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Close Calls on Connecting Flights

If you are frequent travelers you will likely have experienced what we just went through when flying from Memphis to Buffalo. Our scheduled route from Memphis to Atlanta and then on to Buffalo should have seen us have a 20-minute layover at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

Of course, life is never that simple and as soon as arrived at our gate in Memphis, we knew there was going to be an issue. Scheduled to depart at 6:04PM, we had about 20 minutes to wait, or so we thought, but seeing as our plane was not even at the gate the likelihood of us leaving on time was slim to none! Added to this, reports of severe weather delays en route to Atlanta saw us pushed back even further and the estimated departure time of 6:30PM was going to cause us a serious problem in catching our connection to Buffalo.  Arriving into Atlanta at 8:50PM and departing at 8:50PM really doesn’t give you much hope of making it from one gate to another.

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The Air Tran customer service rep in Memphis gave us a couple of options, though neither was particularly appealing:
  • We could stay in Memphis overnight and then catch a flight to Buffalo tomorrow via Atlanta. Oh and by the way, the next scheduled flight tomorrow was apparently 3:30PM in the afternoon.
  • We could fly to Atlanta and either risk trying to catch our connection, with the backup plan of Air Tran willing to provide a discounted rate at a hotel. They were not willing to pay for the hotel but a discount was all they could offer given the missed connection was ‘weather related’ and not their fault!

Which option would you choose here? It was pretty much a no-brainer as we opted to head to Atlanta in the desperate hope we could catch our flight! The minutes kept ticking by as we appeared to take forever taxiing along the runway in Memphis before we eventually got airborne and on our way. We asked the flight attendant about the chances of catching our next flight and she warned us it was highly unlikely.  By this point pretty much everyone told us we were going to miss our flight, so combining this with our own existing negativity was not a good combination to try and raise our optimism!

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We landed in Atlanta at 8:37PM and with our flight still scheduled as being ‘on-time’ our hopes were fading fast! I am sure folks around us were getting a little agitated as I jumped up to grab our carry-ons, but we knew we had to get off that plane ASAP if we stood any chance of catching our next flight! Another obstacle was going to be where was our arrival gate in relation to our departure gate. We were really lucky here because we arrived at gate C6 and our flight was leaving from gate C1.

I don’t think either of us have ever run that fast as we dashed through the terminal to the gate, fully expecting to arrive to a closed door and a customer service representative apologizing to us that we just missed our flight!

Apparently someone was looking over us tonight because to our delight, folks were still checking in and walking along the gangway to board the plane. We weren’t even the last ones to board!!! We boarded at 8:47PM and our flight actually didn’t leave Atlanta until 9:30PM so clearly we were not the only ones trying to catch a connection.

So what did we learn from this experience? Well, I still maintain that I prefer to have a long connection in between flights. I know that many travelers don’t like the idea of waiting around in an airport but let’s be honest, it’s better to be stuck in an airport knowing that you are there in plenty of time to catch your next flight! Airlines probably get a lot of stick because of their recommendation to be at the airport well in advance, at least a hour prior to departure time but I am all in favor of this!

What are your experiences on connecting flights?

What is your preferred layover time in between flights?

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Grete Howard

Saturday 26th of December 2015

Connecting flights can be a pain in the neck! I would much rather have longer at an airport than the stress of thinking I will miss the connecting flight.

We've missed a few over the years, but the most memorable was seeing the information panel changing from BOARDING to FLIGHT CLOSED as we ran to the gates in Istanbul to catch our onward flight to Sana'a in Yemen. And, no, they would not let us board. The young girl manning the information desk finally found us another flights some two hours later (Sana's isn't the best connected airport in the world) via Jeddah in Saudi Arabia. We took our boarding cards, ensured the luggage had new labels on and went to have a coffee before the next flight.

When we got to the gate the flight was already boarding. We were asked to show our visas for Saudi. No visas, no flight. Apparently you can only have so many hours as a layover, any more than that and you need a visa, even if you don't leave the airport.

Back to the the transfer desk. The young girl recognised us and was very apologetic. No other flights so Sana'a that day, so we were put up in a lovely five star hotel in Istanbul overnight, with dinner included, and upgraded to Business Class on the flight to Sana'a the next day.

Of course, we missed our domestic connection in Sana's, but that's a whole other story....

Grete

"Who's the boss? at A Brit & A Southerner - Contented Traveller | Contented Traveller

Monday 23rd of June 2014

[…] a layover or stopover will require an overnight stay in a hotel at the airport. We have had many close calls on our connecting flights so now tend to book longer layovers and sometimes overnight stays to ensure we don’t miss that all […]