web Musings of The Global Traveller

Sunday, May 24, 2009

International airport transits

I was reminded in my recent travels how different the airport transit experiences can be. At some airports transits are quick and simple. Singapore springs to mind for international to international transits and Melbourne Australia for international to domestic or domestic to international transfers.

The reasons these airports are good for transit passengers include having a single building for the terminal(s), good signposting, short distances to walk (and trains and escalators for the longer distances), quick immigration processes where required and none for international to international connections.

Other airports have much more difficult or slow transits. London Heathrow and Los Angeles are notorious amongst regular travellers for example. Less well known but almost as bad are Perth, Brisbane and Sydney.

London Heathrow is horrible for the long distances required, confusing layout and extensive queueing required at peak hours.

Los Angeles is horrible and slow for most international to international and international to domestic transits. The reasons it is unpleasant and US immigration process (even for international to international connections) and lengthy security queues. For some transfers there is also a change of terminals with a moderate walk. As flights from Canada to USA have US immigration processing in the Canadian airport, transits after these flights are not as bad.

Perth, Brisbane and Sydney are horrible for international to domestic and domestic to international transits because the terminals are separated and require a bus or train to travel between them. The terminal transfers have frequencies as low as every 30 minutes and limited hours - otherwise you need to use an expensive taxi. Depending on airline(s) flown, the terminal transfer may not be free either.

The airport setup is the difference between 20 minutes being a reasonable connection time and needing to allow 3 hours for transit. Some airport and airline websites have information on how to make transfers and how much time should be allowed. Otherwise the experience of fellow travellers (eg the Flyer Talk discussion on transits) is invaluable for travel planning.

1 comment:

Raul said...

Always good to hear what airports others recommend or not for connecting...

Horrible airports to connect, in my book: Paris CDG and London Heathrow. In Paris, 3 hrs may not be enough to connect even if your inbound flight arrives on time. Construction always going on and they really dont work to figure out how to make it work for, oh my, the customer!

Airports I like to connect through: Rome and Amsterdam. Rome is surprisingly quite manageable and organized. Amsterdam, need I say more? Efficient and organized (though sometimes the walk can be long).

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