Q: I've seen a lot in the last few days about the huge confusion being caused by new security measures at airports and the lack of consistency and transparency about what rules are applied where. I'm booked on a two-leg international flight with the stopover in San Francisco. I'm not worried about the security lines for my outbound flight, because I can get there in plenty of time, but on my return flight when I will change planes in San Francisco, I'll have to collect my luggage, go through customs, and then recheck my bags and go through security again to continue on to my final destination. The layover is about 2 1/2 hours, which I assume would be long enough if there are no problems, but I'm worried I'm going to get held up somewhere and miss my flight. In that case, whose responsibility is it? Will the airline (United) rebook me for a later flight? Should I assume the worst ahead of time and try to change to a flight with a longer layover now?
A: I think it's always a good idea to build in as long a layover as possible when your itinerary involves getting off an international flight and transferring to a domestic flight. There's no telling how long custom and immigration lines will be, or how long security lines will be for your onward flight, or how long it will take for your bags to arrive at the carousel, or how late your flight will be. What if you're pulled aside for additional screening, or you leave something at security and have to go find it? Anything can happen. To us, 2 1/2 hours is inviting a nail-biter experience, and why end your trip with added stress? If you do miss your connection, United will try to put you on the next flight out, but who knows when that will be or if there will be available seats? When some people see they have a 4- or 5-hour layover between such flights, they complain and moan about idle time in the airport; when I see such a layover, I feel relieved. So yes, I'd suggest asking for a longer layover and enjoy the airport. You can discover things to do and see, places to grab a nice meal, and where to shop by visiting flysfo.com.