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Int'l to Int'l Connections At GRU Without Visa

Int'l to Int'l Connections At GRU Without Visa

Old Mar 9, 17, 1:05 pm
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Int'l to Int'l Connections At GRU Without Visa

I am hoping to use United miles to acquire a single business class award reservation (one record locator) for travel from LIM to JNB (via GRU) for January or February 2018 (one part of a five week 'round the world trip). The specific through itinerary that the UA website is showing me is TA 917 connecting with SA 223. The scheduled connection time is 12 hours and 40 minutes during daylight hours. (TA stands for Trans American which is part of Avianca. SA is obviously South African Airways. Both are Star Alliance members. I will be Gold Premier-- at least-- when I make the trip, in case that effects the answers to any of my questions.)

Is there any safe way to make the transit connection at GRU which is described above (with baggage, either checked and/or carry-on) without having a Brazilian visa?

I want to avoid getting a Brazilian visa if humanly possible. I think I can live without checking baggage if I have to (but I would prefer to have the option to check baggage if possible). I normally travel with one regulation 45 inch total (22 inch maximum side) piece of luggage and one business backpack. The former often exceeds 10 kilos (22 pounds); the latter rarely does.

I have spoken to Avianca about both carry on and checked baggage, but the information I was given was either inconsistent with or not able to confirmed by what I read at their website. I have an inquiry in with South African but (a) I am still waiting for them to research the question (their response was far more professional in that they basically wouldn't tell me something just to say they had answered my question) and (b) they have zero control over what I can and can't do before I get to GRU. (United wouldn't even touch my questions but instantly referred me to the two operating carriers.) Therefore, my first question is specific:

(1) Is there anyone on this forum who has flown TransAmerican between Lima and Sao Paulo who can confirm what their business class carry-on policy is and how strictly it is enforced? (I had a situation once on an international flight on NZ where I had to keep reweighing one piece of checked luggage until it was a gram or two under the posted limit.)

(2) The Avianca agent said their maximum interline connecting time for through checked baggage at GRU was six hours. (I asked the question in terms of the specific twelve hour plus connection with SA described above but they were only able to give me a generic response.) Does anyone on this forum have any experience with the current maximum baggage connecting times for international to international transfers at GRU, especially if arriving on TA? (If I have to reclaim baggage at GRU, I will have to enter the country which means I will-- based on my best understanding-- have to have a visa which I really want to avoid getting.)

(3) Can anyone offer helpful but non-specific advice regarding their recent experiences making international to international transit connections at GRU?

(4) Have I made any obvious or stupid errors in my assumptions or questions shown above?


I wrote my local Brazilian consulate and they gave me a very prompt and seemingly clear but less than fully helpful response, which also didn't directly acknowlege the risks inherent in individual airlines' different checked baggage connection policies. (I had provided specific details regarding my two connecting flights including the twelve plus hour connecting time.)

Please consult with the airline that a new check in will not be required while in transit through Sao Paulo. If you need to leave the airport's transit area to check in again or for any other reason, you should apply for a tourist visa.

Thanks in advance for any help anyone on this forum can provide me in navigating the risks of a visa-less international transit at GRU. If and when I hear back from SA, if they provide any relevant additional information, I will update this thread accordingly.

Last edited by Rover75; Mar 9, 17 at 6:19 pm
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Old Mar 9, 17, 3:09 pm
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It looks like you don't need a transit visa, but I would check with your nearest Brazilian Consulate:

This visa can be issued to individuals whose final destination is another country bearing an air ticket with a stop or connecting flight in a Brazilian airport that demands a new check-in while in Brazil. This means that if you are changing flights from companies that do not have codeshare agreements, you will have to exit the international area of the airport, going through Brazilian passport control, officially entering the country. Contact your airline to make sure if you will need to check-in for your connecting flight in Brazil before applying for a transit visa.

http://miami.itamaraty.gov.br/en-us/transit_visa.xml
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Old Mar 10, 17, 8:35 am
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From Timatic


Visa required.

Transiting without a visa is possible for:

Passengers with an onward ticket in transit through Rio de Janeiro Galeao International (GIG).

Passengers with a connecting flight booked on the same ticket in transit through Sao Paulo Guarulhos (GRU).

Important:

Passengers in transit through Sao Paulo Guarulhos (GRU) with a connecting flight booked on a separate ticket must collect their baggage and re-check their bags in at the OAL counter.



it seems to say you need to be on one ticket. No clue what the OAL counter is and whether it is after immigration. I do recall reading that there are some limitations when on two separate tickets so best to call the consulate and confirm.

Last edited by erik123; Mar 10, 17 at 8:42 am
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Old Mar 10, 17, 2:31 pm
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Originally Posted by erik123 View Post
From Timatic

it seems to say you need to be on one ticket. No clue what the OAL counter is and whether it is after immigration. I do recall reading that there are some limitations when on two separate tickets so best to call the consulate and confirm.
As I stated in the first line of my post, one single record locator (i.e., one reservation with one record locator which I assume, perhaps incorrectly, is the definition of "one ticket") issued by United will provide the through ticketing between LIM and JNB via GRU (on TA connecting at GRU with SA). I assume (once again, perhaps wrongly) that if I check in for the TA flight in Lima less than 24 hours before the SA flight is scheduled to depart GRU, TA-- as a member of Star Alliance and given that I will be flying on what I understand to be a single ticket-- can give me boarding passes all the way through to JNB.

The problem is that I have a 12 1/2 hour connecting time at GRU (although not overnight).

The Avianca agent-- who didn't seem to fully understand what I was asking-- claimed the maximum international to international connecting time for baggage arriving into GRU on TA was six hours. If that is correct, I simply cannot check bags through even if I have a single ticket (i.e., one record locator) issued by United and was also able to get my boarding passes for both flights printed in Lima when I checked in with TA (Avianca). Can anyone, based upon their actual experience with TA at GRU, confirm whether or not baggage connecting times greater than six hours are allowed by TA at GRU? That's why I am anxious to get feedback from people who have actually flown TA into GRU.

Also if I can't check baggage through, I really need to know if TA has a strict or accommodating carry-on policy (again, in case it makes a difference, I will be flying business class and will have Star Alliance Gold Premier status). While the only recent problem I have had with an airline's carry on and/or checked baggage limitation was when I flew NZ a couple of years ago in coach (that was before I had Star Alliance Gold status), I can't afford to get caught unprepared when I board my TA flight at LIM given that I won't have a Brazilian visa.

Last edited by Rover75; Mar 10, 17 at 2:44 pm
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Old Mar 10, 17, 2:46 pm
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Personally, I think if you start having too many "ifs", the situation gets a little complicated. There are a lot of moving parts and in the end if the TA check-in agent decides you're not "transiting" be it because of the length of the layover, need to check baggage, etc, you can be denied boarding on your LIM-GRU flight.

You either take a non-negligible risk, or go through the pain (and cost) of taking a Brazilian tourist visa. On the positive side, it's valid for 10 years, so who knows if it might come in handy again during that time?
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Old Mar 10, 17, 3:03 pm
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Originally Posted by RafKa View Post
Personally, I think if you start having too many "ifs", the situation gets a little complicated. There are a lot of moving parts and in the end if the TA check-in agent decides you're not "transiting" be it because of the length of the layover, need to check baggage, etc, you can be denied boarding on your LIM-GRU flight.

You either take a non-negligible risk, or go through the pain (and cost) of taking a Brazilian tourist visa. On the positive side, it's valid for 10 years, so who knows if it might come in handy again during that time?
+1
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Old Mar 10, 17, 3:10 pm
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Originally Posted by RafKa View Post
Personally, I think if you start having too many "ifs", the situation gets a little complicated. There are a lot of moving parts and in the end if the TA check-in agent decides you're not "transiting" be it because of the length of the layover, need to check baggage, etc, you can be denied boarding on your LIM-GRU flight.
I definitely understand the logic of your response.

That said, I find it (politically) offensive that I may be forced to acquire a visa that is not only expensive (that is bad enough) but which requires (from what I have read) a complicated form, proof of ticketed travel in advance, and my surrendering my passport for several days at their consulate for the simple "privilege" of transiting through GRU on my way to another country. So if I think I can get away with it, I really would like to avoid the visa (or quite honestly, just skip the stop in Lima and fly from JFK to JNB).

This is why, if possible, I am so anxious to hear from anyone who has actually flown into GRU on TA as part of an itinerary that involved an international transfer at GRU.
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Old Mar 10, 17, 3:19 pm
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Originally Posted by qfrodo View Post
+1
If you are suggesting that I am stupid to seek out the experience of actual travelers who may have actually taken the TA flight from LIM to GRU that I am looking at, I respectfully disagree.

In my years of traveling around the globe, I have found no substitute for the actual experience of real travelers when planning a complex trip. This doesn't mean I won't consider a visa, but my original post was very clearly focused on getting specific, experiential feedback from people who had actually transited GRU international to international recently. Theoretical answers just aren't the same.
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Old Mar 10, 17, 7:50 pm
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I think the chances of you finding someone who 1) transited internationally through GRU on TA 2) on a 12h layover, and 3) from a country whose citizens are normally required to get a visa to enter Brazil (i.e. therefore had to be especially attentive about the specific need to stay airside) are going to be slim to none.

So speculation is the best you can hope to get here, and the best people can offer you is that in theory it should be feasible but there's also a fair chance of a major SNAFU along the way.

If that's not good enough for you, my friend - and you can't be bothered to get a Brazilian visa just to be on the safe side - I recommend you take your own advice and fly to JNB direct from the US, or via Europe.

Last edited by RafKa; Mar 10, 17 at 7:56 pm
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Old Mar 10, 17, 7:52 pm
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I have done multiple transits at GRU but the max was 5 hours.

With checked bags over 12 hours it is unclear if it is possible. With carry on in theory you should be OK but if the check-in agent is uncertain you might run into trouble. They will err on the side of caution with Brazil. I don't think anyone can give you a 100% certainty on that.

You are welcome.
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Old Mar 11, 17, 5:31 am
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Originally Posted by Rover75 View Post
If you are suggesting that I am stupid to seek out the experience of actual travelers who may have actually taken the TA flight from LIM to GRU that I am looking at, I respectfully disagree.

In my years of traveling around the globe, I have found no substitute for the actual experience of real travelers when planning a complex trip. This doesn't mean I won't consider a visa, but my original post was very clearly focused on getting specific, experiential feedback from people who had actually transited GRU international to international recently. Theoretical answers just aren't the same.
No, I was indicating that I agree with RafKa that there is a lot or risk.And if you are unable to find anyone with actual experience in doing what you plan, then you will need to decide if the risk is acceptable. RafKA and I are pointing out that it may be wiser to reduce the risk, as you allude to this by mentioning flying JFK-JNB if necessary. Even if you find someone who has done what you plan, things change and people interpret rules differently or with no consistency. You are looking at travel in South America and like asking 100 economists the same question and getting 100 different answers, air travel in South America can be much the same.
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Old Mar 11, 17, 5:38 am
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Originally Posted by erik123 View Post
I have done multiple transits at GRU but the max was 5 hours.

With checked bags over 12 hours it is unclear if it is possible. With carry on in theory you should be OK but if the check-in agent is uncertain you might run into trouble. They will err on the side of caution with Brazil. I don't think anyone can give you a 100% certainty on that.

You are welcome.
My guess is that you are spot on. I am still hoping someone who has done a transit over six or twelve hours at GRU (even if it wasn't TA to SA) can confirm your very reasonable inference. (Without receiving some reassuring feedback about Avianca's carry on policy from folks who have flown them internationally in South America, my instinct is probably going to be flying from JFK to JNB, btw.)
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Old Mar 11, 17, 5:54 am
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Originally Posted by RafKa View Post
I think the chances of you finding someone who 1) transited internationally through GRU on TA 2) on a 12h layover, and 3) from a country whose citizens are normally required to get a visa to enter Brazil (i.e. therefore had to be especially attentive about the specific need to stay airside) are going to be slim to none.

So speculation is the best you can hope to get here, and the best people can offer you is that in theory it should be feasible but there's also a fair chance of a major SNAFU along the way.

If that's not good enough for you, my friend - and you can't be bothered to get a Brazilian visa just to be on the safe side - I recommend you take your own advice and fly to JNB direct from the US, or via Europe.
While I still hope you are wrong when you say I won't find anyone who has transited internationally through GRU on TA, I do agree with the logic of everything you've said, but.

If you go back to my original post, you will see that United Airlines (an American carrier used, in large part, by citizens of the USA, of which I happen to be one) presents this routing from LIM-JNB via GRU as a viable itinerary on its website for United mileage redemption (which, of course, it is). Except that for all the reasons you and others have noted it is probably very risky to take this flight if you don't have a Brazilian visa (even if you never intended to visit Brazil at any point in your life).

But, once again, if you go back to my original post, you will also see that United Airlines (based upon my recent and very specific experience) won't even touch the question of how this connection is supposed to work in practice. They certainly didn't-- even if it would have been an over-abundance of caution-- tell me that I needed a Brazilian visa to make this transit connection that their reservation system was showing me.

As a recent convert to UA (after becoming fed up with the new AA after 30 years of loyal flying), I find UA's seeming indifference to their customers in this circumstance appalling. While you may well disagree (and FWIW, I hope I am wrong), I am willing to place a pretty big bet that there are folks who use the UA website for international airline bookings on other Star Alliance carriers (like TA and SA) who aren't nearly as sophisticated as any of the folks commenting on this thread. And if that's the case, UA needs to be called out (at least IMO). (And indeed, depending on what I learn, that's exactly what I intend to do.)

Last edited by Rover75; Mar 11, 17 at 6:10 am
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Old Mar 12, 17, 8:25 am
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UA does have a section on their wed site concerning travel documents.
https://www.united.com/web/en-US/con.../passport.aspx

And on that page there is another link for entry or transit requirements.
https://www.united.com/web/en-US/app...aspx?i=TIMATIC..

Fill in your information and obtain the results. Filling in just the require fields, it did not mention any time frame for transiting GRU as long as everything is on one ticket. But I have seen other posts on FT that indicate 8 hours is the supposed max time, yet others report remaining longer than that without a problem.

Good luck, whatever you decide to do and safe flight.
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Old Mar 12, 17, 8:44 am
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Have TA make a note in the PNR that you are connecting and take a print out of the timatic page to the airport.
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