Empty airport terminal

All business travelers come across a time in their travel planning when they need to schedule a transfer at a major airport. You glance at the arrival time of your inbound flight and all your connecting flight options. “Is 60 minutes enough time?” you ask yourself, suddenly wondering how far the gates will be from one another and if your flight will be on time.

As any good travel management company will do, we generally add in additional transfer time to your itinerary, giving you plenty of time to get your bags, go through customs (when necessary), change terminals, pass through additional security, navigate the vast airport and find your gate. While the extra time is not always needed, arriving a half-hour early at the gate is more enjoyable than missing your connection and scrambling to secure the next available flight.

Of course, we vary how much time we leave our clients to transfer based on several factors, such as the time of day your inbound flight is taking off and the airport you’re flying into. Simply put, some airports are easier to connect in than others.

The most challenging airports to arrange a transfer are typically the largest and busiest. Nothing ruins a successful transfer more than racing from one extremely long concourse to another, waiting for people-movers to load and unload, and dodging other travelers along the way.

Here’s a list of five airports that often put your connecting flight at risk. 

1. ATL

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (Atlanta, Georgia) – Hartsfield is the world’s busiest airport. Any airport dealing with such a large volume experiences frequent delays and persistently crowded concourses.

2. ORD

O'Hare International Airport (Chicago, Illinois) – O’Hare used to be the nation’s busiest until 2005, when the government stepped in to reduce the total number of flights in order to decrease delays. Unfortunately O'Hare still accounts for more than a sixth of the nation's total flight cancellations, which doesn’t bode well for travelers trying to catch their connecting flight.

3. LHR

London Heathrow Airport (London, United Kingdom) – For seven straight years, Heathrow has hosted the largest number of internationally-bound passengers annually, making it the mixing bowl of European airports. Passengers connecting on another airline may need to change terminals and go through immigration twice.

4. HND

Tokyo International Airport (Tokyo, Japan) – Not only is HND (also known as Haneda Airport) one of the world's busiest domestic-only airport, but the local signage, printed predominantly in Japanese, is difficult to follow, making it an adventure for some travelers searching for a specific terminal.

5. JFK

John F. Kennedy International Airport (New York, New York) – With nine terminals, chances are you will need to board a bus or catch the light-rail train to transfer, which - depending on the crowds of uniformed passengers who are also trying to switch terminals - could be difficult.

You may be wondering which are the airports where it's easiest to connect. The top rated transfer airports are:

  • Denver (DEN)
  • Detroit (DTW)
  • Munich (MUC)
  • Amsterdam (AMS) and
  • Singapore (SIN)

For more help in transit, check out Apps to Download before Your Next Business Trip.

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