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There is much discussion about the minimum time between connecting flights. My question is what is a sensible time between non-connecting flights? I understand that an airline has no obligation to get to you the airport in time for an independently booked flight, particularly if it is with a different airline. A few times they have cancelled my flight and put me on a different one.

My hunch is that I should leave enough time so that I can easily get on the next flight even if they change the first flight to leave one minute before midnight. However, is there any kind of official guidance?

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    I am not sure I completely follow: What's special about midnight? – Relaxed Sep 29 '16 at 8:41
  • I don't think there's any one answer to this since it depends on airline, airport, country, whether you have premium/fast pass security and checkin, and more. MCT might help, but that only says what the minimum time between connections is for that one airport. – EMotion Sep 29 '16 at 8:51
  • The airlines I am considering are Virgin and Qantas at Perth Airport (WA), though answers that involve general advice from organisations such as IATA, insurance companies and smartraveller.gov.au are likely to more widely applicable. (if such advice exists) – gmatht Sep 29 '16 at 10:32
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    The answer to this question depends on your back up plan. If your back up plan is "I am happy to purchase a new flight at walk up rates" or "I'll buy an airmiles seat on a later flight and cancel it if necessary" that is a different question to "I'll be stuck penniless in a faraway continent" – Calchas Sep 29 '16 at 10:38
  • It's an interesting question but arguably we are not really talking about connecting flights so much as a stopover or short (side) trip. – Relaxed Sep 29 '16 at 10:38
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Official guidance is obviously going to be “don't do it”. Even if the airlines know it's happening or perhaps even welcomes it (Ryanair?), they probably want to avoid any sort of suggestion that they condone it, lest it become a liability.

There are a few things that might make a bit of difference (how big or efficient the airport is, whether you need to collect hold luggage and recheck it within the baggage drop-in time window or can proceed directly to the gate with an electronic boarding pass) but the main problem is that you need to plan a buffer if anything goes wrong.

As a rule of thumb, I would therefore say that something like 3 hours is very tight (I have managed it, in my younger days, with Ryanair at Stansted and it was stressful) and 5-6 hours should protect you against regular delays (lost slots, etc.) and long lines at just about any connecting airport. Beyond that, in case of flight cancellations, let alone volcanic ashes or major weather events, all bets are off.

Note that if your airline of choice only has one or two flights a day between your departure point and the connecting airport, any issue can end up being catastrophic. If the plane isn't available or the airline is forced to use a smaller one, stranded passengers will be offered some assistance (in the EU, legal requirement is a hotel night and a few hundred euros) but the delay can very easily be a day or more and there is no way you will make your connecting flight.

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    +1 but not all airlines flatly say "don't do it", especially those that don't do connecting flights. See for example Peach. – fkraiem Sep 29 '16 at 9:28
  • Thanks. The connection I am considering is about 24 hours with a few possible alternate flights in between, so it "should" be fine. :) – gmatht Sep 29 '16 at 10:34
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Kiwi.com is in the business of selling these unofficial connections. Buying through them includes insurance of rebooking in case you misconnect - they have logic built into their site helping to avoid users misconnecting (since that costs them money). In some cases they'll flag the connection as "carry-on only" if they are tighter - presumably because you save time not having to exit the secure area of the airport or wait for baggage.

Booking through them gives you insurance, but you could probably also use the connections they sell as an indicator of low risk.

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