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International to domestic AA, etc.: formalities, baggage and connections

Old Apr 11, 2016, 4:58 pm
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Last edit by: JDiver
FAQ: International to Domestic AA: Baggage and Border Procedures

This thread pertains narrowly to flying AA or another airline internationally and connecting with American Airlines.


Q. What do I do about checked baggage if I'm arriving in the USA internationally? Can I check it through to my final destination? E.g. LHR-DFW-HNL.

If you are arriving in the USA from an international flight, ending or connecting domestically from a flight [I]that has not pre-cleared[/hl] U.S. Customs and Border Protection (USCBP), part of the US Department of Homeland Security Security, formalities - comprising of both immigration and customs, you must clear at your US Port of Entry (POE).

Here you will be channeled to USCBP facilities (including various queues and kiosks) where you must present your documents, clear immigration, collect checked baggage at a carousel as if you were terminating your travel (whether it is tagged to your final destination or not), process customs with them and either depart the airport if you are at your destination or recheck them at the check facility just beyond customs.

Normally, if you are connecting you will now be landside and must process TSA airport security to return airside if you are connecting domestically.

In the given instance, you will process USCBP formalities at DFW Terminal D, recheck baggage at the baggage re-check facility and proceed to the TSA security checkpoints to return airside to connect to your ongoing flight to Honolulu.

A. My itinerary shows me as arriving and continuing on the same through flight, "AA 111", though.

It doesn't matter (through flights are an airline artifact that is generally meaningless, and occasionally troublesome). For example, arriving on AA 111 (Boeing 777) from FCO you will arrive at Chicago ORD international terminal 5, where you will complete USCBP formalities, re-check baggage and proceed using the train to Terminal 3, where you will process TSA security and board your domestic AA 111 (Boeing 737) to LAX. (Rome FCO does not have USCBP pre-clearance.)

Q. What if I am connecting international to international?

Most of the time you will be required to proceed as above. At limited airports in the USA (you may be offered this option connecting "ITI" at DFW or MIA) you may check your baggage through. You will have to process USCBP immigration and documents control, but will not have to recover and recheck your checked baggage if it is checked "ITI". Your boarding pass in this instance will have affixed bag check coupons and an "ITI" sticker.

Q. We "pre-clear" at the airport we board the USA-bound flight. What then?

At several airports - Canadian airports and others mentioned below, you will process through USCBP immigration, customs (generally, bags not present - Xray photos are used) - and TSA approved security screening; your aircraft will arrive as a domestic flight with no need to process those procedures you cleared already.

However, if your bags are not tagged to your onward destination for some reason, you will have to collect them at the carousel and recheck. This could occur if your arriving airline does not have an interline agreement with your ongoing flight's operating airline.

Q. What about duty free liquids accompanying me?

Duty free liquids you have purchased at a pre-clearance airport will be OK if you arrive as a domestic flight as long as you can remain airside until your flight itinerary ends.

If you have duty free liquids in approved STEB (Sealed Tamper-Evident Bags) you may present them, still sealed and with receipts, at TSA at the security checkpoints you are required to pass through.

If you have received duty free liquids plane side or otherwise have them without STEB, you will have to pack those in your checked baggage when you retrieve it to pass customs at your port of entry. Otherwise, they will normally be confiscated at the TSA approved security checkpoint.

Q. How does this "pre-clearance" actually work?

E.g. originating or connecting at Dublin for the USA, you will first check in normally at the airport ticket and check-in counters. You process Irish airport security as normal, but then proceed to USCBP formalities including immigration (complete with Global Entry kiosks) and customs (which will have images of your baggage). Following formalities, you will process TSA security screening as if you were home (albeit with no Pre-Check). If you buy duty free liquids past that you will carry it on.

Arriving at ORD your flight arrives at ORD AA Terminal 3 as a domestic flight. Disembark and proceed to your connecting flight (unless it is from another terminal that is not connected airside, wherein you will have to exit landside, go to your next terminal and process security check again).

Q. Which airports have USCBP pre-clearance for US-bound travelers?

Canada:

The Canadian airports offering USCBP precleance for flights departing to the USA are:

  • Calgary International Airport / YYC

  • Edmonton International Airport / YEG

  • Halifax Stanfield International Airport / YHZ

  • Montral-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport / YUL

  • Ottawa Macdonald-Cartier International Airport / YOW

  • Toronto Pearson International Airport / YTO

  • Vancouver International Airport / YVR

  • Winnipeg James Armstrong Richardson International Airport / YWG
Others:

  • Abu Dhabi, Abu Dhabi International Airport, UAE / AUH

  • Oranjestad, Queen Beatrix International, Aruba / AUA

  • Bermuda, L. F. Wade International Airport / BDA

  • Dublin, Ireland / DUB

  • Freeport, Grand Bahama International Airport, Bahamas / FPO

  • Nassau, Lynden Pindling International Airport / NAS

  • Shannon, Ireland / SNN
USCBP has indicated Pre-Clearance is also scheduled "some time in the future" for
  • Amsterdam, Netherlands / AMS
  • Brussels, Belgium / BRU
  • Istanbul, Turkey / IST
  • London Heathrow, United Kingdom / LHR
  • Madrid, Spain / MAD
  • Manchester, United Kingdom / MAN
  • Oslo, Norway / OSL
  • Punta Cana, Dominican Republic / PUJ
  • Stockholm, Sweden / ARN
  • Tokyo Narita, Japan / NRT
There is currently no information about when these latter might open, or whether the list might be modified. Link to Gary Leff "View from the Boarfing Area" article on USCBP Pre-Clearance.
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International to domestic AA, etc.: formalities, baggage and connections

Old Apr 6, 2016, 11:43 am
  #1  
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International to domestic AA, etc.: formalities, baggage and connections

Hi,

I have a flight from Hanade->SFO (transfer) -> LAX. Do I need to pick up my baggage at SFO and re-check in? I called AA twice and both agents aren't 100% sure. However, from the past experience, I alw need to pick up my baggage in my first arrived US airport, go through immigration, re-check in my baggage, and go through security.

Thanks
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Old Apr 6, 2016, 11:48 am
  #2  
 
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Originally Posted by apple1122
I alw need to pick up my baggage in my first arrived US airport, go through immigration, re-check in my baggage, and go through security.
Yes, you will need to do this. However, you technically don't need to recheck the bags, you just need to collect them to go through customs and then drop them off right after.
POAflyer is offline  
Old Apr 6, 2016, 12:00 pm
  #3  
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Thanks for confirming. The reason I asked is because I will not be taking the SFO to LAX segment, instead I will fly another flight from SFO to SEA. So I want to make sure I will have my baggage at SFO airport.

Originally Posted by POAflyer
Yes, you will need to do this. However, you technically don't need to recheck the bags, you just need to collect them to go through customs and then drop them off right after.
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Old Apr 6, 2016, 12:28 pm
  #4  
 
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Originally Posted by apple1122
Thanks for confirming. The reason I asked is because I will not be taking the SFO to LAX segment, instead I will fly another flight from SFO to SEA. So I want to make sure I will have my baggage at SFO airport.
If SFO-SEA segment is also on AA, I'd be careful. It could get canceled as a duplicate/impossible booking. You will have to re-check your bags (Make sure you remove the tag before doing so).

Duplicate and impossible/illogical bookings: Duplicate or impossible/illogical American Airlines bookings are prohibited without prior authorization from American Airlines. A duplicate or impossible/illogical booking includes, but is not limited to, bookings for the same passenger on flights traveling on or about the same date between one or more of the same or nearby origin and/or destination (such as JFK to DFW and LGA to DFW or DFW to LAX and DFW to ONT), or bookings with connections that depart before the arrival of the inbound flight.
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Old Apr 6, 2016, 12:30 pm
  #5  
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Originally Posted by apple1122
Thanks for confirming. The reason I asked is because I will not be taking the SFO to LAX segment, instead I will fly another flight from SFO to SEA. So I want to make sure I will have my baggage at SFO airport.
As your destination is within the USA, you are required to collect your checked baggage to present to Customs in your U.S. Port of Entry. You would normally check it back in at the counter just outside Customs.

In this case, you will merely take it with you and check it in with your airline.
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Old Apr 6, 2016, 12:32 pm
  #6  
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SFO to sea is with Alaska using BA avio points.....

Originally Posted by josmul123
If SFO-SEA segment is also on AA, I'd be careful. It could get canceled as a duplicate/impossible booking. You will have to re-check your bags (Make sure you remove the tag before doing so).
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Old Apr 6, 2016, 12:49 pm
  #7  
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Just pick your bag up, carry it through Customs, tear off the AA tag and head for the AS counter. Simply check in for your AS flight as the originating passenger which you will be.

Do make certain that you leave enough time as you are not a connecting passenger.
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Old Apr 6, 2016, 4:05 pm
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International to International baggage thru-check in MIA

When flying between Brazil and Europe (via same-day connections in MIA), since the start of 2016, it has again been possible to check bags straight through to their final destination - with no need to collect them at this particular connecting US airport.

In those cases, AA check-in staff would apply red ITI tags to the bags, to prevent them from being put on the collection belt with domestic-bound luggage from the inbound flight.

This is a real convenience, and allows for better use of my connection time - at the beach, rather than waiting to needlessly collect bags.

HOWEVER - next month, I'll be making a similar trip, but will be checking in with QR (DOH-MAD), from whom I'm connecting to AA (MAD-MIA-GIG) on a separate ticket. While I'm reasonably comfortable that I'll be able to get QR to check the bags through to Rio, I'm less certain how they'll be treated in MIA - since QR probably doesn't have those red "ITI" tags.

Does anyone here have any experience with how ITI baggage works in MIA in such a case? Is the "International to International" nature of my AA to AA connection sufficient for the bags to be transferred directly? Or will the absence of that red tag force me to wait around to manually schlep my bags from one conveyor belt to another?

Worst case would be if I were told I had to wait around, only to find that the bags were automatically transferred after all...
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Old Apr 6, 2016, 5:36 pm
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Originally Posted by Often1
Just pick your bag up, carry it through Customs, tear off the AA tag and head for the AS counter. Simply check in for your AS flight as the originating passenger which you will be.

Do make certain that you leave enough time as you are not a connecting passenger.
And luckily Alaska even operates out of the International terminal so the transfer should be easy, but I agree make sure you leave time for check-in according to AS policies.

https://www.alaskaair.com/travelinfo...fornia-airport

https://www.alaskaair.com/content/tr...ing-times.aspx
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Old Apr 6, 2016, 8:03 pm
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I'd probably be too nervous to do anything other than sit around and wait even if I was told the bags were going to be held "in transit international" in Miami just to make sure they didn't appear on the belt.
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Old Apr 6, 2016, 8:24 pm
  #11  
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It's possible at DFW, I've done separate tickets with CX-AA on TPE-HKG-DFW-YYZ and while there was no ITI tag, the baggage ended up in YYZ with no problem. Initially I was worried so I kept checking on aa.com and eventually it gets loaded to the final Int'l flight (around boarding time).

Unfortunately I can't confirm for MIA, but I think in general the bar code is more important than the color tag itself as the bags get automatically sorted at the US arrival airport, whether it goes to baggage claim or next connecting flight gate.
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Old Apr 10, 2016, 3:46 pm
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International to domestic AA: formalities, baggage and connections

First time AA flyer here and would appreciate some advice. I'm flying LHR - LAX -OGG on two separate itineraries, the first leg with BA (redeemed with BA companion voucher) and the second leg with AA (AA redemption with CX miles). The BA leg covers baggage while AA doesn't. Just called the AA helpline and was told I will not be able to prepay the AA baggage fees and only option I have is to pick up my luggage at LAX and check-in again 'normally' and pay the fee at the AA check-in counter. Do I have any other option? She was able to link up my itineraries but it really defeats the purpose if my bags are not checked through to my final destination. Any of your expert advice would be greatly appreciated!
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Old Apr 10, 2016, 4:07 pm
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I would think that BA may be able to check you in for both flights at LHR, since both are OW flights. However, even if BA can check you through, you will still have to pick up your bags in order to clear customs at LAX (everyone on the plane will have to do so, as this is your first port of entry into the USA).
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Old Apr 10, 2016, 4:13 pm
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When you enter a country, your luggage has to pass Customs. In the US, as in most countries outside western Europe, this is done at the first point of entry.

What your post seems to be asking is, can I avoid US Customs? People carrying illegal drugs or other contraband might ask the same question, but the answer is always no.

So it's really independent of whether it's one ticket or two, linked or not linked. But if BA tags your baggage all the way through, you can drop it off after Customs and avoid a full check-in process which might require baggage fees. For that reason, I don't think BA will tag your baggage through.
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Old Apr 10, 2016, 4:19 pm
  #15  
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Because you are on two oneworld tickets, BA will probably be able to check your baggage through.

Regardless, on arrival at LAX you will have to process immigration, collect your baggage at the indicated carousel, process customs - and recheck your baggage at the counters just as you exit customs. If you are arriving internationally and flying onward to a US domestic destination, you are required to process formalities at your USA port of entry (unless you're arriving from DUB or one of the few airports you pre-clear for the USA by processing formalities prior to departure).

You will then have to process security to get airside at the Tom Bradley International Terminal one level up and walk the airside connector to AA terminal 4 (unless it's one of the occasional flights that departs the TBIT), or out the TBIT door walk on the kerb to your right to Terminal 4, proceed one level to departures, process security and depart.
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