Are some transit times simply too short for the traveller?

Are some transit times simply too short for the traveller?

TALKING POINT | You know the feeling. We all do. Having just stepped off a long flight of 8-12 hours, you make a beeline for the lounge, grab a bite to eat, pop open your laptop or fire up your smartphone to check emails and catch up on the news, all the while racing the clock before boarding starts for the next onwards leg of your flight.

Travellers often argue against the coming wave of non-stop flights such as Sydney and Melbourne to London and New York in favour of a short break.

But do you ever feel that break is too short?

That was certainly the case for me when Qantas flew to London via Dubai – there was barely an hour in Emirates' sprawling Dubai business class or first class lounges.

Today's Sydney-Singapore-London routing of QF1 is also on the tight side: QF1 reaches Singapore at 10.05pm and takes wing to London at 11.55pm, while the QF2 return leg lands in Singapore at 5.45pm and continues on its way at 7.15pm.

For the red-tailed Airbus A380 superjumbo, that's between 90 and 110 minutes on the ground.

But for passengers, it's rather less. You can allow a good 10-15 minutes from the arrivals gate reach the Qantas Singapore Lounge – and due to the Singapore Changi Airport's per-gate security checks, you'll want to be back at the departure gate a good 30 minutes before the flight is scheduled to depart.

So now your loungetime – the amount of time you will actually spend in the lounge – is within the range of roughly 45-60 minutes.

60 minutes can be enough for a shower, a meal and a drink if you're organised, but 45 minutes is often just about enough for a relaxed meal and a drink or two – as long as you don't get waylaid by duty-free shopping.

And while technically that's long enough, I sometimes wonder if the stopover wouldn't be a bit more enjoyable if it was a bit longer – if one didn't have to be ever-mindful of the next flight, or keep one's eye on the clock, but instead could relax a bit more, settle back and after all those long hours in the air, basically 'decompress'.

It's a potential point in favour of some hub airports with a high frequency of flights – for example, if you're flying from Sydney to London with Singapore Airlines or Cathay Pacific, the wide range of flights on both legs means that travellers can plan for a longer layover.

What's your take – is 45-60 minutes in the lounge sufficient for a stopover between very long flights, or should there be a bit more time in transit?

David Flynn
David Flynn is the editor of Australian Business Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.
 

45 comments

  • motef

    motef

    21 Jan, 2019 10:20 am

    I thought this exact issue when recently travelling on QF11 from SYD to JFK via LAX.
    By the time we arrived only slighlty late, disembarked, got our bags, dropped our bags and cleared all the customs etc I think we sat in the lounge for about 15mins to get something to eat.
    It all felt very rushed. Even the QF ground staff at LAX were rushing people
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  • megmcw

    megmcw

    23 Jan, 2019 03:24 pm

    45 minutes plus IN the lounge and I would be happy. With Etihad you are lucky to get 10 mins. Certainly for economy class passengers not worth paying to use the lounge. Recently on all,our Etihad flights we have barely had time to sit down, let alone shower. Most of their scheduling allow for about 60 to 90 mins on the ground. Very rushed, especially coming from London where they are inevitably late leaving.
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  • Aleks Popovic

    SYDINI

    2 Feb, 2019 03:29 pm

    If you went by the airport minimum connect requirements then is the time you need to do all of that - minus going to the lounge. Any lounge access means adding the time you want to spend there on top of that. Lounge access isn’t given to the majority. So the rules for the majority are always displayed.
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  • Zolan

    Zolan

    21 Jan, 2019 10:35 am

    I definitely prefer a longer transit time, in fact my favorite is around 4-6 hours in places like HK or Singapore where I can take a fast train/taxi into the city, walk around the streets, have a local meal then back to the airport feeling like I have actually cleared my head of planes, airports, etc and done some well needed exercise. Then if I have time go to the lounge for a quick drink before going to the gate. This probably won't work for less efficient airports but is certainly achievable in HK and Singapore.
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  • kimshep

    kimshep

    21 Jan, 2019 10:49 am

    Whilst the article rests on the premise of lounge access availability time, there is a wider range of reasons why airlines keep intermediate layovers short. These include:

    • available take-off banks and slots
    • availability and timing of connecting flights
    • aircraft utilisation factors
    • regional weather issues
    • tardy rejoining passengers
    • costs incurred at 'partner' lounges (shorter time = lower cost)
    • inconveniencing non-tier / Economy passengers


    Some destinations are worse than others. On QF's 7 SYD-DFW service it seems that there is generally always a 3-4 hour wait between arrival in DFW and connecting at second tier cities with AA flights.

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  • simon drakeley

    drsimon50

    21 Jan, 2019 10:53 am

    i regularly do the EK BHX-DXB and on to ADL flight - and there is never enough time to even get to the lounge as boarding has generally already started for onwards flight - so no i dont think there is enough time at all - but i understand as per above from kimshep why! not all of us have lounge access to enjoy a sit down
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  • Phil Young

    Phil Young

    21 Jan, 2019 10:57 am

    I much prefer longish transit times. Not only does it provide some relaxing time in the terminal or lounge, more importantly it provides a buffer of time in case the first flight is delayed. There is nothing worse than being anxious on a long-haul flight as to whether you'll make your connecting flight. If anything, I'd prefer to be bored for a little while than being anxious for several hours.
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  • Vik Jay

    MarkivJ

    21 Jan, 2019 11:05 am

    I always always have this issue with Cathay pacific flights. My corporate travel site doesn’t let me pick earlier departures (which would mean more transit time to enjoy those brilliant HKG lounges). Plus, their departures to HK are almost always delayed. As a result, I end up with less than an hour between my YVR/SFO arrivals to HKG and BLR/HYD departures (happens the other way around), I get just about enough time to shower, and go running to my gate (which, in that hot airport means I’m sweaty again by the time I reach the gate!).
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  • Oliver Freeman

    oliverfreeman

    21 Jan, 2019 11:07 am

    Yes! I agree. I personally fly Qatar Airways a lot from London to Perth, connecting in Doha. Qatar Airways only each flies once per day to Australian cities. The Perth flight leaves Doha at about 2:20AM (+4 GMT). There are two Qatar Airways flights that arrive at Doha from London which are good for Perth departure. The QR4 (A380) leaves a 1:20ish hour connection time. The QR4 has the reverse herringbone seats which I Iike but not as much as the QR8 flight which has the new, fabulous QSuite seats. This flight leaves London around 4pm and arrives Doha at 1:10AM (+4 GMT). It is nice to get that flight which those amazing QSuites, however, that flight only leaves you a 50minute connection in Doha. Given how crowded Doha is at that time of the night, I rarely hit the lounge (which the Al Mourjan Lounge is fantastic) when arriving on the QR8.
    The flight lands at 1:10AM
    Passengers deplaned by 1:20-1:25AM
    That leaves 15 minutes before the gate closes (Qatar Airways is pretty strict with the ‘Gate Closes 20 Minutes Before Departure’ Perth flight due to a small block time)
    15 minutes isn’t even time to get a drink at the lounge and have time to get back to the gate which (by the way) the QR900 Perth flight has occasionally started boarding before my QR8 has even arrived.
    To answer your question, in my experience, there are times where connections are too short to visit the lounge.
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  • Marcia Victoria Cavanagh

    Toria

    21 Jan, 2019 11:51 am

    Recently I flew QF1, and if I hadn’t known exactly where the Qantas Singapore lounge was, I would not had enough transit time to make the dash worthwhile. I had just enough time in the lounge for a shower and 2 rushed drinks of lemon barley water before the hike back to the lounge, where boarding had commenced.
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  • Andrew Mcgarry

    Jflyer

    21 Jan, 2019 12:31 pm

    A plane sitting on the ground is not making revenue.
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  • IntegralMan

    IntegralMan

    21 Jan, 2019 12:42 pm

    David, with respect, I think you're drawing a very long bow with this one.

    An hour stopover is plenty of time to have a quick shower and bite to eat before heading back to jump on the next flight. There are often minor delays which provides a further buffer.

    Ultimately, my priority is to get home as quickly and safely as possible.

    Another point to take into account is that the vast majority of pax do not have lounge access. They have an even greater interest in avoiding spending time in the terminus.

    As other posters have noted, airport slots and aircraft utilisation are key factors here for the airlines.

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  • Adethya  Sudarsanan

    adethyasjce

    21 Jan, 2019 02:07 pm

    I agree with the point that one hour is plenty of time to shower and a quick bite - personally, I have done this many times in MEL J Lounge before I get onto my flight for work in SYD. In that being said, timing depends on how busy the shower is. There are instances I had to wait for 20-30 mins before the shower could become free (very rare occurance TBQH)

    Usually when I do overseas trips, I add a domestic segment in as part of my trip to get more SC's

    Is it alright to assume that the airport would want pax to spend more time in the airport as it could potentially lead to duty free sales, better use of food courts or use of massage spas etc ? I'd think with more pax in the terminals/shopping vicinity would mean more trade and business ?
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  • David Flynn

    David

    21 Jan, 2019 02:47 pm

    No ‘long bow’, and we're certainly not suggesting that airlines should toggle to three-hour stopovers – I'm simply making an observation based on my own travel experience and asking readers to share their opinion on the matter.

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  • reeves35

    reeves35

    21 Jan, 2019 08:52 pm

    2-3 hours would be ideal but realistically this is not always possible. A bank at an airport such an DXB doesn't involve all flights arriving at the same time and departing again 2 hours later all together. Gates space and runway space means this just isn't possible.

    For example I have flown into DXB from MEL on EK407 three times over the past year. This is an arrival at around 5:15AM right in the middle of the early morning bank. My first connection was onto AMS with a 3 hour turnaround (enough time for food and a shower even though there was a bit of a wait for the showers); the second onward connection was IST with nearly 5 hours. This flight was almost into the next bank and the transit was very leisurely and frankly too long. The last connection was to WAW with only 1 1/4 hours (right at the start of the outbound bank departures) which meant no lounge and basically heading straight to the gate where boarding was about to commence when I arrived.
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  • Adethya  Sudarsanan

    adethyasjce

    21 Jan, 2019 01:01 pm

    My 2 cents :

    When I'm connecting - I'd personally prefer 2-3 hours of transit time - it allows me to relax the muscles, take a shower, pour myself a nice drink and enjoy a light meal before I set foot back on the next leg of my journey.

    There are times when I literally ran to the next flight with my name being called out asking to contact a ground staff ASAP

    My thoughts resonate with those of @Phil Young - I'd rather be bored for a few hours than stay anxious for the next few hours .. happened to me in BNE (MEL-BNE-SIN-BLR) leg - My flight from MEL-BNE was early in the morning and BNE-SIN was early afternoon - gave me enough time to enjoy the lounge, nice meals and relaxed before the next flight
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  • L Mck

    Lmc

    21 Jan, 2019 01:03 pm

    I think everyone is different and for me if im flying for business i want a quick transfer and minimal delays, for leisure i like to relax between flights, shower, nice meal and a drink etc. Having first lounge access certainly helps!
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  • rob01

    rob01

    21 Jan, 2019 02:05 pm

    Internationally I'm usually flying SQ and always opt for a longer layover if possible. I'm just not interested in the stress of it all if my first flight is delayed. That being said, the staff at Changi are super efficient at facilitating these connections. I've gotten off delayed flights and seen a whole army of staff and golf carts ready to get people to their onward connections.
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  • Rigs

    Rigs

    21 Jan, 2019 02:51 pm

    It is a bit short. Mostly because it doesn't leave a lot of room for something to go wrong on a leg. I don't really care about the lounge experience, I just want to get there.
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  • patrickk

    patrickk

    21 Jan, 2019 03:16 pm

    The issue can be transfer time. On a 777 flight to Dubai that was parked out in the back blocks of the field it took us one hour to get to the terminal. The two hour transit time quickly became a mad scramble. I prefer a couple of hours at the least for a transfer but airliines don't like that as there is a temptation for more lounge time. I will call to book an earlier flight if it is not on the web and there is only a little over an hour transit time.
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  • oldfolky

    oldfolky

    21 Jan, 2019 04:22 pm

    I prefer longer transit times when going to Europe, i’ll even overnight in the transit city. Stopping for a nice meal and a walk around Hong Kong or Tokyo is much preferred to the midnight dash in Dubai.

    I’ve done this in Seoul and Shanghai as well but Hong Kong and Tokyo are easiest for a stop of less than 24 hours.
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  • moa999

    moa999

    21 Jan, 2019 06:19 pm

    With more and more direct flights thanks to greater flying range, the stopover will become a thing of the past.
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  • Yvan J Drake

    MRYJDrake

    23 Jan, 2019 08:40 am

    Oooh, disagree strongly here.

    While a vast number will choose direct routes, the hub and spoke method will continue in earnest and layovers will continue. Because unless absolutely essential, I can't imagine spending 17 odd hours in the same seat without at least one stop.
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  • Andrew Barkery

    Andrew Barkery

    21 Jan, 2019 07:15 pm

    Yes, and the airlines are smart enough to make the cheapest connection city fares with the shortest connection times.
    1hr15mins to transit from a QF flight to an AirNZ flight in MEL, this really puts me at a disadvantage from ADL, if I want to fly J and see what the AirNZ MEL J int lounge is like, even if its in the basement.
    A lot of flights from MEL to AKL (apart from the mid morning one with a very short connection time from ADL), is with AirNZ is on the 320 without a J service.
    And joining Koru lounge as a member is very $$$.
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  • Tristan

    tris06

    21 Jan, 2019 07:20 pm

    Well definately depends on the passenger. Those with lounge access like myself quite enjoy 2-4hr stops which makes me feel less stressed and yet not too long sitting around. Those without lounge access (the great majority of passengers, maybe 93-95 percent of the total passengers on the plane) prefer as short as possible to get to their destination (30-60mins). I find planes even in premium cabins not always so comfortable for like sleeping. But I do try to make each time I fly an experience to enjoy. So the lounge is part of that experience. Often also during my stopovers in the early morning or evening the showers are in demand so you may need to wait up to an hour to get in a shower.
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  • John Harley

    jch

    21 Jan, 2019 08:25 pm

    I really enjoyed my Singapore airlines flights from Beijing to Perth i.e two ~5/6 hour legs. Have dinner in Beijing Friday night, leave around midnight, basically walk straight to the gate of the flight to Perth (i.e. stretch the legs), then arrive in time for a late lunch. Wouldn't make sense to extend the transit time, but I can understand if travelling long haul between time zones where this would make sense. Specifically thinking of SYD-SIN-LHR.
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  • Andrew

    andyf

    21 Jan, 2019 10:07 pm

    It depends on lounge as well, and how busy it is, doesn't it?

    E.g. a few hours stuck in SIA's lowly Kris Gold lounge in Singapore is no good. While I'm sure their First Class lounge is much more pleasant.
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  • Stephen Doggett

    Stephen D

    22 Jan, 2019 06:11 am

    The Private Room is even better! So quiet and peaceful and the most wonderful food...although service is hard to come by.
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  • turbojezz

    turbojezz

    22 Jan, 2019 08:48 am

    2 hours is the absolute minimum for a connection time for me. i have connected in dubai for 8-10 hours and it was actually bliss! two showers, a nap, lots of great food! it was awesome!
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  • Scott Wilson

    Libertyscott

    22 Jan, 2019 09:57 am

    If you want a short transit time, try NZ1/2 AKL-LAX-LHR. The LAX transit involves disembarking, going through passport control and then through security again before returning to the departure lounge. This can take 30 minutes or well over an hour.

    Frankly, as long as I have time to get a shower in a lounge and get changed, it's enough. I don't want more than 3-4 hours tops. I have had a HKG transfer which was barely enough to get to a lounge, have a shower and get to the gate for the final call.
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  • Rufus1

    Rufus1

    22 Jan, 2019 10:23 am

    Any longer than the minimum needed to have a shower and not have to run between gates is fine with me. While it might be nice to have a drink and a bite in the lounge, you'll find yourself being fed and watered on the next leg anyway.
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  • Tristan

    tris06

    22 Jan, 2019 11:48 am

    True though again that may depend which class your flying with lounge access. I tend to never finish my meal on the plane when (rarely unless short haul flight). As I filled up pretty well In the lounge. But yes by far first priority was to shower.

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  • aggie57

    aggie57

    22 Jan, 2019 03:15 pm

    On business trips I just want to get there. Time spent on the ground connecting is just wasted time, if I miss a connection there’s another plane and it’s only really an issue if I’ve got meetings immediately on arrival.

    But for me traveling for pleasure is different, the travel is part of the trip and it’s always nice to treat the family. But the funny thing is they really don’t care. More than once we’ve sat out at the gate when we could easily have spent time in a lounge. Can’t win!
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  • CRAIG HARDIE

    craigj77

    22 Jan, 2019 06:55 pm

    They ain’t makin’ money sitting on the ground..
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  • Neon

    Neon

    22 Jan, 2019 11:47 pm

    Completely agree. Too long to stay close and wait. Too short to enjoy the time refreshing and relaxing at the lounge in a positive way. As Phil says, it doesn't take much to miss a connection with these close times.
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  • Flying Fish

    AWA2602

    23 Jan, 2019 05:44 am

    I've just enjoyed a very relaxing and leisurely jaunt between Australia and New York with CX via HKG. Being able to time my flights from Australia to HKG with onward departures gave me a nice 4-hour stopover in both directions. I was able to have a long soak in one of the glorious bathtubs in the cabanas followed by a light supper in the Wing First Class lounge on the way to the USA and a nice long shower, foot massage and a full four-course dinner on the way back to Australia. I loved being able to take my time wandering through the duty-free shops and actually catching my breath and enjoying the change of scenery in the lounges. It did make me think I'd still prefer a longer layover to the harried and frantic 90-120 minute ones we tend to see. Yes the overall travel time is longer but the sense of calm and relaxation has a range of other benefits.
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  • Jay

    ausJCP

    23 Jan, 2019 09:47 am

    When flying MEL-DXB on QF, and then onward to LHR/CDG/DUS with EK, the transit times were consistently too short to get my checked baggage unloaded from QF and then loaded onto my EK flight... even with a 60+ min transit. The number of times I arrived at my destination with no baggage was borderline ludicrous. Surprising for such a well-engineered hub like DXB!
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  • Bavarian

    Bavarian

    23 Jan, 2019 03:08 pm

    If I connect to the same aircraft, such as the LHR-SIN-SYD flight, a short connection is great - delays don't matter. I rather hate short connections when say connecting from SYD to CBR domestically afterwards, with all these unpredictable customs, immigration, bus transfers etc.
    While just stopping I don't mind the lounge and shower - if there proper arrival lounges / showers.
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  • Stevo58

    Stevo58

    23 Jan, 2019 03:23 pm

    I essentially only fly for travel/holiday experiences, so my business class flights for myself and partner are the start of our fun.
    A few champas in the lounge before boarding and on our way. Being Krisflyer members, we always go through Singapore and find that two hours is needed to get to the Lounge, have a shower, eat etc and relax before trapsing off to the next boarding lounge.
    This year, we are flying back fom Stockholm via Moscow and will have only 1 hr between flights...definitely not enough time after about fifteen hours of travelling.

    So.... No! An hour is not enough between flights, makes no allowance for flight delays or time to walk through the airport just to get to a lounge etc.
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  • Otto Van De Velde

    OttoV

    23 Jan, 2019 04:41 pm

    One of the great joys of flying can be the break between flights of over seven or eight hours. Imagine flying direct from Melbourne to LHR and connecting to Barcelona all in one day. Sadly in Perth the one and a half connection is barely sufficient for a shower; the two and a half break in LHR might be tight if a delay occurs. That is a total of more than twenty three hours of flying, albeit in J. With that schedule coming up in April, I would prefer a slightly longer transit time.
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  • cow

    cow

    23 Jan, 2019 05:19 pm

    I do not think less than 2 hours is enough even for economy travellers without access to a lounge. We all need to stretch our legs, chill out and not stress about getting to our next flight
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  • Tristan

    tris06

    23 Jan, 2019 05:34 pm

    Most of the times I do desire the longer 2-3hr break in the lounge is when I come off a long flight to hop onto usually a shorter regional flight. One is like many others also not to worry about connections. When you fly east to west the day becomes extremely long and probably smelly if you last showered at 8-10pm in east asia or Australia arrive in Europe early to mid morning with or without a connection I have about reached my limit and really need that shower. Also often asian airlines run their cabins a little warmer and it is easy to sweat when trying to sleep.
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  • Rita Cavanagh

    Rita Cavanagh

    23 Jan, 2019 07:50 pm

    I flew to UK last year and on the way home, we were late leaving MAN, so late into Muscat. I made the next flight, but my checked baggage didn't. As I was returning home and staying in Melbourne for a few nights, it didn't matter--my case was delivered to my hotel the next day. In May, I'm going to Africa on holiday, booked as a sale fare. I was concerned that there is only 1 hour transfer in SYD, but to change it would cost $400. However, the lady at QANTAS said that if I missed the connection, I'd be re-routed with another airline if necessary. It's cheaper to lose a nights accommodation in Jo'burg and not have to stay in SYD, so I'm taking the risk. As I only fly for leisure, I'd prefer a longer transit time, but I understand everybody's opinions.
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  • Himeno

    Himeno

    23 Jan, 2019 10:19 pm

    Yes.
    Due to the QF website being really bad, I was forced to book a 85 minute D>I connection at SYD for an upcoming trip next month, even though earlier flights into SYD were available. Every attempt to select those earlier flights resulted in the booking system erroring out.
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  • Traveller14

    Traveller14

    24 Jan, 2019 10:25 pm

    A good travel agent should sort that out.
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25 Jun, 2019 08:17 am

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