Immigration/luggage/security at connecting flights
Replies: 13 - Last Post: Mar 23, 2010 11:45 PM Last Post By: sneaker_fish
Mar 18, 2010 12:14 PM
Immigration/luggage/security at connecting flightsWhen arriving at a US airport from abroad and transferring to a domestic flight, is it true that you always have to go through immigration, pick up luggage, go through customs, recheck luggage and then go through security again? Or are there any airports/situations where you actually transit (i.e. just walk over to another gate, and deal with immigration and customs at your final destination)?
How do you recheck your luggage? Assuming that you've made a single booking and connect with the same airline, do you usually have to go all the way back to check-in? Or can you get your luggage checked all the way through and use more convenient luggage drops? I seem to remember having used the later...
Mar 18, 2010 12:22 PM
1Usually your bag is tagged to your final destination at the airport where your flight originates. After you go through customs with your bag, you should be directed to where is can be rechecked, which usually means that someone takes your bag, looks at the tag on it, and puts it on a conveyor belt.
I had a case recently where I was transiting in San Francisco (going from Sydney to Columbus), and at Sydney they could only check my bag to SFO. When I got there, and had gone through customs, instead of just handing my bag on, I waited for a short time at a counter to check-in my bag for the rest of my trip. It didn't take much longer than the usual process, and I had plenty of time because I had about 12 hours between flights (most of which I spent in Oakland).
Mar 18, 2010 1:01 PM
2You are correct, and unfortunately there are no airports with transit lounges.
However airports housing large airlines, (hubs,) usually have a "re-check" area. Immediately after clearing customs in Chicago/O'hare for example American and United both have a desk to dump off your bag, so you don't have to lug it to the domestic re-check area. Same with United in D.C., and they even have their own international arrival security screening to re-enter the UAL terminal.
Always check your bag ticket to make sure the three digit code is your final destination.
Mar 18, 2010 1:07 PM
As #1 said, try to have your bag tagged all the way through when you do your initial check-in. If it's all on one airline, this should be easy. Even if you are changing airlines, it should be OK. Most airlines participate in an interline baggage check program where Airline A will tag your bags for your continuing flight on Airline B. At the US international airport, there may be a conveyor belt you can put your bags on, or you may be directed to a baggage re-check desk where you drop off your already-tagged bags.
There are some exceptions. In Canada, Ireland, Bermuda, the Bahamas, and Aruba, US Customs & Immigration is often done at the airport, before you even board the plane.
If your domestic flight is on Southwest, you will have to take your bags to the Southwest counter and check them in. Southwest does not participate in interline baggage check.
Mar 18, 2010 2:07 PM
Mar 18, 2010 5:13 PM
5"When arriving at a US airport from abroad and transferring to a domestic flight, is it true that you always have to go through immigration, pick up luggage, go through customs, recheck luggage and then go through security again?"
Yes that's correct. In the US you report to US immigration AND customs at first port of entry. If you checked your stuff all the way through to your final destination you still have to re-claim at the first port entry, pass it through customs, and re-check them outside of customs. Yes you have to go through security again to get back to the plane. Even in some other countries you still have to go through security to get into the transit lounge too.
Mar 18, 2010 8:27 PM
6Checking your bag all the way through to your final destination is 'usually' only available when your connection is with the same airline, or the entire ticket was purchased at the same time. If you buy both you most likely have to collect your luggage then re-check them with the other airline. This may not always be the case though, if the airlines are part of an alliance.
I don't know of any country that allows to you to go directly from an international flight to a domestic flight, then go through immigration at your final destination. Most likely the flight will consist of passengers that are strictly flying domestically. How would they know who goes through immigration and customs, while a majority don't have to???
Mar 18, 2010 9:18 PM
Mar 19, 2010 2:44 AM
8Not sure why you didn't call your airline, but no matter. Think about it. Since the second flight is a domestic one, how could you just get off an international fight, get onto a dometic flight and go through Immigration and Customs at the end of the second flight? You're in the country and most people on the flight won't be international passengers. There are no Immigration or Customs procedures after domestic flights. If the airport has just domestic flights, they'll have no immigration or customs facilities. Booking with the same airline, or at least booking all flights at one time (assuming the airlines have a baggage transfer agreement) can make a difference as to whether your bags are tagged for your final destination, and thus you don't have to go through the complete check-in process again at your transfer point, but obviously has no effect on going through Immigration and Customs. It just means you're more likely to already have your boarding pass for the second flight and can check your bags onward at a transfer desk outside of Customs. It does reduce hassle. Even if you have two separate bookings, the first airline MAY be able to tag your bags to your final destination, but getting a boarding pass for the second flight could be tougher (unless it's the same airline), so you may have to go to the check-in counter.
Mar 19, 2010 8:41 AM
9SHANNONAIRPORT.COM has full U.S. CUSTOMS
used by Continental airlines, meaning you arrive in EWR Newark N.J.
as a domestic passenger.
This is used by British Airways flying to JFK- N.Y.
see video on CNN.COM / CNNI / BUSINESSTRAVELLER ARCHIVE
DATED : 7 / 14 OCT' 2009
look for "ALL BUSINESS CLASS FLIGHT"
Mar 21, 2010 4:17 PM
10NZ has flights in which the international flight is cleared (both customs & immigration) at the final destination. It allows passengers to to depart at the first arrival city of Auckland they wish to but for international passengers to remain in the international terminal and to clear in Christchurch. It's linked with the flight from LAX but passengers from any international destination can use it.
Not relevant in this context but I just thought I would mention it in regards to immigration at a second destination.
Mar 21, 2010 8:14 PM
11Yes, and some flights from Canada to the US include US immigration in Canada.
As noted above, if it's the same airline or alliance, your luggage can be checked through. However depending on the airport, you may have to go through security a second time, so be sure enough time is allowed.
With a tight transfer, look up the airport layout online, so you know how to get from the international arrivals to your domestic departure gate.
Mar 22, 2010 6:03 AM
12It's linked with the flight from LAX but passengers from any international destination can use it
But presumably domestic passengers can't use that flight? That's not unknown elsewhere either. The late lamented Buzz had London - Halifax - Montreal flights where Montreal passengers were cleared on arrival in Montreal.
Mar 23, 2010 11:45 PM
13But presumably domestic passengers can't use that flight?
Correct. But other international passengers could. And people on the flight from LAX could get off at Auckland (the first stop).
Weirdly, it's possible to book the reverse (from Christchurch to Auckland) but passengers need to go through immigration exit procedures and immigration entry procedures at both airports. You can't book this flight online anymore either - presumably it caused problems!
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