Welcome to a weekly feature on the Renés Points blog. Each week this series covers in a “rookie” way either a Delta or travel related theme and attempts to break down to a basic level each topic. You can read up on all the previous posts HERE. Now on to this week’s feature.
Delta tells us that the minimum connection time to be “legal” (such a fun term) for a domestic connection you must have more than 30 minutes from arrival to your next departure. But is this realistic?
The answer is sometimes yes but other times no way! There are a bunch of factors that go into that last statement. One of the biggest is a little secret; Delta pads their scheduled times 😉 . For example take a look this route from ATL to DTW (Atlanta to Detroit):
We see that Delta has the scheduled 2 hours from gate to gate. But what is the history of this flight? Let’s see what FlightAware tells us the real times are:
So we notice there is some fudge factor going on, not always, but most days. This does help Delta in reporting on-time performance and helps us make our connections.
But we should still work inside the rules and we can use the rules to our advantage. Delta wants to charge you to sneeze at your itinerary. But, if you know the mighty schedule change rule, you can change free and many times have a lot of flexibility with your travel plans. Not just this, but if you do book a very tight connection you could maybe play rep roulette or ask for a supervisor or the reissue desk until you get one you can work with to do a change free.
Let’s break down my personal thoughts on what will and will not work at the different Delta hubs and see where you can use this to help you.
- ATL – Atlanta. 30 Minute connection? FAIL. Not only is this most times not going to work, but reps know this especially if you, say, are coming into A34 and are going out of C55. Why? Because you are going to have to get to the center point, take the stairs down, then train it a few stops and then the reverse. Can you be at the gate 20 minutes before departure? Not likely. I want to have 45+ minutes in ATL.
- CVG – Cincinnati. 30 Minutes connection? PASS. Due to downsize a tight connection is not what it once was in CVG. 40+ would be better, but you certainly can make a 30.
- DTW – Detroit. 30 Minutes connection? PASS. Not to say you can relax, but on a flat out run you can make say a C gate to an A gate but even here 40+ minutes is a better idea.
- EWR – NYC Newark. 30 Minutes connection? FAIL. Again, like ATL, depending on where you come in and where you are going out it is going to be hard to make it. Possible, but hard. 40+ is a much better mark.
- LGA – NYC LaGuardia. 30 Minutes connection? PASS. As long as you are staying all Delta C & D you can make it. Connecting to/from A maybe not and 40+ would be better.
- JFK – NYC Kennedy. 30 Minutes connection? FAIL*. Why the star? If you are in T4, even A to B, with a “brisk” walk you can make it. Same if T2 in and out. But if you have to take the connector you are going to miss your flight. 60+ is really needed to do this.
- MSP – Minneapolis. 30 Minutes connection? PASS*. A big star again. If you are mainline and move it you can make most say C to G. The big issue is say you are in on a regional A15 and then out of G3. Let me tell ya, you are not going to make it.
- SLC – Salt Lake. 30 Minutes connection? PASS. Now if you are into the end of A and out of end of D you are going to have to move it but you can make it. 35 would be a better number.
- SEA – Seattle. 30 Minutes connection? PASS. But like SLC, if you are into an A and out of N a bit more would make the stress level lower.
That hits the current “official” Delta hubs (there are clearly other big airports, but not called Delta hubs). How can we use this to help us? No one wants to pay for a ticket change fee. If you are at say 33 minutes in ATL, we can see, unless the gate is next door, you will likely miss-connect. If you explain to the Delta phone rep you would really rather NOT miss-connect and can you not please change to some other route or flights you will, even if it takes a call or two, get someone who understands this and change you for free.
How much can you push this? It depends on the rep and your medallion level and how reasonable your request is. Always keep in mind reps who don’t want to help will say we cannot change because we don’t know where your gate will be (i.e. in ATL you may just go A34 to A30). They may say you have to wait. You then say, sure, thanks, click, hang up, call back, start over! – René