How are, or will, the United gates be set up at IAH in December 2011?
September 9, 2011 5:11 AM   Subscribe

Planning a trip from DCA to ONT via IAH in December, projected carrier is United. Projected time to change planes in Houston is 35 minutes. Is it doable or are we asking for trouble? (We're fully mobile and don't mind rushing but we've no experience with Houston.) There's no history (that I can find) of the flights that are offered using United.
posted by Man with Lantern to Travel & Transportation around Houston, TX (12 answers total)
Sounds pretty close to me, particularly if there's a delay out of DCA. I've missed similar short connections coming out of DCA before.
posted by Cocodrillo at 5:16 AM on September 9, 2011

When I recently had to change planes on United at IAH there was a huge mixup with boarding passes and I barely made it; I had an hour. 35 min seems to be cutting it pretty close.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 5:23 AM on September 9, 2011

I would be surprised if they would even let you purchase the tickets with that kind of connection. Most airlines seem to have some kind of internal constraints regarding connecting times for flights and they will at least flag it during the ticket purchase process if the connecting time is perceived as too short.
posted by needled at 5:59 AM on September 9, 2011

@needled - Since it's the United website offering the flights, my initial thought was that the gates would be adjacent. All things being equal, 35 minutes is not difficult at most airports - assuming, as Chesty and Cocodrillo mention, flights are on time and there's no issue with boarding passes.
posted by Man with Lantern at 6:02 AM on September 9, 2011

I've changed planes in Houston with 45 minutes and it was fine (carrier was continental), though I had to walk at a brisk pace and they were halfway done boarding when I got there. If there are no delays and the change is in the same terminal you should be fine. If you absolutely can't be late at your destination I'd give yourself more time. My experience in general with short layovers is that sometimes your luggage doesn't make it. In general this is not a disaster coming home, but going away this can ruin the first few days of a trip.
posted by hylaride at 6:03 AM on September 9, 2011

@Man with Lantern Usually airlines share terminals for connecting flights, but sometimes not. This is especially true at large airports with lots of international flights. Also, some airports have rather large terminals (Miami or Heathrow come to mind).

It seems Continential at Houston is spread out (this may be due to their recent merger with united) and I was lucky that I got to stay in the same one:

So I'd double check.
posted by hylaride at 6:12 AM on September 9, 2011

tl;dr version: I wouldn't do this. It's possible in theory but there are too many variables.

How much are you willing to stress over it? IAH is a large airport, and UA/CO is spread across three terminals.

Terminal B is just the little jets, so if your plane is an ERJ that's the one you'll fly in/out of . If both your planes are ERJ's (which is unlikely given the routes but it's worth checking) then you can easily make the connection.

It gets more complicated if you've got a full-size aircraft, as then the worst case is that you land at one end of terminal C and have to get to the other end of terminal E. If you're sitting in the front rows of the incoming flight you'll probably make it, if you're in the back then you're going to get mighty freaked out as the people in front of you dawdle along... In such a case the fastest way across the airport is by talking one of the electric cart people into giving you a ride.

I've made it from Terminal B to Terminal E in 30 minutes, but that worked because the little jets empty out faster and I didn't have a carry-on. The other way is riskier.
posted by Runes at 6:33 AM on September 9, 2011

FYI, the same route today had the DCA-IAH leg arriving in Terminal C and the IAH-ONT leg leaving from Terminal E -- pretty much Runes's worst-case scenario.
posted by katemonster at 6:44 AM on September 9, 2011

One other variable, if you are transferring to a regional jet (small) boarding starts 20 minutes before departure as opposed to a large mainline jet. Also, United and Continental are merging. Does Continental have flights with better connecting times?
posted by Xurando at 7:11 AM on September 9, 2011

It's also worth noting that the United/Continental merger is breeding some unhappy employees. There have been staffing issues that make planes run late, unwillingness to give a little extra customer service (like holding the plane you're running for), and general grumpiness on United/Continental flights I've been on the last several months. Sometimes, tight connections only work by the grace of helpful airline employees, which are in short supply now on that airline.
posted by *s at 7:56 AM on September 9, 2011

Having made a trip through IAH, I'm thinking you want more time. I had to go from one end of C to the end of E, crossing most of the airport, and it took me 25 minutes of a 30-minute (technically, 60 minutes, but they start boarding at 30 minutes beforehand) space. If we'd been late, or if it had been at a busier time, I think there might have been some issues.

(That said, I had a different flight that landed in E and I had to walk across the corridor to my takeoff gate. Had the chance to get some food and relax, which was very nice.)

It really depends on the gate locations as to whether or not you might have a problem, and I don't think there's a good way to know this until closer to the actual flight.
posted by mephron at 1:12 PM on September 9, 2011

Thanks for the responses, AskMe. We made reservations on an earlier flight so we could have more time to make the connection. If I remember, I'll post a comment on how things looked after our trip. (Maybe start the new year with it.)
posted by Man with Lantern at 9:27 AM on October 12, 2011

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