A connecting flight is when you have to take another flight to reach a destination.

All flights after the first one are referred to as “connecting flights”.

Connecting flights are common for both domestic and international travel, since they’re cheaper than direct flights, though sometimes there is no other option to reach a destination other than taking a connecting flight.

That being said, a connecting flight could cost you more if you have a long layover period in which you wait at an airport and spend money on food and drinks, or have to travel to another airport for your connecting flight.

Examples of Connecting Flights

Domestic Connecting Flight

JetBlue has a connecting flight when flying from New York to Miami.

The passengers first board JetBlue Airways Flight 832 from New York to Boston.

Then they switch to JetBlue Airways flight 4149 from Boston to Miami. 

International Connecting Flight

Lufthansa operates an international connecting flight from Newark to Moscow.

Lufthansa LH I 403 first flies from Newark to Frankfurt.

The passengers disembark to board Lufthansa LH I 1304 from Frankfurt to Istanbul.

Finally, the passengers board Turkish Airlines TK I 419 to fly from Istanbul to Moscow. 

How Connecting Flights Work

Typically, you’ll land for your stopover and quickly pass the transfer area.

You’ll then reach the gate for your next flight without needing to check in.

Your luggage will be transferred to the next plane without you having to collect it. 

Sometimes, especially if the connecting flight is with a different airline or another terminal, passengers may go through an additional security and baggage check before boarding their connecting flight. 

Do You Have to Check in Again?

In most cases, you won’t have to check in again for a connecting flight, though if your connecting flight is with a different airline, you may have to collect your bags and then check in again. 

Do You Have to Go Through Airport Security Again?

Whether you have to go through airport security for a connecting flight depends on if the connecting flight is on the same ticket or not, and if you’re flying domestically or internationally.

If your connecting flight is on a different ticket and/or you are flying internationally, you will likely have to go through airport security again.

At airports where the terminals aren’t all connected, you may also have to go through airport security again.

Do You Need a New Boarding Pass?

You will be provided multiple boarding passes if you have a connecting flight.

You’ll most likely receive all boarding passes when you check in for your first flight at the airport.

Some airlines may provide a second boarding pass after your first flight, but this is rare. 

Do You Need to Go Through Customs?

Most airports won’t require you to go through customs for an international connecting flight, as you won’t be leaving the airport. 

If you won’t be leaving the airport, your bags are automatically checked onto your next flight, and you have your onward boarding pass, you won’t have to go through customs.

What Happens to Your Luggage?

Your luggage will normally be loaded onto the second plane after your first flight lands without you having to do anything.

Make Sure to Leave Enough Time for a Connecting Flight

You should leave at least an hour for a domestic connecting flight, and ideally 2 hours for an international connecting flight.

If you have to exit one terminal and enter another for your connecting flight, or you’re traveling on two different tickets, you should leave more time.

A connecting flight will not wait for you if your first flight is delayed.

The airline would be obligated to rebook you on their next available flight if your itinerary is all on the same ticket, though.

Related: How Early Should You Get to the Airport For an International Flight?

What Happens If You Miss a Connecting Flight

Same Airline

If you miss a connecting flight with the same airline, the airline will be responsible for providing you with a seat on the next available flight. 

Different Airline

If your connecting flight is with a different airline, the original airline won’t assist you if you’re late for a connecting flight, even if your first flight was delayed.

However, if the two airlines are in the same alliance (i.e. your itinerary is on the same ticket), they may be able to rebook you onto the next available flight.

Can You Skip a Connecting Flight?

You can legally skip a connecting flight, though it might not be the best idea, as your seat on the onward flights will be canceled.

Connecting Flights Are Cheaper Than Direct Flights

Connecting flights are generally cheaper than direct flights, since most passengers are willing to pay more to fly directly.

However, if you have a flight with a long layover time, you may have to purchase food and drinks at the airport.

Even worse, if your connecting flight is in a different airport, you’ll have to bear the expense of traveling to a new airport. 

There’s always the risk of not leaving enough time and missing your connecting flight too, which could cost you both time and money.

Difference Between a Connecting Flight and a Layover

A layover is the time between two flights.

A connecting flight is the next flight on your journey to a destination. 

In conclusion:

  • A connecting flight is when you take another flight to reach a destination.
  • Connecting flights are common for both domestic and international destinations.
  • The way connecting flights work is that passengers disembark after the first flight. They then board one or multiple subsequent planes for one or more additional flights to the final destination.
  • During the connecting flight, your luggage will automatically be loaded onto the next plane, so you most likely won’t have to check in again. 

See Also: A Complete Guide to Airline Operations

Ella Dunham, a Freelance Travel Journalist and Marketing Manager, boasts an impressive career spanning eight years in the travel and tourism sectors.

Honored as one of "30 Under 30" by TTG Media (the world’s very first weekly travel trade newspaper), a "Tour Operator Travel Guru" and "Legend Award" winner, Ella is also a Fellow of the Institute of Travel, a Member of the Association of Women Travel Executives, has completed over 250 travel modules, and hosts travel-focused segments on national radio shows where she provides insights on travel regulations and destinations.

Ella has visited over 40 countries (with 10 more planned this year).