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Air Canada sold me the following itinerary:

  • Denver (DEN) -> Toronto (YYZ) -> Quebec City (YQB)

The first leg arrives at Toronto at 13:11. The second leg departs for Quebec City at 14:30.

Itinerary screenshot

Only after I booked it did I realize that not only is this a rather short connection in general, but it's also an international-to-domestic transfer.

Is this a realistic connection? I carry a US passport and have no special status with the airline. There will be checked luggage. (They also sold me a similarly short connection on the return.)

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    Is it on same ticket? (it seems so). In such case I would trust airline, and you will be automatically booked on next flight if you miss it (because long queue for immigration). Commented Dec 19, 2023 at 16:14
  • Even if you don't have walking problems, might be a good idea to ask for assistance.
    – André
    Commented Dec 19, 2023 at 19:57
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    Last year I had a similar connection time going the other way. I made the flight, but only by running from US customs and Immigration to the gate. Be prepared for your luggage to arrive the next day or maybe a few days later, but then, this is always the case with AC. Commented Dec 19, 2023 at 23:35
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    If you don't make the connection, and alternate arrangements from Air Canada are not to your liking, plan B: VIA Rail from Union Station to Quebec City. It's a long slog - maybe 10 hours or more. Commented Dec 20, 2023 at 0:33

3 Answers 3

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As usual with actual connections (two flights on a single ticket, as opposed to self-transfers where the two flights are booked separately), if the airline sold you this connection, they are relatively confident you will make it.

Airlines and airports decide “minimum connection times” (MCT) for various combinations of airport, airlines, domestic/international, etc, and will never sell a connection below that threshold.

1h19 is indeed rather on the short side (though some airports have MCTs of 40 minutes or less), but should be quite doable if the incoming flight is on time.

Some airlines will have people to rush passengers with short connections through the airport, I don’t know if that is the case here.

Booking a seat as close to the front as possible on the first flight would be a good idea. You can also let the crew know, especially if the flight runs late, they may arrange for you to deplane faster.

If you don’t make it for some reason (delay of the first flight, long queue at passport control…) then they will rebook you on the next available flight.

If you find out you are going to miss your flight, it’s a good idea to know your options. Here the next direct flight is only at 9:20 pm, but there are flight with in stop on Ottawa which can get you to your destination much earlier.

While they will take care of you, be prepared: have something to pass the time, and if you need any medication for instance, have enough for an extended stop in Toronto.

In the worst case they may have to get you a room for the night, but that seems unlikely on that date unless there are important weather issues.

For reference:

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    This is correct but it may be worth noting that Air Canada publishes its MCTs and give 1h10 for a US→Canada connection at Toronto Pearson. So the connection is, as you say, a bit tight, but the airline believes it to be doable, and will take care of the passenger if something goes wrong.
    – mlc
    Commented Dec 20, 2023 at 1:16
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    Absolutely let them know at the gate checking in at DEN, and let the flight crew know. I went IND-MSP-SEA-<small airport> years ago, my MSP-SEA connection kept getting delayed. I kept asking at the gate if I was going to make my final connection. Upon arrival at SEA, I was escorted off the back of the plane, across the tarmac and taken directly to the front of the security (different terminal) line for my last leg. They also held the flight for me as it was the last one of the day. Just be polite in your asking - a little kindness goes a long way!
    – FreeMan
    Commented Dec 20, 2023 at 12:47
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As stated above, if the airline sold you the ticket they are pretty confident you can make it. However, it might be impossible to make it if you are not able to jog or walk very fast through the airport.
I have a friend about 50 years old that can still ride a bicycle and walk moderately. However, he use to take a flight with a 45 minute layover in GIG and he always requires assistance from the airline. Unlike other passengers he doesn't need a wheelchair to board the plane, but they take him in a golf cart from one gate to the passport control and then the other gate. He wouldn't make it in time without it.

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I have lived in the Toronto area for most of my life. Toronto's Pearson airport (YYZ) might be the largest and busiest airport in Canada, but it still does not take an hour to get from one terminal to another, and you are both landing and departing from Terminal 1, in which you can walk across the relevant parts within far less than an hour.

Regardless of the size of Terminal 1, if there are flight delays, a shortage of airport staff, extremely long queues, or you have a medical emergency or walk the wrong way and get lost, even 2 hours wouldn't be enough, but as everyone is saying, the airline won't sell you this ticket if it's unrealistic for you to catch the last fight (if you miss the flight due to a delay in your arrival time in Toronto or due to some problem at the airport, they will reschedule you to for a subsequent flight and possible provide you with a $20 meal voucher or even a hotel if the flight were later at night but I wouldn't count on those things when you're schedule to land in Toronto at 1:11pm).

Many times, when I had a short connection time (sometimes only 40 minutes or even less, but not necessarily in Toronto), the flight attendants would tell me before the plane even lands to get ready because they received a note with a list of passengers who need to get off the plane quickly to catch their next flight; then when I got off the plane, there was someone ready in a motorized cart, to take me where I needed to be to catch my next flight (and to go to the front of all queues or to go to the "priority" queue).

It is still true that some people will avoid short connections (and yours certainly falls in that category!) despite everything that everyone here has been saying about airlines only doing this if they know it's realistic that you'll catch your last flight, and despite the standard practice for airlines to put you on the subsequent flight for free and to compensate you with meals or hotels in many circumstances. Those people who avoid short connections, do so to avoid stress, or if they like to spend their sweet time during airport transfers, or if they know that they have a habit of finding it difficult to navigate unfamiliar places, or if they know that they can't walk at a normal pace (if this is the case, it would be appropriate for you to click the box that says that you have a disability, and ensure that for the connection you get assistance such as a motorized vehicle or wheelchair with airport staff pushing you), or if they really need to arrive at the final destination on time (i.e. they can't afford to miss the connecting flight and be rescheduled even if it's free).

"There will be checked luggage"

When you check-in at the airport in Denver, simply tell the check-in staff to have the bags "checked-in all the way to Quebec City". They will usually not even need to be told this for an itinerary like yours, but I always remind them. You will get your bags in Quebec City and do not need to pick them up from the airport in Toronto.

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    This is an international -> domestic connection. The issue is not the time required to walk from one gate to another, but rather the time required to clear Canadian immigration / customs (and then walk to the next gate). Commented Dec 20, 2023 at 1:22
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    It seems that you only read the first paragraph. Commented Dec 20, 2023 at 2:00
  • I think you meant have the bags "checked-in all the way to Quebec City".
    – jcaron
    Commented Dec 20, 2023 at 13:36
  • @FreeMan it was a typo, as pointed out by the user jcaron. I fixed it. Commented Dec 20, 2023 at 13:53
  • Fair enough. I'm not familiar enough with flying US->Canada. Will bags need to go through customs with their owner at YYZ or will they go through customs at YQB?
    – FreeMan
    Commented Dec 20, 2023 at 13:56

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