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United787
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Immigration/Customs Free Transit Zone In US?

Wed Jun 08, 2011 6:49 pm

Forgive me and suggest deletion if this topic has been specifically discussed before:

Are there any Immigration/Customs Free Transit Zones at any US airports like SIN where you can arrive in the US and transit to another flight without having to technically enter the USA and go through immirgation/customs?

What international airports have this type of facility? SIN, AMS, HKG?

Is there any market for this type of facility in the US? Getting visas to the US is difficult for many people so I would think that there would be some market and it would be great for the US airlines that would have this type of facility at their hub... but I would think Europe-Latin America would generally not be much of a market since you can easily get from Europe to Latin America without stopping in the US. The only other major market that is geographically logical would be Asia-Latin America since the distances are long and the routes more thin.

But which airport would make most sense in the US for Asia-Latin America traffic? The strongest Asia hubs are SFO and ORD but they are weak to Latin America. The strongest Latin America hubs are MIA, CLT, ATL, DFW and IAH but they are weak to Asia. Maybe JFK, EWR or LAX, they serve Asia and Latin America moderately and also Europe and Oceania.

Thoughts?
 
glbltrvlr
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RE: Immigration/Customs Free Transit Zone In US?

Wed Jun 08, 2011 6:53 pm

IIRC, US law does not permit transit without immigration screening. Basically, you have to have a visa to transit the US. I think as long as the hold baggage isn't accessible, you don't have to go through customs.

Most of the major US airports either have transit lounges or gates that can be isolated.
 
airindia787
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RE: Immigration/Customs Free Transit Zone In US?

Wed Jun 08, 2011 6:54 pm

In the US there are no international transit zones like in other countries, which is why international to international is so undesirable to do in the US. Until 2003 there was an "International to International" program, in which passengers transiting internationally would be taken to a holding area instead of having to go through immigration and customs.

Edit: I seem to recall someone saying that the TBIT in LAX still has an international transit area.

[Edited 2011-06-08 11:58:17]
 
glbltrvlr
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RE: Immigration/Customs Free Transit Zone In US?

Wed Jun 08, 2011 7:17 pm

Quoting airindia787 (Reply 2):
TBIT in LAX still has an international transit area.

I recall that as well, but I think you have to separate the physical facility from what current law/procedure is. I've seen isolated gates at ORD and the new DFW Terminal D has a lounge.

[Edited 2011-06-08 12:18:26]

[Edited 2011-06-08 12:18:55]
 
Maverick623
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RE: Immigration/Customs Free Transit Zone In US?

Wed Jun 08, 2011 7:19 pm

Quoting United787 (Thread starter):

Are there any Immigration/Customs Free Transit Zones at any US airports like SIN where you can arrive in the US and transit to another flight without having to technically enter the USA and go through immirgation/customs?

No.

Quoting United787 (Thread starter):

What international airports have this type of facility? SIN, AMS, HKG?

LHR as well. I'd be willing to bet most major European airports have such a set-up, like FRA, AMS, ZRH, etc...

Quoting United787 (Thread starter):

Is there any market for this type of facility in the US?

Not really. The vast majority (>95%) of airline travel in the US involves a domestic segment. It's just not worth it at most airports to cordon off a specific area for transiting passengers. In fact, the only airports where it would work is JFK and LAX.

Quoting glbltrvlr (Reply 1):
IIRC, US law does not permit transit without immigration screening.

This is also true.
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Birdwatching
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RE: Immigration/Customs Free Transit Zone In US?

Wed Jun 08, 2011 7:31 pm

Quoting Maverick623 (Reply 4):
The vast majority (>95%) of airline travel in the US involves a domestic segment.

Yes, but that is BECAUSE int'l to int'l is so complicated for non visa waiver passengers. Imagine the role MIA could play in Europe to LatAm flights. AA could be making a killing in that market. IIRC Iberia used to hub in MIA to South America, but it didn't make a lot of sense because South Americans can't easily get a visa for the USA.

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blueflyer
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RE: Immigration/Customs Free Transit Zone In US?

Wed Jun 08, 2011 7:35 pm

In my experience, international transit lounges are as often as not used to hold passengers on an international flight that has boarded but must be emptied again before departure (last-minute change of aircraft, repairs necessitating the aircraft be free of passengers, etc...). Without a transit lounge, passengers who have boarded an international flight must clear immigration if they disembark in the US for any reason.

Quoting United787 (Thread starter):
Are there any Immigration/Customs Free Transit Zones at any US airports

Slight nuance. As others have posted, there is no "Immigration Free Transit Zone" in the US, but passengers on NZ1 and NZ2 (AKL-LAX-LHR vv) who do not end their flight in the US do not clear customs while in transit. They only clear immigration.
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flymia
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RE: Immigration/Customs Free Transit Zone In US?

Wed Jun 08, 2011 7:41 pm

Quoting Maverick623 (Reply 4):
In fact, the only airports where it would work is JFK and LAX.

MIA also. Connections to somewhere to Latin America and the Caribbean would work. AA still does transit passenger internationally from MIA. Board any AA flight from Europe or a BA from LHR and when connection iformation is given out before arrival some international destinations are said. Of course someone with an EU passport will not have any problems going through the US. Just a little bit more of a hassel.

Quoting Birdwatching (Reply 5):
IIRC Iberia used to hub in MIA to South America, but it didn't make a lot of sense because South Americans can't easily get a visa for the USA.

Yes Iberia did used to have a small hub operation in MIA they based at different times DC-9-30s. MD-88s and last A319s at MIA flying to Mexico and Central America. The Visa to transit law which came in after 9/11 made it a bit more difficult for those transits to work and that was one of the reasons IB closed down the MIA hub.

Quoting United787 (Thread starter):
What international airports have this type of facility? SIN, AMS, HKG?

Most major international hubs outside the US have this. MAD, LHR, ZRH, FRA, AMS, HKG etc..
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United787
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RE: Immigration/Customs Free Transit Zone In US?

Wed Jun 08, 2011 9:43 pm

Thank you everyone for the information, very informative.

Quoting Birdwatching (Reply 5):
Yes, but that is BECAUSE int'l to int'l is so complicated for non visa waiver passengers. Imagine the role MIA could play in Europe to LatAm flights. AA could be making a killing in that market. IIRC Iberia used to hub in MIA to South America, but it didn't make a lot of sense because South Americans can't easily get a visa for the USA.

I would agree that it would seem AA could tap into a larger market if they were able to create such a zone at MIA. Do we know if AA or any other US airline has lobbied for such a thing?
 
blueflyer
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RE: Immigration/Customs Free Transit Zone In US?

Wed Jun 08, 2011 10:45 pm

Quoting United787 (Reply 8):
Do we know if AA or any other US airline has lobbied for such a thing?

I'm not sure they have the cash to take advantage of it should the airlines be able to change the law. US airports are not built to allow the segregation of departing domestic and international flights and it would take some major renovations to make it happen, which airlines would have to pay for either directly or as part of their lease. Some airports may have to expand the floor above the existing passenger concourse that is currently just big enough to channel international arriving passengers to customs and immigrations, others would have to close off an entire section of a terminal and make it a "transit zone," at the expense of gate flexibility between domestic and international flights.

Look at DFW which was supposed to have an international terminal (terminal D) that could have served just for that purpose. AA operates a large number of domestic flights out of that terminal for which it has no gate available at its other, domestic-only, terminals. If the airport turns terminal D into a transit zone, does AA cancel flights, or do they build more gates at its other terminals to accommodate the domestic flights that can no longer operate at D? With a choice like that, maybe AA is better off under the current system.

I think the only airport where it could be done at a minimal cost for all involved is ORD, where AA and UA unload at the international terminal (terminal 5) and planes are towed empty for departure to their respective terminals. There are no domestic departures out of terminal 5, so the only change would be that planes from AA and UA no longer have to be towed to another terminal for departure, but that may take up necessary capacity, on the other hand.

The transit lounges spoken of above are very spartan, usually limited in number to one or two per airport, so necessarily pretty far from many gates at any large airport. In other words, absolutely not adequate as it is for a large number of passengers in transit in an "immigration free zone."
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aklrno
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RE: Immigration/Customs Free Transit Zone In US?

Thu Jun 09, 2011 2:55 am

Just my guess, but I can see customs free zones but not immigration free zones. Dogs and x-rays may scan in-transit bags whether you know it or not. That would not inconvenience passengers.

After 9/11 it became obvious that fully fueled aircraft are a special threat. The US government may trust other nations passenger screening on incoming flights (they have little choice) but when landing the aircraft has a lot less fuel on board. On takeoff when it is fully loaded it is more dangerous. They want to know who is on those fully fueled planes. Perhaps some countries can be trusted. I think the German passenger inspections are more intrusive than anything the TSA does. Israeli inspections are legendary. I don't think much trust can be placed in notoriously corrupt countries. Rather than try to sort that out, it is easier to just inspect everyone upon arrival before connecting.

I know people who fly NZ LHR-HKG-AKL instead of LHR-LAX-AKL because of that. It's not that many people. For myself, when I have two 12 or 13 hour flights back-to-back I like to take a day in between. Most international connections in the US involve long flights. There is always something to do in London,HKG,SIN or similar places. If you can afford it, breaking up the flights is a much more pleasant experience.

If LAX is the place you are connecting, the airport hotels are cheap and easy to get to. You can take a shared shuttle to Santa Monica or Marina del Rey and have a nice day on the beach. When you arrive after a a marathon day of flying you are probably useless for a while anyway. Break it up enjoy life. NYC is even easier. Take the train to Manhattan for about $12 and at least have a good meal. Same for SFO.
 
signol
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RE: Immigration/Customs Free Transit Zone In US?

Thu Jun 09, 2011 3:06 am

Quoting United787 (Thread starter):
What international airports have this type of facility?

All international to international connections I've done outside the US have this.
CDG, MAD, BKK (old), FCO, MXP, AMS, NBO, DUS

I've only connected in LAX, including on NZ1 where we had to pass immmigration to be allowed into a small transit room, before re-joining the same aircraft. Had the HKG connection been there at the time, we would have used it.

Quoting airindia787 (Reply 2):
Edit: I seem to recall someone saying that the TBIT in LAX still has an international transit area.

It did when I passed through, as above, but there were 2 immigration desks set up in the jetbridge from the aircraft leading into it.

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legacyins
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RE: Immigration/Customs Free Transit Zone In US?

Thu Jun 09, 2011 4:58 am

The airports in the U.S. were never built to accomindate the Internatioanl to International transit. 9/11 stopped all transit without a visa options. At SFO, there were a lot of passengers arriving from Mexico on UA transitting to Asia. They would disembark and be met by an airline rep. They would be brought to a transit room, within the sterile walkway to Immigration, and wait there for their outbound flight. They would not need a visa or go through the Immigration or Customs formalities.

IB had a few flights running from MIA to various Carribean/Central American Coutries. After the transit program changed, they pulled their flights out and now fly directly to those Countries.

Would it be beneficial to have such a system as some Euope and Asia Airports? Sure it would but the U.S. is in a "security" mode and it will not happen.
 
glbltrvlr
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RE: Immigration/Customs Free Transit Zone In US?

Fri Jun 10, 2011 6:25 pm

Quoting blueflyer (Reply 9):
AA operates a large number of domestic flights out of that terminal for which it has no gate available at its other, domestic-only, terminals. If the airport turns terminal D into a transit zone, does AA cancel flights, or do they build more gates at its other terminals to accommodate the domestic flights that can no longer operate at D?

I would be interested in knowing what the thinking was. AA essentially shifted domestic gates from B to D, making D a mixed use terminal. Can't believe B was that full, but even if it was, E is essentially a ghost terminal with lots of space for other non-AA gates.

I'm sure at DFW what AA wants, AA gets, and D is obviously a nicer terminal than B, but there really isn't a reason why D couldn't be international flights only.
 
Maverick623
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RE: Immigration/Customs Free Transit Zone In US?

Fri Jun 10, 2011 11:33 pm

Quoting Birdwatching (Reply 5):
Yes, but that is BECAUSE int'l to int'l is so complicated for non visa waiver passengers

Not quite. As I said before, JFK and LAX (and MIA, thanks for adding that to the list) are the only airports where there would be any kind of market for a "transit area". It wouldn't be cost effective for any other airport to even consider building a sterile transit zone, IMO.

If you look at airports like DTW, PHL, MSP, DFW, and ORD... the vast majority of international passengers have a domestic US segment.
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blueflyer
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RE: Immigration/Customs Free Transit Zone In US?

Sat Jun 11, 2011 12:05 pm

Quoting Maverick623 (Reply 14):
the vast majority of international passengers have a domestic US segment.

But that is a "chicken-and-egg" argument. Perhaps it is so because passengers try and avoiding transiting through the US on international-to-international routing to avoid clearing immigration. Who's to say that DFW or IAH couldn't become a busy transit point between Europe and Central America or Mexico if passengers could bypass US immigration?
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reifel
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RE: Immigration/Customs Free Transit Zone In US?

Sun Jun 12, 2011 10:51 am

I was wondering what happens with passengers that only have a stop in the US and continue on the same aircraft an hour later. i.e. Air Tahiti NUI CDG-LAX-PPT... Will passengers need to disembark, get their bags, get through immigration and then board again? I mean, its the same aircraft, same flight number etc.. It's not connecting...

In other parts of the world, let's take FRA-SIN-CGK on LH people get a transit boarding card, may need to clear security again (but even this is not always necessary) and just reboard (or even in some cases can remain on board),
 
glbltrvlr
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RE: Immigration/Customs Free Transit Zone In US?

Sun Jun 12, 2011 4:17 pm

Quoting reifel (Reply 16):
Will passengers need to disembark, get their bags, get through immigration and then board again? I mean, its the same aircraft, same flight number etc.. It's not connecting...

Doesn't matter. As posted above, all passengers to the US must clear immigration at their first US port of entry and post 9/11, all non-US passengers must have a US visa or be a citizen of a visa wavier country.
 
reifel
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RE: Immigration/Customs Free Transit Zone In US?

Sun Jun 12, 2011 4:54 pm

Quoting glbltrvlr (Reply 17):
Doesn't matter. As posted above, all passengers to the US must clear immigration at their first US port of entry and post 9/11, all non-US passengers must have a US visa or be a citizen of a visa wavier country.

Sure, but does this apply if the aircraft continues to another country and only lands in the US for letting some of the passengers disembark and/or for refueling?
 
glbltrvlr
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RE: Immigration/Customs Free Transit Zone In US?

Sun Jun 12, 2011 9:37 pm

Quoting reifel (Reply 18):
Sure, but does this apply if the aircraft continues to another country and only lands in the US for letting some of the passengers disembark and/or for refueling?

The rule still applies - which is why there are very few transit passengers through the US. Anchorage used to have a special exemption because there were so many flights that did tech stops for fuel, but that was also disallowed some time after 9/11. Alaska tried to get the exemption back, but i don't know if they were able to.

IIRC TSA also wanted passenger lists for aircraft that were transiting US airspace without stopping and possibly tried to enforce the Do Not Fly list for those flights. No visa required there, but gives you an idea of the screening going on.
 
MAH4546
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RE: Immigration/Customs Free Transit Zone In US?

Mon Jun 13, 2011 5:56 pm

Despite the rule, the huge majority of Latin America-Asia traffic, as well as a fair amount of Latin America-Europe traffic, transits via the United States. Tickets are cheap, the routing is direct and most people who can afford to travel hold a multiple-year entry visa or belong to a TWOV nation. Furthermore, people seem to forget it is quite easy to get an EU passport if one's grandparents were EU-born, which applies to many wealthy Latin Americans.
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sw733
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RE: Immigration/Customs Free Transit Zone In US?

Mon Jun 13, 2011 6:23 pm

Quoting flymia (Reply 7):
Board any AA flight from Europe or a BA from LHR and when connection iformation is given out before arrival some international destinations are said.

The vast majority of my NRT-DFW flights on AA have people connecting on to Mexico...usually the smaller cities (i.e. Veracruz, Aguas, Leon)
 
bj87
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RE: Immigration/Customs Free Transit Zone In US?

Wed Jun 15, 2011 12:57 pm

Quoting glbltrvlr (Reply 17):
Doesn't matter. As posted above, all passengers to the US must clear immigration at their first US port of entry and post 9/11, all non-US passengers must have a US visa or be a citizen of a visa wavier country.

Do these people also have to pay the 14 dollar rip off fee via credit card that will be tracked? I still have a valid multi year visa so I haven't got a clue.

I did an international connection in the US once and had to deal with the ever so rude immigration idiots, ridiculous if you ask me. Adds to the strain of traveling so I would rather avoid customs hassles like this and travel via another country. The visa and immigration situation in the US probably costs US airlines a fair amount of business.

Quoting reifel (Reply 16):
I was wondering what happens with passengers that only have a stop in the US and continue on the same aircraft an hour later.

On domestic aircraft you can remain seated or walk around the terminal, don't know about international flights though.
 
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legacyins
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RE: Immigration/Customs Free Transit Zone In US?

Wed Jun 15, 2011 3:47 pm

Quoting bj87 (Reply 22):
Do these people also have to pay the 14 dollar


Yes, they need to be approved for ESTA.

Quoting bj87 (Reply 22):
On domestic aircraft you can remain seated or walk around the terminal, don't know about international flights though

Nope. Everyone off the aircraft. International passengers will need to clear Immigration formalities.
 
glbltrvlr
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RE: Immigration/Customs Free Transit Zone In US?

Wed Jun 15, 2011 7:47 pm

Quoting bj87 (Reply 22):
I did an international connection in the US once and had to deal with the ever so rude immigration idiots, ridiculous if you ask me.

Unfortunately, they exist everywhere. My wife and I entered the UK a month ago at LHR for the purposes of a two week holiday. We've done this many times in the past in the UK and always been greeted with a smile and quickly passed through with "have a great holiday". This time the agent was not in a happy mood and grilled us extensively about where we were going, what we were planning on doing, what did I do for a living, who did I work for, etc. Eventually he handed the passports back and motioned us through. Just chalk it up to a bad day...
 
Maverick623
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RE: Immigration/Customs Free Transit Zone In US?

Thu Jun 16, 2011 10:18 pm

Quoting glbltrvlr (Reply 24):

Unfortunately, they exist everywhere.

As do nice ones.

I have never had a problem with any immigration officer. I've had some ask some interesting questions to try and trip me up, and I've had one not say a single word to me.

Even when I got randomly selected for secondary, the officer was very polite and (as all of them have) said "Welcome home".


I also worked with and around CBP in PHX for a couple of years straight, and have never had a problem with any of them.
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goblin211
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RE: Immigration/Customs Free Transit Zone In US?

Thu Jun 16, 2011 10:51 pm

Quoting Maverick623 (Reply 4):
In fact, the only airports where it would work is JFK and LAX.

Why not IAD or DFW? Pax can just stop half way through USA then continue either East or West.
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