Self-connect; a new way of connecting flights?

Many travellers might associate the process of transferring flights with alliances like SkyTeam, Oneworld or Star Alliance and major hub-airport like Amsterdam Schiphol, London Heathrow or Paris Charles de Gaulle. Would you ever think of low-cost carriers and transfer?

True low-cost carriers no longer exist; Ryanair is getting more customer friendly, EasyJet offers a Frequent Flyer Program, Norwegian offers transfer for an additional fee and Vueling is part of the airline group IAG. Low-cost carriers no longer fly only from secondary airports but operate from primary airports as well. Ever since, it has become a misconception that low-cost carriers do not connect. In order to save money, travellers can self-connect between non-partnering airlines or alliances by purchasing multiple tickets. It however remains a trade-off between risks and hassle, versus savings.

€280 euro cheaper or 195 minutes faster?

A flight from Cork to Budapest is used as example. The flight is not offered directly but instead, three connecting options are available; the fastest by KLM, the cheapest by Aer Lingus and British Airways or the self-connecting alternative with Ryanair.

The fastest flight takes 4 hours and 40 minutes and costs €380. The cheapest flight costs €200 and takes 7 hours and 20 minutes. By using self-connect, two separate tickets are purchased and the total flight will cost €100 and will take 7 hours and 45 minutes. Are you willing to pay €280 for 3 hours and 5 minutes of travel time savings?

The devil is however in the detail. The first major difference compared to conventional transfer is the one who bears the risk. With a conventional indirect flight the connection is guaranteed and the luggage is taken care of.  With a self-connected flight all risk is yours.

The second major difference is the airport process. Conventional transfer takes place on airside but self-connecting requires the passenger to transfer via landside which involves a baggage reclaim and drop-off, extra security checks and queuing. Where conventional transfer might take only 45 minutes, self-connecting travellers are advised to take at least two hours.

How might self-connect going to change the industry?

Self-connect might change the way we fly. Airports can exploit the network potential by offering a self-connect product to facilitate the passenger in this process. Airlines can attract additional demand and travel agents can take the role as insurance provider. Ancillary revenues will increase for all parties, load factors might increase and travel agents benefit from double transaction fees for example.

The significance of these changes are however dependent on the actual demand. Double marginalization in case of two separate tickets and the yield management of full-service carriers limit the price gap between the two transfer formats. An OAG survey, conducted in the US, revealed that 40% of the travellers want to save at least $100. It is also interesting that about 25% would use self-connect for business travel but the majority would use self-connect when travelling individual and domestic. The short-haul network in Europe is however properly served so potential will mainly be on the long-haul routes. Conventional transfers are however coordinated at the hub-airports which causes significant travel time savings compared to the self-connect alternative. Therefore it can be concluded that the exact potential of self-connect is still unknown.

Do passengers really want this?

Do passengers really want to take the risks and accept the extra hassle to save travel expenses? The answer depends. Especially the young, experienced, price-conscious and savvy traveller embraces self-connect according to OAG. According to The Jakarta Post there is a strong relation with availability of low-cost airlines, what might explain the high number of self-connects through Dublin airport. The home base of Ryanair reported 28% self-connect seats booked last year.

The three main hurdles however are the risk of a missed connection, the hassle at the airport and the booking process which requires multiple websites and money transactions. According to OAG, passengers are willing to pay for assistance, offered by for example a one-stop check-in service for all airlines, a baggage service to check through any luggage and automatic rebooking in case of delay or cancellation. GatwickConnects and ViaMilano are good examples of self-connect services currently offered by airports. Once the self-connect process or service becomes more streamlined and available at more airports, self-connect might be the innovation in the aviation industry that passengers desire in order to travel from anywhere to everywhere.

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3 thoughts on “Self-connect; a new way of connecting flights?

  1. Nice topic. Discrete Choice Modelling can be a good research method to analyse the travel behaviour of the self-connecting passengers in order the get more insight in the trade-off between risks and hassle versus savings. Would be nice to have more research being done on this topic. This can indeed become the new way of travelling.

  2. Hi everyone,

    Very interested issue indeed. Do you have any other example of airports currently implementing self-connecting assistance services for long-haul /low cost routes?
    Thanking you,

  3. While this may be another trend to confront the classic airline model airports need to be careful they don’t undermine long time ailing customer base. I can foresee this new model of self Hibbing as serving only the very price sensitive segment of the. Traditional airlines will have to counter this with their own hybrid offerings which they surely will develop. I see the biggest potential for self- Hubbing with travelers only carrying cabin luggage.

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