Word of warning on OTP for US trips

Old Jul 21, 18, 12:11 am
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Word of warning on OTP for US trips

Hi all... Just had a bit of an unpleasant experience at OTP that I thought might be relevant to the rest of you - especially given the FT hordes moving between OTP and PHX:

Did OLCI and mobile boarding pass, so went straight to the gate. As I got to the front of the boarding queue I was asked to show a printed version of my ESTA. After much back and forth a PDF of the ESTA that I have on my phone was accepted. Agent had quite some attitude, so not a good start to the trip.

So better take a dead tree to the PHX do...
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Old Jul 21, 18, 12:15 am
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Interesting. I didn’t get this when I went through in April. Doing it again on Monday so happy to report back, but suspect this was either a one off or there was an issue for you personally. Did you notice if the same was asked of any other passengers? I suspect there were others on the flight connecting to the US.
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Old Jul 21, 18, 12:34 am
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Originally Posted by madfish View Post
Interesting. I didnít get this when I went through in April. Doing it again on Monday so happy to report back, but suspect this was either a one off or there was an issue for you personally. Did you notice if the same was asked of any other passengers? I suspect there were others on the flight connecting to the US.
Didn't notice it with anyone else, but I had a few large Romanian families ahead of me who seemed to head to the UK - so not necessarily a meaningful observation...
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Old Jul 21, 18, 1:00 am
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I think just by chance, in travel and elsewhere, you meet anyone who "always dunnit like this". The only time I actually had to show any ESTA documentation was a two years ago in BKK, checking in with JL to go via NRT to LAX. They said they couldn't see the ESTA since ticket was on AA stock (?). Having my confirmation document ID easily available in the mobile, it faced a delay of a couple of minutes max.

Of my B2Bs at OTP, only once faced some problem, when the team leader at transfer check point a badge showing he was part of "Brigati Antiterroristi". He did not accept my answer that LHR was my next destination, as I just arrived from there. Excessive security check and probably communicated with gate where I was held until last second before gate closure (previously described in detail here). The other times rather swift procedures being ushered forward by surprised faces, when they realize you're going back to where you came from. There seems to be a learning curve here, and that will benefit all B2Bers.
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Old Jul 21, 18, 1:33 am
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Just to add with regard to ESTAs, although shouldn’t need to, I do tend to carry a print out with me for those just in case moments. I have also organised and lead trips for 20+ people to the US. My own rule is that no copy of ESTA and passport and they don’t even get on the bus to the airport. If check in at the airport cannot seebthe ESTA the print out proves you applied so likely to be a system error rather than allowing them to simply claim you don’t have one.

Although never needed to show one yet!
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Old Jul 21, 18, 1:36 am
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Don't know what it is with JL bur had to show a printout for them multiple times.
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Old Jul 21, 18, 1:48 am
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This has sort of happened to me before, travelling on BA1. The system between the airlines and the CBP went down around an hour before the flight, everyone who didn't have a visa stamped in their passport/non US citizens were offloaded. We all watched our bags come out of the hold and at the same time, the boarding agents said if any of us were able to find their ESTA numbers/a copy of the esta, they can phone someone to confirm it and reload us.

Since then I have an album on my phone with a copy everything for quick reference.
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Old Jul 21, 18, 2:33 am
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It happened to me in Munich when travelling to New York via Paris with Air France. I had to run down to the business centre and print a copy, which was another ordeal.

I had checked in online and downloaded my boarding pass. I had filled out all of the usual details regarding my trip on the Air France website some weeks before. I only visited the desk to drop a bag but the agent insisted on seeing a printed ESTA. I almost missed that flight.

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Old Jul 21, 18, 2:35 am
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Originally Posted by Calum View Post
This has sort of happened to me before, travelling on BA1. The system between the airlines and the CBP went down around an hour before the flight, everyone who didn't have a visa stamped in their passport/non US citizens were offloaded. We all watched our bags come out of the hold and at the same time, the boarding agents said if any of us were able to find their ESTA numbers/a copy of the esta, they can phone someone to confirm it and reload us.

Since then I have an album on my phone with a copy everything for quick reference.
Last year I almost got offloaded on BA1 as the gate agent demanded I have an ESTA...on my Canadian passport. She wouldnít believe I didnít need one.
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Old Jul 21, 18, 2:59 am
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This is not specific to the OTP-PHX route - no need for the scaremongering thread titles.

I've had this several times where the agent (for whatever reason) cannot see an ESTA in your booking, or the ESTA hasn't been validated by the DHS server. Most notably for me was at CDG where I was almost offloaded by AA (on the way to JFK) as they could not see my ESTA but made some calls after I was able to produce the ESTA number from my phone. Other times, at both LHR and ZRH, has been when there have been system outages and the airlines (LX, BA and BA) have not been able to get a positive validation response from the DHS that my ESTA was valid).
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Old Jul 21, 18, 3:08 am
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Print out? The whole concept is that itís electronic/virtual/not paper
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Old Jul 21, 18, 3:12 am
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Originally Posted by rossmacd View Post
This is not specific to the OTP-PHX route - no need for the scaremongering thread titles
Absolutely right, and the key factor here is that Romania is not a Visa Waiver country - most passengers at Henri Coandă International airport would have something like a B1/B2 visa which of course would be carefully examined at the gate. If you fly from any country which is non VWP you really need to have a printed or easily accessible digital copy of the ESTA. The one that used to catch people out was smaller Greek islands. Their computer was incapable of doing a handshake to the Department for Homeland Security so you really needed to have a printout there, though I gather that has now been fixed. And as has been mentioned, you best have a copy anyway since even in more mainstream countries the interface to the DHS can go down. Airlines only get fined if they take someone who patently should not be travelling to the USA (e.g. no ESTA at all), but if the computer link is down/not present then the printout is a good idea. I just keep the details on my telephone, I don't take a printed version, I think I've been asked about twice for it in the last 5 years, from Latin America, though I also have a work visa for the USA. I'm surprised this comes as a surprise!
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Old Jul 21, 18, 3:51 am
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If you're a British citizen I would have thought that you cannot be denied boarding on a flight OTP-LHR regardless of whether you have an ESTA; you could still sort one out when you get to LHR or even abandon the rest of the itinerary... They should of course check or make sure that you're aware you will need one for the second leg of the journey.


Similar situations - I had a booking NCL-LHR-DUS, OLCI didn't work and my passport was at home in London, not that BA knew this before I told them. At the airport they obviously wouldn't check me in for LHR-DUS, but no problem flying to Heathrow.

Also, had family members at various airline outstations threatened with denial of boarding on XXX-YYY-China because the agents didn't recognise Home Return Permits or understand the TWOV rules. There was no doubt that they could enter YYY, so they managed to convince the airline to let them fly the first leg; more experienced agents at YYY agreed that they had the correct documents to continue.
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Old Jul 21, 18, 4:59 am
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Update: Made it to LHR and got stopped at the flight connection desk to have the usual document check and was asked if I was travelling under an ESTA.

So whatever the Romanian gate agent did, it can't have been very effective - which would indicate that I had a clueless agent, and this is not general policy at OTP.
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Old Jul 21, 18, 6:43 am
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offtopic: whats it the whole story of otp-phx? I saw quite a few replies about this route but cannot see any topics with a great deal on?
safe travels
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