Layovers can be stressful. Every airport is different, and it’s hard to tell if your layover is long enough to make your connection. When booking a flight, you should always give yourself plenty of time in between flights, especially if you’ll have to go through customs and immigration. But what if you’ve already booked and you think your layover is too short? Here are 8 things to do to reduce your chances of missing your connecting flight.
1. Change your flight
If you notice your layover is too short, consider changing your flight. Call the airline and see if there’s a better connection by either taking an earlier first flight or a later second flight. Explain why you want to do this and ask about any applicable change fees.
It’s possible this option might not be reasonable if the cost is too high. In that case, ask what the airline’s policy is if you miss your connection. Unfortunately most airlines put the responsibility on the passenger to make the connection, which means they wouldn’t be any help if there are no delays and you miss your connecting flight.
2. Change your seat
If you think your layover is too short, do what you can to get an aisle seat and a seat as close to the front of the plane as possible on the flight before the short layover. This will make it easier for you to get off the plane quickly once your flight lands. Either choose your seat online or ask at check-in if they can change your seat. Explain that you have a short layover. You never know, it could lead to some helpful sympathy.
If you don’t have an aisle seat and you aren’t able to change your seat, talk to the people sitting next to you. Someone might be willing to switch, or at the very least, they might let you squeeze ahead of them when the plane lands. Also talk to the flight attendants about the possibility of moving to the front of the plane towards the end of the flight. It won’t always work, but it doesn’t hurt to ask.
3. Pack up your carry-on
Flights can be boring, so you probably have a book, Kindle, music or something else to keep you entertained. But if you think your layover is too short, don’t wait until the plane lands to pack up everything. When the plane starts to descend (about the time the flight attendants ask you to turn off electronics) pack everything back into your carry-on bag. This means you’ll be ready to go the moment the plane is on the ground and the seat belt sign has been turned off.
4. Travel carry-on only
Speaking of luggage, if possible travel carry-on only. Short layovers aren’t just a problem for you; they’re a problem for checked luggage too. If you think your layover is too short and you travel carry-on only, you won’t have to worry about your luggage getting left behind during your layover.
5. Ask for your connecting gate
Sometimes the flight attendants get a list of gates for connecting flights. They will usually make an announcement towards the end of the flight, but if they don’t, just ask if they have a gate listing. That way you’ll know if you’re flight is landing in the same terminal as your connecting flight or if you’ll have to change terminals.
6. Look at the airport map
Search for the airport your layover is at along with “terminal map” so you can get an idea of the layout ahead of time. This will help you feel a little more comfortable once you arrive at the airport, though remember that airports have plenty of signs pointing you in the right direction.
Another good place to look for airport information is the World Airport Guides website. It has terminal maps for some airports, listings of which airlines use which terminals, transport information, plus restaurants and other services.
7. Don’t make any stops in the airport
Many people use layovers for bathroom breaks and food stops. But if you think your layover is too short, it’s not worth taking the chance. Either go to the bathroom on your first flight or wait until you’re on the second flight. As for food, pack some snacks in your carry-on or buy something on the plane if food is not included with your flight.
8. Wear comfortable shoes
I think this is a good idea for flying no matter what, but it’s especially important if you think your layover is too short. Uncomfortable shoes, high heels, or new shoes you haven’t broken in yet will slow you down. You want to be able to walk quickly, or even run if it’s absolutely necessary, to make your connecting flight.
Small things can go a long way if you think your layover is too short. Politely ask for help along the way, do what you can to save time, consider traveling carry-on only, and prepare ahead of time.
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