DFW minimum connection times are lower than you may think

DFW minimum connection time

I guess I never realized it before, but it was on my last trip to Dallas that I realized that DFW minimum connection times have been trending lower over the past 5 to 10 years. The Dallas-Fort Worth airport may be intimidatingly huge, but it’s awfully efficient.

In my opinion (and personal experience), the minimum time for domestic to domestic connections at DFW is 40 minutes. If you’re connecting from an international flight to domestic flight, I wouldn’t be comfortable recommending anything less than 2 hours.

For those of you who enjoy living on the edge, you’ll be happy to know that you could probably even get away with shorter connection times (I’ll explain how in a moment). For those of you prone to stomach ulcers, I suggest adhering to the minimum connection times I stated above.

What is the minimum connection time for domestic flights at DFW?

As I’ve already mentioned, a connection time of 40 minutes is about as low as you can get at DFW. The problem is that it’s a huge airport, and even when taking advantage of the inter-terminal train, it takes a while to get from one end to the other.

However, in my personal experience, it’s not very often that I’ll have a connecting flight at DFW which is at the opposite end of the airport.

Yes, it happens sometimes, but for the most part things are fairly well organized when it comes to domestic flights (especially if you’re flying the same airline).

DFW C concourse
Good news! The terminals here at DFW are very wide, so you’ll have no issues at all running through the place at top speed (shedding luggage and other unnecessary weight) as you run to make your connection.

What is the minimum connection time for international flights at DFW?

International flights at the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport are a bit more complicated. The good news is that most of them will arrive into Concourse D, which is conveniently connected with all of the other terminals. The bad news is that passport control and customs at DFW is notoriously slow at times, and it’s impossible to know how long it’s going to take to get through it all.

Connecting FROM an international flight

Even though I have already stated that 2 hours is the minimum time that you would need to connect from an international flight to a domestic flight at DFW, more is better. Whenever I find myself in that situation, I try for 5 hours. At least.

Not to scare you or anything, but it has taken me over 3 hours to get through passport control and customs at DFW before. I missed my connecting flight, but thankfully, American Airlines automatically put me on the next flight headed to my destination without any issues.

Not showing up for a flight because you were stuck in customs isn’t a big deal at DFW. The gate agents know what the situation is like in customs (whether it’s busy or not), and they’ll simply rebook you on the next flight if it looks like you’re stuck.

Connecting TO an international flight

Going from a domestic flight to an international flight at this airport is just as easy as it is going from a domestic flight to a domestic flight. All of the terminals at DFW are connected, meaning that you will not have to clear security to enter each one.

Once you clear one security checkpoint, you’ll have access to all terminals. Therefore, my claim of a 40 minute minimum connection time at DFW still holds firm when headed out on an international flight. It’s totally doable.

A brief overview of the terminal layout at the Dallas / Ft Worth International Airport (DFW)

DFW was one of the first major airports I ever experienced when I first started flying, and I still remember the feeling of awe once we landed and we are taxiing to the gate. DFW is the 2nd largest airport in the United States (in terms of overall land size), and it certainly feels like it once you’re inside trying to find your way around.

There are six terminals at the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. They are all connected via walkways and a very convenient (and well-timed) above-ground train system.

DFW terminal map
The layout of DFW is relatively simple. A word of warning though: it’s H U G E.

Note: the minimum connection times that I’ve stated so far assume that you use the train instead of walking.

The reason why short connection times are ok at DFW

If the above-ground connection train didn’t exist, minimum connection times Dallas / Fort Worth would be triple (or even quadruple) what they are today. It’s the only way to get around the airport in a relatively quick manner, and it’s absolutely vital to take advantage of it whenever you’re faced with a very short layover.

Note that the train stations for each terminal are located in the center of the terminal on the second level. They are accessible by either an escalator or an elevator.

DFW 2nd level connection train station
Heading up the escalator to the 2nd level to catch the inter-terminal train before my final flight on the American Airlines MD-80. I may or may not have done this twice (just for fun).
DFW Skylink train
Waiting for the train doesn’t involve much waiting. If one is pulling away just as you arrive (I promise you it’ll happen that way), don’t worry – another one will arrive within 2 minutes.

If you’re flying American Airlines, there’s another reason why short connection times are OK: they will usually hold the flight for you If they know that you are coming from a very tightly-timed connecting flight.

That doesn’t always work if there are many flights headed to your destination city, because they’ll just put you on the next one. If it’s the last flight of the day to your destination, they’ll usually hold it rather than incurring the expense of putting you up in a hotel for the night.

Travel time between all terminals at DFW

Looking back on my flight log, I flown into and out of DFW 36 times so far. I know a thing or two about the time it takes to traverse this massive airport. Let’s take a closer look at exactly how long it’ll take you to get from one concourse to another:

From Concourse A

  • To anywhere within concourse A: 1-7 minutes to walk (4 minutes via the train)
  • To concourse B: 10 minutes to walk, 5 minutes via the train
  • To concourse C: 12 minutes to walk, 8 minutes via the train
  • To concourse D: 14 minutes to walk, 10 minutes via the train
  • To concourse E: 16 minutes to walk, 12 minutes via the train
  • To concourse F: 15 minutes via the train

From Concourse B

  • To anywhere within concourse B: 1-7 minutes to walk (4 minutes via the train)
  • To concourse A: 10 minutes to walk, 5 minutes via the train
  • To concourse C: 10 minutes to walk, 5 minutes via the train
  • To concourse D: 12 minutes to walk, 8 minutes via the train
  • To concourse E: 14 minutes to walk, 10 minutes via the train
  • To concourse F: 14 minutes via the train

From Concourse C

  • To anywhere within concourse C: 1-7 minutes to walk (4 minutes via the train)
  • To concourse A: 12 minutes to walk, 8 minutes via the train
  • To concourse B: 10 minutes to walk, 5 minutes via the train
  • To concourse D: 10 minutes to walk, 5 minutes via the train
  • To concourse E: 12 minutes to walk, 8 minutes via the train
  • To concourse F: 13 minutes via the train

From Concourse D

  • To anywhere within concourse D: 1-7 minutes to walk (4 minutes via the train)
  • To concourse A: 14 minutes to walk, 10 minutes via the train
  • To concourse B: 12 minutes to walk, 8 minutes via the train
  • To concourse C: 10 minutes to walk, 5 minutes via the train
  • To concourse E: 10 minutes to walk, 5 minutes via the train
  • To concourse F: 12 minutes via the train

From Concourse E

  • To anywhere within concourse E: 1-7 minutes to walk (4 minutes via the train)
  • To concourse A: 16 minutes to walk, 12 minutes via the train
  • To concourse B: 14 minutes to walk, 10 minutes via the train
  • To concourse C: 12 minutes to walk, 8 minutes via the train
  • To concourse D: 10 minutes to walk, 5 minutes via the train
  • To concourse F: 6 minutes via the train

From Concourse F

  • To anywhere within the F concourse: 1-5 minutes (it’s small)
  • To concourse A: 15 minutes via the train
  • To concourse B: 14 minutes via the train
  • To concourse C: 13 minutes via the train
  • To concourse D: 12 minutes via the train
  • To concourse E: 6 minutes via the train

Please note that these are just estimates based on my own personal experience. Yes, you may be able to shave a few minutes off of these times if you’re hyped up on caffeine.

You may also find these times impossible if you’ve got several frustrated children in tow. Use these estimates as a general guide, and adjust accordingly based on your specific situation.

What is the ideal connection time at DFW?

I’ve talked a lot about best case scenario connection time so far, so it’s only fitting that I talk about what an ideal connection time at DFW would be like (for me anyway).

If I could have it my way (that never happens lol), I want a minimum of a 2 hour layover. Especially since airlines aren’t serving very much food these days, and getting something to eat in the terminal is usually important. That won’t be very likely to happen with a 40 minute connection.

DFW Airport D gates
My idea of a good time? Grabbing a bite to eat, and then wedging myself (and my feast) into one of the many nooks and crannies of this massive airport. I can’t do that with a short connection!

In terms of coming off an international flight and connecting to a domestic flight, having 5 hours would put me at ease. This would give me ample time to absorb any delays going through customs. It would also allow me to grab a bite to eat before my connecting flight at a relatively gentle pace. Ain’t no fun cramming a greasy slice of pizza into your face as you’re running to the gate!

Tips for making really short connections at DFW

Don’t worry. It’s really easy to feel intimidated bye the massive size of the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. Heck – my butt cheeks still clench up a little every time I step foot in the place. Here are some tips for getting through it if you have a very short connection time:

  • First and foremost, relax! If you’re flying American Airlines, you’re very well protected. They’ll automatically put you on the next flight to your destination (you won’t even have to ask them to do it). DFW is one of American Airlines largest and most active hubs, and there’s nearly always another flight going to the place you need to go. If there’s not, don’t worry – they’ll put you up in a hotel for the night and you’ll be on the first flight out in the morning.
  • Use the inter-terminal train. It’s the fastest way to get around the DFW airport – even within the individual terminals (each terminal has two stops).
  • Have a good understanding of the terminal layout before you arrive. Showing up as a hot sweaty mess with absolutely no clue as to what you need to do is a fantastic way to ruin a trip.
  • Avoid late afternoon flights in the summertime if possible. The Dallas-Fort Worth area is notorious for severe weather which can disrupt flight operations from April to September. I know this because I’ve lived this. Several times. And it’s extremely annoying.

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