Connecting flights: Frequently asked questions

Flying direct may sound great.

But not always taking a direct flight is an option.

In some situations it’s way more expensive than taking a connecting flight between the same two places, in other - you simply have no choice but to take a connecting flight. What is a connecting flight? What are the main differences between self transfer and airline transfer? How do connecting flights work? These are some of the questions we are going to answer in this guide.

Was your connecting flight delayed? Or cancelled? You might be entitled to compensation. In Europe, you may receive up to 600 euro for a flight.

Check your compensation online!

Had an issue with a flight recently? You might be eligible for up to 600€ compensation Check your compensation

People at the airport - Connecting flights

Connecting flights: Frequently asked questions

1. What is a connecting flight?

A connecting flight is two or more subsequent flights.

To put it simply, having a connecting flight means you will have to change planes. You will not be flying directly from A to B, but there will also be C. You will fly from A to C, and then from C to B. Sometimes there will be more than a single stop.

A wait at the airport between the two flights is called a layover.

In some situations connecting flight / transfer flight is the only option.

Because, for example, there are no direct flights.

2. How do connecting flights work?

What to do when you have a connecting flight?

If you are travelling on a single ticket connecting flight procedure is very easy.

This means that your flight is booked on one ticket. Yes, there might be two or even more flights one after another but you have booked them as one. With full service airlines like Lufthansa and KLM, the procedure is simple. However, if you want to have a connecting flight with low cost airlines not always you even have such an option.

When checking in your luggage in most cases it will be checked through to your last stop. When arriving at the connecting airport all you have to do is to go to your next gate and wait for the next plane, your next flight. There might be a security check in the terminal at the connecting airport. But mostly you don't have to do anything about your luggage. It's being taken care of by the airport personnel.

If, however, you have booked your flights separately - it's different.

Mostly you will have to take care of your luggage yourself.

What's even more important, you may have to enter the country you're travelling through, which means a visa might be necessary. Even if you aren't leaving the airport and are only collecting your luggage to check it in for the next flight.

So, check the visa rules before booking the flight.

Here’s a video on how to catch your connecting flight at Heathrow airport in London

Many large European airports work in the same way.

Click here to watch the video.

Calculate your flight compensation for free! It takes less than 2 minutes Calculate compensation

Airplane parked at the airport

3. Self transfer flights vs. airline transfer

What does self transfer mean? What about connecting flights with different airlines?

Yes, it’s possible.

But remember - if you're be booking your flights separately (that's a self transfer), and, let's say, your first flight gets heavily delayed, so you can't make it to the next one. In situation like this it's gonna be your responsibility to buy yourself a new flight or flights.

You may still be entitled to flight delay compensation for that first flight.

But you'll have to buy a new flight yourself.

Such flights with such transfers - when flights are booked separately (from different or the same company) - are called self-transfer flights, or non-protected transfers.

The main difference between the two is this.

If there are problems, with self transfer flights you are less protected.

  • Self transfer. If the first flight gets cancelled or delayed and you don’t make it to the connecting airport in time, then you miss the next flight. Because of that you have to book a new one. A travel insurance that covers such cases might help you in situations like these.
  • Transfer protected by the airline. If you have booked a connection flight from a traditional airline (some budget airlines offer connecting flights, too) then the airline will take care of you if the first flight is delayed or cancelled.

Another difference is what happens with your luggage.

In case of a self transfer mostly you have to take care of your checked luggage yourself. You have to collect it and check it in after every flight. None is going to transfer it for you. Take this into consideration when you'll be deciding about the length of the layover.

You will need extra time for that.

If it's airline protected transfer, even if you have a transfer with different airlines, your baggage mostly will be transfered for you. When in doubts ask about it at the moment of check in.

There are also transfers which are protected by the 3rd party. Such as separate flights bought via kiwi.com and which are protected by kiwi.com.

4. How to book connecting flights?

How to book connecting flights with different airlines?

Connecting flights with an airline protected connection are the easiest to book.

You can book them directly from the airline or via some third party service such as Kiwi, Expedia or eDreams. Just choose the origin and destination, select the dates and number of travellers, and press “Search”.

Some of these flights will be with one airline.

Others - with several, different airlines.

Pay attention if these really are airline protected transfers. If they aren't, that's usually written somewhere. If on the way you have to change airports, it's usually a clear sign, that these aren't airline protected transfers.

When in doubts, book directly from the website of an airline.

Also in this case it can be two or more different airlines.

But it's surely a protected transfer.

Choose the flight, book and pay.

When booking flights via service like Kiwi, Expedia or eDreams, pay attention to the length of the layover and airport codes. Are you departing from the same airport you are arriving to?

The same holds true if you are buying separate flights - pay attention to the airport codes (names), length of the layover and minimum connection time. You can check the minium connection time for different airports here.

5. How long before the flight you have to arrive at the airport?

Go to the airport early, 2-3 hours before the scheduled departure time. Of course, sometimes 1 hour will be enough, but better don't rely on your luck. Because you never know how much is it going to take you today to make it to your plane.

How to get through airport security faster?

Know the rules and come prepared. No scissors or knives. No matches and not more than 1 lighter. No liquids over 100 ml in your hand luggage.

Fly premium or buy Fast Track pass to get through airport security faster.

Also not all airports are open 24/7.Do your research if you have an overnight layover. You may not be allowed to stay inside the airport during the night or sleep at the airport.

6. Missed connecting flight due to delay

Has your flight been delayed?

Don’t stress over it (unless you have bought separate flights!). Flight delays happen every day. Just follow the information regarding your flight and everything’s going to be OK in the end. If because of that you're going to miss the next flight, airline will take care of that, by, most probably, putting you on another flight for free.

If it’s the airline’s fault, you might be entitled to flight delay compensation from the airline. To get the compensation, you should file a compensation claim. If you do nothing, most probably you will get nothing.

The rules apply to all flights. No matter the type of your connection.

But you aren't going to get a new flight, if you booked the flights separately yourself. Flight delay compensation may can cover part of the loss, though. That's one of the differences between full service and low cost airlines. Connecting flights with full service airlines are a safer choice.

Yes, if it's airline transfer - you get a new flight for free.

If it's self transfer - you don't get a new flight.

Remember, that apart from the rest in the EU you often have the right to care.

7. Missed connecting flight, different airlines

What should you do? What are your rights?

Here it's super simple. The rules are the same.

All that matters is if it's an airline protected transfer or self transfer. And if it was or wasn't your own fault. If it's your fault, it's gonna be your responsibility. In all situations. However if it isn't your fault, then there are two possible scenarious:

  1. It's an airline transfer, and you'll get a new flight for free.
  2. It's a self transfer, and you'll have to buy a new flight yourself.

How is that even possible?

Airline protected transfer with two different airlines?

Most likely one of the flights was shared between the two.

A flight like this is called a codeshare flight.

8. Connecting flight and luggage

What happens to your luggage during a connecting flight?

If you are traveling on a single ticket (the connection is protected by the airline), most of the times your bags will be checked through to your last stop. If you are not sure, ask the check-in agent.

If you have booked separate flights you’ll have to pick up and recheck your luggage at the intermediate point, during your flight transfer.

In any case pack a change of clothes in your carry on bag / personal item.

In case your checked luggage gets lost or arrives late.

9. Travel insurance, do you need it? Yes

Travel insurance is a must every time you travel abroad.

But it becomes even more important when you're booking separate flights. In these situations buy an insurance that covers flight delays.

Do it right after you book your flights!

So you're covered in case there are some changes.

Insurance will come in handy also if your luggage gets lost.

If you are buying separate flights yourself and plan to get an insurance, take into account that there are minimum connection times, that differ from airport to airport. Here is one website where you can check them online. If you buy separate flights with a layover that is less than a minimum connection time and you don’t make it for your next flight the insurance won't help you.

Many of the best travel debit cards offer insurance.

10. Know your rights regarding delayed and cancelled flights

Here are the basics.

If you are flying to or from Europe and your flight is delayed for more than 3 hours, cancelled less than 14 days before the scheduled time of departure or you've been denied boarding, because there are no more free seats, then chances are you are entitled to compensation of up to €600 per passenger.

What if your flight is cancelled more than 2 weeks before the trip? .

If you are at the airport and if your flight has been delayed for more than 3 hours the airline must provide you with free meal and drink plus two free phone calls, e-mails or faxes. That's called the right to care.

If you are flying from a country outside the European Union your flight must be with a European airline. You are equally as protected when flying with UK airlines like easyJet and British Airways. With other airlines it's slightly different. Learn more about your rights when flying with non-EU airlines.

You don’t have to be a citizen of the European Union to be entitled to European flight delay compensation.

Your under 2 years old child is entitled to flight delay compensation, too.

Compensation always has to be paid in cash or by bank transfer.

Not in coupons or vouchers.

Even if it's a flight cancellation due to extraordinary circumstances.

File a compensation claim online.

By Europe and EU we mean all EU Member States, the United Kingdom (UK), Guadeloupe, French Guiana, Martinique, Reunion, Mayotte, Saint Martin, the Azores, Madeira, the Canary Islands, Iceland, Norway, and Switzerland.

Connecting flights: Tips

Here is how to make your travel experience better.

  • Better fly on a single ticket. Otherwise don't forget to buy an insurance. Because when you have a self transfer (not airline transfer), you're less protected against all kind of mishaps. And you have to buy a new ticket yourself, it you miss any of the flights. That's the connecting flight rules.
  • Arrive at the airport in time. 2 - 3 hours before the flight is enough.
  • Minimum connection time. Take into account that there’s minimum connection time. And it varies from one airport to another.
  • Fly premium or buy Fast Track pass. If you care about getting through airport security faster. And remember that not all airports around the world offer this service.
  • Tight connection time. If you have tight connection time choose to sit closer to the plane’s doors. Choose your preferred seat in advance. Even if it costs extra. Mostly with low cost airlines it costs extra. That's one of the differences between low cost airlines and full service airlines.
  • Inform flight attendants about your connecting flight. If you have tight connection time don’t waste your time and try to be among the first who disembarks. Informing flight attendants about the fact may help you.
  • Ask for help when you need it. Don’t be shy.
  • Travel light. Pack your carry on as light as possible - and you’ll be able to get through airport security faster. That includes security screening between your flights.
  • If your flight is delayed, proceed through the security anyway. To avoid possible queues later. Unless the check is is postponed as well. If it is, it's a better idea to wait for a while. Even if you have already checked in online.

Have a great trip!