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Travel infographic: the math behind a flight transfer (with luggage)

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Lately I get a lot of messages asking if they have enough time to do a flight transfer at this or that airport.

The truth is that I do not usually stop to think about these issues, I like airports and I always prefer long transfers instead of running from place to place. But as it is an option that is not always available, here it is: the unwritten formula to know if I have time to make a connection between flights.

I guarantee it’s not computer science, most airports around the world work the same way. Just one huge exception: USA, where TSA controls are simply absurd.

How to measure the time needed to do a transfer with luggage at almost any airport

Some samples of transfer times:

Just for your reference, these are some transfer times I’ve done in the recent years:

  • Gatwick transfer: I did a transfer from an Wow flight to a Ryanair flight, with checked-in luggage in 1 hour and 45 minutes. I had to wait in line to do the check in with Ryanair. Everything else went smooth, same Airport terminal.
  • Stansted: I did a transfer from a Ryanair flight to an Easyjet flight with checked-in luggage in 1 hour and 20 minutes. The line for Easyjet check-in was empty, so no waiting there, but the security control was really slow and I got checked twice because of the electronics I was carrying on my hand luggage. Passport control on arrival was super fast because I was carrying an european electronic passport.
  • Madrid: I’ve had to wait up to 1 hour to get my luggage from an international non-Shenghen flight up to 1 hour at Terminal 4 (you arrive to T4S but pick it up at T4).
  • Narita: I didn’t do a transfer, but passport control + customs took almost 1 hour and a half because there was a huge queue at passport control and I got my bags checked.

  What about you? Which was the best transfer time you ever did? And the worst?

3 Comments and Questions

R Morris
12 May, 2019 at 8:21 am

Going from T1 international arrival to T4 domestic on a tight connection at Madrid airport

Airport Website is inconsistent and says in one part that you take shuttle from Floor 0, and another place Floor

Which is it? Help appreciated.

    Leticia Pérez
    12 May, 2019 at 11:33 am

    Hello R!
    Confusion understood. That is not the official site of the ariport and it seems that they got some missing information there. Official site is which should be the one up to date.

    The confusion is probably because the free shuttle bus leaves from Floor 0 (arrivals) of T1 (this is your stop). But when you are going to T1 from other terminal buildings, the bus leaves you at Floor 1 (departures) which makes sense but it’s kind of confusing for first timers in Madrid. The bus takes 15 minutes but is usually there every 5 minutes (with some exceptions like nights or early mornings) and you will have to go through security control again at T4, which can take up to 20-30 minutes at peak hours.

    Just in case, if you don’t need to pick up your bags and re-check them in, go to the connections desk right on your arrival and see if they can send you through the inside bus that goes from international T1 to international T4S (takes up to 15 minutes and from there it’s 15-20 minutes walking to the furthest door of T4 or T4S, a bit more than from the security control, but not much.) It should be easier for them if you are traveling to Madrid from a non-Schenghen country and you wouldn’t need to go through security (liquids check again), only through passports.

    Have a great flight!

18 May, 2016 at 11:44 am

Great review. Another airport I don’t like for transferring not-connected flights is Paris CDG… it is simply absurd how slow they are on all lines (passport check, check-in, security measures…). However, sometimes I use it because I like flying with AirFrance… If only they had a smoother airport!

Favorite airport for transferring flights is Munich. Clean, quiet, easy. :D

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