When is an airport stopover too long?
Six hours in Bangkok? I can deal with that.
On my most recent trip overseas, I had a six-hour stopover in Bangkok airport. You can see me looking rather too cheerful about this prospect in the picture. Six hours in Bangkok and the world's my oyster.
Given that a direct flight from Sydney to the Thai capital only takes 10 hours or so, that might seem like a rather inappropriate reaction.
But the reality when booking flights is that you have to strike a balance between what the schedule allows, what's affordable and what is realistically possible.
In this case, I'd scored a very cheap combo business class ticket with Malaysia and Finnair (I wrote about the Finnair leg last week). For that, I was happy to settle for a longer wait at the airport. And since it was a business-class ticket, I also had lounge access, which helps to pass the time (shower, anyone?).
My own personal limit for a stopover is somewhere around the eight-hour mark. At that point, you start thinking you need a hotel room and a nap. Some airlines do offer that as an option.
At the other extreme, any interchange of less than an hour between flights makes me nervous. By the time you've landed and cleared security (again), it's often a race to get to the right gate. And if you're having trouble getting from gate A to gate B, how will your checked luggage cope?
So I generally favour at least two hours for a transit, even if everything is with the same airline. If I'm changing airlines, I'd prefer a bit more time. That also allows for delays in the first craft taking off.
The only real exception is if I'm continuing on the same craft, which admittedly is often the case when flying from Australia to Europe. I know if I'm on QF1 from Sydney to London that it doesn't matter if we're running late.
I might also consider a shorter link in an airport that I trust for efficiency. Singapore's Changi is the top of that list. Interestingly, Changi also offers a free tour of the city if your stopover is longer than 5.5 hours.
If money is tight, cheaper flights often involve a longer stopover. There are periodic bargains to be had flying to the USA with Fiji Airways via Nadi, or to Europe with China Southern via Guangzhou. Both can involve longer stops than I'd personally tolerate, but at lower prices.
Just remember: if you're waiting for 10 hours at the airport, you'll probably end up paying over the odds for airport food. Factor that into your calculations before you buy.
Angus Kidman's Findings column looks at new developments and research that help you save money, make wise decisions and enjoy your life more. It appears regularly on Finder.
Picture: Angus Kidman