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I'm travelling for work and my flight back has a very short layover (37 minutes) in MSP. I didn't book the flight so although I wouldn't have picked something like this, I have to deal with it.

This flight is the last one home available that day. If I miss it, I will need to wait until the next day. Because I'm flying from Kansas to MSP, I suspect that my chances of the incoming flight being delayed (due to snow, etc) are kind of high.

Do airlines typically wait for passengers who are flying in with the same airline and have a short connection?

Both reservations are on the same ticket, both are with the same airline.

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    How long is a piece of string? It depends ... on many factors – Matt Douhan Feb 18 at 21:25
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    @MattDouhan I was looking for insight into perhaps someone's insider knowledge of how these decisions are made. Perhaps a policy that exists. Not looking for a philosophical discussion though. – Catsunami Feb 18 at 22:06
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    Are you aware that it's a huge deal to wait? Airlines are time constrained by max work/rest hours of the crew and assigned time slot to depart/arrive. – Quora Feans Feb 19 at 14:23
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    Usually not. Sorry. The airline doesn't really care about you that much compared to everyone else. – user91988 Feb 19 at 17:15
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    Once I made a completely hopeless connection in Atlanta because the pilots of my (late) arriving flight were also driving the departing flight! I assume that's pretty rare, though. :) – Reid Feb 20 at 15:36

10 Answers 10

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They may wait for you, because they know you're coming, but they won't wait for very long and waiting is not guaranteed. They have a schedule to keep, and there may be operational reasons why they can't hold the flight for long (if it's the last flight of the day, there might be noise restrictions in place after a certain time, or there may be restrictions on air crew working hours).

If you do miss the connection, they will put you up in a hotel for the night.

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    I don't think a hotel room from the airline is guaranteed. The last time I missed a connection and had to stay overnight in Chicago (see my comment on Hilmar's answer), United didn't provide us with a hotel room because it was weather-related and therefore not their fault. – Michael Seifert Feb 18 at 21:10
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    Yes, Michael is correct. They will provide the hotel if the delay is due to something that is due to the airline (missing/delayed crew, mechanical issue, etc.,) but usually not if the delay is due to weather. – reirab Feb 19 at 6:29
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    Generally true, although sometimes you'll have to get quite aggressive with them to get them to pay for your hotel. Last time I got stuck this way in Frankfurt (flying from London to Rome): bad weather in London delayed the first leg, missed the last flight out of Frankfurt. It took me more than 30 minutes and threats of legal actions before they agreed to put me in the hotel. – Aleks G Feb 19 at 13:15
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    @AleksG That may be due to EU regulation 261/2004 that only applies to flights in, from and to the EU, but not between Minneapolis and Kansas. – Alexander Feb 19 at 13:31
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    US airlines are under no obligation whatsoever to offer compensation if a connection is missed due to weather, and with the possible exception of high-status frequent fliers, will refuse to do so. I have on many occasions missed a flight due to weather, but not at any airport I'm flying through, but rather because the plane has been running late due to some bad weather 2 or 3 stops ago. Even so, the best they'll usually offer is maybe some free snacks, and possibly a voucher worth a small discount at an airport hotel. – Phil Frost Feb 20 at 0:35
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Do airlines typically wait for passengers who are flying in with the same airline and have a short connection?

Typically not, at least not on US domestic connections. I have personally experienced some egregious "won't wait a single second" scenarios

  1. In one case I had a tight connection with a delayed incoming flight but due to no luggage and fast running I made it to the gate with 2 minutes to spare. When I tried to walk on my boarding pass didn't clear. Turned out, they already had given my seat away because, and I quote "we didn't think you would make it".
  2. Incoming was late for the last red eye out of LAX. 6-8 passengers on the same flight trying to make the connection. It's tight, but not impossible. Unfortunately we have to go from the far end of Terminal 8 to the far end of Terminal 6. First person gets there maybe one minute late. Plane is still there, jet bridge is still docked, but the gate is already closed. Waiting one more minute would have saved the airline the extra work of dealing with 6-8 stranded overnight passengers and the associated expense.
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  • In another case, the check-in agent (Norwegian) refused to give me a boarding a half-hour before boarding gate closed because their policy is to check in "one hour before departure." – WGroleau Feb 18 at 19:18
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    I had a similar experience to your Scenario #1 with United in 2017. What's more, it was the last flight of the day, so we had to spend an overnight in the connecting city. And to add insult to injury, our checked bags did make the connecting flight, so we couldn't even get access to them for the forced overnight stay. – Michael Seifert Feb 18 at 20:03
  • On the other hand, I've had Southwest hold a flight for over an hour as passengers from various connecting flights trickled in. Presumably, the reason they were willing to do so was because it was the last flight of the day, and none of the passengers had a connection at the destination. – Mark Feb 19 at 21:30
  • @WGroleau Was it a single ticket on the same airline? Do you have to "check in" when it's on a single ticket? – Acccumulation Feb 19 at 22:14
  • No. That's why I put it in comment, i.e., not an answer to OP's question. – WGroleau Feb 19 at 22:34
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Typically, if a lot of people are connecting from flight A to B, the airline could wait. In effect, it is better for them to wait maybe 20 minutes than having to provide food and a hotel for loads of people. I have had cases before were airlines waited before.

Alternatively, the airline could fast track you through the airport (e.g. security and passport control if required).

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  • Thanks. I don't think security/passport control are required, so hopefully it doesn't come down to that. But that's a good point, they might wait if there are enough of us. – Catsunami Feb 18 at 18:48
  • @Catsunami Yeah, definitely no security or passport control required for a Kansas to MSP to somewhere else connection on Delta. They do have Porches that they use to transfer people with very tight connections directly across the ramp, but that's usually only for Diamond and maybe Platinum Medallions (and, of course, 360s.) – reirab Feb 19 at 6:31
  • @reirab, I want to go riding around in a Porsche on the tarmac! But no, I won't qualify for those statuses anyway :) – Catsunami Feb 19 at 17:39
  • Thing is, if dozen people late from flight A to flight B causes you to delay flight B, then you have a hundred people in flight B late for other flights. – Peteris Feb 20 at 10:05
  • @Peteris but the last flight of the day might not have any connections available on the same day anyways. – Josef says Reinstate Monica Feb 20 at 15:10
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Since there are many answers saying "No", I'll provide anecdotal evidence of a "Yes" answer.

I was flying from Indianapolis to Klamath Falls, OR via MSP and PDX. As I sat in MSP, they announced a delay of the flight to PDX. I politely inquired at the gate to see how long it would be and to check on the likelihood of my making my connection at PDX - they assured me there would be no issue. As I sat there, they announced delay after delay. Each time, I went back to the gate agent, slightly more concerned than the last time, asking about making my connection at PDX, since I knew I was already on the last only flight of the day from PDX to Klamath Falls. They continued to assure me that all would be fine.

On my last trip to the gate agent after the last delay announcement, I was met with, "have a seat, give me a few minutes and I'll get back to you". After being called back up to the gate I was assured that I'd make my connection.

Upon arrival at PDX, I stood up in my seat at the very back of the plane and looked forlornly at the many, many rows of not-moving people in front of me wondering if I'd ever get off this plane, to say nothing of making my next flight. I heard mechanical noise behind me and saw that the rear door had been opened. I heard a flight attendant say "I think it's the guy in the white sweatshirt". Sure enough (after checking), I was wearing the only white sweatshirt around.

A guy in a ground-crew uniform tapped me on the shoulder and asked me to follow him. He lead me out the back door, down the stairs, across the tarmac and to the front of the security line for the terminal where my flight was departing. He said, "Hurry, you're the last passenger and they're holding the flight for you. When you get to your destination, contact the luggage people and they'll get an address to forward your checked luggage."

As I boarded the otherwise packed puddle-jumper, the FA welcomed me aboard and closed the door behind me.

So yes, they may well hold the plane for you, and even get you through security (if necessary) in a hurry.

*NOTE: all conversations are approximate - this was 25 years ago on Northwest Airlines (which no longer exists). YMMV.

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  • Klamath Falls only has one 'm'. I was going to edit but I couldn't find four other characters to change. – Kat Feb 19 at 18:15
  • Thanks, @Kat. I originally typed it that way, looked at it and decided it needed another 'm'. I figured it was such an out of the way place that nobody would know... ;) – FreeMan Feb 19 at 18:29
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    I've had a similar experience, if they can do it without a big delay it's definitely worth their while avoiding the hassle. – Alan Dev Feb 19 at 21:21
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    A number of factors may have swayed their decision: the only flight of the day means if you miss it you get a hotel, there are probably not many people waiting for any onward connection at Klamath Falls, the plane might not make another flight at all that day, etc. etc. Also, your frequent inquiries possibly may have swayed them because you seemed to know exactly what you wanted. Note: this post is but thinking aloud. – Jan Feb 21 at 6:19
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    All valid points, @Jan. As I said in my opening statement, I wanted to provide an opposing view point to all the naysayers, and I closed with "YMMV". ;) – FreeMan Feb 21 at 12:07
3

It varies. They will often wait a little while, especially if it's the last flight of the day and even moreso if there are multiple passengers making the same connection. I've had Delta wait for me after inbound connection delays on several occasions. Actually, I've only had one time where I actually missed a connection on Delta and that was a case where the inbound flight was multiple hours late and I knew I'd miss the connection before I ever departed. They will be more inclined to wait for passengers with higher status levels, but I've had them wait for me even before I had any status with them.

That being said, if the delay is due to weather, ATC flow control, or something else like that which is outside of the airline's control and you do miss the connection, they are not obligated to provide overnight accommodations for you if you miss the connection. They usually won't. However, if the delay is due to crew, mechanical problems, etc., then they will provide a hotel room for you if you miss the connection. In either case, they'll rebook you on the first flight with an available seat the next day.

Personally, especially when connecting to the last flight of the day, I try to book layovers of over an hour when possible, especially at airports and times of year where inclement weather delays are reasonably likely. Of course, this isn't always possible or feasible and sometimes you end up having to book a short connection whether you like it or not.


As a side note, one way that you can help mitigate the risk of missing a connection to a last flight of the day in situations like that is to book the flight on a credit card that provides trip delay protection benefits. For example, Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Sapphire Reserve, and (U.S.-issued) Amex Platinum Card* all provide such benefits to one degree or another. These will cover the cost of a hotel if you get stuck overnight due to weather as well as any other reasonable costs you might incur, such as purchasing toiletries that you might need if you're separated from your bag. However, in most cases, these benefits will usually only cover cases where the airline wouldn't cover the expense (such as, for example, if you missed a connection due to weather delays.)

(* Just to avoid a potential point of confusion here, the Amex Platinum Card and the Delta SkyMiles Platinum Card from Amex are two totally different, unrelated card products. The latter does not provide trip delay protection insurance. I have no idea why Amex thought it was a good idea to use "Platinum" and "Gold" in the names of so many completely unrelated card products.)

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  • I'm not quite sure the "they won't pay for the hotel" rule is that certain. It used to be the case that they paid for it even for weather delays. Nowadays they probably won't do if they can avoid it, but it probably depends a lot on the airline, the fare, the status of the passenger, etc. And of course for EC261-covered flights (so probably not the flights covered by OP's question) it's an obligation. – jcaron Feb 19 at 14:03
  • Unfortunately, since this is work travel, I had no choice in flights and I also didn't book them myself. They will still re-book me on another flight, right? Even if they don't provide a hotel? – Catsunami Feb 19 at 17:38
  • @Catsunami Yes, they will definitely rebook you on the next flight that has available seats (which may or may not be the actual next flight.) – reirab Feb 19 at 17:45
  • @reirab, thanks! Yeah, it will probably be the next day (I just hope it's not the flight 24 hours later...). – Catsunami Feb 19 at 17:47
  • @jcaron Yes, I agree that it's not certain that they won't provide a hotel for weather-related delays. That's why I said "usually." Sometimes they will, especially for high-status passengers, but they usually won't. And, yeah, EU261 definitely wouldn't apply here. – reirab Feb 19 at 17:50
2

I fly on Southwest as much as possible for unrelated reasons. There are a number of times they have held the entire flight for two people or even one person: single digit minutes generally. But SouthWest is in general a pleasant airline to choose. That makes it easy to have a positive attitude on it (when you are not the one who is delayed): we're all going to be fine even with a couple of extra minutes added.

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  • I didn't have a choice in this case, but that's a good insight, thanks! – Catsunami Feb 19 at 17:47
  • Yeah, Southwest and Delta have both been good about holding flights for people with delayed connections in my experience, especially if it's the last flight of the day out to a given destination. They usually have the schedule padded enough anyway that departing 15-20 minutes late will still result in an on-time arrival if there aren't any further delays. – reirab Feb 19 at 17:56
  • @reirab, I will actually be flying Delta, so fingers crossed! – Catsunami Feb 20 at 15:27
  • I have also had a Southwest flight attendant instruct everyone else on the plane to remain seated so the people with a tight connection can get off quickly. (And it actually worked!) – Jeffiekins Feb 20 at 19:43
2

Well if the flight youre in is meant to connect all or majority of the passengers it is going to wait ofcourse and make up for that time in flight. But if its a small group then probably not. You will be re-assigned the next flight to your destination

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2

Not necessarily.

One time I was travelling from Athens to Paris through Frankfurt (with Lufthansa) with estimated waiting time 1 hour. Due to bad weather near Frankfurt, the flight landed in Frankfurt about 40 minutes late. We arrived on our gate literally less than 10 minutes past boarding and we were firmly refused boarding.

After much talking and negotiations (they kept claiming that this was not their fault and there was nothing they could do) they agreed to put us on the next flight to Paris (4 hours later).

Funny thing: In the next flight, the pilot was waiting on the gate for 35 minutes till the catering company bring 2 extra meals for the two extra passengers (us) but the 1st flight did not want to wait for the 2 extra passengers that were delayed in a connecting flight due to weather...

Two complaints to Lufthansa remain to this day unanswered.

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Probably not. Unless a large portion of the passengers on your Kansas to MSP flight are also continuing onto the same destination you are they have very little incentive to hold a flight. It costs an airline roughly $75/minute for a delay.

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-2

Both reservations are on the same ticket, both are with the same airline.

They must either wait for you, for a reasonable amount of time, or reroute. In particular, if your inbound flight is delayed, airline has two options is this case:

  1. Delay the outbound flight, along with all other passengers
  2. Reroute you, including night accommodation

This because you have a single ticket for a single journey, and the airline is bound to a contract with you. A travel contract. A contract that get you transported from A to B.

It's the airline's decision what the best option is for both. It's the airline's duty to bring you to destination

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  • It would be so nice if point 2 was actually true! – gerrit Feb 19 at 9:33
  • It's true for flights that qualify for EC261 (so obviously not in OP's case, but for other readers that may be true), and it used to be the case in the US (don't know if that was by legal obligation or purely by convention/good customer service), though it's probably no longer valid nowadays. – jcaron Feb 19 at 13:59
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    They're only obligated to provide you with overnight obligations if the delay is their fault (i.e. crew not available, technical problem with the aircraft, slow loading baggage, etc.) If the delay is outside their control (e.g. weather,) then they're not required to provide overnight accommodations. – reirab Feb 19 at 17:58
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    This is definitely not true. I've had a flight delayed due to "circumstances outside their control", missed my connection which was the last flight of the day, and the airline refused to do anything about a hotel. – Kat Feb 19 at 18:09

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