Covid-19: Impacts to MinCTs and connection building

Airlines and airports have to consider measures to minimize the transmission of COVID-19 between travelers, airport staff and crew members. These actions may increase the time passengers have to spend at the airport before they board a flight or while waiting for the connecting flight.

The defaults for Minimum Connecting Times (MinCT) at airports will change to cover the COVID-19 measures. Based on the analysis of latest published schedules, it appears that approximately 20% of current flight connections will not be possible in future.

Create and keep feasible and attractive flight connections

To counter this issue, airlines will seek to optimize their schedule connectivity. This may be done in two different ways: either by adjusting departure and arrival times of the flights or by filing for so-called “MinCT Exceptions”. Both approaches have drawbacks. Moving the flight times will have to consider aircraft rotations and airport slot availability. Exceptions to standard Minimum Connecting Times have to be feasible and possible to deliver in reality. However, the second approach can be done in cooperation with the airports and partner airlines to ensure the feasibility of the shortened MinCTs.

What is a MinCT exception?

A MinCT exception allows airline to deviate from the default MinCT at the airport, because specific measures have been put in place to speed up the transfer of the passenger and the baggage from the incoming to the outgoing flight.

This has a direct impact on the amount of published MinCT rules. For example, OAG publishes nowadays approx. 150,000 MinCT rules (defaults and exceptions) to GDS and system providers frequently. It is expected that this number will significantly increase in the next months due to the airlines’ intention to optimize their flight connections with partners under consideration of the “New Normal”.

Why MinCT exception filing? 

Let's assume, that the default MinCT for an airport is 45 minutes. Airline A as incoming airline has agreed with Airline B as outgoing airline a shorter transfer time under certain circumstances at the connection airport e.g. both flights are at the same terminal as a simple rule. In fact, the rules might be much more complex depending on incoming and outgoing aircraft types, flight numbers, involved cities, countries or states, and airport conditions. The agreed MinCT exception between Airline A and Airline B, for example, would be only 35 minutes. A lower MinCT leads at the end to a better elapsed time of the whole flight with the impact that this flight connection will most probably get a higher ranking in the display of the booking channel. And a higher place at the top list in the booking channel means a higher chance to get more passenger bookings. 

Manual consideration of MinCT rules is impossible

The impacts due to Covid-19 in the next months (and potentially years) are obvious: there is a onetime effort to coordinate the own “new” schedule with “new“ partner schedule, and, there will be an increased, permanent effort to adjust these schedules among each other due to the instability of schedules. In addition to the volatile schedules, there will be massive changes at the airport conditions with impacts to the MinCT rules because of hygiene and preventive measurements. It is expected that not only the – nowadays available – MinCT default rules will change, there will be also a huge additional amount of MinCT exceptions. Every airline will try to find ideal flight connections with lowest elapsed time to get more passenger bookings.

It is understandable that there is a point at which it becomes impossible to manage planned connections (e.g. interline or codeshares) manually under consideration of the rising amount of MinCT rules and the instablitily of the schedules. 

Schedule and codeshare planning experts need technical support in dealing with this new arising challenge: A powerful software supporting the creation and sustainable management of flight connections day-by-day.