When we travel, I try to eliminate as many pain points as possible. When booking flights, that means trying to take non-stop flights that leave earlier in the day. The basis of that logic is that a non-stop flight has no chance of a missed connection due to flight delays (from either your flight or the connection.) Flights earlier in the day are less likely to suffer from a cascading delay, and there’s a somewhat lower chance of flight crews timing out during a delay. It also means we miss the daily Florida thunderstorms in the summer.
However, there are times when I can’t find an acceptable non-stop routing and I have to look for connecting flights. For example, I couldn’t find a non-stop on one of our preferred airlines on our upcoming trip to Las Vegas.
I started looking for options and American has several one-stop itineraries connecting through most of its hub cities including Miami, Dallas, Charlotte, Philadelphia, Phoenix, and Chicago.
I started looking for trips using our AAdvantage miles and a shorter trip through Chicago caught my eye.
16K miles for a one-way cross-country ticket isn’t a bad price in this market. I looked to see what the cash price was for the same flight.
The ticket costs $215, which gives a CPP value of 1.35 which isn’t bad and about average for a domestic flight with American.
But I noticed something else on the cash booking page that wasn’t there on the award booking—the red hazard signal about the connection time.
Clicking on the flight details shows a connection of 35 minutes. I don’t know about you, but I’m not confident that I will make a 35-minute connection at O’Hare. That assumes many things go right, and if one thing goes wrong, you’re screwed.
That might lead you to ask the minimum amount of time you need to transfer planes at O’Hare, or any airport. It turns out that airlines don’t freely publish that information. You might be able to find it by digging around the airline’s fare system, but for the average traveler, it’s a mystery. The most recent posts with Google say that AA’s MCT (Minimum Connection Time) at O’Hare is 40 minutes.
The average traveler would think the airline wouldn’t sell them a ticket that has a fair chance of resulting in a missed connection. Reservation systems are in place to prevent passengers from booking a ticket that is impossible to complete.
Which brings me to the question, “Why does American Airlines warn cash-paying customers about the short connection time but not those booking with points?” Honestly, I have no answer to that one. Do cash customers have more leverage to complain about a missed connection? Does American feel that people booking with points are more knowledgeable and don’t need to be warned about close connections? It may simply be an oversight on the AA website.
In the current environment, I’d never book this ticket. Maybe, pre-COVID, if the price was right, I’d look to see how many flights there were after mine and how difficult it would be to get to my destination if I misconnected. If there were flights every hour and 5 more flights that day, I might take the chance. But today, with airplanes full, reduced schedules and regular cancellations, I’m not going to take that chance.
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