Most frequent flyers who regularly travel through connected flights to reach their destination are well-aware of MCT or Minimum Connecting Time. However, if it’s your first time flying between two destinations through connected flights and with one or even more layovers in between, we recommend that you at least have a basic understanding of minimum connecting time or MCT.
This is because not being aware of its severity can greatly impact your flight plans, causing an unnecessary and otherwise avoidable delay in reaching your destination on time. And not to mention about the risk of not just missing your flight but also the money spent on it. This is because airlines in such scenarios aren’t always responsible and hence have no compensation policies.
This article explains what minimum connecting time (MCT) is, how it functions, the factors on which it depends, and its impact on passengers.
What is Minimum Connecting Time or MCT?
In aviation, minimum connecting time or MCT is the minimum stopover time needed for a passenger and their luggage to deboard an airplane that has just landed and board another airplane along with successful luggage transfer to that plane that is nearing its takeoff time.
This usually is the case when there are stopovers between connected flights. And while it may sound simple, this isn’t true. This is because missing a connected flight at a stopover location could significantly impact a traveler.
For instance, a person has multiple stopovers or connected flights to take before boarding the last flight flying to his/her destination.
In this case, if such a person misses just one connected flight in between, ultimately his/her overall travel route and all connected flight plans will suffer.
Minimum connecting time or MCT is also referred to as minimum connection time, minimum layover time, and legal connection time.
Understanding MCT is crucial for planning your layovers and ensuring a smooth travel experience
Examples to understand how minimum connecting time (MCT) works
To better understand how minimum connecting time (MCT) functions, let us explain to you this with the help of two situations.
Situation # 1 of minimum connecting time (MCT)
Flying on Qatar Airways.
Suppose that a person books a flight from Dubai to New York via a Qatar Airways ticket and has a stopover at Doha in between.
In this situation, Qatar Airways schedules your flight in a way that for some reason your flight gets delayed in Dubai hence it arrives late at Doha Airport, and consequently, you miss the connecting flight from Doha to New York.
In this case, Qatar Airways is responsible for arranging another flight from Doha to New York as soon as possible. Moreover, if the next scheduled flight is after a considerable gap, Qatar Airways is also responsible for accommodating you.
This means providing you with food, and a place to stay for the time being.
The average minimum connecting time (MCT) in such cases is usually less than 3 hours.
However, the advantage of having a connecting flight via a single ticket is that the airline is responsible for transferring your luggage between the airplanes so that you can easily switch between the flights without having to worry about it.
Situation # 2 of minimum connecting time (MCT)
Suppose that you again have to travel from Dubai to New York with a stopover at the Doha Airport. However, this time instead of having one ticket and a single connecting flight, you buy two tickets from different airlines.
For instance, you bought one Emirates Airline ticket for flying from Dubai to Doha. As for the other, you booked a Qatar Airways ticket for flying from Doha to New York.
How things differ in this situation from the first is explained below –
- Firstly, Emirates Airlines isn’t aware that any landing passengers including yourself has booked another plane ticket as a connecting flight from Doha to New York.
- Similarly, neither does Qatar Airways know that any passengers including you on their soon-to-take-off flight from Doha to New York are using Doha as a stopover and have just arrived via a flight from Dubai.
- Considering the above two factors, each airline won’t try to facilitate you during rush hour or if you are getting late and are on the verge of missing your next flight.
- Moreover, you also have to worry about getting off the landing flight at Doha Airport, collecting your luggage, then running for checking in for the next flight, submitting your luggage, and boarding the next flight.
And while airlines do their best to operate all flights on time, there is still a possibility that the flight from Dubai reaches Doha late.
Consequently, if you miss your next flight as a result, no airline can be held responsible, nor will they accept any responsibility.
The reason why you miss your connecting flight is because of the difference between landing late at Doha Airport and the minimum connecting time (MCT) in Doha.
Factors that affect the minimum connecting time (MCT)
Remember that every airport in the world has a predetermined minimum connecting time (MCT) to tackle the situations explained above. Note that it is the airports that set their own MCT and not the airlines.
There are several factors that airports consider while setting their MCT or minimum connecting time. These include –
- Airports primarily assume that the incoming flights will be on time. However, since a delay is always possible, they do consider the average delayed arrival time for determining MCT.
- Considering the airport layout. For instance, the distance between arrival and departure terminals at the airport. This helps estimate the time a passenger may take to travel from one point to another.
- What are the security arrangements at the airport? Do all passengers have to go through the same security and check-in protocols? Or are there any exceptions for those having connected flights?
- Understanding different sets of combinations between domestic-to-domestic travel, domestic-to-international travel, and international-to-international.
Factors that aren’t considered or cannot be considered for determining the MCT
Besides the above factors, there are a few factors that although important cannot be taken into account. This can be because of the very technical nature of such factors and parameters involved. These include –
- Not knowing where the passengers for the next connected flight are sitting in their previous flight and how long it will take them to get off the incoming flight.
- Overall rush at the airport or extraordinary rush at security clearance points around the airport.
What Determines Minimum connecting time (MCT)?
MCT is determined by a number of factors, including:
- The airport: Some airports have more efficient layouts and shorter distances between gates, which can result in shorter MCTs.
- The airline: Different airlines have different policies and requirements for MCT, and these can vary even within the same airport.
- The type of flight: MCTs can be longer for international flights, as they typically involve more security and immigration checks.
- The time of day: Minimum connecting times can be longer during peak travel times, when the airport is more crowded and there is more congestion at security and immigration.
Tips for Planning Your Layovers
When planning your layovers, there are a few things to keep in mind to minimize the risk of missed connections:
- Choose your airline and airport wisely: As mentioned earlier, MCTs can vary greatly between airlines and airports. Do some research to find airlines and airports that have shorter MCTs.
- Build in extra time: Even if the MCT for your flight is relatively short, it is always a good idea to build in extra time for unforeseen delays or complications.
- Consider the time of day: As mentioned earlier, MCTs can be longer during peak travel times. If possible, try to schedule your layovers during off-peak hours.
- Be aware of the airport layout: Some airports have more efficient layouts and shorter distances between gates. Consider this when choosing your layover airport.
Should or shouldn’t you take connecting flights with tight schedules? Is taking a connecting flight worth the risks involved due to MCT?
Remember that the mere impact of losing a connected flight can be huge as it may embark a passenger on a series of delays and frustration.
Besides this, such affected travelers may or may get compensation or accommodation from the airline isn’t guaranteed as well when you miss a connecting flight.
This is one of the major reasons why most airline websites and online ticket booking platforms avoid offering flights with conflicting minimum connecting time (MCT) during layovers.
Still, frequent flyers sometimes get caught up between such scenarios when trying to book individual flights or one-way tickets on their own with multiple layovers at different locations.
Thus, it is better to book one ticket even with a stopover, rather than booking one-way tickets yourself to connect between different layover destinations in between.
If you miss your connection due to a delay, usually the airline is responsible for providing you with a replacement flight to your destination. They will have to book you on the earliest possible flight available.How much time is too little for a connecting flight? ›
Two hours. Mayers recommends two hours as a standard buffer between flights to be safe. This gives you a cushion in case things go wrong during your journey. You'll definitely want at least a two-hour window if you've booked a “hacker fare,” as opposed to flying with the same airline your entire trip.What happens if my flight is delayed what about my connecting flight? ›
Key Takeaways. If you miss your connecting flight due to a delay, the airline will rebook you on the next available flight without charging any fee, as long as the connecting flight is part of the same booking. If you are on two separate bookings, you may have to pay for the rebooking or find another flight yourself.What happens if my first flight is delayed and I miss my connecting flight? ›
If a delay in your first flight is the reason you're missing your connection, don't worry too much. Usually, most airlines will rebook you on the next flight, and that too for free. Although, you might have to fly on standby depending on seat availability. Some airlines, in fact, automatically rebook you.How short of a layover is too short? ›
The recommended layover time for international flights is generally longer, as you will have to go through customs and immigration before boarding your next flight. In most cases, a 30-minute layover for domestic flights and an hour for international flights is considered a minimum, or short, layover.Can you make a connecting flight in 15 minutes? ›
So yes, it can be done. However, you need to consider the nature of the connection. If it's from a domestic to an international flight, chances are, you have to switch terminals so you may have to go through security again.Can you make a connecting flight in 50 minutes? ›
yes, should be fine if u arrive on time. and your luggage too. i have done 40 min connections in some us airports eg. denver, without a hitch.Do airlines wait for connecting passengers? ›
While, generally, the airline won't wait for connecting passengers, there might be some exceptions. If a flight is delayed, and there are many passengers who are connecting from this delayed flight onto the same connecting flight, the airline will hold the connecting flight for these passengers.How long will an airline wait for you? ›
While flights have a scheduled departure time, there is an unwritten final-boarding rule. The gate agent will often close the door to the plane 10 minutes before departure, which, depending on what side of the door you're on, can either mean a huge sigh of relief or a delayed or even ruined trip.What happens if I miss my connecting flight due to delay Southwest? ›
If you miss a connection because of a plane swap and must stay overnight, you can request a hotel voucher and transportation to your accommodation. You can also ask for a refund of the unused portion of the ticket, but be aware that you'll have to find an alternative flight to your destination on your own.
No, if your first flight is delayed and you won't make it in time to catch your connecting flight, the plane won't wait for you. However, if you're travelling on a through-ticket, the airline must rebook you on their next available flight to your destination, provided that there are seats available.Do I need to let the airline know if I'm not flying? ›
Travelers who are concerned they're not going to make their flight should immediately alert the airline. "If someone knows they will be missing the flight prior to departure, it's good policy (and manners) for that passenger to notify the airline," flight attendant Kelly Kincaid told Travel + Leisure.Can I get a refund if I miss a connecting flight? ›
Generally speaking, no. If you miss your flight and choose not to fly, you will not be refunded for the unused ticket. The only time that an airline will refund you is if they cancel your flight.Is 45 minutes a short layover? ›
As a rule of thumb, on domestic routes, you need a minimum of 45 minutes between flights. That's because you don't have to go through security, customs, and immigration.Is a 45 minute layover too short in Atlanta? ›
The ideal layover time for most people on a domestic flight will be 45-60 minutes. For an International to Domestic flight the ideal connection time will be about 90 minutes. Connecting in ATL is easy, fast, and pleasant. I'd recommend it to anyone.What are my rights if I miss a connecting flight? ›
If you miss your connection booked with the same airline that your were on for your first flight, and the issue is due to a delayed take off or anything else that's in the hands of your airline, it's the airline's responsibility to rebook you on the next available flight.Can you make a connecting flight in 20 minutes? ›
So yes, it can be done. However, you need to consider the nature of the connection. If it's from a domestic to an international flight, chances are, you have to switch terminals so you may have to go through security again.What are two tips for not missing your connecting flight? ›
- Avoid Booking Several Different Airlines on One Itinerary. ...
- Intentionally Book Long-ish Layovers. ...
- Don't Forget About Customs. ...
- Avoid the Final Flight of the Day. ...
- Try to Book Seats in the Front of the Plane. ...
- Download and Study a Map of the Airport.
I did it two weeks ago, we didn't even have time to hit the bathroom. So yes, it can be done. However, you need to consider the nature of the connection. If it's from a domestic to an international flight, chances are, you have to switch terminals so you may have to go through security again.Is a one hour layover not enough anymore? ›
Always fly direct
That way if you are delayed, you don't need to worry about making your next flight. If you can't avoid connecting, don't book the shortest layover, because you'll be building in stress and the possibility of missing your flight. A one-hour layover is not enough anymore. Thirty minutes, not a chance.
Yes, one hour is enough time for a layover when making a connecting flight in many airports. However, if you are flying from a destination known to have delays or flying international you may want to choose a flight that allows for more time.Can you make a connecting flight in 40 minutes? ›
So yes, it can be done. However, you need to consider the nature of the connection. If it's from a domestic to an international flight, chances are, you have to switch terminals so you may have to go through security again.What is the difference between a layover and a connecting flight? ›
What is the difference between a layover and connecting flight? While these terms are often used interchangeably, they are not the same thing. A layover is the time you spend at the airport between two flights. A connecting flight is the next flight in your itinerary that you're waiting at the airport to take.Can you make a flight with a 40 minute layover? ›
If the airline you are traveling has issued a ticket with 40 minutes connecting time, yes indeed that's sufficient. Different airports have different minimum connecting times or M C T. It's decided by looking at the infrastructure, distance between terminals and other things.Are connecting flights complicated? ›
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.What is the 3 hour tarmac rule? ›
For flights landing at U.S. airports, airlines are required to provide passengers with an opportunity to safely get off of the airplane before 3 hours for domestic flights and 4 hours for international flights.Can I get to the airport 90 minutes before my flight? ›
If you check in online in advance and don't have to check any luggage, you can be at the airport t 90 minutes for domestic flights. In general, most airlines recommend being at the airport at least two hours before departure.Why do I need to arrive 2 hours before my flight? ›
Airports want you to take advantage of their incredible shopping and dining facilities, which you can't do if you're rushing to the gate. Also, they factor in the time it takes to find parking. Airlines, on the other hand, don't want you milling around the boarding area for too long.Who gets bumped on overbooked flight? ›
Usually, airlines decide to bump those on an overbooked flight who have fewer privileges such as lower-fare tickets and late bookings. People who booked earlier or paid more for their ticket will usually get to stay on board.How can I avoid missing my flight? ›
- Account for Busier Travel Times. ...
- Check-In Ahead of Time. ...
- Get to the Airport Early. ...
- Give Yourself Enough Time Between Flights. ...
- Have the Correct Documents Ready. ...
- Be Sure You Know Your Gate Number. ...
- Enjoy a Stopover.
JetBlue is the only airline in the country that never overbooks its flights -- and it still has to bump passengers sometimes.Can you cancel half of a connecting flight? ›
To cancel a part of a connecting flight, you need to call the airline, find out if that's possible, and pay any required fees. If you still haven't bought the connecting ticket, it's usually cheaper to buy a direct flight.Is 40 minutes enough time to catch a connecting flight? ›
As a rule of thumb, on domestic routes, you need a minimum of 45 minutes between flights. That's because you don't have to go through security, customs, and immigration.Can you make a flight with a 45 minute layover? ›
45 minutes means you have to exit the plane, they remove the luggage, you travel to the new gate (which may be in a different terminal or at the far end of a very large terminal) etc etc in that time. This is if there are no delays or changes.Is it possible to miss a connecting flight? ›
If your itinerary was purchased as one ticket (as in: you have only one itinerary and one confirmation number), and the connection time was too short and you miss the second (or third) flight, you can rest easy, no matter what happens. The airline will simply put you onto the next available flight, free of charge.Is it illegal to get off at a connecting flight? ›
If you have an excessive layover time you may be wondering: Can I leave the airport between connecting flights? The short answer is yes. It is possible to exit and reenter the airport.What is the minimum connection time for Delta? ›
Recommended minimum connection times
Delta: 30-minute minimum connection time.
If you can't avoid connecting, don't book the shortest layover, because you'll be building in stress and the possibility of missing your flight. A 1-hour layover is not enough anymore. Thirty minutes, not a chance. In most cases, 3 hours is safe.Is 1 hour 15 minutes enough for layover? ›
It's really hard to put an exact number on how long you need for your layover. At a minimum, I'd say you should plan for one hour for domestic layovers and two hours for international layovers.Will Delta wait for connecting passengers? ›
In general, if you are on board, they will hold for late passengers. If you are dashing for it, they won't hold it. Anybody who is persistently anxious about tight connections shouldn't ticket them.
What is the minimum layover for domestic flights in Atlanta? The short answer (based on my own personal experience) is that the minimum connection time for domestic flights in Atlanta is 35 minutes. It doesn't matter what terminal you arrive at and what terminal you're departing from. 35 minutes is doable.Is a 30 minute layover in Detroit enough time? ›
If traveling on a domestic flight and not changing airlines, then 40 minutes should be enough time for a layover. If traveling internationally or changing airlines, then it is suggested to allow more time to connect.