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5 Tips for Making A Connecting Flight

Smart traveler has a great connecting flight game plan and a reliable flight companion.

My last flight from San Francisco to Mumbai via Istanbul was rather exciting even though I was on a one-stop flight and my luggage had been checked to the final destination.   I had a two-hour transit at Istanbul airport, which seemed to be plenty of time to make the connection.  Unfortunately my flight from San Francisco left late due to a rain storm in the Bay Area.  That left me only 20 minutes at Istanbul to rush from arrival gate to the departure gate for my connection.

Surprisingly there wasn’t any ground staff assistance for passengers on this delayed flight near our arrival gate.  A number of my fellow passengers who were also connecting to Mumbai were baffled and did not know which departure gate to head for.  Luckily just before landing, the departure gate for Mumbai had been briefly displayed on the seat monitors and I had taken note of the gate number.  Hence I was able to enlighten these anxious travelers and point them to the correct departure gate.

Ten of us banded together for the trek to the distant departure gate with the clock ticking.  At the gate we discovered the aircraft was not at the jetway, and we would need bring our hand luggage down a flight of stairs to the airport bus for a short ride to the aircraft before lugging the baggage up yet another flight of stairs to the aircraft.  We were among the last arrivals onboard and helped each other find empty space in the overheads to stow our carry-on luggage.

Here are my 5 tips regarding connecting flights:

1. Non-stop flight
If possible, select a non-stop flight to avoid the risk of missing a connecting flight.  Direct flights may have stop.

2. Sufficient transit time
Choose an itinerary with longer transit time when transiting at large international airports.  Some itineraries offered may have short connection times that are within the ‘legal limit’ but will be risky for you if unexpected delays occur.

3. Check-through luggage to your final stop
Always inspect your luggage receipts and verify the luggage has been checked to your final destination.  If the luggage was accidentally checked to a transit airport then you will have to retrieve the luggage and re-check them to the final destination.

4. Find your transit gate number
Know your transit gate number before landing if possible: Prior to landing, pay attention to any announcements by the flight attendants or information on the seat display pertaining to connecting flights.  This most current information on connections could save you the crucial few minutes to make a successful connecting flight.

5. Know your arrival airport
Familiarize yourself with the arrival airport layout and/or passport control process before landing.  Often this information is published by the government or by the airport and may also be in the airline inflight magazine.  Other travelers may also have posted videos on Youtube that would help you navigate the transit airport.

In summary, I’ve heard from other passengers that Istanbul Airport is a very crowded and had not been modernized. After a long, intercontinental flight you may find yourself exiting the aircraft via stairs, exposed to weather, and taking a bus to the terminal. It is inconvenient even for a healthy and experienced traveler.  If you are booking the flight for your parents or elderly relative that transits this airport; it is advisable to hire a trip companion to assist them on this journey.

Fly Confident!