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I have a flight from Cairns to Melbourne early in the morning with a tentative arrival time of 10:55 AM in Melbourne Tullamarine T4. I booked a separate ticket flying from Melbourne Tullamarine to Canada at 1:00 PM from T2. I was hoping to bring checked luggage, but I wasn't sure if there would be enough time to grab the luggage from the carousel and then get to a United Airlines counter to have it checked in.

Do you think there is enough time? I wasn't sure how long it takes on average for a domestic flight to have luggage arrive on the carousel after landing.

I was also wondering if there is any recourse or ability to rebook if I accidentally miss my United Airlines flight because I was delayed by my prior flight booked on separate tickets? I did use a credit card with trip protection, but I wasn't sure if this would be eligible.

I've never booked separate tickets before, but it was unavoidable at the time of booking as finding a flight directly from Cairns cost an additional $1800.

Thanks for any input or suggestions. Cheers

Edit: Thanks for all the input. Based on what I hear, it is doable, but just to be safe, I won't check in any luggage and instead just use a carry-on only.

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    That is very risky. You have maybe a 60$ chance of making it with checked luggage and an 80% without. Do want to bet your expensive United ticket on these odds? Consider flying to Melbourne a day earlier and staying the night.
    – Hilmar
    Commented Nov 8, 2022 at 13:25
  • I second @Hilmar's comment. It's over ten years since I lived in Melbourne, but there have been occasions where it took me over an hour to get through security. As I said, it's been a while since I was there, but maybe there was a perception of a higher than usual threat from terrorists. If you are lucky you will get through OK (can you manage without checked luggage?), but I would never go for such a tight connection. Commented Nov 8, 2022 at 19:56
  • It's doable if everything goes according to plan, but it would be much safer to fly to Melbourne the day before. What's your plan B if you miss the flight? Commented Nov 9, 2022 at 14:06
  • @Hilmar What do you mean by 60$ chance? Commented Nov 9, 2022 at 14:22
  • Typing mistake. I meant 80% chance. Unfortunately after 5 minutes you can't edit comments any more.
    – Hilmar
    Commented Nov 9, 2022 at 16:18

4 Answers 4

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As always with separate tickets:

  • If all goes well, it should be perfectly doable. You need to have checked in and/or dropped bags by the check-in deadline (60 minutes before departure, so 12:00 noon precisely), so it can be a bit tight, but in general it should be OK. Easier if you sit towards the front of the first plane, walk fast, know your way around an airport, know where you need to go, and have status, but even without it should be OK. Compared to other connections, you don't have immigration to go through and no complex terminal change, so that's a good thing.

    Note however that the total distance from plane to check-in can in the worst case come close to 1km, which can take a good 20 minutes if you're not a fast walker or are encumbered with luggage or kids for instance.

  • The issue is if anything goes wrong:

    • The first flight is delayed
    • The first flight is cancelled
    • The first light is parked at a remote stand and you need to take a bus (don't know if that happens in MEL T4)
    • Luggage delivery is delayed, or, worse, your luggage is lost or delayed
    • Either of the airlines changes the schedule (first flight moved a bit later, second flight moved a bit earlier)

    In that situation, if you miss the check-in deadline for the second flight, you're considered a no show, and your ticket will usually be cancelled (along with further flights on the same ticket, like a return flight for instance).

    You'll then have to book and pay for a new flight, at the last minute, which usually means a lot more expensive. If you need to stay overnight, then any associated costs will be for you to pay.

    Short self-connections can be OK if the second flight is cheap and frequent (usually short-haul/domestic flights on busy routes). When it's a more expensive and infrequent flight, it's usually a very very bad idea.

Personally I would never book that. If a connecting flight wasn't an option, I would book a flight the day before and stay the night in Melbourne to be safe.

As for relying on travel insurance, read the fine print. They rarely go into much detail, but they will most certainly argue that 2 hours for a self-connection isn't enough and that you are not covered.

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I have no idea about that connection, but I am posting an answer on the ticketing part

I was also wondering if there is any recourse or ability to rebook if I accidentally miss my United Airlines flight because I was delayed by my prior flight booked on separate tickets?

NO, from the airline (here United) perspective, you are starting from Melbourne, so you must conform to the presence requirements as if you came to the airport by land.

If your flight is delayed enough that you miss either check-in cutoff or boarding you're out of luck, nothing will be done by United as you are only covered for the flight on them.

I did use a credit card with trip protection, but I wasn't sure if this would be eligible.

Read your policy

Note :

Those travel insurances usually have, along the full policy that can be complicated to read, extremely comprehensive documents laying what they'll cover in basic terms (sure there are exceptions, but you can at least know in a big picture what they'll cover), you can have a look at it, here is the one from my card issuer for ex. BUT read the fine print

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You only really have one hour to transfer, but if your flight arrives on time, you should be fine if you run. This transfer should take about 30mins to do. If you don't check your luggage, you have more leeway, and the transfer is plenty doable. Here is some tips for this transfer:

  • Since you are arriving on Jetstar, expect to go down a long corridor to the main terminal area.
  • If you have checked luggage, follow the exit/baggage-reclaim signs and go downstairs to collect your luggage. You will have to go upstairs again to check-in at T2.
  • Going from T4 to T2 should be about a 5-10 minute run.
  • Once you arrive at T2's check-in area, check the screens for which counters United is using. After checking in with United, you should be fine.

Maps for Melbourne airport can be found here.

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Seems like your flight JQ941 statistically travels on time

Last JQ941 flights

I wouldn't be too worried for the time waiting at the carousel and also the transfer time at the airport as it's irrelevant (like 5 minutes walking at fast pace).

The big issue is the check-in deadline. Checking on UA website, there's not a specific time for Melbourne but, I believe, it falls under "For most United- and United Express-operated international flights" and it's 60 minutes before the ETD, which is good.

I'd say "if everything goes fine, you've to run but you'll be alright". In the worst case scenario, you might check-in online before anyway but then, if you're late, you can't check your baggage and your flight would be departing...

Enjoy Cairns while you're there, I love that town!

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    The 8 Nov flight landed at 11:17 and was at the gate at 11:21. That is extremely tight for a check-in deadline at 12:00 noon... With checked luggage the chances of missing the connection are extremely high.
    – jcaron
    Commented Nov 8, 2022 at 11:43
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    Thanks! I can read! I can also calculate the average landing time of last week flights, which is 10:51 (+ taxing, 4 mins?), but also landing at 11:17 is not a disaster, as OP just need to pickup his baggage and walk to T2. I said "if everything goes fine, you've to run but you'll be alright", not "you'll be fine, have a Vegemite before leaving T4!"
    – Matte.Car
    Commented Nov 8, 2022 at 14:54
  • @Matte.Car, an edit asked for changing 'statistically' with 'historically' which I have denied as it is too much different from what you wrote. But you may want to consider introducing that change yourself. 8 is not a lot to base statistics on.
    – Willeke
    Commented Nov 9, 2022 at 13:57

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