When traveling, you generally want to avoid layovers as much as possible because they extend the overall length of your trip. But from time to time, you might have no other choice. If you have a long layover coming up soon, you might wonder why some layovers are so long.
Some layovers are so long to give passengers time to board, which is especially true for international flights. The runway could also be closed if it’s nighttime. Layovers can also be long to ensure the plane is as full as possible, giving people arriving from other flights time to catch the flight.
If you want to learn more about why some layovers are so long, keep reading this article. I will discuss the main reasons in more detail, and I will also discuss how to avoid long layovers and what is considered a long layover.
1. To Give Passengers Enough Time to Board
It wouldn’t be wise to have a short layover (for example, 30 minutes), especially for international flights, because many passengers would miss the connecting flight.
Here are some reasons why passengers might miss their connecting flight in this instance:
- If their first flight was delayed.
- If the passengers take a long time to disembark the first plane.
- If the security/immigration lines are long or slow in the layover destination.
Thankfully, long layovers help reduce the chances of people missing their flights due to the reasons above, which would be troublesome for the airline and passengers. It’s why you’re more likely to have a long layover when traveling internationally rather than domestically.
2. The Runway May Be Closed
Runways don’t operate 24/7, so you should consider this when wondering why some layovers are so long. For example, you will likely have to wait a few hours if you arrive at the layover airport late evening or night because the next flights won’t depart until morning. So although flights can fly in the air at night, they can’t take off or land during this time.
These restrictions are known as airport curfews, and they allow residents living near the airport to sleep without hearing noisy airplanes all night.
If your layover occurs overnight and you don’t need a visa for your current location, you could consider booking a night at a hotel near the airport to get some much-needed shut-eye.
3. To Ensure the Airplane Is As Full as Possible
Airlines need to ensure they get as many passengers as possible on the flights–otherwise, they may lose money. A Boeing 747 can burn 36,000 gallons (150,000 liters) of fuel on a 10-hour flight, so as you can imagine, this is highly costly. If an airline doesn’t sell many seats, these costs can become detrimental to the business.
You must remember that your flight isn’t the only one with people getting on the next flight. Other flights will be coming from different destinations throughout the day, and many of the people on those flights might be scheduled to board your connecting flight.
So, let’s say your flight arrives at the layover airport at 9 am, but your connecting flight isn’t until 10 pm. You might be thinking–why on earth is this layover so long? Well, during your layover, plenty of other flights will come in containing passengers with the same connecting flight.
So, lengthy layovers are often necessary to accommodate people arriving at the airport at different times, making the airline more likely to sell all the seats on the plane. It’s more convenient and makes the most sense to do it this way.
4. Airlines and Airports Have Busy Schedules
Airports are busy, with flights coming in and out all day in major hub cities like New York, London, and Paris. Plus, many airlines operate out of the same airports, so all these airlines’ flights must be organized accordingly to ensure no overlapping occurs.
A commercial plane can fly multiple flights each day. Therefore, you’re not always going to get the most conveniently-timed layover, as you must consider how busy the airport is and how many things the airline must consider when making flight schedules.
If you want to learn more about how many flights a commercial plane can fly every day, read my other article here.
Here are some of the things that can affect your layover time due to a busy airport and airline schedule:
- Different flight schedules throughout the day.
- Delays. The plane for your connecting flight can easily become delayed on its way, extending the time of your layover even further.
- Cleaning and fuelling time. Fuelling a Boeing 747 for a long-haul flight can take 52 minutes with two fuel trucks. But with only one truck, it can take over an hour. On top of that, the aircraft needs to be cleaned and serviced thoroughly, which can take a lot of time if it’s a large plane.
- Airline staff schedules. Airlines must plan flights around staff schedules, including pilots and flight attendants. This scheduling can sometimes be one of the reasons why a layover is so long.
How To Avoid Long Layovers
Unfortunately, long layovers are unavoidable in some circumstances. Most people choose this option because it works out cheaper due to the inconvenience, so if you want to avoid a long layover, you may need to spend more on a direct or non-stop flight. Depending on the time of year and how many seats the airline is selling, booking a direct flight can cost a lot more than a layover flight.
Also, there may not be an option for a direct or non-stop flight to your chosen destination.
Shop Around To See Your Options
Before booking your flights, shop around to ensure you’re getting the best deal and most convenient itinerary. For example, you might be able to book your first flight with one airline and the second flight with a different airline with a shorter layover time.
However, be careful with this method because you’ll likely have to collect your checked baggage in the layover airport and check it in again if you book with two different airlines. Whereas you wouldn’t have to do this if both flights were with the same airline.
Consider a Stopover Instead
A stopover is longer than a layover, so you’re probably wondering why you would choose that over a layover. Some people prefer stopovers because it gives them more time to rest before the next flight. You can stay in a hotel or explore the area, which can feel like its own little vacation.
As a result, your trip may be more enjoyable, even if it takes longer to reach your final destination.
What Is Considered a Long Layover?
Anything over 9 or 10 hours is generally considered a long layover, but some people may have different opinions. For example, one person might consider 4 hours a long layover, and someone else might consider it a short layover.
If your stop lasts longer than 24 hours, it’s a stopover rather than a layover.
Layovers are long for different reasons. For example, passengers getting off their first flight may need time to go through security and immigration, so airlines must consider this when planning flight schedules and layovers.
Additionally, most runways are closed at night, so you’ll need to wait until morning for your connecting flight if you arrive late in the evening or at night. Long layovers also help flights sell out because they allow people on multiple flights during the daytime to catch the flight.