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Old Aug 13, 10, 2:29 pm   #1
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
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ORD International to Domestic Transfer

My Mandarin (and Suzhounese) speaking in-laws will be traveling PVG/ORD/AUS in October. I'm trying to give them as much information as I can about what to expect and how to make the transfer at ORD. The O'Hare maps, both at the O'Hare and AA web site don't have a lot of detail, but it looks like they'll clear customs and immigration in terminal 5, recheck their bags, take a shuttle train to terminal 3 and then go through security and out to the gate. They speak no English. Will there be any customer service people to help them out? Is there anything they need to know? They have three hours between flights, so I'm not that worried about time. I also think there's a good chance of a Chinese speaking fellow passenger on their inbound flight also making a transfer who could help them out, but any advice would be appreciated.
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Old Aug 13, 10, 2:56 pm   #2
 
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Originally Posted by sfmaus View Post
My Mandarin (and Suzhounese) speaking in-laws will be traveling PVG/ORD/AUS in October. I'm trying to give them as much information as I can about what to expect and how to make the transfer at ORD. The O'Hare maps, both at the O'Hare and AA web site don't have a lot of detail, but it looks like they'll clear customs and immigration in terminal 5, recheck their bags, take a shuttle train to terminal 3 and then go through security and out to the gate. They speak no English. Will there be any customer service people to help them out? Is there anything they need to know? They have three hours between flights, so I'm not that worried about time. I also think there's a good chance of a Chinese speaking fellow passenger on their inbound flight also making a transfer who could help them out, but any advice would be appreciated.
Your information on the transit procedure is correct. Their best bet may be to find that friendly fellow passenger that can help them navigate. Particularly in T3 you are not likely to come across any TSA personnel that speak Mandarin. Perhaps AA has staffed some folks that can speak Mandarin due to the increased flights to PRC, but then again perhaps not.
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Old Aug 13, 10, 2:57 pm   #3
 
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I think you pretty much have it covered, there are various options for assistance both from our Homeland Security friends and AA folks throughout the process so would not worry to much about them making it through.
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Old Aug 13, 10, 4:43 pm   #4
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They should be in good shape, even if an a/c is delayed 3 hours is a good buffer IME. Plus ORD deals with so many int'l pax daily that I'm sure help could be obtained.
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Old Aug 13, 10, 7:48 pm   #5
 
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They should be okay with a 3-hour layover as long as they keep moving.

The signage is in English, obviously, but if they can find another traveler or couple that is making a domestic connection and understands English, perhaps they can follow them over to T3 and through TSA security.

Be sure to explain the laptop, baggie, and shoe carnivals to them in advance.
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Old Aug 13, 10, 8:02 pm   #6
 
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You might try calling AA special services and see if they can be met at the gate and helped through the connection process.
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Old Aug 13, 10, 9:07 pm   #7
 
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I've seen people who couldn't speak English hand airport personal a note written in English that explained what they were trying to do at the airport. If possible you could have them print one off, it could be a nice backup option. At least they have enough time.
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Old Aug 13, 10, 11:28 pm   #8
 
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Originally Posted by vocoder View Post
I've seen people who couldn't speak English hand airport personal a note written in English that explained what they were trying to do at the airport. If possible you could have them print one off, it could be a nice backup option. At least they have enough time.
+1. Yes, this works. Have them also show the boarding passes for the connecting flight. Be sure they know exactly where to re-deposit the luggage before leaving the customs area (its to the LEFT after customs).

It took me (am familiar with procedure and ORD) 2 hours from T5 to T3 (post TSA) and then another 12 minutes to gate. Lines were long in T5 (for both visitors & returning US citizens) at immigration, and same thing in T3 for security check.
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Old Aug 14, 10, 1:19 am   #9
 
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There's a Chinese translator who can be paged to help with the immigration process, but with domestic connections your best bet, like others suggested, is a fellow passenger who understands both Chinese and English and can walk with your in-laws to T3. While there are signs for rechecking baggage, the area can be chaotic and especially confusing for first-time, non-English speaking visitors.

Remind your in-laws not to bring any food (agricultural products) off the plane with them. They should finish everything on the plane, or throw the rest away before getting to immigration, otherwise they can be held up unnecessarily. All of their bags will be opened. While US custom (at ORD) will never acknowledge their practice of racial profiling, the fact is every Chinese, Chinese-American (or anyone who looks east Asian) gets every piece of their luggage opened and contents tossed around, while everyone else gets waved through.

While 3 hours is a long time to get past immigration and to get to a domestic connection, it takes significantly more time for first-time visitors to clear immigration (extra paperwork).

By the way, wouldn't PVG-SFO-AUS on UA be a better alternative? There's no shortage of US Custom or TSA personnel who can speak Chinese at SFO.


Quote:
Originally Posted by sfmaus View Post
My Mandarin (and Suzhounese) speaking in-laws will be traveling PVG/ORD/AUS in October. I'm trying to give them as much information as I can about what to expect and how to make the transfer at ORD. The O'Hare maps, both at the O'Hare and AA web site don't have a lot of detail, but it looks like they'll clear customs and immigration in terminal 5, recheck their bags, take a shuttle train to terminal 3 and then go through security and out to the gate. They speak no English. Will there be any customer service people to help them out? Is there anything they need to know? They have three hours between flights, so I'm not that worried about time. I also think there's a good chance of a Chinese speaking fellow passenger on their inbound flight also making a transfer who could help them out, but any advice would be appreciated.
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Old Aug 14, 10, 11:47 am   #10
 
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You might also want to tell them that they'll have to take the escalator or elevator up from the T5 arrivals lobby to get to the shuttle train. It can be kind of hectic at the arrivals lobby and non-obvious as to where to go next as lots of people are standing by the exit waiting for family/friends to arrive. And then there are the people who milling around such as those who do not read or speak English and are wondering where to go next.

T3 is the first stop for the train and they can just follow everyone one else who exits the train at that stop. They''ll go up one escalator and down another where they'll end up right in front of the security entrance to the gates area. After that the signs providing directions to the gates are pretty easy to understand if someone is familiar with the Latin alphabet.

Last edited by chi1k; Aug 14, 10 at 11:52 am.
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Old Aug 14, 10, 1:21 pm   #11
 
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You might consider getting them some kind of "cheat sheet" where you spell out English words they might encounter and the Mandarin equivalent. I'm thinking of words like "Shuttle", "Toilets", "Departure Gates", etc.

Another good idea would be to make up a card with something like "We do not speak English. We speak Mandarin. We need to go to the following flight...." They could simply show that card to a uniformed airline or airport employee and hope the person points them in the right direction.
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