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Is one hour enough to make connectons at O'Hare and LAX?
March 21, 2007 11:43 AM   Subscribe

Flying from Toronto to Melbourne, via Chicago and LAX. The "via" is worryingly short!

I'm flying from Toronto to Melbourne, Australia via Chicago and LAX. My changeovers at Chicago and LAX are both just slightly over an hour each, and I'm wondering about the potential for an "oh crap, your plane was late, you're screwed" type of moment.

Is one hour at each airport enough time to actually make a connecting flight?

(I think my flights are United, all the way, if that makes a difference.)

I've flown internationally before, but always, always directly. Oddly, I've never actually flown into the United States.

I assume I'll go through the US customs office at Pearson before departure, rather than in Chicago or LAX. I also assume that my checked bags will be cleared all the way through to Melbourne. But, I'm having trouble getting a straight answer out of anybody.

I'm mildly worried that one hour at Chicago and LAX wont be enough to make my connecting flights - especially if I have to check and uncheck baggage, switch terminals or go through security/customs again.

Am I worrying over nothing, Hive Mind? I don't want to worry about anything other than the surely wretched jet lag that will ensue.
posted by generichuman to Travel & Transportation around Toronto, ON (23 answers total)
 
must you check baggage?

Having to check and uncheck will kill you

and even if you don't, their having to load and unload it could mean your bags will miss the flight even if you dont

ship your shite? 'spose it's too late for that

but really, that check and uncheck shit is what gets ya, i know how important it is to have enough stuff for the long trip, but missing the flight could be worse

otherwise, i'd try to find out about what gates yu're transfering on, if you're all on one airline presumably the gates will be in the same area, which will be a big help

a lot will depend on weather too, and you just won't relaly know until you go..you might get in 5-10 minutes early, if so great, but even 10-15 minutes late could screw you up pretty bad
posted by Salvatorparadise at 11:55 AM on March 21, 2007


(I think my flights are United, all the way, if that makes a difference.)

You think? That makes a big difference. If one carrier, like United booked this for you, they have guidelines as to how long to allow for layovers and so on. More importantly, if you miss a connection and its their fault they can help arrange to put you on the next plane.

However, if you did all this yourself and are connecting from Carrier A to Carrier B, your chances of getting screwed are much higher.
posted by vacapinta at 11:59 AM on March 21, 2007


Of course you don't have to check/uncheck baggage over and over again. you will most likely have to go through some kind of custom or screening point in chicago.

You're more likely to miss a flight because of delays due to bad weather, passengers not being on time, or traffic at an airport.

Keep in mind that there is some organization (i forget) that actually monitors the probability that any particular flight actually arrives at the scheduled time (this data is available online somewhere). and that, to give the impression that none of their flights are late - but at the same time, acknowledging that shit does happen - airlines regularly will declare that a flight takes "2 and a half hours to arrive" when, in fact, it only takes 2 hours, but they've padded the numbers to work in their favor.
posted by phaedon at 11:59 AM on March 21, 2007


Yes, you pre-clear US immigration and customs in Pearson.

Since you're flying the same airline your luggage should be checked all the way through. In Chicago, as you're flying the same airline on domestic flights, your gates shouldn't be *too* far apart, by which I mean more than a 15 minute fast walk, and you can travel from one gate to another without having to exit and then re-enter the secure part of the airport.

I don't know about LAX.
posted by cardboard at 12:02 PM on March 21, 2007


Update:

Yes, all the flights are United, and my just-over-one-hour stopover is only at LAX. I actually now have about 3 hours in Chicago.

I arrive at LAX at 9:14pm, and depart for Australia at 10:25. Still a bit worrying...

Work booked my flight through a travel agent, hence my own confusion.
posted by generichuman at 12:04 PM on March 21, 2007


Also, I'm in Melbourne for over a month, so I'll definitely be checking a suitcase.
posted by generichuman at 12:06 PM on March 21, 2007


You should be OK at LAX in terms of the terminal -- it'll be the same one, so you won't have to go out and clear security again. LAX terminals aren't that huge, either -- five minutes will get you from one end to the other at a leisurely stroll. Personally, I'm always very antsy about such short connection times, though -- it doesn't take much of a delay to screw things royally. And that goes doubly when you're flying out of O'Hare -- I don't think I've ever left O'Hare on time. Keep your fingers crossed..
posted by littleme at 12:07 PM on March 21, 2007


My concern would be that there is probably one flight per day LAX-Melbourne, and missing it due to a delay would cost you time if not money.
posted by smackfu at 12:10 PM on March 21, 2007


Well, if you get stuck in Chicago, we could have an impromptu meetup.

You'll be fine.
posted by rbs at 12:13 PM on March 21, 2007


If you're at all concerned about making your connection, just ask a ground agent for help when your flight lands. The airline does not want you to miss your connection, so the agent will arrange for a golf-cart ride and call the departure gate if necessary.

Don't panic if your flight runs late -- there's a high probability that enough connecting passengers will be on the flight from Chicago (being a United hub and all) that the Melbourne flight will be held.
posted by backupjesus at 12:14 PM on March 21, 2007


The biggest problem in Chicago might be in getting from the international to domestic terminals (though Toronto might be handled with the domestic flights, I'm not sure how that works). There's a free shuttle that connects the terminals and the trip will take you at least 15 minutes or so from gate to gate.

But Chicago is a United hub. They know exactly which flights are delayed and who's connecting to a flight in Australia once they get to LAX. So long as the delay is within reason they'll hold the flight for you. They're also pretty good about letting you deplane first when you're on a tight schedule.

Ultimately, there really isn't anything you can do. The flights are either on time or they aren't. If they screw up, they'll have to figure out how to get your where you're going. It might be irritating to miss a flight, but you'll get to Australia eventually.
posted by aladfar at 12:23 PM on March 21, 2007


I checked United's website, and while I couldn't find a flight that arrived in LA at 9:14pm, I did see one that arrived around that time on United. (This is flight 943, which sounds like "914" on the phone, hence the confusion?). LAX's airport schedule thing says that flight 943 today from Chicago arrives at Terminal 7, and that today's flight to Melbourne is also departing from Terminal 7! This means you won't have to go through the security checkpoint again, I think.

Map from LAX's website here; map from United here.
posted by mdonley at 12:28 PM on March 21, 2007


You'll be fine. Clear customs in Toronto. You will be in the same terminal in chicago to LAX, it'll be a quick walk, but that's about it. LAX to melbourne same thing, it's a same-terminal connection. Your bags will be checked all the way through to Melbourne. (You hand carry your bags through U.S. customs at Pearson, then drop them on a conveyor before security when you enter the terminal for the flight to Chicago). If you miss a flight because of a late connection, United will connect you. There are a pile of flights to Australia every evening out of LAX, there is another flight they will book you on, though it may not be direct to Melbourne, could be through Auckland or Sydney

Have a good trip. The connections are no sweat!
posted by defcom1 at 12:29 PM on March 21, 2007


I don't know why aladfar was marked as best answer - it is far from the best answer. No offense, aladfar - it's just that you missed the only really important information.

THE critical piece of information for you is that when you fly from Toronto to Chicago, the US port of entry is NOT in Chicago but in Toronto airport. Customs is there, so when you go through and get on your plane, you're already IN the US, for all intents and purposes. The flight from TO to Chicago is a domestic flight and therefore your flight to LA will leave from the same terminal as your flight in.

With that in mind, 3 hours is a relatively long layover in Chicago, though you'll have all the amenities and there will be no reason to leave security or anything. There will be no trouble there, particularly because most of the possible issues noted above - baggage claim/check etc - will not exist.

IN LA, as most people have been saying, Chicago is a United hub, so lots of your co-travelers to Australia will likely be on the Chicago-LA flight as well. So if there are delays leaving O'Hare, they'll know all about that in LA and will usually make sure that they adjust for you. With that in mind - an hour should be lots in LA considering that it's the same airline.

Have a great trip.
posted by mikel at 12:37 PM on March 21, 2007


If you're at all concerned about making your connection, just ask a ground agent for help when your flight lands. The airline does not want you to miss your connection, so the agent will arrange for a golf-cart ride and call the departure gate if necessary.

Let the flight attendants know, too. Most people assume that they're on their own and don't know to ask for help. The flight attendants and ground crew will generally bend over backward to get you on your connecting flight.
posted by desuetude at 1:24 PM on March 21, 2007


The flight from TO to Chicago is a domestic flight and therefore your flight to LA will leave from the same terminal as your flight in.

Almost. The pre-screening information is correct — all the major Canadian airports have pre-screening facilities for U.S. flights — so that won't be a problem. However, I believe that the Toronto-Chicago run (along with the Montreal-Chicago run) is operated by Air Canada, not by United, even though the flights are code-shared. This means that you'll be arriving in Terminal E (Air Canada owns gates E1 & E2, IIRC) and probably have to depart from terminal B or C (United's main terminals in Chicago.) Still, if you had to walk from the Air Canada arrival gates all the way to the far end of Terminal C, it would take you twenty minutes at most and you wouldn't have to leave security. Three hours for a layover will be ample.
posted by Johnny Assay at 1:40 PM on March 21, 2007


What others have said: United would rather pull out the stops to get you on your connections than have to rebook you. Take advantage of that.

Being ticketed through, either on the same airline or a partner carrier, makes a difference: United will get you to Melbourne by hook or by crook. If the worst happens, you'll probably get put up in a LAX hotel or might even get on another carrier's flight.
posted by holgate at 1:46 PM on March 21, 2007


Yes, you pre-clear US immigration and customs in Pearson.

In all likelihood, yes, but there is an infinitesimal chance that you will have to go through customs in Chicago because you don't in Toronto. (The one time that I know of this happening, the airline was Jetsgo, which, if you have any experience with them, tells you everything you need to know.) You've got three hours in Chicago, though, so you'll be fine. The real worry is whether you will have a long enough layover on the return trip, because you will have to go through U.S. customs (and security again) at your first port of entry to the U.S.
posted by oaf at 2:06 PM on March 21, 2007


For what it's worth, clearing customs at LAX is ridiculously quick. I feel totally ashamed when going through LAX as it takes 10 minutes to get all the way through, compared to 1 HOUR or more at London Heathrow.
posted by wackybrit at 2:12 PM on March 21, 2007


However, I believe that the Toronto-Chicago run (along with the Montreal-Chicago run) is operated by Air Canada, not by United, even though the flights are code-shared.

This varies throughout each day depending on which flight it is. Some of them are operated by Air Canada, and some by United.
posted by jacquilynne at 2:21 PM on March 21, 2007


I just did this flight two weeks ago except I went from the US. It's not a great time window but it's definitely manageable. Three hours in Chicago will definitely be enough. If at all possible, do what you need to do to make sure you are able to make the best of it

- Scoot to the front of the plane as people are getting off if you can
- Ask where the next gate is when you get off. Ask a human. In LA I had to go from terminal seven to terminal four (or the reverse) this is managable, but it's hard if you get going the wrong way to start with. Ask along hthe way if you're confused, there are a lot of people who can help you.
- Don't have stuff that will get you held up in customs (mostly food) so you can get in the short line.
- Make sure you got your Visa for AUS if you're not from ther, if you need one. We got held up because my sister's visa didn't have her middle name on it and her passport did. Not a big deal but annoying and preventable.

You'll have more time in LA on the way back and by then you'll be a pro. Have fun in Melbourne!
posted by jessamyn at 3:16 PM on March 21, 2007


I recently (December) flew TO to LAX and then New Zealand. All were Alliance (Air Canada, Air New Zealand etc.) flights booked by Air Canada (all had AC flight numbers). I went through customs and US customs/security in Canada. BUT I still had to pick up all my luggage at LAX and then go through US security one more time. Make sure you call the airline ahead of time and ask them to be 100% sure. I think these days everyone needs to go through US security in US if they are flying into US airport.

I had 1.5 hours and barely made it. Have easy slip-off shoes, no metal whatsoever in your pockets, a zippy baggie with all toiletries etc. if you're bringing carry-on. That way, you breeze through security.
posted by Yavsy at 7:29 PM on March 21, 2007


Pack some winter woolies too.
posted by johnny7 at 1:26 AM on March 22, 2007


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