Tricky transits

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This topic contains 33 replies, has 23 voices, and was last updated by  SimonS1 22 Aug 2019
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  • cwoodward
    Participant

    After the Besieged Boeing’s and Staggering Turks of this week I wanted to post something that may conceivably be of help to fellow business travelers.

    Often I have needed to transit from a 12 hour+ flight to a domestic flight to reach my final destination.
    Many simply require a walk through the terminal to a domestic departure gate but others are much less simple and more time consuming.

    There have been many occasions where travelling to a new destination requiring a domestic transit where I have needed to find my way with not a lot of airport signage or information and without knowing the time required to get to the domestic gate.
    Often in the evening when all that I wanted was to find my bed.

    A couple of destinations that are surprisingly difficult:

    Auckland,
    Where many pax arrive needing to transit can be unexpectedly taxing after a long flight.

    Domestic is a separate terminal requiring an outdoor walk of close a kilometer pushing your baggage along a partially covered walkway that is open at the sides or exiting the terminal with baggage and loading same onto a bus that shuttles between the terminals. Actually a rather nice walk on a brisk spring morning but not so pleasant ether way on a cold wet winters evening, of which Auckland has many.
    Allow 2 hours minimum for transit.

    Manila,
    Can be horrific and most often is.
    I have often seen pax totally distressed and lost for hours trundling between the four terminals because both signage and accurate information are almost non- existent.

    There are 4 terminals at Manila around the perimeter of the airport and they are not properly joined in any way and international flights land at 3 of them. Domestic flights also depart at 3 of them and very likely your domestic flight will depart from a different terminal than the one that you arrived at. Getting the picture.

    Only one terminal is totally international and there are no proper connections to get to the other terminals requiring pax to exit the airport altogether and travel on often totally congested public roads.

    This coupled with the totally congested terminals (arriving at terminal 3 is the best option particularly if your onward is with Cebu Pacific) pollution ,heat, dozens of spivs, conmen and women, illegal taxies, thieves and wrong out of date signage can be very daunting indeed.

    Some simple tips that may mitigate the problems:

    Allow at least 3 hours for your connection – a little more if possible unless you are arriving and onward from the same terminal.
    Appear confident, this riff raff can spot a ’newby’ a mile off and descend like vultures
    Keep a very close watch on your luggage or in Manila it can disappear in a flash.
    Make 100% sure that you know which terminal your onward is departing from and done listen to the taxi drivers.
    Make sure you have water – you will need it.

    (I use this airport several times a month and have done for the past 30 years)

    I hope the above is not too simplistic to be useful to the very experienced travelers here and if it has been of use perhaps others will contribute.


    capetonianm
    Participant

    Useful stuff indeed and I’ll add to this minefield.

    One of the problems, and I’ve mentioned this before, is that the Minimum Connecting Times which airlines use when publishing schedules are often unrealistic. They do this in order to make connections through their hubs look more attractive, giving lower Elapsed Flying Times and thus appearing higher on GDS displays.

    As an example, OS-OS connections through VIE are (from memory) 30 minutes, which may be fine but get a delay and it’s not. The default MCT for connections between LHR and LGW is 2’30”. Whilst that might be OK at some times of the day, it is utterly unrealistic most of the time, for example imagine arriving into LHR on a wet November morning at 0630 and catching a connection out of LGW at 0900!

    When you book through an airline website or an OLTA, they might take the standard MCT and use those connections, and you may not be able to select a different option giving a longer time, although sometimes you can. Depending on the display order selected, they may show the lowest fares first and they can have excessively long MCTs, so you can’t win! A travel agent will be able to select better flights when using a GDS.

    Something that is often not mentioned is that, for example, if you arrive on an international flight in JNB and you are connecting onwards, you have to collect your baggage, clear customs and immigration, and then go and check in again for the onward flight. I know this applies for onward domestic connections, I am not sure about international.

    When using a GDS there is an option to display MCTs for any given combination of flights and airports/terminals, I am not aware if such an option exists in the public domain.

    2 users thanked author for this post.

    canucklad
    Participant

    A couple of destinations that are surprisingly difficult:

    Things might have changed recently, but I recall that transiting Sydney on the way to Melbourne was always a pain after arriving from YVR or Europe
    And I do also remember it being difficult arriving from Cairns because QF deemed it to be an international flight as it originated in Nagoya !!


    Swissdiver
    Participant

    Short MCTs are made to attract the travellers… I tend to always go beyond ahead of a long haul flight. Missing a connection when going back home (i.e. intra-European flight) is less of a problem particularly if many subsequent flights exist.

    As for tricky places, yes, MNL is one of them (I don’t know AKL). ADD can be awful as well, but for a different reason: the premium security queue can be horrendous. Often it ends up in staff picking you up and making you passing the security in front of other passengers on another flight! Weird. I understand though ADD is getting modernised so don’t know if this is still the case. Closer to many of us: FCO… As Italian would say: è un casino!


    AMcWhirter
    Participant

    capetonian – One exception for the public would be KLM.com

    If you were to check London-Singapore (via AMS) for, say August 22, one would be offered a selection of connection possibilities at Schiphol.

    You could choose a 55 mins transit (taking the 1710 ex-LCY) or a longer 160 mins transfer when taking the 1605 (ex-LHR). Cautious travellers could opt for an even longer transit if taking the 1445 ex-LHR.

    Now a good agent would explain all this to his or her customer.

    But if the customer were to book direct online would he or she be sufficiently clued-up ?

    1 user thanked author for this post.

    capetonianm
    Participant

    Now a good agent would explain all this to his or her customer.
    But if the customer were to book direct online would he or she be sufficiently clued-up ?

    That’s exactly the point, Alex, and I think the answer to your question is ‘no’. Human nature being what it is, people tend to pick what’s immediately in front of them, thus the first option, just like people picking up what’s at eye level on the shelves in a supermarket. You are absolutely correct about KLM , apart from being an excellent airline, it’s a lovely clear website to use.

    2 users thanked author for this post.

    SimonS1
    Participant

    Something that is often not mentioned is that, for example, if you arrive on an international flight in JNB and you are connecting onwards, you have to collect your baggage, clear customs and immigration, and then go and check in again for the onward flight. I know this applies for onward domestic connections, I am not sure about international.

    Definitely not the case on international connections – baggage can be checked through.

    And to be fair it isn’t that taxing if connecting to domestic either, as you only have to go through customs and then leave your bags at the re-check point. 100m at most.

    The issue with JNB is arriving in the morning peak and the glacial way that immigration operates meaning that connections to domestic are always hazardous. Unemployment increasing every month yet still dozens of unmanned desks. I suppose these days Tony Gupta is unavailable to approve the recruitment……

    1 user thanked author for this post.

    paulkaz
    Participant

    To add my 2 cents worth,
    Syd, Bne and Per ( except QF9/10 to Lhr) all require a terminal transfer by bus (or train in Syd not recommended it’s the normal commuter line).Syd customs can be long. A trick is to tick you have food on the customs declaration. That red line can be short and when you say chocolate they wave you through and thank you for your honesty.
    Melb is all one building so an easy walk.
    Lax Tom Bradley bus or walk to domestic terminals depending on carrier. The bus travels anti clock wise. So transfer to terminal 1-3 is easier to walk. Likewise 4 as it is so close. Tagged thru luggage drop just after customs before exit.Early morning arrivals can be hell with all the Aus and East Asia flights at the same time. Many A380s. Allow lots of time.
    Tokyo Hnd has the best transfer options to the domestic terminal. Bus train or monorail. Your passport ( and sometimes boarding pass) waives the fee for the latter two.

    1 user thanked author for this post.

    LuganoPirate
    Participant

    And to be fair it isn’t that taxing if connecting to domestic either, as you only have to go through customs and then leave your bags at the re-check point. 100m at most.

    This only applies if flying SAA and not if with SA Express (or its derivatives) Kulula, Mango etc. Then you have to go upstairs and walk along to domestic. 2 hours is enough. On the return, you can through check your bags and you will see them again (hopefully) at your destination. Personally I pick them up and recheck them.

    A word of advice here, if flying on with Kulula or SA Express, you can have the bags checked from your departure airport through to your end destination in South Africa. You pick them up as usual at JNB, clear customs and then recheck them for the domestic part. The advantage of this is that if travelling business where you may have 2 bags @ 32kgs, and the LCC has a policy of one bag at 20 kgs, they will accept your bags at no extra cost. The tag must show the end destination to be accepted. If it doesn’t, or you rip it off, you will have to pay.

    This works for sure as follows:
    BA, EK, AF, KL with Kalula
    Star Alliance with SA Express

    Other airlines I cannot vouch for.


    ASK1945
    Participant

    Useful stuff indeed and I’ll add to this minefield.

    Something that is often not mentioned is that, for example, if you arrive on an international flight in JNB and you are connecting onwards, you have to collect your baggage, clear customs and immigration, and then go and check in again for the onward flight. I know this applies for onward domestic connections, I am not sure about international.

    Arriving Business Class in Mexico City a few years back, my wife and I were flying on to Acapulco. The International and Domestic terminals (at least then) were about a quarter of mile apart, so we engaged a porter to walk us between the two terminals. We had collected our bags from the London flight and walked through customs with him without any problem.

    We arrived at the Domestic terminal very tired, hot and sweaty. He left us at the check-in but before we could do that, we were pulled over by security men and experienced a complete bag and body search of everything, for about 20 minutes. The only thing we could surmise that would explain this was their suspicion that the particular baggage porter had hidden something (drugs?) in our luggage during the transfer.


    SimonS1
    Participant

    And to be fair it isn’t that taxing if connecting to domestic either, as you only have to go through customs and then leave your bags at the re-check point. 100m at most.

    This only applies if flying SAA and not if with SA Express (or its derivatives) Kulula, Mango etc. Then you have to go upstairs and walk along to domestic. 2 hours is enough. On the return, you can through check your bags and you will see them again (hopefully) at your destination. Personally I pick them up and recheck them.

    A word of advice here, if flying on with Kulula or SA Express, you can have the bags checked from your departure airport through to your end destination in South Africa. You pick them up as usual at JNB, clear customs and then recheck them for the domestic part. The advantage of this is that if travelling business where you may have 2 bags @ 32kgs, and the LCC has a policy of one bag at 20 kgs, they will accept your bags at no extra cost. The tag must show the end destination to be accepted. If it doesn’t, or you rip it off, you will have to pay.

    This works for sure as follows:

    BA, EK, AF, KL with Kalula

    Star Alliance with SA Express

    Other airlines I cannot vouch for.

    I have re-checked for SA Express and SA Airlink at the desks. Also BA. For Mango/Kulula, I defer to you, but generally LCCs are point to point and not part of a through ticket.

    On return, like you I tend to collect unless it is a shortish connection. If checked through then always wrapped….it doesn’t do much for the environment but it does avoid the rampant theft.


    Otte
    Participant

    Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport is very difficult airport to transit.International to international they still make you go through passport controal? Why on earth….typically only one or two booths are open with huge lines,where arriving passengers can not figure out which is passport control to enter Russia,and which is to connect to your international flight.Chaos galore.

    The airport has 4 terminals and it can take you one hour from Terminl D to Terminal A.( International to domestic)
    And Aeroflot do sell you connections that can only be made by Olympic runners.No assistance or expediting passengers arriving from delayed flights,total disinterest in customers by the very few Aeroflot uniformed agents.

    Give yourself at least 2 hours no matter what connection type you make.Dont take their 1h 25 min connection that is ‘legal ‘ but not do able .
    Aeroflot wants to position itself as a world class airline with a super hub in Moscow,but the way its operating now ,no way people will transfer that airport again ( especially Business passengers,no fast track offered,another unacceptable fact)so after one transit experience t will probably your last.
    In addition to the objective problems,the lack of English everywhere makes it difficult to get assistance.
    I have been transiting SVO twice a year now for 3 years,and I have not seen any improvement .Amazing.

    3 users thanked author for this post.

    Eurocity
    Participant

    Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport is very difficult airport to transit.International to international they still make you go through passport controal? Why on earth…

    It’s Russian authorities paranoiya (kept from Soviet times) to check everyone who happens to be in their reach.

    The airport has 4 terminals and it can take you one hour from Terminl D to Terminal A.( International to domestic)

    Terminal A is business aviation. Domestic is terminal B (and smaller part of D). And yes, the comfortable connection should be at least 2,5 hours international – domestic and 2 hours any other.

    No assistance or expediting passengers arriving from delayed flights,total disinterest in customers by the very few Aeroflot uniformed agents.

    Occasionally they do expedite some passengers through passport control, but there is no system. I’ve even seen their “expediting” agent actually delaying some passengers, making those the first off aicraft waiting for the rest with tight connections to deplane and then marching in a group to the very same transit security checkpoint, and then just letting people go the rest of the way on their own. When asked about the purpose of such stupid actions, the agent said that otherwise some people might not find the checkpoint (actually it’s in front of everyone arriving in B).

    But the worst thing is a new Aeroflot habit of denying boarding to passengers who missed their connection due to airport problems (nowadays more than half of flights are handled at remote stands, often a mile or two away from the terminal, and it’s not uncommon to reach your arrival terminal 40-60 minutes after landing, even flying business). Aeroflot nevertheless pretends that if the flight landed on time, the passenger should have been able to connect in time, no matter what, and deny free rebookings. And they do continue selling tickets with insanely short connection times.

    1 user thanked author for this post.

    Inquisitive
    Participant

    It may seems surprising, but Frankfurt transfer between terminal could be daunting.

    Few years ago I had to make several trips from Singapore to Nuremberg. If I recall correctly I had to transfer from T3 to T1 and it was half a kilometre walk and part of that through that psychedelic tunnel and then bus from gate to plane took 15 minutes. Almost all the time I counted time from my international arrival to domestic boarding was much more than actual flying time to Nuremberg.

    I also had the misfortune international to domestic transfer at Paris CDG a couple of times. No matter how much connection time is allotted, it was daunting in both cases.


    capetonianm
    Participant

    I stopped using FRA many years ago due to the awful convoluted and frustrating transits, the queues, and the multiple controls, specially in some cases if you wanted to use a lounge which often entailed an extra pass through security and passport control. My last experience through FRA two years resulted in a missed connection, and I am in no hurry to try again.

    As for CDG, my last transit through there was 15 years ago and I hope never to do so again.

    I expect it’s all a bit better now but I try to use ZRH or VIE whenever possible, or even the always busy AMS which is more pleasant and efficient than CDG or FRA.

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