85

In reference to this question, let's say you've bought a single ticket with a 45-minute layover. Your plane arrives on time but the next gate is so far away you have to run to make it. Assuming you instead choose to go on a leisurely walk (4-5 km/h) and miss the plane, would the airline still put you on the next one for free?

I've been in a similar situation a couple of times and always wondered what happens to people who are unable to run.

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    Last year I had a 50-minute layover in DFW that turned into a 10-minute layover due to my first flight being delayed. I hustled to the connecting flight, which they were holding for me (and some other travelers with the same itinerary). When I came into view of the terminal, the staff waiting to check my ticket started waving their arms at me to hurry. Even though I was jogging, one of the ladies said under her breath, "You have to RUN!" A man in military fatigues who was also on the delayed flight came jogging up behind me a minute later, and he got the stink-eye, too. – Keiki Jul 20 '16 at 15:59
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    Once, in Japan, due to late arrival of my flight, a couple of dudes with walkie-talkies escorted me through some normally barred doors to get to the departing flight in perhaps half the usual time. Amazingly the luggage made it too. – Spehro Pefhany Jul 20 '16 at 16:17
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    @Keiki: Are you sure they meant it seriously? I have heard things like that said jokingly when I’ve been running for a flight (e.g. a teasing “Faster! Faster!”), but I would be very surprised to hear a crew genuinely angry at you for it — that would strike me as pretty unprofessional. – PLL Jul 20 '16 at 19:07
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    > I don't think I've ever been in an airport where I couldn't get from any gate to any other gate in under 45 minutes without running. -- Really?? Perhaps if you restrict to the same terminal. I very seriously doubt you can make a Heathrow T5 to any other terminal connection in less than an hour, actually T5-T4 1:45 is recommended... – chx Jul 20 '16 at 21:42
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    @chx: from the POV of passengers, T5 and T4 are different airports that just so happen (as it turns out once you've got that far) to share runways ;-) – Steve Jessop Jul 21 '16 at 8:29

11 Answers 11

31

It seems almost everyone is in the "no" camp, however there doesn't seem to be a lot of corroborating evidence presented.

Here's an excerpt from American Airline's Conditions of Carriage

  1. Carrier undertakes to use its best efforts to carry the passenger and baggage with reasonable dispatch. Times shown in timetables or elsewhere are not guaranteed and form no part of this contract. Carrier may without notice substitute alternate carriers or aircraft, and may alter or omit stopping places shown on the ticket in case of necessity. Schedules are subject to change without notice. Carrier assumes no responsibility for making connections.

Delta US CoC:

Delta is not responsible or liable for making connections

Delta International CoC

Except as stated in this rule and as provided in Rule 55, Delta will have no liability for making connections...

In the event of flight cancellation, diversion, delays of greater than 90 minutes, or delays that will cause a passenger to miss connections, Delta will [accommodate passenger...]

(Rule 55 doesn't appear to add anything substantial here)

British Airways CoC:

9b3) If we:

... cause you to miss a connecting flight on which you hold a confirmed reservation;

you can choose one of the three remedies set out [...]

Qatar CoC:

2.2 Extension of Validity
If you are prevented from travelling within the period of validity of the Ticket because we:
... 4. Cause you to miss a connection

The Validity of your Ticket will be extended until our first flight on which space is available in the class of service for which the fare has been paid.

I expect most airlines will show some discretion especially if you're obviously incapable of hurrying to your connecting flight and it is at the other end of the terminal, but this discretion doesn't seem to be backed up in the CoC. There is some ambiguity in "if we cause you", since that might be possible to interpret as "we gave you such a short connection that you couldn't make it".

A few anecdotes from flyertalk. They're not directly analagous to "not running", but do show that if the airline feels it's not their fault, it might not be yours either, but you may be the one on the hook for a new ticket:

Missed connection due to someone else taking hand luggage.

I therefore missed the connection, and they want me to pay rebooking fee and taxes and fare difference etc etc which costs like 500 usd

Missed connection due to not feeling well.

she was forced to buy 2 walk up Y tickets for about $1500

Missed connection due to falling asleep

The agent told me that it would be more expensive to change my original ticket, than to simply purchase the additional 1-way ticket

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    I would try to search a database of court cases: I'm sure this exact same question has been reviewed before by a judge. Terms of carriage are usually written to screw the passengers in every possible scenario. – JonathanReez Supports Monica Jul 21 '16 at 5:57
  • @JonathanReez It's definitely an interesting question. It would be good to find a judgement on it. – Berwyn Jul 21 '16 at 6:02
  • It doesn't surprise me that carriers attempt to limit/exclude liability through contractual clauses, but just because those clauses exist doesn't mean they'd be upheld in court. I agree with @JonathanReez: we really need to see supporting case law—however such decisions will depend on the legal jurisdiction and any applicable legislation, which will obviously vary from case to case. – eggyal Jul 21 '16 at 7:55
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    @eggyal I agree, but nobody seems to be holding up the "no" answers to a similar level of proof... – Berwyn Jul 21 '16 at 8:13
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    Completely agree, but then also bear in mind that a correct legal answer is almost certainly not the same as a useful practical answer: not only will it be virtually impossible to enforce strict legal rights at the gate itself, but it'll usually cost too much effort and money to enforce them in court subsequently too; far better to politely appeal to the staff's discretion. – eggyal Jul 21 '16 at 17:00
48

Anecdotal evidence only. I have had this situation happen to me on a couple of different occasions. It's always resulted in one of two outcomes:

  • They hold the entire plane (seems most common for shorter delays, late arrivals, lots of late passengers.)
  • They put you on the next flight (seems more common when it's just 1-2 passengers or there is a very long delay.)

For what its worth, I've never been penalized financially by Delta, United, KLM, or Icelandair (airlines I can think of from the top of my head.)

I also once fell asleep in the terminal during a long layover and missed the flight completely. (I think it was Delta) put me on the next flight that evening at no charge. YMMV, but generally I've found airline customer service to be pretty understanding. Just be polite and don't act entitled.

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    As a former JAL ground agent I can confirm that "don't act entitled" is the real magic there. – zxq9 Jul 24 '16 at 2:59
47

No, you are not obligated to run and running is likely prohibited in the terminal.** But, there is never a reason to do so in the situation you described.

Connection time is based on the incoming flight and airport characteristics. The airline will only book an itinerary that meets this requirement on normal operational days.

Everyone has to understand, the airline does not want anyone to miss their connection. This is a huge hassle for everyone, including the airline.

However, the passenger also needs to take some responsibility in making sure they are comfortable with the connection time. I'm fit, so the only time I worry is if the incoming flight is delayed. If I had a broken leg or were traveling with an elderly relative, I'd book a longer connection time.

This topic is highly sensationalized but in practice, not really an issue. Also, all major airlines and terminals will provide assistance if you request it in advance.

**To clarify, people do run to make connections all the time and the airport and law enforcement knows this and looks the other way as a matter of practicality. However, running in a crowded terminal is a hazard and if a person is seen running for no apparent reason, they should be stopped and could be cited, even as a simple nuisance. The obvious point is that the airline will not, ever, offer a connection where running is required since that is a danger to the passengers and terminal & airline employees.

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    just to add one missing point, related to 'take some responsibility", is that if at any time you feel you may be short on time for your transfer, be sure to skip through any unusually long lines/queues and inform them when your flight is and you're not sure if you can make it if you have to wait in line. Sometimes they aren't organized and don't announce these things or have separate lines as they should (such as every time I connected through Paris). – Peter Jul 21 '16 at 10:43
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    Considering your advice is unsourced, controversial based on the comments and contradictory (I'm not obligated to run but I am responsible for getting there on time?) I'm wondering why this is the top-voted answer. I'm sure this isn't an issue "in practice" because the times were you'd have to run are rare and most people would in fact run. Exceptional situations are this site's bread and butter and your advice leaves me with more questions than answers. – Lilienthal Jul 21 '16 at 14:18
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    @Lilienthal i have to agree with you. This starts out with the absurd statement that running is prohubited and doesn't seem to get much better – Berwyn Jul 21 '16 at 16:37
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    I had a bunch of connections in my life that I got to just because I ran (incoming flight was delayed). First time I hear that you can't run. – Andrey Jul 22 '16 at 13:49
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    I've run so hard that I skidded into the check-in desk (shiny floors and work shoes). All they did was try not to laugh at me as they checked me in. – Chris H Jul 22 '16 at 15:48
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Obviously, they cannot make it a requirement to go faster than standard speed.

That's why they have minimum connection times defined for each airport; this time reflects the time a normal walker will need plus a bit.

They do expect you to not idle around and shop for food or coffee or gifts on this walk; if you do that, you are on your own.

  • MCT's are also defined in a lot more detail: the airline works with different MCT's based on the type of flight/connection (International->Domestic, I->I, D->D, D->I etc), as well as the airport. You may also find different connection times based on the class of travel (Fiji Airways definitely do this) as that can affect how quickly you board/alight/pass through the airport – Jon Story Jul 22 '16 at 13:44
9

This would be a silly restriction to expect people to run to catch a gate, considering that airlines do not have a policy of carrying only those that are fit to run.

They have families with small children, elderly passengers, passengers with disabilities, passengers that are new to the airport, very young passengers, passengers with language issues - and yes, even those that are slow walkers.

That's why you see in airports people (airline staff) running around trying to chase people that are not at the gate and their flight is about to depart; and similarly why you have golf carts zooming about carting people from one gate to the next; and you have travelators to help with the flow of traffic.

I have seen this all the time, when there is a tight connection usually at the arriving gate you'll have airport staff ready to escort people directly to the gate (sometimes, they even escort passengers through priority queues - for example, for immigration/security) all in the name of not missing the flight.

I once had to run ... well walk briskly ... to catch my connecting flight because I did not want to waste my time at the airport and needed to be home. The connecting flight was two terminals away. It was a very stressful walk.

You are only wasting your time if you stroll along knowing that you will miss the next flight. They will hold the gate for you as long as they can, so you'd have a high chance of catching the plane than missing it.

If you were to miss it, as the airline is obligated to carry you to your final destination - they will most likely offload your bags (if any) and then offload you from the flight. Once you show up - they will have to reschedule you on the next flight.

Holding a flight (delaying it) costs the airline dearly so they want to avoid doing it.

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    You haven't answered the question. You've just disbelieved the premiss. Well, it's real. I've been asked to run. The question is not whether it happens but whether you're obliged to comply. – user207421 Jul 21 '16 at 0:47
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    Fishing out your bags from the cargo hold, flying with an empty seat and potentially incurring the costs of having to book you on another airline or pay your hotel overnight also cost the airline money, so if airline and airport logistics allow it holding the plane for another 10 minutes is actually a feasible option in a lot of cases. – CompuChip Jul 21 '16 at 9:23
  • @CompuChip Well, the question is if they can dodge the costs of paying for the passenger's expenses. Also, for luggage, couldn't they take off and then fly it back on another flight (forcing the passenger to wait longer)? [I'm not saying that these would be good things to do, just suggesting they might be things an airline could get away with] – Random832 Jul 21 '16 at 15:07
  • @Random832 in principle they are not allowed to transport the luggage without the passenger, for safety reasons. If the passenger is checked in but doesn't board, the bags don't fly. Worst case, they line up everything on the tarmac and have passenges pick out their own suitcases, whatever is left is taken off. And you are right of course, if they can avoid the costs, they will, but I was saying that sometimes the cost of delaying the plane is simply lower. – CompuChip Jul 22 '16 at 8:12
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    @CompuChip That's not necessarily the case for US domestic flights. They don't have to enforce that the bag travels with the passenger – Berwyn Jul 23 '16 at 17:45
9

Well, you can run, but it might be useless:

A few years ago, I and two others had a very tightly planned connection in Madrid. We ran all the way from one terminal to the other and made it in time. Trying to board we were asked to step aside. After all other passengers had boarded the plane, we were informed that we would not be entering it, as the computer had decided that we cannot switch from our earlier flight to the following one in time, and therefore booked us on another plane — with our luggage already being sent to that plane.

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    same thing happened to me in Madrid - I made the connection but they had pre-decided I wouldn't and gave my seat away. A fit was thrown, I got on the plane (it might have helped that I was in Business class), and I will NEVER transfer in Madrid again. I flew to Barcelona several times after that but always transferred somewhere else in Europe. – Kate Gregory Jul 22 '16 at 12:14
  • and Madrid Airport is huge if you have to run. – VikingoS says Reinstate Monica Jul 22 '16 at 12:16
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    But was your incoming flight delayed? If so, that's a different question. I've also been in an incoming delayed flight, rebooked before landing but made it to gate in time and not allowed to board. – Berwyn Jul 22 '16 at 12:36
  • As far as I remember the incoming flight was just delayed by few minutes. The connection would had been to tight for many people anyway, do to the endless hallways one has to master in Madrid. – VikingoS says Reinstate Monica Jul 22 '16 at 12:37
7

American Airlines website gives you choices to book flights with insufficient time to get from one end of the terminal to the other. The geniuses who made this website are unaware of this. Therefore it is up to YOU to guess how far it is from one gate to the other, with little information to make this decision. I have missed flights and have always been put on another later flight though.

5

You are not obligated to run but would you rather miss a flight and waste hours at the airport for the next flight? If you know you can't run then you should book a longer transfer time instead of making a point to the airline that their transfer time is too short for you. Because in the end of the day you are the one wasting your own time.

As long as there is a flight delay that makes the transfer time less than the standard MCT(minimum connection time) for that airport they can change your ticket to the next flight (within their own airline) for free.

Also note in some cases if they know you are physically at the airport (checked-in or arrived on another flight) and you haven't boarded, they'll wait a couple minutes for you.

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    So assuming you've theoretically had enough time according to MCT but didn't make it, they're allowed not to rebook you on the next flight? – JonathanReez Supports Monica Jul 20 '16 at 17:23
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    As for why I won't run - sometimes I wouldn't mind getting a free stopover in the city. Especially if getting rebooked means I get a free hotel as well. – JonathanReez Supports Monica Jul 20 '16 at 17:24
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    if you are within the transfer time then you are seen as voluntarily missed the flight and you would have to pay the rebooking fee to rebook onto the next flight. – tom Jul 20 '16 at 17:54
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    "You are not obligated to run but would you rather miss a flight and waste hours at the airport for the next flight?" - somehow, I feel this might be beside the point. The question is not running vs. the inconvenience of waiting for the next flight, the question is running vs. buying a new ticket because failure to run is considered your fault and thus you won't get rebooked for free. Physically, I have no problem to run, yet running does bring a slightly higher risk of injury (e.g. by slipping on a smooth airport floor). Based upon this, my decision of how far to take this risk will ... – O. R. Mapper Jul 20 '16 at 20:08
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    @tom I've voluntarily run through an airport before when my inbound flight was delayed and I had about half a mile to cover on foot between gates in about 5 minutes. Sure, I could have given up and been rebooked on the next flight... but that's not a great option when the next flight is the next day and the delay was weather-related meaning the airline isn't responsible for booking a hotel. – reirab Jul 20 '16 at 21:58
4

The question asks "are you obligated to run".
Yes, if you are safely able for yourself and others, regardless of any posted rules to the contrary.
If you are unable or unwilling (makes no practical difference) to make it on time under your own power, you are obligated to notify some agent of the airline or airport so that they may have an opportunity to: Assist you to your gate, or provide you with other accommodations and release your waiting flight or take no action thus making the airline the proximate cause of your missed flight(instead of yourself) according to the Conditions of Carriage provided by Berwyn.

It is a moral obligation you have, not a legal one. When you book a flight, the airline agrees to do its best to get you to your destination on time because it believes you have a desire to get there on time. If you stroll along, knowing you won't make your gate, and fail to notify anyone, you are acting directly against that shared goal. The system breaks down, and you make it worse for your fellow travelers. If an airline frequently gets assistance requests on a specific flight at a certain terminal, that is how it knows to lengthen minimum layovers for that flight. People tend not to ask for help unless they really need it. If it ever comes down to a court case, or even the case of a gate agent's judgement whether you should be forced to buy a new ticket or not, the fact that you acted morally will weigh heavily.

  • Very nice post! – Berwyn Jul 23 '16 at 5:59
  • I found your first paragraph a bit confusing. Did you mean "you must run if it is not a hassle for you and others (e.g. the place is not crowded)"? Even if you're unwilling? There is a certain contradiction in your wording here... I think I understood your point correctly, it's about acting morally and in good faith. I really liked it, but I believe this answer could be further improved if you rewrote it a bit. Then I would totally give you a +1. – Pedro A Jul 24 '16 at 20:04
1

I can only answer with one anecdote. The anecdote involves a slight delay on my incoming flight, but according to Delta it turned out to be not as relevant as other posts here would lead me to believe.

In 2012, I was flying into Detroit (DTW) with a ~45 min layover before my outgoing flight to PDX, both operated by Delta. My incoming flight was delayed due to weather by something like 30 min. I was worried, but I had time -- so I thought. Looking at a terminal map now, I had nearly a mile to travel from gate to gate, carrying a somewhat heavy and somewhat awkward bag. I arrived out of breath and visibly flushed to be turned away at the gate due to being too late.

Delta did put me on the next flight for free, but it was 11 hours later. They would not give me a hotel stay, claiming that because the delay was due to weather they could do nothing for me. According to them, were it a mechanical issue or something else under Delta's control, things would have been more in my favor.

I don't know how much of this is Delta's policy vs other airlines, but from what the worker at the gate said, the weather delay didn't factor in.

Thankfully for me my schedule was flexible, so after a very boring and restless overnight stay in the terminal I was happy enough to be rebooked with next to no fuss and zero extra cost. It has given me healthy fear of short layovers, though!

  • This doesn't appear to answer the question though, which is about connecting when your incoming flight arrives on time – Berwyn Jul 23 '16 at 6:03
1

Technically, 'No'. You are ultimately responsible for accepting the connection as part of your booking, so you must accept the consequences of it.

If we take as a starting point, booking a flight from A to B and not turning up, then I am sure you would agree that is not the airlines problem. You may have recourse on your travel insurance or in the nature of the ticket you bought, but it is for you to sort out. The only time the airline have an obligation towards you is if they are the direct cause of your not turning up, and, your ticket is booked as a 'through' journey. Many airlines will go further then that for good will reasons, but you should not rely on that.

For example, RyanAir does not accept through ticket bookings. All its flights are single journeys from A to B with no transfers, so if you miss a connection, even if it is because RyanAir landed late (or not at all), they take no responsibility for your onward journey, even if it is with them.

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