From January, British Airways will increase its minimum connection times at Heathrow by 25%.
Minimum Connection Times (often referred to as MCTs) govern the shortest time available for bookable flight connections. These are set by airlines and airports to ensure you have the best chances of making it from one flight to the next and to prevent you from booking flights where you (and your baggage!) would not have enough time to transfer to the next flight.
Minimum connection times can vary by airport and airline, with ticketing websites taking into account any MCTs as part of your itinerary.
The MCT is calculated as the period between the scheduled arrival of your first flight and the scheduled departure of your second.
At most airports, it is between 30 and 90 minutes, depending on whether you are connecting to a domestic or international flight, as well as the size of the terminal. At Munich, for example, German effiiciency means that they can offer a Minimum Connection Time of 30 minutes.
British Airways increases Minimum Connection Time to 75 minutes
At present, British Airways operates an MCT of 60 minutes for connections at its hub in London Heathrow. This increases to 90 minutes if you need to change terminal.
This is changing in early January. British Airways has already started emailing passengers whose flights no longer meet the MCT guidelines:
“From 9th January 2024 we are changing our connection times at London Heathrow. Due to this change, your upcoming British Airways connection at London Heathrow will no longer be possible. We are in the process of reviewing your booking to ensure you can make your connection and if required we will look to rebook your connection/s free of charge on your behalf.”
The change is likely due to an increasing number of passengers failing to make their connections due to delays at security, immigration or simply delayed arriving aircraft
The change only applies to passengers connecting from:
- a long haul flight to another long haul, short haul or domestic flight
- a domestic flight to a short haul or long haul flight
Minimum Connection Times from one domestic flight to another remain unchanged at 60 minutes. Inter-terminal MCTs remain at 90 minutes.
How this affects existing bookings
As noted in BA’s email, it is currently reviewing existing bookings to ensure that you have enough time to make it to your second flight.
British Airways has confirmed to us that anyone with a minimum connection of less than 75 minutes from the 9th January will be rebooked onto another flight. This will be free of charge.
BA was unable to tell us how many passengers would be affected, although it is likely to be a relatively small figure as most people prefer to book flights with slightly longer connection times when they can.
What about new bookings?
Any flights now bookable will take into account the new minimum connection times and you will only be offered flights at Heathrow with at least 75 minutes between arrival and departure.
You won’t be able to book a flight with an MCT of less than 75 minutes, even if there is an earlier flight departing.
In the medium term it is likely that timetable adjustments will be required to ensure that the most popular connecting routes are not forcing passengers into multi-hour waits – something that is likely to ensure they book elsewhere.
This won’t be straightforward, given that British Airways does not operate a ‘bank’ structure like Emirates or Qatar Airways with long haul arrivals landing (and later departing) back to back in short bursts.
British Airways clearly feels that more customers than it would like are missing their connections and – with the underlying problems seemingly unfixable – is increasing Minimum Connection Times in order to reduce misconnects.
It does mean that British Airways now has one of the longest minimum connection times at its hub at Heathrow versus its competitors. Paris Charles de Gaulle has a 60 minute connection time, whilst at Schiphol it is 50 minutes. Things are even better in Zurich (40 minutes) and Munich (30 minutes).
A 75-minute same-terminal minimum connection time suggests that Heathrow and British Airways are still struggling to ramp up services in the post-pandemic environment. At least passengers in the future should have a better chance of making their flight.
If your booking has been affected you may wish to join the discussion on our forums.
How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (September 2023)
As a reminder, there are various ways of earning Avios points from UK credit cards. Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses!
In February 2022, Barclaycard launched two exciting new Barclaycard Avios Mastercard cards with a bonus of up to 25,000 Avios. You can apply here.
You qualify for the bonus on these cards even if you have a British Airways American Express card:
There are two official British Airways American Express cards with attractive sign-up bonuses:
You can also get generous sign-up bonuses by applying for American Express cards which earn Membership Rewards points.
Run your own business?
We recommend Capital On Tap for limited companies. You earn 1 Avios per £1 which is impressive for a Visa card, along with a sign-up bonus worth 10,500 Avios.
You should also consider the British Airways Accelerating Business credit card. This is open to sole traders as well as limited companies and has a 30,000 Avios sign-up bonus.
EDIT: Applications for this card are temporarily suspended due to IT issues with the British Airways On Business SME loyalty scheme.
There are also generous bonuses on the two American Express Business cards, with the points converting at 1:1 into Avios. These cards are open to sole traders as well as limited companies.
Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which earn Avios. This includes both personal and small business cards.