Tight airline connections via IAH
June 18, 2010 6:31 AM   Subscribe

Is 45 minutes enough time to make a connecting flight to Mexico at Houston International (IAH)?

I'm flying down to Mexico City for a conference in July, and since I'm flying out of a non-hub airport (IND), I have to make a connection somewhere. The best option (in terms of price and flight time) seems to be to fly Continental via Houston. Currently I'm trying to choose between two itineraries: one which has a 47-minute layover in Houston, and one which has a nearly-two-hour layover but would require me to get up at something like 4 AM to get to IND on time. I'm something of a morning person, but even I have limits.

Would a 45-minute window in Houston be enough time to make this connection? Will I have to change terminals? I assume I won't have to deal with customs & immigration folks in Houston, right? Will my baggage make it with me? Do I have to transfer the baggage myself, since I'm going from a domestic to an international flight?

Any guidance would be appreciated. I'll get up three hours before dawn if I have to, but if I can avoid it I'd be much happier.
posted by Johnny Assay to Travel & Transportation (15 answers total)
I've had connections this short in Houston. You'll probably have to change terminals, but you won't have to go through security again, and the airport isn't that big. You might have to run for it, but if the savings on this flight are really good I'd go for it.
posted by pickypicky at 6:57 AM on June 18, 2010

My bf lives in Mexico City, and I've taken this specific flight (with Continental) several times. On the way down, you do not need to worry about transferring your luggage. You will check it at the city you fly out of and pick it up at Mexico City. It should make it without issue. (I've never had a problem.) Also on the way down you do not need to deal with immigration or customs in Houston.

(On the way back the opposite will be true. You will need to go through immigration and customs in Houston, as well as pick up your own luggage to take it through customs and then recheck it. If you are late checking into the connecting flight on the way back, your luggage may not make it)

You will have to change terminals, since it appears from my experience that international flights fly out of a different terminal there. (I have had to change terminals each time I have taken that flight, and it was in a terminal with a bunch of other international flights.)

Is it 45 minutes between when the first plane lands and the second boards or when the second takes off? If it's the latter, I think you could make 45 minutes but only if: your first flight is not late at all, you're not sitting at the back of the first plane (i.e., you are one of the first ones off), you go immediately to the next terminal without getting lost, you don't mind being one of the last to board the second plane. I think your biggest risk is that the first flight will run late. Which is a bigger hassle for you - getting up early or missing your flight to Mexico City?
posted by unannihilated at 6:59 AM on June 18, 2010

Yeah, you might have to hustle, but you should be able to make it. Be aware, thought, that the later in the day your original flight leaves, the higher the chance that it will be late arriving in Houston. So you may end up with less than 45 minutes to make your connection.
posted by MexicanYenta at 7:01 AM on June 18, 2010

if you have to change terminals, probably not. if not, yes 45 minutes is enough time. Just did a okc/houston,cancun trip, we did not change terminals on teh way there, but nearly everyone else making the same trip did. We did on the way home. Unless you can confirm your gates for the 2 flights are in the same terminal, personally i wouldn't do it. A couple on our trip had a little over an hour and walked off one plane and on to the other and they got rides in a golf cart through the terminal and then the train to the next one. It isn't so much the distance as it is the 15 minutes it takes sometimes to get off the dang plane in the first place. You will not have to see customs or immigration until you hit mexico and you will not have to transfer your own bags.
posted by domino at 7:02 AM on June 18, 2010

No, that is just a crazy idea.
posted by caddis at 7:12 AM on June 18, 2010

Best answer: I've flown out of IAH many times and, while it is indeed possible to make that connection, it would require a hefty withdrawal on your good Karma account. There are so many variables that affect making a tight connection that are not in your control and it is a big airport. I'd choose the early wakeup over the stressful travel any day.

Ask if you will be doing the customs thing in IA. If not you will be doing it in Houston and a 45 minute connection is out of teh question.
posted by cross_impact at 7:28 AM on June 18, 2010

Another consideration as a former business traveler -- the earliest flights are the most trouble free since airline scheduling problems propagate throughout the day.
posted by cross_impact at 7:30 AM on June 18, 2010

Nope, your bags and everything will transfer for you. You just just have to get your ass to your second flight.

That being said, it'll be very close. Maybe if your first flight is perfect, maybe if you're sitting at the front of the plane. IAH isn't very big, but if you have to change terminals, the sky tram can take a bit of time.

Me, being completely risk adverse, would take the ass-early flight and eat breakfast tacos at IAH while waiting. If you're willing to take a chance on missing the second flight (and possibly having to deal with the rebook shuffle), then choose that.
posted by SNWidget at 7:30 AM on June 18, 2010

If your first flight is on time or early, you'll have more than enough time. Sit at the front and don't "gate check" any bags to help with this. If you do this, though, you'll be accepting a reasonable chance (30%?) that you won't make it.
posted by deadweightloss at 8:04 AM on June 18, 2010

If both legs are with Continental you'll maybe arrive and depart Terminal E, but you could arrive Terminal C. C and E are connected by a walkway. It's about 10-15 minutes, so you've got some margin for error but not much. I wouldn't risk it, especially since E has some good food options for you to kill time with.
posted by IanMorr at 8:08 AM on June 18, 2010

I wouldn't risk it if you absolutely have to make the connection to avoid missing your meeting. If you have time to spare and can happily get the next flight, then go for it. Delays build up during a day, so the later your first flight, the more likely you'll be delayed.
posted by arcticseal at 9:35 AM on June 18, 2010

Best answer: If you like living on the edge you might try--as long as they are on the same airline and booked by the airline as one consecutive flight. If you want to enjoy yourself, unless you are an adrenaline junkie, it is nuts to risk the downside for a bit of sleep. That's what planes and airports are (for).
posted by rmhsinc at 10:18 AM on June 18, 2010

I've done a transatlantic connection (SFO -> LGW) in 20 mins at Houston, involving a terminal change and I absolutely had to leg it to get on the plane. 45 could be okay, unless your plane is delayed. You leave the country at the originating airport and your bags will be transferred.
posted by poissonrouge at 10:40 AM on June 18, 2010

I have flown from Mexico into Houston with 45 minutes between flights. We made the flight, but it involved running, a wheelchair, and a ride to the terminal where they were holding the flight for us. (During this time, I was having problems with my leg muscles violently spasming for no discernible reason. An airport employee saw the problems I was having running and put me in a wheelchair.) Being in the wheelchair got me access to special services - going through an expediated handicapped lane at customs and having transport called to bring us to the gate. If it weren't for that, we would not have made the flight. I know it will be different for you as you're leaving the country and not returning, but personally, I wouldn't risk it. You'd need everything to go perfectly in order to make it, and that rarely happens at airports.
posted by Ruki at 12:02 PM on June 18, 2010

Response by poster: The general consensus seems to be that there's a non-negligible chance of me missing my connection with only 45 minutes, and there's no price difference between the two itineraries, so I guess I'll bite the bullet and get up at (or stay up until) 4 AM to catch the appropriate airport shuttle. (This is what comes from living an hour away from the nearest airport and working for a cash-strapped public university.)

If you like living on the edge you might try--as long as they are on the same airline and booked by the airline as one consecutive flight.

Looking again at my Kayak results, it's probably somewhat telling that I can't buy the short-connection itinerary from Continental.com — only from Orbitz or Expedia. The long-connection itinerary, however, is available from Continental.com.
posted by Johnny Assay at 12:05 PM on June 18, 2010

« Older Looking for a good pair of kids sandals.   |   Help me to repair my relationship with my mother... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.