5

Vienna airport boasts the minimum connection time as low as 25 minutes, "the fastest in Europe" as they claim. And Austrian Airlines frequently offers flights that are 25 minutes apart, including non-Schengen to Schengen flights. And sometimes it changes the schedule for already booked flights bringing them closer to 25 minutes.

In reality, when traveling from outside Schengen it is not possible to make this connection in less than 15 minutes, at which point the gate is closed. To get from non-Schengen area to Schengen area - even if you're the first at passport control and it only takes a minute - you need to walk quite a lot. I did this route three times, every time taking quite long walk which was no shorter than 15 minutes. And I was always the first at (empty) passport control and RAN all the way through - and I'm pretty sure that most passengers won't make it even in 25 minutes.

Every time I flew this route (OTP-VIE-SZG) I missed my connecting flight. Of course I collected compensation and got free overnight stay or a Mercedes taxi ride to Salzburg, but I'd rather be at my destination on time.

Is there a procedure where I, as a traveler, can challenge the airport's claimed "minimum connection time"?

  • How exactly do you wish to "challenge" the times? What would you gain from Austrian Airlines no longer selling you the 25 minute layover ticket? The EU already has a law about compensating people who experience delays - I'm not sure what else they could do about it. – JonathanReez Apr 20 '18 at 22:12
  • My understanding is that Austrian staff working on schedules use this data as provided by the airport. I'm confident none of them ever tried to actually make this connection in 25m. Thus if airport increases this connection, they'd increase the connection time on this segment (that's my hope). – George Y. Apr 20 '18 at 22:19
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    @GeorgeY. Your understanding is not entirely correct. The "minimum connect time" is actually a complicated set of rules. The airline(s) involved on the connection are free to set their own MCT based on flight number, origin, destination, equipment type, day of the week, and other factors. See travel.stackexchange.com/a/93114/29377 – Calchas Apr 21 '18 at 13:02
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    I have examined the MCT file for VIE. Actually, the airport default MCT is 30 minutes, but Austrian Airlines is specifically overruling this with a 25 minute MCT for certain routes. Airlines usually only do this if they want to enable connections that would not otherwise exist. – Calchas Apr 21 '18 at 13:06
  • In most jurisdictions this would fall under false advertising, and you could either file a lawsuit against them, or file a complaint with the relevant consumer protection authorities. Not sure about the specifics in Austria, though if they advertise the claim in your country you may probably file there. IANAL, and I’m not sure if that would make them change things the right way (or if it’s the most efficient way to achieve your goal). – jcaron Apr 21 '18 at 14:04
6

The airline has made a deliberate choice to offer this connection by lowering the minimum connect time below what the airport recommends.

The standard time set by the airport is thirty minutes.

STANDARD.D/D...D/I...I/D...I/I.
ONLINE    .30   .30   .30   .30
OFFLINE   .30   .30   .30   .30

(D = domestic, I = international, ONLINE = connecting to the same airline, OFFLINE = connecting between two different carriers.) Before anyone asks, intra-Schengen counts as international for this purpose unless it is really a domestic flight in the same country.

The airline is allowed to create exceptions to the standard times. Filtering the exceptions table by OS-OS (Austrian to Austrian) and international-domestic, we get the following rules.

OS-OS ID   .50 FLT 9772 - FLT 3527 
OS-OS ID   .50 ALL  - FLT 3501 
OS-OS ID   .45 FLT    1 - 3499 - FLT 8721 - 8800 
OS-OS ID   .45 FLT    1 - 3499 - FLT 8831 - 8920 
OS-OS ID   .45 FLT 7071 - 7080 - FLT    1 - 9999 
OS-OS ID   .45 FLT 8721 - 8800 - FLT    1 - 3499 
OS-OS ID   .45 FLT 8831 - 8920 - FLT    1 - 3499 
OS-OS ID  1.00 ALL  - FLT 3500 - 3999 
OS-OS ID   .30 ALL  - FLT 7001 - 7070 
OS-OS ID   .30 ALL  - FLT 7081 - 8100 
OS-OS ID   .30 ALL  - FLT 8121 - 9000 
OS-OS ID   .30 FLT 7001 - 7070 - ALL  
OS-OS ID   .30 FLT 7081 - 8100 - ALL  
OS-OS ID   .45 FLT 8101 - 8120 - ALL  
OS-OS ID   .30 FLT 8121 - 9000 - ALL  
OS-OS ID   .25 

You can see that most services actually seem to fall through to the .25 (25 minute) rule, which is pretty surprising for a generic international-domestic rule.

Looking at the timetable it looks like OTP-VIE services are given a flight number in the OS 700-799 range; VIE-SZG services are given a number in the OS 900-999 range, so they are indeed caught by the 25 minute rule.

You can try complaining to Austrian, but I suspect they made a deliberate commercial decision to tolerate the risk. It presumably costs them money every day, so I would hope they already know about it.

11

Really, there isn't. It's the airline's responsibility to make things right if you miss the connection, so whatever they declare to be a legal connection time is up to them.

However, you, as a consumer, have the right to choose. I'd strongly suggest that you book flights with much more relaxed connection times - they should be readily available.

The only real risk would fall if your flights are rescheduled, in which case you could end up with a tight connection time again. If you do, I'd suggest calling the airline and requesting them to book you something with a relaxed time again, citing your original booking. I've had success with this in the opposite direction, where Air Canada rescheduled us from a reasonable connection to a very long one, and was willing to route us out of a different but nearby airport to get a more reasonable connection time, at my request, without any extra charges.

  • More relaxed schedule is not always available, unfortunately. In my case the next connecting flight is next morning. – George Y. Apr 20 '18 at 22:07
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    @GeorgeY. Challenging the legal connection time isn't going to do you any good, then - they'd have to amend their scheduling to accommodate your preference, and that isn't too likely. By all means give feedback to your airline that you feel it's an overly tight connection; maybe if they hear it from enough people, they'll look at adjusting the inbound or outbound flight times a little. (I'm assuming the connection isn't on the same aircraft, in which case there's zero chance of missing it.) – Jim MacKenzie Apr 20 '18 at 22:12
  • Don't know about Austrian Airlines, but American Airlines frequently advertises connection times as little as 45 minutes in its hubs, such as one that requires one to take a transfer bus at LAX. Usually, it's because the arrival times of their flights are padded, and the first leg usually arrives 15-30 minutes before the indicated arrival time. – gparyani Apr 20 '18 at 23:05
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    @GeorgeY. Austrian Airlines made a specific decision to offer a 25 minute MCT on certain routes (see my comment above). Probably that is to enable your desired connection to exist. The alternative is you wait overnight, not that they reschedule a flight. – Calchas Apr 21 '18 at 13:08
  • @Calchas this plus your other comment looks like a good answer, i.e. I should appeal to Austrian. Please post it and I'll accept it. – George Y. Apr 22 '18 at 8:00

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