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Nonstop Flights, Connecting Flights, and One-Way Plane Tickets


Nonstop flights often cost more. With airfare prices rising, many passengers are eyeing routes with connections as a cost-saving strategy. It's great when it works flawlessly, but missing a connection can screw up your air travel and have rollover effects on other parts of your vacation.

Two women in airport carrying suitcases

The Minimum Connection Time (MCT) is the calculated time it should take an average person to reach the gate for their next flight. This accounts for whether you are connecting from one domestic flight to another, or to an international flight, and whether a terminal change is required. It does not account for everyday occurrences like departure delays from your originating airport.

Each airport, and potentially each airline within that airport, will have an MCT. Airlines will not sell tickets with connections that fall below this MCT. A legal obligation, therefore, honors the MCT for your routing.

For example, United Airlines passengers connecting through Chicago's O'Hare airport should have at least 50 minutes for a domestic-to-domestic connection. If heading overseas, the time increases to an hour and 15 minutes. When returning to the United States, an hour and a half is the MCT.

MCTs aren’t readily published, but you can occasionally find them on airport websites. The above data came from behind the paywall on

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The level of assistance you’ll receive if you miss your connection will depend on various factors, including MCT. If, on your own, you booked multiple one-way flights or a connection on a different airline and unknowingly didn't account for MCT, the airline may be off the hook for providing you a seat on the next flight without additional charges.

If, however, your two flight segments are on the same reservation with the same airline, the airline will work to get you on the next available flight. When talking to the airline about rebooking, be proactive about finding a solution. Do your research and present the airline representative with options to get you to your destination faster, such as routing through a different city or another airport.

Frustrated man and woman in airport holding credit card while speaking to worker

Booking multiple one-way flights to get where you want to go may save you money, but it also has the potential to cost you a lot of money. Not only could you have to purchase a new airline ticket, but you might not get to your destination when planned. This could cause cancellation of your rental car booking and impact tickets you’ve purchased for museums or other planned activities, some of which may not be nonrefundable.

If you miss your connection, you will likely already be past your hotel’s cancellation deadline, so you could incur a one-night charge. If you prepaid or booked through a third party, you could lose the cost of the entire reservation.

If you're traveling to take a cruise, or any other pricey, can’t-miss excursions, it's best to arrive a day or two early—so if there are airline disruptions, you still have time to make the boat.