No ESTA - yes I do!

Old Dec 15, 2018, 7:13 am
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No ESTA - yes I do!

On line check in this morning for a flight to the US was declined because they are not sure I have an ESTA. It's not the first flight to the US with BA on this ESTA either. A call to the Executive club was picked up satisfyingly quickly and after being put on hold for a couple of minutes I was told all was well and to check in tomorrow at LHR. I asked if they could enter the ESTA details but this was not on.
I did wonder if the check-in could not run a extra line "If you have an ESTA please enter the confirmation number".
I will go to LHR tomorrow with a print-out of my ESTA status so there will be no problems but I will now have the last pick of remaining available seats and it is all mildly unnerving that the booking is not as clean as it should be.
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Old Dec 15, 2018, 7:37 am
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I think we have seen a flury of posts in this and related areas recently:
API Email - but all completed?

and then in the Dashboard is the main thread on those who want to know "Why can't I check-in" and the SSSS aspect. So I suspect there is a glitch somewhere at the BA or CBP (US Customs and Border Protection Federal Agency) end.

But the ESTA number isn't relevant, it's just a payment code. The real key to unlock the CBP's approval is the passport issue country (e.g. UK), passport number, issue date, your date of birth and a pattern match on your name. The CBP's computers receive this information from the airlines in a constant stream and give an OK signal when they the see a match which they are happy with. Sometimes the information stream falls over, either at the airline end or at the CBP end and so temporarily the airline hasn't had the greenlight from the CBP. Giving BA or even the CBP an ESTA number is meaningless, the information isn't stored or processed that way. If BA don't get the CBP's OK then you aren't flying, it really is that simple, and presenting the ESTA number will get you nowhere: your passport information is the trigger they give to the CBP. Obviously it's important to use the ESTA number to check it is in date, and that your passport is also in date too, but that's important only to the passenger, not to the airline or OLCI. To slightly modify that a bit, BA's willingness to keep trying with CBP clearance would be enhanced if you showed the email showing you have an ESTA and takes away a conversation which says "go to that computer over there and apply for an ESTA", but that's as far as it goes.

If the CBP's computer goes down it's not hugely unusual for flights to be held for 30 minutes or an hour waiting for it to come back online, typically 40 or so passengers on a flight could be affected.
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Old Dec 15, 2018, 7:50 am
  #3  
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Originally Posted by gbs1112
I asked if they could enter the ESTA details but this was not on.
.
It's not that they won't but because they can't enter it. There isn't a field anywhere to put anything in.

An ESTA is not the same as KTN for pre-check where you / the airline can add it.

As CWS says this is an automated system. BA sends APIS data over to the CBP who then send a marker back that the passenger is OK or not OK to board the flight. That's all BA can see - a marker and no more
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Old Dec 15, 2018, 12:57 pm
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My brother had exactly this last month.

The outcome was that he had entered one digit different on his ESTA application, which still got approved but because it didn't match it wouldn't let him check in.

He had a panic at the airport desk trying to apply for a new one, hoping it would be an immediate answer, which it was, thankfully.
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Old Dec 16, 2018, 5:57 am
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Originally Posted by corporate-wage-slave
I think we have seen a flury of posts in this and related areas recently:
API Email - but all completed?

and then in the Dashboard is the main thread on those who want to know "Why can't I check-in" and the SSSS aspect. So I suspect there is a glitch somewhere at the BA or CBP (US Customs and Border Protection Federal Agency) end.

But the ESTA number isn't relevant, it's just a payment code. The real key to unlock the CBP's approval is the passport issue country (e.g. UK), passport number, issue date, your date of birth and a pattern match on your name. The CBP's computers receive this information from the airlines in a constant stream and give an OK signal when they the see a match which they are happy with. Sometimes the information stream falls over, either at the airline end or at the CBP end and so temporarily the airline hasn't had the greenlight from the CBP. Giving BA or even the CBP an ESTA number is meaningless, the information isn't stored or processed that way. If BA don't get the CBP's OK then you aren't flying, it really is that simple, and presenting the ESTA number will get you nowhere: your passport information is the trigger they give to the CBP. Obviously it's important to use the ESTA number to check it is in date, and that your passport is also in date too, but that's important only to the passenger, not to the airline or OLCI. To slightly modify that a bit, BA's willingness to keep trying with CBP clearance would be enhanced if you showed the email showing you have an ESTA and takes away a conversation which says "go to that computer over there and apply for an ESTA", but that's as far as it goes.

If the CBP's computer goes down it's not hugely unusual for flights to be held for 30 minutes or an hour waiting for it to come back online, typically 40 or so passengers on a flight could be affected.
Always puzzled me why if you take a cruise to the USA they insist upon seeing the ESTA - I doubt that any real check is done with CBP.
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Old Dec 16, 2018, 6:12 am
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Originally Posted by GentleGiant
Always puzzled me why if you take a cruise to the USA they insist upon seeing the ESTA - I doubt that any real check is done with CBP.
Ah, well that as they say, is different. It's more about the cruise company doing all it can to ensure their lovely passengers have done the necessary ahead of travel. I don't think they are checking with CBP, they are effectively getting the passengers to check for themselves. Some aviation out-stations have been known to ask for it too, there was an incident at OTP where this led to a kerfuffle of sorts given that many of the locals would be travelling on visas rather than ESTAs.
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Old Dec 16, 2018, 6:19 am
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Originally Posted by eugegall
My brother had exactly this last month.

The outcome was that he had entered one digit different on his ESTA application, which still got approved but because it didn't match it wouldn't let him check in.

He had a panic at the airport desk trying to apply for a new one, hoping it would be an immediate answer, which it was, thankfully.
He was lucky with the timing. Esta must now be completed at least 72 hours before travel according to the CBP site, no more real time approval while at the airport
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Old Dec 16, 2018, 6:57 am
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Originally Posted by ConfusedByBAEC
He was lucky with the timing. Esta must now be completed at least 72 hours before travel according to the CBP site, no more real time approval while at the airport
No that's wrong.

CBP website

Note: While CBP recommends that you apply for ESTA at least 72 hours before travel, you may apply anytime prior to boarding. In most cases, a response is received within seconds of submitting an application
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Old Dec 16, 2018, 7:43 am
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Originally Posted by UKtravelbear
No that's wrong.

CBP website
No it isn't
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Old Dec 16, 2018, 7:51 am
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There must be a way to approve with less than 72 hours as sometimes people have to travel at the last minute.

Can't believe the USA would block that - of course they would rather people did it all in advance.
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Old Dec 16, 2018, 7:52 am
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Originally Posted by GentleGiant
There must be a way to approve with less than 72 hours as sometimes people have to travel at the last minute.

Can't believe the USA would block that - of course they would rather people did it all in advance.
agreed in some cases flights are booked on the same day, or due to irrops within an hour or 2
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Old Dec 16, 2018, 8:29 am
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They have always been saying that it can take up to 72hrs for the approval, was like this from day one. Obvious that they see a lot of applications not being approved within seconds and want to remind people about that. So do not expect it to go through within seconds/minutes, but you could be lucky and get it approved within minutes.

My guess: A lot of people are doing this last minute, the airport, and CBP see this increasing as well as slower approval-times.
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Old Dec 16, 2018, 8:45 am
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DHS makes the same statement about its KTN program usage, e.g., that if your KTN is not associated with an e-ticket at T-72, it may not be approved for usage on that segment.

The reality is that for most people in most circumstances, approvals are close to immediate. This is simply a way for DHS to cover itself when there are either glitches (or real problems).

C-W-S has provided the correct workflow for ESTA. A printed copy of one's ESTA receipt seems to be a good thing to have in hand even though it is of no particular use.
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Old Dec 16, 2018, 2:32 pm
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Originally Posted by UKtravelbear
No that's wrong.

CBP website
Unless its an emergency then apply before departure otherwise its best to always have an active ESTA applicaiton on file even if you are not planning nay US travel within the near future. Why? What if you were diverted to a US airport and were told that there are no flights for three days? With ESTA you can leave the airport and go to a hotel. Without it you would be stuck in an "in transit" lounge.
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Old Dec 16, 2018, 4:57 pm
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Originally Posted by danielonn
Unless its an emergency then apply before departure otherwise its best to always have an active ESTA applicaiton on file even if you are not planning nay US travel within the near future. Why? What if you were diverted to a US airport and were told that there are no flights for three days? With ESTA you can leave the airport and go to a hotel. Without it you would be stuck in an "in transit" lounge.
No, you would not be.

Largely because the US does not have "transit" and there are no "in transit" lounges.

More to the point, CBP has arrangements for flight diversions in place and the easiest situation for non-nationals is the processing of those holding passports from VWP countries.

Don't forget that if your aircraft overflies the US, passenger data is provided to CBP even though it may never be used. While there is the remote possibility of a flight not expected to overfly the US having to divert to the US, that really is a remote and rare occasion.

The underlying suggestion of keeping a current ESTA, given its minimal cost, for those with anything approaching a potential need for US travel, seems to make sense.
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