Transit choice Houston or Chicago?

Old Nov 20, 19, 3:05 am
  #1  
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Transit choice Houston or Chicago?

Hi all

i am planning an upcoming trip to Toronto and will need to fly home via Chicago for a commitment there. Looking at options ex AKL it appears I can travel north via Vancouver, San Francisco, LA, Houston or Chicago.

Most of these connections involve a long-ish second flight, which may need to be in Y (long haul will be in J) so I am leaning towards Chicago or Houston. Flight times are similar, so can anyone please share thoughts on which offers a better transit experience for border control, lounge access (*Gold) etc?

On an associated note, it looks like United and Air Canada will have the best connection times for me for the short haul legs to/from Toronto. Am I right to think I should avoid United and fly Air Canada if possible? My priority will be inflight experience then lounge options and APD/status points last, as Iím expecting them to be poor either way.

Thanks in advance.
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Old Nov 20, 19, 5:51 am
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I would tend to favour UA over AC all else being equal - legroom tends to be slightly better (on a320's at least), no SP earn for most US/Can economy fares on AC and their domestic fares are very expensive.
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Old Nov 20, 19, 9:34 am
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Depending on he time of year IAH may be a better option. Winter storms can create interesting delays around ORD.
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Old Nov 20, 19, 9:48 am
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We recently transited in IAH on the way to New York.
I would allow at least two hours for getting through immigration at IAH. There was a long queue for non US residents at immigration and the guy supervising the queue would not let people through who were going to miss their connections. I guess there would be better connections with United. I don’t think the UA lounges are very interesting. Sometimes it’s better to sit outside them and people watch.
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Old Nov 20, 19, 10:47 am
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Houston is an easier transit. Same terminal, no people mover to worry about. But fewer connections to YYZ.
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Old Nov 20, 19, 11:00 am
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Originally Posted by evanroberts View Post
Houston is an easier transit. Same terminal, no people mover to worry about. But fewer connections to YYZ.
People mover....! When did this start up again in ORD? It has been terrible buses with long waits recently.

Associated point. I have always had longer immigration delays in ORD compared to IAH.
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Old Nov 20, 19, 11:58 am
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I would vote IAH. Immigration is a bit of a lottery, ive seen it both ridiculously busy and dead quiet. If you have global entry (not sure if OP is eligible or not) then both airports would be the same.

IAH has a way better transit experience than ORD. no terminal change, shorter security, better lounges (mostly), better food throughout the terminal, lower risk of IRROPS.

you might also want to consider YVR. although the second flight would be longer, there is a much higher frequency of flights to YYZ and no US transit to deal with (although Iíve also seen CBSA get quite backed up at YVR)
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Old Nov 20, 19, 12:09 pm
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Originally Posted by WLGNZ View Post
People mover....! When did this start up again in ORD?
It's still offline, for the rest of 2019 at least, making T5-to-T1/2/3 transfers at ORD time-consuming and tedious for a few more months. Either UA or AC would depart from T1 or T2. Recommend OP favor YVR or IAH as a connection city.

https://www.bizjournals.com/chicago/...yed-again.html
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Old Nov 20, 19, 12:49 pm
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I vote for IAH. When I(an American) came back that way, Air NZ passengers had somehow been pre-cleared and had an empty arrival hall. We were pointed one way and the other way was packed. I can't find the documentation on it at the moment.
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Old Nov 20, 19, 1:43 pm
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Originally Posted by gratn View Post
Hi all

i am planning an upcoming trip to Toronto and will need to fly home via Chicago for a commitment there. Looking at options ex AKL it appears I can travel north via Vancouver, San Francisco, LA, Houston or Chicago.

Most of these connections involve a long-ish second flight, which may need to be in Y (long haul will be in J) so I am leaning towards Chicago or Houston. Flight times are similar, so can anyone please share thoughts on which offers a better transit experience for border control, lounge access (*Gold) etc?

On an associated note, it looks like United and Air Canada will have the best connection times for me for the short haul legs to/from Toronto. Am I right to think I should avoid United and fly Air Canada if possible? My priority will be inflight experience then lounge options and APD/status points last, as I’m expecting them to be poor either way.

Thanks in advance.
If you are going from Auckland to Toronto, with Chicago coming later in the journey, then I would personally transit in Vancouver on the way there. That way you only deal with Canadian customs and immigration on the way to Toronto. The fewer times you have to go through American border patrol the better, in my opinion. It does add a few hours on a plane from Vancouver to Toronto, but going through border patrol in the USA will also add a few hours - so take your pick where you want to spend those few hours and how much added stress you want to have.
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Old Nov 20, 19, 3:16 pm
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The weather is a strong consideration. If its winter or near winter, your chances of your plane leaving successfully at Houston are much higher.
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Old Nov 20, 19, 4:03 pm
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I too transited through IAH recently. Air NZ passengers get their own lanes at immigration, however baggage claim can take a long time. Transit bag drop off is immediately to the right after Customs, then you proceed through security (the only bottle neck I came across).

An onward journey on AC (I travelled on AC596) requires you to catch the train from terminal D to A. It's doable, but if delayed into IAH, you'll potentially cut it fine, even travelling in J.

UA also has a flight departing at a similar time to AC, with a shorter inter-terminal transfer (to C).
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Old Nov 20, 19, 9:51 pm
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Thanks everyone, this is very helpful. I understand the allure of Vancouver as a way to avoid one experience with US border services, but will weigh that up against the longer second flight (which will be fine in J but less fun in Y). Of the US options it seems Houston is a clear winner if I decide to go for a shorter second flight.
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Old Nov 21, 19, 4:52 am
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Would agree with that suggestion. Currently living in YUL - the flight timing on AC sucks ex-YVR and 5.5 hours in AC Y with 76 or less cm pitch is fairly unpleasant as a red-eye after a transpacific flight.
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Old Nov 21, 19, 5:06 am
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Have been YYZ based for a bit, and agree with the above suggestions, avoid AC if at all possible.

Hard and soft product in anything under J is mediocre, as is the earn rate to NZ. AC FA's make you yearn for UA, and that's saying something.
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