Flying overseas implies booking a connecting flight with layovers. These are usually shown in the search results when you browse through a flight comparison site. The layover time is visible in the flight details. Although it may seems obvious, a layover flight requires a bit of research and knowledge in order to avoid inconveniences.
Here is a checklist that will help you determine if the layover is long enough to allow you plenty of time to transfer onto the connection flights with no stress.
The average layover time for international flights ranges between 1.5 to +14 hours. 2-3 hours is the best time configuration that allows you to reach the transfer flight gate on time.
But how do you know how long the layover must be?
It's difficult to say, because airports have different regulations and transfer rules, so there is no one-answer fits all, unfortunately, because the answer will be different according to the connection airport and more variables.
Here is a guide about how the connecting flight procedure works.
Booking a layover flight with the same airline
That being said, these tips here are universal and will help you choose the right flight combination that best suits you, if you fly with the same airline for all your connecting flights to reach your destination:
- Let's say you fly from New York to Sydney with the same airline and a connection flight in Dubai, your checked baggage will be automatically transferred onto the next flight leg to Sydney.
- In most international airports you will have to go through security even if you don’t leave the airport at all. In Dubai you will go through a quick security check and pass control.
- International airports are usually quite big and have several terminals, so make sure you know much time you will need to through the transfer. Shuttle buses connect terminals and are fast. However time varies too, some may take 1-5 minutes but other may take over 15-20 minutes depending on the distance between airport terminals. Dubai airport is great because everywhere you are it shows how much time you need to walk to another terminal or with shuttle bus. So you can quickly figure it out how much time you need to be at the gate on time.
Booking a layover flight with a different airline
- If you change the airline for your connecting flight it's a ompletely different story. In fact you will have to go through security and immigration as if you had reached your destination. From the arrival hall of the landing terminal you will have to go through the check in at departures, as if you were starting a completely new flight. In this case you will need a much longer layover to make sure you have plenty of time to go through all the above transfer flight procedure.
How to make sure your layover is long enough
It's hard to tell because of the airport and many unexpected events that may occur at airports. Flight delays, air traffic jam, overcrowded terminals and many more are common at aiports. It's better to have a slightly longer layover than a tight time like 1.5 hours or so. The average layover time is between 2 and 3 hours. This is the most popular flight configuration that allows you to reach the transfer gate with no airport rush. It allows enough time for walking around, shopping, have a drink, get fresh and ready to board onto the connection flight.
I prefer booking connecting flights with a longer layover of 2 hours. This is because it's too risky if a flight delay occurs and it may lead to missing the connection flight. However if you fly with the same airline, connecting flights are sort of “guaranteed”. The only drawback is that time will be tight and it would finally result in getting off one plane and boarding the next within a very short time.
Being familiar with the connecting airport is essential, when you plan layover flights. If you know the airport well, it will allow to quickly find your way at the airport and getting to the transfer gate. If you don’t know the airport and are flying there for the first time, then you will naturally need more time to move around. There may be airport rules that you don't know, so it's a good thing to learn about the connecting airport too.
In this case check with your airline and airport website for all relevant information about transfer, shuttle buses, etc. This page here is very useful to find out about all airports in the world.
When to book flights with short layover
For domestic flights a short layover is usually 1-1.5 hour, as you will not have to go through security. International flights are tricky though because of the above mentioned reasons. 2 to 3 hours is a good time you should calculate. But often flights come with 4-7 hours or even 10hours and longer time, in this case you can choose to book your flight with an overnight layover at the airport. This is usually offered by the airline as a flight ticket package.
When to book flights with long layover
These tips are useful for handling connecting flights with long layover.
- Up to 2-3 hours is the ideal time but often difficult to ge because of many variables. First of all flights with this configuration tend to get quickly booked out. Some airlines have flight configurations with long layovers for flights from the northern to the southern hemisphere.
- 4-7 hours layover is a long time to spend at the airport. In this case it’s advisable to get organised and go to airport lounges. You can join various airlines rewards programs, with their frequent flyer cards you can access the airline lounges. Usually each program has its own rules, ranging from silver to diamond plans you can access different lounges. Some airlines offer the possibility to upgrade your flight ticket to a higher lounge class with frequent flyer miles too. You can also purchase a priority pass to make it easier to upgrade on each flight even if you don't own a reward program card.
- When the layover is longer than 10 hours then you shall consider booking an overnight layover. While many airlines offers free drop off and pick up you get a night sleep at the airport before boarding for your next destination. It may be beneficial to those who need a longer time to relax in between flights. Consider that pick up from the hotel is usually 3-4 hours before your flight schedule. For long night layover it makes sense to book a hotel and stay overnight. If you have a +10 hours daytime then it makes sense leaving the airport and go sightseeing the city.
My Tip: I once experienced an overnight layover in Dubai. the planned layover was 10 hours, but due to a delay of the incoming flight and the early pick up at the hotel (nearly 4 hours before flight departure) I ended up staying only 4 hours in the hotel. I believe 10 hours are good for daytime layover. For the night, I would make sure you have at least 13-15 hours time in between flights, to get a full night sleep.
What to do during the layover? Can I leave the airport during a layover?
The answer is yes, provided you have a 24 hour visa for the country of the connecting fligth. Most airports, like Dubai, include a 24-96 hours visa for that purpose. You can use it for a long layover or for a few days stopover. Usually when you purchase the ticket all this information are included in the flight terms. If unsure, check with your airline, they will tell you whether the visa is included or not. If no visa is included, it makes no sense to apply for a visa for a couple of hours. So these are the things that you need to check:
- Be sure that your flight ticket includes the visitor visa that allows you to leave the airport during the layover. Get this info from your airline or at the airport before going through customs.
- If you cannot leave the airport, spend your time at the connecting airport and make the most of it by using airport loung. If you don't own a card ask your airline for suggestions.
Consider stopover vs layover
A stopover is a much longer time between two flight legs. Usually a layover above 24 hours is regarded as a stopover. In that case you need to collect your luggage and return to the airport on the day of the second flight leg.
Most common stopovers are between 1-3 days. This is a great choice for long-haul flights to Australia, Japan or any destination that involve +20-hours flight. Most common stopover airports are Singapore, Dubai, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok in Asia and Middle East if you fly to Asia and Oceania.
A stopover is really a great solution that not only gives you the opportunity to visit a city but also helps you fight jet lag. By stopping over at a connecting airport for a couple of days you will find easier to adjust to the crossing time zones and it will finally help you recover from jet lag in a fast way.
My tip: I am a fan of stopovers because they help me greatly in recovering from jet lag. And also because I reach my final destination in a less stressed mode.
Booking long layover flights to Australia – Why the configuration matters
There are 3 basic flight models that you can consider as the basic connecting flight configuration leaving from Europe and from US. Here are the main ones:
- Main flight from Europe to South East Asia
this takes usually 11-13 hours with one short layover at an airport. From there you can fly to Australia.
- Three 7-hour flight with 3 layovers
this means having 2 different connection airports, for example leaving from London to Dubai and from Dubai to Singapore, and further onto Sydney. This is good for those who cannot seat long in a plane and need frequent stops.
- Going to Australia with a stopover flight
If you want a short cut to the long-haul flight to Australia the best thing is to choose a nice city as a stopover connection flight. I could suggest Dubai, Singapore or Kuala Lumpur in Asia. Or you can stopover in Perth in W.A. to reduce your flight of 3-4 hours. From there you can then plan your domestic flights within Australia.
Conclusions about the flight layover
Choosing the right type of flight configuration and planning carefully your flights with the right layover is crucial to a smooth start of your trip and a stress-free travel experience.
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This post was last updated on 12th Sept. 2017.
Photo credit Young Woman at the Airport via Shuttershock