I’m not a fan of connecting flights and try my best to book a direct flight as often as possible. Unfortunately, my London deal included connecting in Manchester UK and I had fingers crossed that all would go well as I wasn’t familiar with the airport and had one hour and fifteen minutes to get from the international arrivals to domestic departures. I called British Airways before booking the ticket to confirm it was a legal and doable connection time as I had my doubts, especially as BA tend to close the gates 1/2 hour before departure. My guess was that I had about 45, maybe 50 minutes to do the connection. For me, too many things can go wrong trying to make a connection – delays at the airport (gate, equipment, FAA, weather), on the plane (equipment, FAA, weather, long runway waits, passengers) and when you try to deplane (seat in back, slow passengers exiting, no jet way, stairs to transfer busses, etc.). All of these are before you deal with the new airport obstacles – long walks, bus shuttles or trains to change terminals, additional security lines or the immigration lines. Add the fact that it’s an overnight flight and jet lag is slowly seeping in as I didn’t sleep and stress levels run high. I was comforted (at first) because I was going from Terminal 3 to Terminal 3 (or so I thought) but disappointed by lack of online information on how to connect from AA to BA in MAN.
Arriving in Manchester, UK
My American Airlines flight from Philadelphia would arrive in Manchester (UK) at Terminal 3, ten minutes early, at 8:30 a.m. I had already sorted my onward British Airways flight at 9:55 a.m. by checking in via the BA app for my boarding pass as I was traveling carry on (suitcase and backpack) only. With tight connections, I won’t check bags. When we arrived, the business class passengers were let off first so I had a good head start into my ticking time clock.
Manchester Airport – The Transfer Lounge
It felt like a long walk just to get to the terminal before entering the airport arrivals toward immigration. As I was connecting to a domestic flight, I had to look for the “connections” signs. These were a bit confusing but then I saw the door on the right with the yellow sign. Had I been preoccupied talking or not aware, I would have missed it as I was first off plane and not following anyone. There were stairs and a lift (elevator). With bags, I chose the lift to go down to Level 1 (I wasn’t in mood to carry suitcase down steps).
Once I arrived on the lower level, I found the waiting room (bussing lounge). The connections terminal waiting room has big yellow signs with instructions as well as television monitors. I didn’t care about any of that, I was looking for the bus to transfer us to the connections center in Terminal 1 despite the fact that I was in Terminal 3 and my flight was scheduled to leave from Terminal 3. The bus was scheduled every ten minutes and it was a few minutes late so I was antsy.
The Manchester Airport Bus Ride
The driver arrived and the seven of us (two German couples and a couple of guys from Eastern Europe and me) showed our boarding passes for the connecting flights and were quickly on the bus and driven to the connections terminal. He was very nice to welcome us and answer my questions. The bus drove for about five minutes airside to drop us off at the connections terminal.
The Connections Terminal
While the group with backpacks only used the stairs up, I used the lift and despite being first off the bus was last in the security line. Lucky for us, we were the only people at security so no need to wait in the rope off queue area. Again you need to show your boarding pass so it’s key to have this before you leave the U.S. either the paper version or e-version.
Each person had a security issue that caused the screening to go slowly that I wanted to scream “seriously how do you not know to take off your belt?” and “are you kidding me, you are taking his toiletries out of the plastic bag to put into your UK plastic bag” with a dash of obscenities. After ten plus minutes, it was my turn and I quickly put my bags up, laptop out, liquids out, etc. and breezed through only to get stopped by another security person. He asked for my boarding pass and told me to wait on the right for immigration. The rest of the group was ok to proceed as they held E.U. passports but I had to sit and wait. The security officer called the Immigration officer to come to the desk.
Manchester Airport Immigration
At Heathrow, the immigration line is never fun as it seems unending groups of people teem in from all directions and queue up for the long wait. In Manchester Airport, it was just me and the immigration officer once he arrived. With just me, had time to ask me more questions than normal. My answers: Holiday (Vacation) ….for my birthday…..Accountant….friend in the UK….I used to work for a city firm…..etc. Once I answered the questions, I was free to exit into the terminal to go find my gate. Surprisingly, the bus drove me from Terminal 3 to Terminal 1, yet I exited into Terminal 3?
Manchester to London on British Airways
I exited at 9:10 a.m. across from Gate 14 and wasn’t sure whether to turn right or left to Gate 18 so of course, I turned right only to realize I needed to go left. I quickly found the bathroom first as I had skipped my normal off the plane stop so I didn’t lose connection time. I then found the gate nearby and bought water (for £2) from a vending machine (since I had to throw out my Smartwater I brought in Philly) and watched the plane arrive emptying its passengers. I had made it just in time as the gate began to fill with passengers who had walked from the waiting lounge at Gate 150 (in the UK they don’t announce gates until close to departure). British Airways now has lines (queues) set up so I was able to stand in the priority line as a BA Bronze member. BA started the boarding process at 9:23 a.m. for the 9:55 a.m. flight.
Connecting in Manchester from AA to BA
I was frantic with the connection and made it because all was on time. It took less than an hour (about 40 minutes) to go from plane to gate but if I had been in coach waiting to deplane, encountered a crowded security line or waited longer for the immigration officer, I probably would have missed my connection. One hour and fifteen minutes was wishful thinking and this time it worked, next time, I might connect with the later flight and relax in the lounge first.