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Delta Seems to be Relenting on 30 Minute “Legal” Connection Rule (Well, At Least in ATL)! Just What is the New Minimum Connection Time Rule?

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Rene’s Points For Better Travel, a division of Chatterbox Entertainment, Inc. has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Rene’s Points For Better Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.


I really do not know how the “average” (whatever that is) Delta flyer can ever hope to know what their rights are when things change with their Delta flights. All RenésPoints readers clearly know, and know well, that just about every single Saturday will result in some kind of schedule change. Some of them are minor – but often they are HUGE!

We also know that Delta does not make it easy to know what your rights are when you have a schedule change. If you search Delta.com, you will not find it (via the search box on Delta.com). There used to be a quick link to the pop-up box with the real rule — but that was broken by Delta IT in an effort to make things harder on us.

Well this is new and interesting!

Then there is the “Delta Pro” site for travel agents. Notice what the very detailed rules say about all facts of schedule changes.

Normal Schedule Change Guidelines

When an advanced schedule change occurs, to advise the schedule change, Delta sends an Advice of Schedule Change (ASC) message to the GDS. In order for a customer to qualify for a complimentary change due to a schedule change, the schedule change has to meet one of the following guidelines:

    • A departure delay of 30 minutes or more
    • An arrival delay of 30 minutes or more
    • An early departure of 15 minutes or more
    • Any change that causes a misconnect

Travel agencies can refund a non-refundable ticket(s) when there has been a Delta schedule change if one or more of the following apply:

    • There is a change to an itinerary resulting in no comparable schedule being available within 90 minutes of the originally scheduled departure or arrival
    • A change in the routing of a scheduled Delta flight which adds one or more stops to the original itinerary.
    • A change in equipment from DL mainline to DL Connections carrier” – From Pro.Delta.com

There are some real nuggets in the above. Now before someone comments, yes I know, reading Delta Pro rules to a Delta rep is like using a kitchen strainer to hold water. However, the above is one of the rare places we can find ANYTHING in print as to the “real” Delta rules when it comes to schedule changes. I am a real “PRO” when it comes to Delta schedule changes and I had never noticed the 15-minute early departure rule. One I will keep in the back of my head for what-if situations.

Bottom line is if you want to push a Delta rep (to do the right thing according to the rules) the only thing that really works is the current COC posted on Delta.com and read the rep word for word what it says. One of the things I think phone reps mess up most is that the 1 hour or less rule applies to free changes whereas the 90-minute rule applies to cancellations (as you will find in the COC and on the Delta Pro site).

OK, so all of the above is interesting but has nothing to do with the title of today’s post (just checking if you are paying attention). But did you notice the screenshot of a flight I have coming up on Delta (connecting in Atlanta). Delta.com is now WARNING me that a connection time greater than 30 minutes may cause me to miss my flight.

That is interesting. Why?

Another rule you will not find published anywhere is the “official” minimum connection time(s). You can find the maximum one (4 hours domestic and 23 hours international) but not the minimum. Those of us who know – know the rule is 30 minutes for a domestic connection and 1 hour for an international connection. But again, as you see above, Delta is now warning me that 30 minutes in ATL is just not gonna cut it and I may miss my connection (and I can likely change free of charge).

The change, from when I originally booked, is my arriving flight is 1 minute later than booked and the departing is 2 minutes earlier than booked. Thus, when I booked it, a 37 minute connection was “legal”. What to take from this is simply this:

It now seems a 35 minute connection is the new legal domestic connection time (at least in ATL and per Delta IT on Delta.com).

Oh my does this really matter? I mean, come on, René! 5 minutes! Really?!

Yes, really!

It does matter for a boatload of reasons — from changing to better flight times to better connections to even longer routes if MQMs matter to you. I could go on but this minor change matters and will impact many.

But I need more data points. Does anyone else see, in all their flights, a similar warning with a 30-34 minute connection? Does anyone see the warning with a greater than 35-minute connection? You can help me, and your fellow Delta flyers, with more data points! – René

Cover image photo: ©iStock.com/Boarding1Now

Rene’s Points For Better Travel, a division of Chatterbox Entertainment, Inc. has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Rene’s Points For Better Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.


Responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

René de Lambert is a contributing writer and the founder of RenesPoints. He is an avid Delta and SkyTeam flyer who has held Delta’s top Diamond Medallion status for many years and flown millions of miles.

18 Comments

  1. Michael Giardina

    I do quite frequently see this now. Since I connect solely through ATL I often have quick connects. Most of the time they are in the range of 45+ min but I have had 3 in the last 6 months with the same warning at the 33min connects. I will say though there are a good number of my short connects where the DEP gate is just across from the ARV gate in the same terminal so they is always nice!

  2. Pam Field

    I just had one in Minneapolis. Flying from Calgary to Atlanta with only 35 minutes in MSP. Not my original flight but a change took it to shorter connect. Received warning email and changed without charge.

  3. On 5/29/2019 I booked a 12/30/2019 flight from LAS to MCO with a 35 minute connection in ATL. Three months laster on 7/20/2019 the ATL-MCO flight number changed and the connection increased to 38 minutes. Now my itinerary appears with the red warning that I may miss my connection because of the change. Go figure.

  4. I’ve had two itineraries the last few weeks where the flight number has changed, but the connection time in ATL has stayed the same (35 minutes and 36 minutes). Both itineraries now show the warning message about possibly missing the connection. I haven’t tried to call yet to see if I can take advantage and switch to different flights. The one with the 36 minute connection has an “Accept” button by the warning at the top of the screen. The 35 minute connection does not.

  5. I haven’t had any recent flights with those connection times but I have seen more frequent offerings of 34 and 45 minute layovers in ATL. The short connections used to be more rare, now I’m frequently seeing 34 min OR 18 hour layovers in ATL which I never saw before. And these are just from either DAB or MCO to DTW, LAX or MCI. We are having to book our work travel much earlier because the only options on the days we need to travel have either really short or really long layovers so I think something is definitely up with their connection times.

  6. Well, with a lot of DLs flight departing late and the schedule super padded, you really have more than the published time to connect in most cases. I have done a couple of international connection at DTW with less than 35min and they were all fine – just took away the lounge time. I do hustle and get to the departing gate and there is always something going on about cleaning crew or cabin crew late arrival, etc. Even with all that and head-wind to Asia, I almost always arrive early. If you really look at DL schedules, they are so incredibly padded that it almost always takes “longer” to fly with DL if you go by the schedule.

  7. Chicago O’Hare T2 to T5 transfer question. I have a November 2019 Delta flight from DTW-ORD that arrives in T2 Concourse E and then transferring to Air India flight departing T5. From what I can tell, the shuttle train is out of service but there is an air-side bus from T3 to T5, but only runs after 10:30am. Anyone have an update or suggestions on how best to do this? Carry-on bag only. 2 hour connection time. Thanks in advance,

  8. Brett Minzner

    International appears to be 1hr25min. DL changed my EZE-ATL BY 1 min to 5:31am causing me to move from the 6:55am to 7:55am departure ATL-MCO. I HUCA 3x to the Diamond Line and even spoke to two supervisors and was told tough luck.

  9. Barry Graham

    I am quite happy risking the 30 minute connection (which gives me more options) provided they either book me on the next flight or put me high on the standby list (according to status) if there are no seats. It would be even better if they would add me to the upgrade list even if I am on standby, in circumstances like this.

  10. Based on the data I’ve collected over the years from casual conversations with the Diamond Desk, here’s what I’ve amassed on the MCT at DL’s major connecting airports. Some agents will allow the airline’s published MCT to supercede the airport’s MCT (e.g. same plane/flight with continuation service to a 3rd airport).

    AMS i2i 50min (there’s no such thing as a domestic Dutch flight)
    ATL d2d 35min, d2i 40min, i2d 85min, i2i 85min
    BOS d2d 25min, d2i 30min, i2d 90min, i2i 90min
    CDG standard 75min with DL in all directions (esp with DL/AF codeshares)
    DTW d2d 30min, d2i 35min, i2d 80min, i2i 80min
    ICN all DL connections 70min (including KE/DL codeshares)
    JFK d2d 35min, d2i 45min, i2d 85min, i2i 85min
    LAX2-3 d2d 70min, d2i 90min, i2d 120min, i2i 120min (this was before they made LAX2/3 their hub)
    LHR within T2 60min, within T3 70min, within T4 60min, within T5 50min, btwn T2-T3 75min, unsure with all other T4 connections
    MSP d2d 30min, d2i 35min, i2d 75min, i2i 75min
    NRT i2i 60min (within NRT-1), i2i 90min (NRT-1 to NRT-2)
    SEA d2d 30min,, d2i 30min, i2d 60min, i2i 60min
    SLC d2d 30min, d2i 30min, i2d 55min, i2i 55min

    Hope this helps.
    KK

  11. I just took a trip a couple of weeks ago from SLC->BOS. I was allowed to book with a 30 min connection in DET, and there was a warning on my itinerary. Was very tight, especially since it was a late booking and I was seated towards the back of the plane. I made it from gate A8 to A72 with seconds to spare. They closed the door behind me as I entered.

  12. After 35 years of travel and around 8 million miles (about 3 million on Delta) I refuse to take any flight with a tight connection. I go out of my way to schedule at least an hour (preferably an hour and a half or so) if connecting. My feeling is I can always hang out in the Sky Club (if on Delta) or other lounges during the connection. For me at least that makes it a lot less stressful.

  13. Years ago, the airlines insisted on at least a one hour connection time, calling anything less an “illegal”
    connection. I’ve always used that as MY rule and when connections have been shortened, I’ve demanded a flight change and
    have usually gotten it. I look for at least an hour because of the consistent delays at so many airports. Would you really trust a
    30 minute connection in LA, SFO, ORG, or JFK. It can take that long to just get from one gate to another. And with so many full
    flights, that missed connection could cost you a day.

  14. Barry Graham

    @MEF in oher words you made your flight with a 30 minute connection and saved yourself a longer wait at the airport 🙂

  15. @Mike: The good thing about LAX is many alley delays (planes sandwiched between terminals, back when DL was in T5) aren’t really a problem anymore.

    The bad thing is if you have a short connection between T2, T3, and/or TBIT and your shuttle bus timing isn’t spot on…yikes.

  16. For years I’d heard that ATL had the longest minimum transfer time and it was 40 minutes. Now, it miraculously takes less time? Interesting. Maybe the plane trains are going faster or coming more often. Maybe it’s because ATL is my airport (and I think the layout couldn’t be clearer — hello CDG!) but I think the minimum time at all major airports should be closer to an hour. Travel is stressful enough these days without making us run through the terminal to try to catch our next flight.

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