“Blue Sky.” Not only is it a weather outlook but it is also an often-used phrase at the airlines. Not only are blue skies ideal to fly in but they also imply the “best-case-scenario” that every airline wishes it had on any given day of the year. One of the critical components of a blue sky operation is being able to connect traffic at any collection point on the system.
Each airport publishes a minimum connect time or “MCT” that outlines how much time is needed to connect between one flight and another. Herein lies the start of the fun: if an airport says the customer needs at least 25 minutes from one plane to the next then that means from the time the 1st plane is scheduled to arrive and the 2nd is due to depart. In that calculation is the time required to deplane, get to the next gate plus any security or immigration formalities and re-board for an on-time departure, checked baggage included. Note that I did not mention time to use the restroom, make phone calls, check e-mail, shop or get refreshments along the way.
That’s a lot of business to handle in 25 minutes even for a smallish airport and definitely under blue sky conditions but are you ready for the real meat-n-potatoes of it all? Like anything else this straightforward guide is loaded with exceptions that all airline schedulers, schedule writing software and reservations systems read and interpret in order to create the choices you enjoy (sic) all over the world today.
BOS DD- .30( 1) DI- .40( 2) ID-1.30 II-1.30
ORD DD- .35( 3) DI- .35( 4) ID-1.10( 5) II-1.10( 5)
DFW DD- .40( 6) DI- .40( 7) ID-1.10(7a) II-1.00
LAX DD- .30( 8) DI- .40( 9) ID-1.30 II-2.00
MIA DD- .40(10) DI- .45(10) ID-1.35 II-1.20
JFK DD- .35 DI- .40 ID-1.15 II-1.15
RDU DD- .25 DI- .35 ID- .55 II-1.00
STL DD- .30(14) DI- .35 ID-1.30 II-1.30
DD = Domestic to Domestic
DI/ID = Domestic to/from International
II = International to International
Similar to DNA, these are the four genetic building blocks that create “valid” airport connections around the world. The real devils, however, lie in the numbers in parentheses that typically denote even more time for connections between widebody flights, commuter flights or particular destinations. The chart above, a partial listing of American’s major cities, includes “(8)” at Los Angeles which says that connections to American Eagle need five extra minutes while connections to Hawaii need 40 minutes instead of 30! Where no airline has a major presence all airlines simply use the airport guidelines.
Is th brain fried yet? The bottom line is this information, available online, is how airlines and airports try and ensure an on-time operation across the entire global system. Now, go take a look at their on-time dependability record, remember how long it took to get off the plane and clear customs at Los Angeles and then do what I do:
Take whatever the airline says is the minimum and double it – at a minimum!