layover in Miami you will have to go through customs and immigration in Miami even if you are not planning to stay in the United States.

Are connecting flights more expensive?

Connecting flights are generally not more expensive than direct ones. In fact, they are generally cheaper as some passengers may wish to pay more in order to get to their destination quicker with a direct flight.

How to book connecting flights with different airlines

Booking connecting flights with different airlines is easy with Alternative Airlines' multi-stop flights tool. To find out how to book your flight with multiple itineraries please visit our page on multi-stop flights. This tool makes it easy to arrange connecting flights with long layovers so you can discover a bit more of the destination you're passing through. However, please be aware that if your connecting flights are booked separately the airlines are under no obligation to transfer your checked baggage to your final destination. Nor to compensate you if you miss your connection due to the first flight being delayed.