We, husband, 11-month old and I, are going to fly SFO to Adelaide via Sydney. Since my SFO to Sydney is on FFQ points, I'm unable to book my Sydney to Adelaide Virgin flight on the same ticket.

Is 2-hour sufficient time for this connection from T1 to T2 with customs and immigration? The next flight on Virgin is 6 hours later. Qantas offers a flight but the connection time is only 1 hour 40 minutes. They have a later flight but it's only available in Business class right now.

Thanks in advance for your advice.

  • 1
    Are you sure you're seeing all available options here? There are roughly hourly flights between Sydney and Adelaide on Qantas alone, and the route is also covered by Virgin, Jetstar and Tiger. Feb 18, 2018 at 20:16
  • Yes, I'm looking at all the options as I'm looking on each airline's website. Qantas flights to Adelaide on a Sunday is every 2'ish hours. We won't make the 8:20 am, 10:35 and 12:35 are >$500 each person each way at this time. Virgin is around $225, still manageable.
    – Maggie H
    Feb 20, 2018 at 5:30

2 Answers 2


I wouldn't book this, doubly so if you have checked luggage, and doubly so again with a small child.

You'll need to go through immigration and customs/quarantine, collecting any checked luggage, change terminals (which requires a stop at a ticket machine or local currency), check in any checked luggage before the deadline, go through airport security, and get to your gate before boarding closes 10 minutes before departure, all with an 11-month old in tow. It might be possible, but even a brief flight delay or a moderate wait at any of these steps could be enough to cause a problem.

And since you've arranged your own connection on separate tickets, Virgin Australia won't be responsible in any way if you miss the flight. Last-minute tickets for the next flight are likely to be expensive, if space is available. I would allow more time.

  • 1
    This post is exactly correct. It's one thing if you're booking the flights on one ticket, but when you book two separate tickets, the connection risk falls upon you. We did a four-hour connection at Heathrow one year, flying in from EDI on British Airways, then LHR-YYZ-YQR on Air Canada, precisely because we booked on two separate tickets. (At that time, it was quite a bit more expensive to book the entire journey on Air Canada, and BA didn't have any codeshare flights to YQR.) Feb 18, 2018 at 14:26

I've flown that leg quite a few times and I wouldn't attempt a 2h transfer in a pink fit. You basically have a 1% chance of making your connection. You haven't mentioned when you're landing but if it's when the curfew is lifted at 6am you'll basically be joining a couple of thousand people trying to get through baggage, immigration, and customs. Ditto for other busy periods, and it can be much worse if there are any bottlenecks. Most people has their bags x-rayed or searched at customs.

You're also assuming there will be no delays on your SFO flight. Unfavorable winds can easily add an hour or two to a 16 hour flight. SFO can be congested. Those old 747s tend to break down.

6 hours actually seems like a reasonably comfortable connection. Time will fly by.

  • While I also wouldn't book this, it's not quite as bad as you make it sound. Immigration at SYD has improved considerably since they introduced the autogates and it's rare to have to wait more than 15 min at Customs even during morning peak. The main risk is really that the incoming flight is delayed, which would turn a busy but doable 2 hour marathon into an impossible 1-hr sprint. Feb 18, 2018 at 20:20
  • @jpatokal Since they have an infant, it doesn't seem like they'd be eligible to use the SmartGates (well, the parents would if they have a compatible citizenship, but not the child). I have no idea how that would impact their time getting through immigration. Feb 18, 2018 at 20:34
  • @ZachLipton Correct, but the "human gate" lines are also much shorter now, particularly the one for Australians. (It's not clear if the OP can use this though.) Feb 19, 2018 at 6:40
  • United doesn't fly 747's anymore. The SFO to SYD flight is on a 787-9, which are all new, so your chances of mechanical breakdown are much smaller. Also, airlines pad their schedules so much that it's unlikely your flight takes more than the listed time. It's far likely to take an hour less. That being said, I wouldn't book this either.
    – cbw
    Feb 19, 2018 at 19:33
  • What do you think about flying Jetstar from Sydney to Adelaide with an infant? They have a flight at 10 am, which would be a 3 1/2 hour layover in Sydney. I understand they nickel and dime everything (i.e. carry-on, check-in luggage, etc.).
    – Maggie H
    Feb 20, 2018 at 5:32

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