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Old Jan 31, 09, 5:33 pm   #1
 
Join Date: Feb 2002
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What happens if you don't wait for checked luggage at customs?

On my return to DCA, I have a 1 hour 15 minute connection which is legal. I am arriving from NRT and connecting at DFW.

I realize normally this should be fine.

I also have no choice but to check luggage but my schedule is tight and I really want to make my connection at DFW.

I will only have clothes in my carry-on.

If the NRT flight arrives late, and I realize that waiting for the luggage to appear on the belt and recheck will make me miss my connection, can I "forget" it and go to my connection.

This is not ethical but I don't mind a big delay in receiving my bag and I am not trying to circumvent any customs inspections.

Upon arrival in DCA, I could file a claim and to save AA any expense just tell them I will pick it up at DCA.

I could always say that it never appeared on the belt and I was told to fill out the claim at my final destination.

Again...not exactly on the up and up but possible and other problems I haven't thought about?
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Old Jan 31, 09, 5:41 pm   #2
 
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Some thoughts:

- There is usually not that long a wait for int'l baggage, if any, since you have to wait to get through Immigration inspection before you get to baggage claim.

- Depending on the size of your carry-on and length of stay, the Customs inspector may question your lack of luggage appropriate for your trip.

- You'll have to wait in whatever line there is to pass through Customs inspection anyway.

So, I don't think in most cases you'll save much time at all, probably less than 5 minutes.
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Old Jan 31, 09, 6:19 pm   #3
 
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The details of my story make it harder to judge your situation but I'll give you the anecdote anyways:

2 years ago right after New Years, flew SXM-MIA-DCA. Late flight SXM-MIA. MIA customs hall/baggage reclaim a mess as always. One bag (a box actually with used clothes from the beach) wasn't showing up. Without any AA personnel there, we decided to just leave it and buy new clothes later. We make it to the gate in time, board, take off, and 5 minutes later have to make an emergency landing back in MIA. At this point, my mother decides she doesn't want to fly. AA says that's fine but the bags are going to DC. We say fine, my dad is already in DC and he'll pick them up. The next day, we fly to ORD (our hometown) and skip DC. Dad drops the bags off at DCA with AA, who says they will ship them to ORD. We wait at bag claim for the bags. They don't come. AA has no record of any of them. Somehow, my mom is angry enough to convince the bag staff to let us personally search the backroom with all of the lost bags. No luck. As we are about to leave T3 at ORD, we see all 7 bags on the oversized belt, not moving, and tagged for the flight that we had waited for a few carosels away. The box was there too.

So after all the drama, we had indeed recovered all the bags including the one we left behind at MIA customs.

Good luck in making the connection and hopefully not having to deal with any of this!
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Old Jan 31, 09, 6:38 pm   #4
 
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The OP seems to be US citizen so with how many bags (if any at all) he comes bag is not the business of the authorities.

Worst case scenario file a claim at your final destination say you claimed it and rechecked the bag. Bag will turn up (hopefully) and they send it to you.

Good luck on your trip !
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Old Jan 31, 09, 7:18 pm   #5
 
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Thanks for the advice.

I hope it will be a non-issue but waiting for a bag of dirty clothes isn't worth missing my connection.

I will have a roller board and laptop bag as my carry-on so I won't be exiting customs without any luggage.
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Old Jan 31, 09, 7:23 pm   #6
 
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I accidentally did this about three years ago. Flight from LHR to BOS arrived late and I was so anxious to get to my connecting flight that I completely blanked on the fact that I had a checked a bag (b/c I rarely do so). By the time I got home, I had a call from AA stating they had the bag. It arrived at SJC the next day.
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Old Jan 31, 09, 8:11 pm   #7
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Do expect that customs will open the bag and look through it. Be sure to pack the underwear on top.
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Old Jan 31, 09, 8:51 pm   #8
 
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Keep in mind your bag is tagged to to your final destination. You are just picking it up, clearing customs with it, and handing it back to AA agents.

If you don't pick it up, AA will clear the belt after all the luggage has been sent out, put your luggage into a holding area, and at the end of the day clear all the bags through customs and then recheck them to flights the next day to their tagged destination.
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Old Jan 31, 09, 9:40 pm   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve M View Post
Some thoughts:

- There is usually not that long a wait for int'l baggage, if any, since you have to wait to get through Immigration inspection before you get to baggage claim.

- Depending on the size of your carry-on and length of stay, the Customs inspector may question your lack of luggage appropriate for your trip.

- You'll have to wait in whatever line there is to pass through Customs inspection anyway.

So, I don't think in most cases you'll save much time at all, probably less than 5 minutes.
I've been traveling internationally for 20 years and my experience has been very different from yours:

- Certainly if one has to wait a while to clear immigration, the wait for checked luggage should not be bad. But the vast majority of times I've been able to get through US immigration in a matter of minutes. The walk from the gate to the immigration hall is usually a lot longer.

- I never have had a customs inspector question the size of my luggage. On my last trip, earlier this month to London, the inspector at BOS must have seen me walk through the customs hall without stopping to retrieve checked luggage, and he asked me if I had all my bags I think more as a courtesy (there must be plenty of inexperienced travelers who are not familiar with the procedures) than out of suspicion.

- I never have waited in a customs inspection line in the US that was more than 60 seconds long.

Bottom line: it could be a 5 minute difference, as you suggest, or it could very well be a 20-30 minute difference. (BTW, I once did exactly what the OP proposes to do. Because of a delay, I had 30 minutes to make a connection to BOS from MIA. But I was fortunate that I had a companion who could claim and recheck my bag (her connection was later). I arrived at BOS and, knowing the odds that my bag made my flight were slim, left the airport and returned later that night and found my bag waiting for me.)
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Old Jan 31, 09, 9:43 pm   #10
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Blumie View Post

- I never have waited in a customs inspection line in the US that was more than 60 seconds long.

You must never have arrived at LAX Bradley terminal
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Old Jan 31, 09, 9:49 pm   #11
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by elitetraveler View Post
You must never have arrived at LAX Bradley terminal
+1, coupled with the fun of the DHS' computers being down, so unable to process us through immigration. That was a fun evening...
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Old Jan 31, 09, 9:50 pm   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by elitetraveler View Post
You must never have arrived at LAX Bradley terminal
You bet I have! By the customs inspection line, I mean the line where those with nothing to declare hand in their completed customs form. The line typically is three seconds long, but sometimes can extend to 20 seconds.
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Old Jan 31, 09, 9:55 pm   #13
 
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I have done this by accident. I very rarely check a bag and had done so on return from a recent trip to France. In JFK I walked right out of customs and boarded my flight onwards to SFO. About a week later after unpacking and unable to find something I had purchased in France it hit me and I remembered I had checked in a bag and called AA. The bag had been sent to SFO and at this late in the game was sent to DFW for holding. It was sent out to SFO and arrived at my door the following day. Nothing was missing but I could tell the bag was searched.

The only thing I found odd was that AA did not contact me. The bag had an Admirals Club tag on it and that should have worked as some way to identify the owner and gain my contact info.
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Old Jan 31, 09, 9:58 pm   #14
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Blumie View Post
You bet I have! By the customs inspection line, I mean the line where those with nothing to declare hand in their completed customs form. The line typically is three seconds long, but sometimes can extend to 20 seconds.
Then you've been lucky. The line for "Nothing to Declare" on my last couple trips was 10 minutes once and close to 30 minutes the other time. There is was a long line leading up to where you turn your customs form in, starting from the center of the hall where the agents take your form, going all the way to the right wall and snaking back and forth at least two full turns the half width of the hall. During the Asia rush when there are about four or five 744s from Asia and a couple European flights, the back up is substanial and the customs agents often stop the line as they question folks. In my conversations with CX and SQ reps this seems to be close to the norm.
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Old Jan 31, 09, 9:59 pm   #15
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by elitetraveler View Post
You must never have arrived at LAX Bradley terminal
+n

What a claim! (no customs waits longer than 60 sec!). I have been in many queues longer and more confused (with multiple "feeder" lines) than I care to remember.
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