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In March I will be travelling with my wife from Las Vegas McCarran Int'l Airport (LAS) to London Heathrow (LHR) via San Francisco Int'l Airport (SFO.) We have recently received a unexpected flight reservation change that means we will only have 1 hour 11 minutes to transfer from SFO Terminal 3 to SFO Terminal 1. Is this enough time?

Additional information:

  • I am British, and my wife is Australian
  • We booked through ebookers.com with Lufthansa, although these flights are operated by United Airlines

Related sub-questions:

  1. When will we go through security in this trip?
  2. Will our luggage be transferred automatically to the new flight?
  3. Who could we contact at EBookers, Lufthansa, United Airlines or SFO to get this information?
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2 Answers 2

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Officially the "Minimum Connection Time" for United Domestic -> United International at SFO is 45 minutes, and as you're above this it is still what is considered a "legal" connection.

However all this really means is that if you miss your connection the airline is responsible for finding you a seat on a later SFO-LHR flight. It doesn't mean that you'll make your connection, nor does it mean that the airline will cover any additional expenses such as hotels during the delay, etc (They might, but it depends on the cause of the delay).

As both of your flights are on United you do NOT need to re-clear security at SFO, nor do you need to collect your bags as they will be checked all the way through from LAS to LHR.

Presuming that your LAS-SFO flight has a flight number below 2000 then you inbound flight will arrive in Terminal 3, and your outbound flight will leave from the International Terminal G. These two terminals are connected by an air-side walkway, and depending on which gates you land at and depart from it will be in the 10-15 minute range to walk for an average person.

If your inbound flight is a flight number above 6000 then it will arrive in Terminal 1. There is an air-side bus from Terminal 1 to Terminal G, but depending on how busy the bus is it could take up to 20+ minutes to get between the two terminals and to your gate.

Your outbound flight will start boarding around around 45 minutes before departure, and technically you need to be at the gate 30 minutes before departure time, although realistically 10-15 mins is normally the minimum - any later and you risk losing your seat.

So basically, if everything goes right and your inbound flight is on time then you'll have no trouble making your connection. You probably won't have enough spare time for anything other than a very quick bathroom break, but it's doable.

However if your inbound flight is delayed even a little - which is not uncommon on LAS-SFO flights, especially if it's a morning flight - then you will likely miss your connecting flight. Depending on the time of year there are only 1 or 2 direct SFO-LHR flights per day on United, so the impact of missing your flight is very high - most likely an up to 24 hour delay!

If it were me, I would be changing to an earlier LAS-SFO flight. United is normally very happy to do this when there has been a schedule change. In this case as the ticket was booked via an agency and as a codeshare they may not be willing to assist, but I would start with them presuming you can conveniently call them. Otherwise talk to EBookers and ask them to arrange the change. In cases like this it's normally best to know exactly what you want before calling (eg, you want flight UAxxx from LAS-SFO rather than your existing UAyyyy).

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Since your reservation is a single one you are quite likely to have the luggage checked through directly to Heathrow.

As far as SFO connection is concerned you may not need to go through security which will need to be confirmed with the gate personnel.

United operates a shuttle that runs airside between terminals 3 and 1. The only thing is that United 930 which is flying from the SFO's International Terminal rather then terminal 1. It is also possible that you may arrive at Terminal 1 rather then 3 according to this blog. The same blog also mentions that the United's airside shuttle stops at Gate 92 of the international terminal, so I would check on this with the gate personnel upon arrival.

If you do have to go through security you should request assistance from Airline personnel since they have the capability to cut the security line to put you in front so you can make your connection.

EDIT

As pointed out by @Doc there is walkway from Terminal 3 to International Terminal. I have found it indicated only on this map of SFO Departures Map, most others either don't show it or don't have it clearly marked that it is an airside connector.

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No UA-UA connection at SFO ever requires re-clearing secruity, with the exception of (non-Canada) International -> Domestic connections which always require it. –  Doc Jan 2 at 3:15
    
@Doc This is the other way around. Domestic to International. –  Karlson Jan 2 at 3:18
    
Exactly! And thus does not require re-clearing security. –  Doc Jan 2 at 3:22
    
@Doc Good to know but I couldn't find the connector you mention anywhere on the maps nor there is a stop at terminal G on maps provided by United. Hence the last paragraph. –  Karlson Jan 2 at 3:24

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