Making sure you have the correct Minimum Connecting Time (MCT) is the cornerstone of making sure any connecting flights you may need to make are correctly booked. You may not make your connecting flight, but if the MCT is correct, then you are good way towards having your future travel arrangements re-made for you, without extra cost.
The MCT is, however, not the only feature that needs to be right. As I mentioned in my previous post, there is the matter of the itinerary and the ticket to look at - but for now, we shall just consider the MCT.
IATA publishes the MCT for every commercial airport in the world that you are likely to use. It is split into a number of categories, which are then mixed and matched. These include:
Domestic (within a country - NOT within a continent)
International (between Sovereign countries)
Offline (that is, one airline to another, different airline)
Inline (that is, a connecting flight, both flights being with the same airline)
Airline specific MCT's
So, you can have, for example, domestic to domestic, inline; domestic to international inline; international to domestic offline etc., etc., etc., Airline specific sometimes appears when an airline offers a faster connection, say, when that airline has its own terminal (for example, British Airways at London Heathrow Terminal 5)
What this MCT is, is the minimum amount of time that MUST be allowed at any airport to get from one flight to another. Indeed, any GDS (Airline and Agent Global Distribution System) will not permit you to book a connection that does not comply with the MCT requirements - there are ways around this, but it is very foolhardy person who knowingly books a connection using less than the MCT required.
There is one little bit of information that needs to be added into this equation, that is, interlining. Interlining is the ability to run two connecting flights together on one ticket. Most legacy (that is "traditional" airlines) have interline agreements. Most low cost carriers do not.
If you look at some online agencies, their marketing types have thought of this great idea called "self connect" - that is, you collect your bags (as the case may be) and re-check-in for your next flight. This way of doing things is perfectly possible of course, but dressing such up with a fancy name gives it the notion that it is a common, perfectly practical solution when really it is, perhaps, the most stupid and irresponsible thing you will see on any flight booking website; unless you are very clear and fully understand the very serious obligations which devolve upon you, when using this type of travel arrangement.
If you are going to connect between two non-interlining flights, then the MCT regulations do not apply; basically, you are on your own and if you miss the connection - tough - buy a new ticket. The time you need to allow between two non-interlining airlines (say, Easyjet and RyanAir - (or, confusingly, even, say, Easyjet and Easyjet!) is a matter of pure guesswork and if it is a popular route at peak time and you are traveling as a family, then your clever "Self Connect" booking could rapidly become a very expensive nightmare; let us be quite clear on this!
(Note: This is not a fault of either Easyjet or RyanAir or indeed any non-interlining airlines - it is that their flight model is made up entirely of single one way trips or that a particular airline chooses to be a loan wolf)
This MCT can vary from 30 mins to 3 hours or more. As mentioned, traditional travel agents will not sell you a ticket that does not comply with MCT requirements - or at least, if you do insist on buying a non-MCT compliant connection (say, by buying two single tickets) then that agent will lay the law down as to your being totally, wholly and irrevocably on your own. The airline will (quite rightly) take no responsibility for your connection and will not be at all sympathetic to any pleading.
So, check that you have the correct MCT for any en route flight changes and as long as you have (and that you have made sure your itinerary and ticket are correctly issued - see my next post) then you can set off with some confidence that, should any given connection be missed, someone will make sure you can continue your journey, maybe not that day, though continue your journey without additional flight costs, you will.