What is a self-transfer?

It is a plane change (or, in rare cases, even an airport change) between separately booked flights.

There are many ways to save on air travel. One great trick is to split your flight itinerary into several parts and purchase separate tickets respectively. However, this kind of arrangements carries some risks and, we believe, requires careful consideration and planning.

Air travel on separate tickets entails at least one unprotected connection—the type of transfer when passengers are 100% responsible for making it to the next flight. And so, airlines have no obligation to offer refunds or rebooking if travelers miss this unprotected connection for any reason.

Here are some risk scenarios that come to mind: your inbound flight is cancelled or delayed, your baggage is lost or delayed, you are held up at a security checkpoint, you can’t clear customs and/or immigration control (in time or at all), you get lost in the airport and cannot find your gate, etc.

While one cannot foresee the whims of fate, rigorous preparation will go a long way toward eliminating some of those contingencies. If you are planning to travel abroad using separate tickets, the first order of business is to thoroughly research and secure all the necessary paperwork for your trip—visas, heath cards, etc. Passengers are fully and exclusively responsible for obtaining the travel documentation required for their trip. (Read more at Planning a trip with separate air travel bookings and What travel documents do I need for my trip?)

Navigating a busy hub is not always a walk in the park either. Luckily, these days most airports provide reference maps online. (They are easy to find: for example, you can run a search for “LAX airport map” or go straight to the website of the Los Angeles International Airport—www.flylax.com) Locate your arrival and departure terminals/gates and see if you can tentatively find a way from the former to the latter. Who knew this would be so much fun!

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