Rookie Wednesday: What HUB airports can you make a 30 minute connection (Delta minimum)?

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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.

sky magazine airport layoutsFrom Sky Magazine

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):

delta-com atl to dtw

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:

flight aware delta 748

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
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20 comments

  1. i’ve tried it once at CLE and the actual usable time is way less than 30 mins.

    That “connection time” is landing time until pushback time. After landing you need 5 mins to taxi to gate and at least 5-10 mins to deplane (depending on how big the plane is), but gate closes 10mins prior to pushback, so you really have 5-10 mins to run to the next gate.

  2. I have made B1 to C55 in 10 minutes at ATL.
    I originally had a 30 minute layover, departing flight was delayed 20 minutes, landed 12 minutes before the next flight was scheduled to take off.

    In EWR, I’ve missed a connection with a 45 minute layover. The options were to go out through security and back in, or wait for the stupid inter-terminal bus. I waited for the bus for 30 minutes. I’ve never flown EWR since.

  3. What is annoying is the late posting of arrival departure gates on the Delta App. I can always get the information on FlightAware much, much sooner than on DL.

  4. @Rene- They have a ways to go. Flying out of Jackson last Thursday on a 1:05pm flight. It came in with metal damage on the wing. At 3:00pm DL still hadn’t told the pax anything about departure but FlightAware had a 5:00p departure listed.

  5. I don’t fly Delta that much but on any airline at a larger hub airport it is doubtful to make a 30 minute connection unless you are sitting in the front of the plane and the weather is perfect and the gates are close together and….
    I was looking to change flights this week on US/AA and one of the flights they allowed to show was a 24 minute connection in PHX. I passed on that experience. I’ll take the 1 hour connection in LAX instead.

  6. I tend to think Rene has never flown through EWR on Delta, since a 30 minute connection there is a piece of cake.

    All Delta gates are in the B-1 banjo – it’s about 10 gates all in a big circle – it’s no more than a 90 second walk from any one gate to another at EWR.

    The only other gates Delta uses at EWR are in B-2 for arrivals from AMS/CDG and in most cases, I don’t recommend a 30 minute connection coming in from an international.

    The bigger issue with EWR to be wary of is the tendancy for delays to hit (and stack up badly) once a drop of rain or a cloud appears. Though the same is true at BOS/LGA/JFK/etc.

    Also, I find it interesting that Rene chooses EWR as a Delta “hub” when both BOS and LAX are much larger cities for Delta and have significantly more flights (EWR is just to the hubs and AMS/CDG; LAX has SYD/NRT/HND plus a ton of domestic; BOS has LHR/AMS/CDG and a good bit of domestic).

  7. NEWARK – If you are Delta only then it should just be a 50 – 300 ft walk around the end of terminal B? Am i missing something?

  8. @Jeff – it has been a while since I was in and out of EWR but talked to some NYC flyers. As to hub, Delta views NYC as a HUB and thus all 3, to me, are included. BOS & LAX are large but not considered hubs (yet). But txs for your feedback.

  9. I have to disagree on MNPLS. Terrible layout for Delta. The train only covers part of the trip and the gates can be very far away on a connection. Myself and all my co-workers check the do not connect through MNPLs button when choosing connection routes.
    Also I use Delta’s twitter assist to have them contact the gate that I am on the way when I have a tight connection. Not sure they assist but maybe they do.

  10. @Marcos – as I mentioned, if all mainline you will not need to train it as you will “over there”. If you are going regional to mainline you need more than 30+!

  11. Emphasis on the “flat out run” (and that’s not a metaphor, that’s actual jogging) at DTW. I’ve made it in under 30 minutes from the regional gates at the far end of C to A72, but it’s not a pleasant experience–and I was the next to last passenger to board the connecting flight.

  12. I have a very tight connection on my outbound leg from LAX to Paris. Can I use this to change both the outbound and the return (I want a different day) without paying a fee?

  13. I have a flight this weekend going through atlanta with a 45 minute layover with my elderly parents. I don’t think that is enough time. If there is even a slight delay, especially with this being a holiday weekend, I am nervous about that. I called delta a couple of weeks ago and they wouldn’t change it unless we paid the $200 change fee per person.

  14. Atlanta is not as bad as people think, though the past couple of weeks with all the spring-breakers, it’s been a challenge.

    You can walk, albeit quickly, from T1 to the escalators, through the tunnels, up the escalator, to E37 in about 30 min. It can be faster on the trains, but not always.

    Unless the train can be boarded the second you get down to the tunnel, it is faster to walk one concourse.

  15. I lived in Myrtle Beach for eight years. For flights to Detroit, where my Dad lived, or for Foreign vacation flights, with Delta…you HAD to go through Atlanta. I mean-“you can’t DIE without going through Atlanta.” I had a 45 minute connection once MB-Atlanta-LAX..on the way to Australia. There were high winds in Myrtle Beach. I arrived late, and-FuhGetaboutit. Twas the Atlanta Red Roof Inn for ME. That lead to an unwanted Free Day in LA. I made Good Use of it…taking the Subway (they DO have one these days) to their Chinatown and the Chinese Theater in Hollywood. I took the Midnight Flight to Sydney and then Cairns, where the Tour started. I ended up having to do the Barrier Reef snorkeling on my own, and missing a Day of sightseeing. I’ve missed Atlanta connections other times, Too. My Rule of thumb is one and one half hours for the Big airports-Longer if it’s an International Flight. Stuff Happens. When I accompanied my Late Father to Israel, flying United through Newark, I mixed up flight and gate numbers, but we hitched a ride on an electric cart, and we made it.

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