What is minimum connection time?

Minimum connection time (MCT) is the minimum time needed to transit at a given airport between two flights. It is an official figure, calculated by airport authorities in cooperation with the airlines. 

When airlines sell flight tickets involving connecting flights, the MCT figure is taken into account. The airline is generally not allowed to offer you a flight combination with a tranist time below the MCT. 

Minimum connection time varies by airport and by type of trip (connection). There are 4 official connection types: Domestic / Domestic (DD), Domestic / International (DI), International / International (II), International / Domestic (ID). Within the European Union, it is important whether the connections involve flights within the SCHENGEN area. If the transit airport is within the Schengen area, you arrive from a Schengen country and continue on an outward flight again to a destination in the Schengen area, there is no immigration control and the transit process is faster. 

Certain airports are extremely connection friendly and are designed to accommodate transit passengers. In airports like Vienna International (VIE), the connecting times start as low as 25 minutes. According to the airport authorities and Austrian Airlines, this time is sufficient to disembark an Austrian airlines flight, pass thru immigration, go thru security check, reach the gate of your next flight and board it. During this interval, the ground handling staff of Vienna Internation Airport would transfer your check in baggage. 

At big hubs, which have a number of terminals situated kilometers from each other, minimum connection times for certain flight pairs can be set to 1h 30 min or even more. We need to take into account, that in the MCT figure, the checked baggage transit process also is taken into account. In most cases, when you are traveling on a connecting flight journey, your baggage goes straight to your final destination. Even if you pass thru a perfectly designed hub airport, where you need just 10 min to board the outward flight, the cargo guys may be unlikely to cope within such a short time with baggage unloading & reloading. Some airlines will wait for you for a few minutes at the gate in case they know you are on the rush to catch the flight, but they will be unlikely to treat your baggage with the same care. If your baggage doesn't make it to your next flight, then the airline will simply put it on its next flight to your final destination. That said, if you travel with checked baggage, and would like to be on the safe side, avoid flight options with extremely low minimum connection times.  

While each airport sets a general guidelines for minimum connection time by type of connection, the complete MCT table contains many rules and exceptions. Just to give an example, if the outward flight requires extra security checks of passengers, then such a flight would be added as an exception, and respectively the MCT figure will be increased. Just as an example, a flight departing to Tel Aviv could fall within this exception. Routes served by very large aircraft may also be set to a longer MCT due to the boarding process. Just to illustrate the complexity of the minimum connection times, the MCT of London Heathrow Airport consists of more than 1,800 lines of rules & exceptions. While the common minimum transfer time at Heathrow is 1h, for certain flight pairs the connection time is set to 2h. There are pairs requiring 3h and even 4h. 

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