Breaking Some Elliott Rules

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Apr 23, 2018
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#1
I don’t have a problem or complaint. I’m just throwing this out for discussion and feedback from the Elliott advocates who have much more experience than I. If this post should go to a different part of your website, please let me know. Thanks.

I broke a couple of the Elliott rules (which I normally and heartily follow) when booking this year’s annual trip to France. My routing is: outbound SFO-ATL (DL); ATL-CDG (AF). Inbound CDG-LHR (AF); LHR-SFO (VX). I booked on AF’s website because the quoted fare was about $200 less than Delta’s website for the exact same flights.

That could be a broken rule depending on how you look at it. I gave up earning Delta MQMs and MQDs, but I received EU 261 protection for the trans-Atlantic flight. (That protection reimbursed me 600 euros on my homebound trip last year.)

I definitely broke Elliott’s minimum connecting time rule. The Atlanta connection is only 50 minutes. However, I decided to take the risk because there is another AF non-stop flight three hours later and it is in an A380. Hopefully not all 500+ seats will be booked, as my flight is after Labor Day. Even if they are, I have friends in Atlanta with whom I can stay overnight.

My homebound flight is going to be interesting. I booked it this way because I have never flown Virgin Atlantic or a Boeing Dreamliner, so I can knock off two firsts with one flight. My LHR layover is 3 hours and 20 minutes, plenty long enough, I think, under current conditions. But here’s a potential issue I failed to consider – Brexit. If it occurs before my flight, I may not have any sort of protection like EU 261. Hopefully, I won’t need it. If my CDG-LHR leg on AF is seriously delayed, I’d be at least partially protected. But if it’s solely VX’s delay, I don’t at this time know. I emailed them today to see if they will have any post-Brexit policy similar to the objectives of EU 261. (For what it's worth, Delta owns 49% of Virgin Atlantic, and Air France might be buying an additional 31%. The Brits will then be in a minority position, but which airline will have the controlling interest?)

All three airlines have confirmed I am allowed two free checked bags, and this is noted in my reservation record. During booking, I selected assigned seats on all three airlines at no extra charge. Three of the four legs are priced Economy (V). CDG-LHR is Economy (L). I haven't researched these fare codes.

My ticket shows an interesting price breakdown:
  • Price excluding tax: USD $79.00
  • Taxes and surcharges: USD$535.78
  • Amount paid to Air France: USD $614.78
It seems odd that Air France (or maybe all three airlines?) will make only $78 in so-called “price.” I’m sure “surcharges” is mostly price, since I didn’t pay anything extra to Air France.

I’m comfortable with what I’ve booked because I think I’m aware of all the scheduling risks involved. I have also got the higher-level Allianz policy (CFAR under named conditions) offered on the AF website ($40). This shows separately on my ticket.

Have I missed anything in my risk analysis? I’d welcome any and all comments/words of wisdom.

Thanks.
 

Barry Graham

Administrator
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Jan 7, 2015
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#2
While I am usually less conservative about connection times than some of my colleagues here, I think that allowing 50 minutes at ATL is a mistake. For a domestic connection I personally wouldn't be so concerned (although others would) but they usually start boarding a lot earlier than 50 minutes for an international flight. I know you say there is another flight that leaves later so why not just book that one instead?

Are these flights all in the same record locator so that at least the airlines will know where you are if you are late?

Brexit is delayed until October 31st. 3 hours and 20 minutes should be more than adequate for an international connection even in Heathrow. If you are traveling after Brexit I don't know the consequences with regard to EU261 but personally I would take the flights that make the most sense and not worry about what compensation you will get.
 
Sep 19, 2015
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#3
I am in agreement with Barry with the 50 min change in Atlanta — SFO is prone to delays from weather as is Atlanta. International flights board earlier and close earlier. If the domestic flight is delayed no EU 261 compensation on outbound. Yes there is a later flight but that may mean middle seat near the bathroom.

At LHR you will have to change terminals from Air France 4 to Virgin in terminal 3 but there is enough time.

I have yet to fly Dreamliner because of overall suspicions — first battery problems — catching fires then RR engines— but I am always one of the last to even update my phone operating system.
 
Likes: VoR61
Apr 23, 2018
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#4
Thanks Barry and Christina. Yes I knew the Atlanta connection was very risky but it was the only option at such an attractive price. Otherwise I would have booked the air France nonstops SFO to CDG on the Delta website, earning my MQMs and MQDs. They certainly would have helped me maintain my medallion status for 2020. So maybe my whole scheme will turn out to be penny-wise and pound-foolish LOL.

I understand that October 31st is the drop dead date for Brexit, but it was my understanding, preps misstaken, that the UK could leave earlier if everybody got their ducks in a row earlier. Anyway, I'll post an update here once I hear back from Virgin America.
 
Jan 6, 2015
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#5
I could not locate a map that would tell me the distances, but I was able to determine that Delta uses Concourses A, B, and T, whereas Air France is in Terminals I and S. This could be a factor in terms of your walk to the connecting flight.

I suggest you call Delta and ask for an estimate of the time and distance so you have an idea of what you are facing. That information may tell you more about the risk of a missed connection . . .
 
Apr 3, 2016
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#7
I suggest you carry a couple of outfits in your carryon. With only a 50 minute connection, there is a chance your luggage will not make it onto the flight.
 
Jan 6, 2015
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#8
This web page puts some numbers to the gate-to-gate transit . . .

"The walking distance between the beginning of the Domestic Terminal to the gates of International Terminal is 10,600 feet, which is 2 miles!​
Although it depends on your speed based on your physical conditions, it would take around 40 minutes for a regular person walking speed (20 minutes per mile).​
Of course this distance (and so the required time period) is for the extreme condition. Normally no one needs to get from one terminal to the other. So it takes around 5-7 minutes between adjacent concourses (i.e. from Concourse B to C) by walking."​

Based on that information, I estimate you're looking at 15 minutes minimum to make your transfer if you walk . . .
 
Dec 12, 2014
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#9
As a Delta regular based out of Atlanta, while the connection time may seem tight, Delta has so much padding in their schedules that many flights heading to Atlanta frequently depart late, but arrive on-time or early, so I wouldn't worry about the connection. Since you are connecting, you won't be starting at the Domestic terminal, but whichever concourse the SFO flight arrives to which eliminates a chunk of the 2 mile distance. More importantly, the plane train takes around 5 minutes to get you from one end of the airport to the other, so no real reason to walk, unless you have the time (I usually do as there are sculptures between Concourse T & A, a relaxing forest between A & B and an Atlanta History mini-museum between B & C).
 

johnbaker

Verified Member
Oct 2, 2014
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#10
@GAT I'll agree with most that I think that your timing at ATL is way too tight especially given how early they close the doors on international flight. Having said that, I like your thinking and research. You've already identified a fallback that gets you there a little while later. It lowers the risk. I tend to make international flights into destinations with only one flight a day so I follow the "better to spend an extra hour in the airport than an extra 24."

As far as EU261, I wonder how that plays out if ATL - CDG is DL metal (with a AF flight #) on a AF ticket....
 
Dec 19, 2014
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#11
The issue isn't the 50 minute connection per se. It is that you have no room for error in case of a delay.
Could you not take the earlier flight from SFO to ATL to pad your connection time in ATL?
Also, what is the on-time percentage of the SFO/ATL flight?
 
May 16, 2016
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#12
50 minutes is plenty of time to make it from Terminal T (the closest terminal to security and farthest away from the International Terminal in Atlanta). I don't know why people are talking about WALKING from terminal to terminal - there is a train that runs every 3 minutes! It will get you from T to I in about 15 minutes, maximum. And if you're getting on an international flight in ATL, there will be plenty of overhead bin space for your carryon(s) so you don't have to worry about missing your boarding group. Just don't waste time stopping for food or lingering in the rest room between flights and you'll be fine. Get to your gate first and if you have a few spare minutes, go to the restroom and grab a snack from whatever outlet is closest to your gate. And if you didn't pay for a Comfort+ seat for that domestic flight, I'd suggest you do that and request the 1st class upgrade too, just to get you as close to the front of the plane as possible.
 
Likes: rasalas
Sep 19, 2015
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#13
As far as EU261, I wonder how that plays out if ATL - CDG is DL metal (with a AF flight #) on a AF ticket....[/QUOTE]. If ATL to CDG was DL metal no EU 261 — it is operating carrier — as GAT is on AF there is protection but not if SFO to ATL Is the reason to miss the flight to CDG (ie late arrival).
 

Barry Graham

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#14
I suggest you carry a couple of outfits in your carryon. With only a 50 minute connection, there is a chance your luggage will not make it onto the flight.
I don't know if that is correct. 50 minutes is tight for passengers for an international connection but I don't think the baggage loading stops earlier with international flights so I don't think there's an issue with baggage since many flights only have 50 minutes to get baggage from one plane to another. In my case I only take carry-on.
 
Sep 19, 2015
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#15
We all have a different risk tolerance — one thing positive is that GAT is aware of the possible problems and has back up plans.

I would not want to risk losing my aisle seat and being put in the middle from a misconnect— others may not feel so upset about that.

ATL is not too hard to navigate and the terminal trains are fast — only been there a few times
 

Neil Maley

Moderator
Staff Member
Advocate
Dec 27, 2014
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#17
I could not locate a map that would tell me the distances, but I was able to determine that Delta uses Concourses A, B, and T, whereas Air France is in Terminals I and S. This could be a factor in terms of your walk to the connecting flight.

I suggest you call Delta and ask for an estimate of the time and distance so you have an idea of what you are facing. That information may tell you more about the risk of a missed connection . . .
It’s not a walk- you have to take the train. If you are not at the gate by the time printed on your boarding pass, they can give your seats away.

If you have separate tickets and are traveling with checked luggage, you have to pick up your luggage and check in for your next flight and go through security. Unless you are traveling with a carry on this is a very difficult itinerary. I hope the OP will follow up and let us know how this goes
 
Likes: VoR61
Jan 6, 2015
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#19
For clarification (and working backwards):
  • Minimum 6 minutes to deplane and get to the train
  • Estimate 3 minute wait for train (9 minutes total)
  • Estimate 10 minutes to arrive at Terminal T (19 minutes total)
  • Estimate 3 minutes to arrive at departure gate (22 minutes total)
Leaving 32 minutes for boarding an international flight, if everything goes perfectly. And the dominoes fall from there. Will Delta/Air France handle the new luggage transfer? What if the checked bags never arrive at CDG? What if there is no "available" alternative flight for one or more days? What does that do to your plans in France? And what about the potential of a subsequent lost luggage claim?

Only you can decide if the risk is worth the cost savings, but for me it would be high stress all the way . . .
 
Likes: Neil Maley