Many travelers dread winter travel with all the potential storms that can close airports and delay flights. But, while a major snowstorm can cause havoc, I find summer travel, especially with connecting flights, to be as bad or worse in terms of travel problems.
Here are four considerations to ponder, especially before booking a tight connection in summertime. The flyin’ ain’t always so easy.
1. Thunderstorms can be almost a daily occurrence in parts of the country. While these storms won’t close down an airport for days like snow will, they can cause serious flight delays of hours, with domino effects that throw schedules into chaos.
In addition, since these storms can come and go quickly, they can result in delays after a plane has left the gate, reducing travelers’ options for rebooking a later connecting flight. (Sometimes airlines will allow the use of cellphones during delays, but not always.)
2. Planes are packed. This means the next flight after a missed connection may be much later, perhaps even the next day. (And in a few cases, longer than that.) In winter, except around the holidays, there’s a little more “give” in the system.
Another issue that I’ve discovered is that with full planes, airlines are more likely to give reservations away when passengers don’t make it to the gate by the required time. (Yes, a boarding pass helps, but does not alleviate the need to physically be in the gate area.)
3. Lots of checked baggage. Full planes and vacationing travelers means lots of baggage in the bellies of the planes. This means a better chance that when travelers barely make their connecting flight, luggage may not.
4. Amateur hour. Summer means more families and “amateur” travelers, which means everything from check-in to security lines to boarding and disembarking planes may take longer than usual.
A few minutes may not make that much of a difference, but with a close connection, those minutes might be the ones needed to catch the plane.
Sometimes two flights with “minimum connecting time” (the least amount of time legally allowed by the airline) are the only option. If travel isn’t very time-sensitive, it may be worth taking the risk. Otherwise, give yourself plenty of transfer time.
(To be honest, I’ve flown my share of tight connections, but almost never when it was critically time-sensitive.)
Many travelers who wouldn’t think of booking connections of less than an hour or 90 minutes in Chicago, Denver or Dallas in the winter, assume it will be easy connecting in the summer. That kind of thinking can be an easy prelude to spending a LONG time in one of those and other airports.