Fewer flights could mean longer connection times

— -- Worried about catching your connecting flight this fall? Airline passengers who connect at four hub airports will gain at least some extra time this fall, at a time when jet fuel prices have resulted in reduced flight schedules.

In an exclusive analysis for USA TODAY, OAGaviation.com studied average wait times for connections at nine domestic hub airports. OAG analyzed "convenient" connections, defined as a wait time of no more than two hours.

Continental passengers connecting at Houston Intercontinental will see the biggest gain in wait time. They'll typically wait 78 minutes — seven minutes or 10% longer than in they did in 2005, the study shows.

United passengers connecting in Denver will gain three minutes. Their average wait time will be 76 minutes, or 4% longer than in 2005.

But average wait times hinge on various factors, such as a terminal's size and how closely an airline schedules flights. At three other airports, passengers will notice shorter average wait times.

Delta passengers connecting in Cincinnati — where connection options within a two-hour wait are half of what they were in 2005 — will notice the biggest decrease. In October, the typical wait will be 61 minutes, which is 16 minutes or 21% shorter than four years ago.

Passengers connecting at two hubs won't notice any change. American Airlines passengers connecting at Dallas/Fort Worth and US Airways customers connecting in Charlotte will wait on average 80 minutes and 70 minutes respectively — the same as 2005.

The changes come at a time when more fliers worry about connection wait times for fear of missing their second flight, says Susan Tanzman, president of Los Angeles-based agency, Martin's Travel and Tours. "Now flying is something they worry about, especially if they're flying with children or have a business meeting."

For people who don't like waiting, John Weber, head of OAGaviation.com, advises booking as early as possible to get the connection time that best suits their schedule.

"There are going to be fewer seats out there," he says. "It's like musical chairs."