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Cory6188
Topic Author
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How could the US implement intl-to-intl pax transfer?

Wed Jan 27, 2021 2:23 pm

On a trip through AMS where I was connecting from an international-to-international (non-Schengen) set of flights, I was thinking about how the US doesn't allow transit for passengers from one international flight to another without going through US immigration/customs. I know there have been some one-off examples in the past (e.g. at LAX), but nothing on a broad scale.

Obviously, it's not in the pipeline for the US to change their policy anytime soon, but even if the US wanted to allow international pax transit, is there a way that it could be reasonably coordinated? Given the way US airports are laid out, with any pax in the terminal able to walk out through the security exit, I'm not sure how they could even allow international transit without major architectural modifications. For example, at any US airport, you can have a flight to DSM next to a flight to NRT, with no delineation between domestic/international pax being at side-by-side gates.

Furthermore, there are so many airports in the US that could serve as major connecting points (compared to countries with a single main airport - e.g. LHR, AMS, CDG, FRA, SIN, HKG, etc.) - I'd think it'd take an enormous initiative to pull this off.

Curious for any perspective from people who might know more on this one.
 
ScottB
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Re: How could the US implement intl-to-intl pax transfer?

Wed Jan 27, 2021 2:33 pm

Cory6188 wrote:
On a trip through AMS where I was connecting from an international-to-international (non-Schengen) set of flights, I was thinking about how the US doesn't allow transit for passengers from one international flight to another without going through US immigration/customs. I know there have been some one-off examples in the past (e.g. at LAX), but nothing on a broad scale.

Obviously, it's not in the pipeline for the US to change their policy anytime soon, but even if the US wanted to allow international pax transit, is there a way that it could be reasonably coordinated?


That's not quite true. Back before policy changed in the wake of 9/11/2001, large international airports like MIA, JFK, LAX, IAH, etc. would have a secure international transfer lounge for international-to-international passengers. Passengers not clearing immigration and customs would proceed to this lounge and sit there until escorted to their departure gate through the same set of sterile passages used for arriving international passengers. That transfer lounge was pretty much just a windowless room with chairs and bathroom facilities and not much else.

Agreed that the policy is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future. If it were, they'd likely just go back to the old system; the U.S. is unlikely to impose exit controls on millions of passengers annually just to allow a handful of foreigners to enjoy a more convenient transfer experience.
 
WorldFlier
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Re: How could the US implement intl-to-intl pax transfer?

Wed Jan 27, 2021 2:40 pm

It won't. Ever. Because for whatever reason, a person transiting a very secure building and really, really, unlikely to get out might be a T-word.

We can't allow that. No siree.

The people that the US is worried about transiting in the US would never transit in the US. I'm sure they're scared enough of even FLYING over the USA like say London to Mexico City (and the US gets a manifest of those people too, from what I understand).
 
Cory6188
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Re: How could the US implement intl-to-intl pax transfer?

Wed Jan 27, 2021 2:50 pm

ScottB wrote:
That's not quite true. Back before policy changed in the wake of 9/11/2001, large international airports like MIA, JFK, LAX, IAH, etc. would have a secure international transfer lounge for international-to-international passengers. Passengers not clearing immigration and customs would proceed to this lounge and sit there until escorted to their departure gate through the same set of sterile passages used for arriving international passengers. That transfer lounge was pretty much just a windowless room with chairs and bathroom facilities and not much else.


Interesting - I didn't realize that. Still feels like a pretty manual process - at least not one that could easily allow for people to arrive on one flight and depart to one any number of other flights departing for international destinations. Makes sense from the sense of a LHR-LAX-AKL or CDG-LAX-PPT sort of situation, but not the widespread coming and going that you'd see in a conventional, large transfer hub.
 
Weatherwatcher1
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Re: How could the US implement intl-to-intl pax transfer?

Wed Jan 27, 2021 2:55 pm

The United States doesn’t have exit immigration checks. International to international transfers would require special escorting and holding facilities if permitted. Air Tahiti Nui and Air New Zealand in the past couldn’t segregate their connecting passengers in LAX
 
burnsie28
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Re: How could the US implement intl-to-intl pax transfer?

Wed Jan 27, 2021 3:19 pm

The U.S. market is too large domestically to add immigration checks. Also, with the notion that a lot of the population doesn't have a passport it would be hard to enforce, especially since in some states everyone can get a drivers license without any sort of information verification.
 
ScottB
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Re: How could the US implement intl-to-intl pax transfer?

Wed Jan 27, 2021 3:24 pm

Cory6188 wrote:
Still feels like a pretty manual process - at least not one that could easily allow for people to arrive on one flight and depart to one any number of other flights departing for international destinations. Makes sense from the sense of a LHR-LAX-AKL or CDG-LAX-PPT sort of situation, but not the widespread coming and going that you'd see in a conventional, large transfer hub.


There never was a lot of demand, simply because the U.S. just isn't geographically situated to make sense for much international-to-international transfer. I think there was a fair bit of Europe-to-Caribbean traffic over MIA and you'd see European connections to Mexico and Central America over IAH. If you're going from Europe to South America, transit over the U.S. is a pretty big detour. Asia-South America was historically a tiny market.

WorldFlier wrote:
It won't. Ever. Because for whatever reason, a person transiting a very secure building and really, really, unlikely to get out might be a T-word.


The concern wasn't about someone transiting a secure building. It was about someone getting on a flight to the U.S. with no intention of ever transiting (imagine the underwear bomber or Lockerbie). It's also about keeping people who couldn't get a visa to enter the U.S. from presenting themselves to CBP and requesting asylum.
 
Cubsrule
Posts: 14858
Joined: Sat May 15, 2004 12:13 pm

Re: How could the US implement intl-to-intl pax transfer?

Wed Jan 27, 2021 3:25 pm

ScottB wrote:
Cory6188 wrote:
On a trip through AMS where I was connecting from an international-to-international (non-Schengen) set of flights, I was thinking about how the US doesn't allow transit for passengers from one international flight to another without going through US immigration/customs. I know there have been some one-off examples in the past (e.g. at LAX), but nothing on a broad scale.

Obviously, it's not in the pipeline for the US to change their policy anytime soon, but even if the US wanted to allow international pax transit, is there a way that it could be reasonably coordinated?


That's not quite true. Back before policy changed in the wake of 9/11/2001, large international airports like MIA, JFK, LAX, IAH, etc. would have a secure international transfer lounge for international-to-international passengers. Passengers not clearing immigration and customs would proceed to this lounge and sit there until escorted to their departure gate through the same set of sterile passages used for arriving international passengers. That transfer lounge was pretty much just a windowless room with chairs and bathroom facilities and not much else.

Agreed that the policy is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future. If it were, they'd likely just go back to the old system; the U.S. is unlikely to impose exit controls on millions of passengers annually just to allow a handful of foreigners to enjoy a more convenient transfer experience.


I agree with much of what you've written, but exit controls are not a prerequisite to international-to-international transfer. Our neighbors to the north show us that.
I can't decide whether I miss the tulip or the bowling shoe more
 
Cubsrule
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Re: How could the US implement intl-to-intl pax transfer?

Wed Jan 27, 2021 3:27 pm

ScottB wrote:
Cory6188 wrote:
Still feels like a pretty manual process - at least not one that could easily allow for people to arrive on one flight and depart to one any number of other flights departing for international destinations. Makes sense from the sense of a LHR-LAX-AKL or CDG-LAX-PPT sort of situation, but not the widespread coming and going that you'd see in a conventional, large transfer hub.


There never was a lot of demand, simply because the U.S. just isn't geographically situated to make sense for much international-to-international transfer. I think there was a fair bit of Europe-to-Caribbean traffic over MIA and you'd see European connections to Mexico and Central America over IAH. If you're going from Europe to South America, transit over the U.S. is a pretty big detour. Asia-South America was historically a tiny market.


Most international-to-international transfer that makes geographic sense in the US involves Canada, and because most Canadian flights arrive and depart the US as US domestic flights (thanks, preclearance), that traffic won't ever be amenable to a "normal" international-to-international travel process.
I can't decide whether I miss the tulip or the bowling shoe more
 
ethernal
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Re: How could the US implement intl-to-intl pax transfer?

Wed Jan 27, 2021 3:28 pm

Weatherwatcher1 wrote:
The United States doesn’t have exit immigration checks. International to international transfers would require special escorting and holding facilities if permitted. Air Tahiti Nui and Air New Zealand in the past couldn’t segregate their connecting passengers in LAX


The CBP is trying their darndest to create virtual exit immigration checks with biometric exit. Security measures and control never go backwards, always forwards, so expect that to continue to evolve (for no real good reason) going forward.

Regarding the international transit - the underlying issue is that the US is not really a great connection spot for most population centers. Where are you going to connect to? The US is way out of the way for most Europe-South America routes (the vast majority of the US is West of South America.. even taking NYC as a connecting point, LHR-NYC-GRU is 40% longer than LHR-GRU). Almost all of APAC other than Japan? They're going Westward to get to South America, not Eastward.

It's just not worth the effort for very little commercial gain. There's very few viable routes that don't really justify the creation of a whole new arrival institution. Most of it would be our nearest neighbos (Mexico/Canada) - and at least with Canada there are already significant pre-clearance facilities anyways (although I hate pre-clearance.. worst program in the world). I would love if we did have I-I connections - and it is VERY frustrating for anyone that does have to transit the US.. but it's just not really a large market to cater to. Compare that to Europe or the Middle East which serves as excellent connecting points to connect most of the world's population centers. Just very different models/needs.
Last edited by ethernal on Wed Jan 27, 2021 3:29 pm, edited 1 time in total.
 
MIflyer12
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Re: How could the US implement intl-to-intl pax transfer?

Wed Jan 27, 2021 3:29 pm

burnsie28 wrote:
especially since in some states everyone can get a drivers license without any sort of information verification.


The REAL ID requirements - after many delays - have made that history.

Cory6188 wrote:

Interesting - I didn't realize that. Still feels like a pretty manual process - at least not one that could easily allow for people to arrive on one flight and depart to one any number of other flights departing for international destinations. Makes sense from the sense of a LHR-LAX-AKL or CDG-LAX-PPT sort of situation, but not the widespread coming and going that you'd see in a conventional, large transfer hub.


The U.S. has too many international airports - and too little international-to-international connecting traffic relative to the domestic passenger count - to make this worthwhile.

I don't doubt that a few airline hubs (AA at MIA, DL at ATL) would like to do this to pick up a few more passengers. Of course they'll want somebody else to cover the incremental costs, like the airports and CBP.
 
hohd
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Re: How could the US implement intl-to-intl pax transfer?

Wed Jan 27, 2021 3:30 pm

Does Canada have exit checks, I recall they don't and Toronto has a transfer lounge.

It can be done with a change in immigration policy and building a separate international transfer lounge. MIA, JFK, LAX and may be IAH are probably the only airports which may have some transit passengers. I thought Anchorage has such an exemption from the immigration policy but ANC does not have a transfer lounge though.
Last edited by hohd on Wed Jan 27, 2021 3:32 pm, edited 1 time in total.
 
ethernal
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Re: How could the US implement intl-to-intl pax transfer?

Wed Jan 27, 2021 3:31 pm

MIflyer12 wrote:
burnsie28 wrote:
especially since in some states everyone can get a drivers license without any sort of information verification.


The REAL ID requirements - after many delays - have made that history.



Hah! No, that's not true. REAL ID continues to (rightfully) be ignored by several states. The deadline for implementation is now October 2021. It got pushed another year "because of COVID". Admittedly the DHS has had some success corralling in the states over the past 16 years. It's a question of persistence. Eventually it will happen, but it's not happening this year, and it's not happening next year.

There will be a mini revolt when people from some states are told they can't fly with their IDs. The DHS knows they have to get all states onboard and have enough IDs renewed such that people don't make a big stink about the program. The fact that implementation has been delayed more than a decade shows this. There are still about 100 million Americans that do not have a "Real ID" compatible document (passport or drivers licenses).
 
WorldFlier
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Re: How could the US implement intl-to-intl pax transfer?

Wed Jan 27, 2021 3:42 pm

ScottB wrote:
Cory6188 wrote:
Still feels like a pretty manual process - at least not one that could easily allow for people to arrive on one flight and depart to one any number of other flights departing for international destinations. Makes sense from the sense of a LHR-LAX-AKL or CDG-LAX-PPT sort of situation, but not the widespread coming and going that you'd see in a conventional, large transfer hub.


There never was a lot of demand, simply because the U.S. just isn't geographically situated to make sense for much international-to-international transfer. I think there was a fair bit of Europe-to-Caribbean traffic over MIA and you'd see European connections to Mexico and Central America over IAH. If you're going from Europe to South America, transit over the U.S. is a pretty big detour. Asia-South America was historically a tiny market.

WorldFlier wrote:
It won't. Ever. Because for whatever reason, a person transiting a very secure building and really, really, unlikely to get out might be a T-word.


The concern wasn't about someone transiting a secure building. It was about someone getting on a flight to the U.S. with no intention of ever transiting (imagine the underwear bomber or Lockerbie). It's also about keeping people who couldn't get a visa to enter the U.S. from presenting themselves to CBP and requesting asylum.


Presenting yourself for asylum is a international legal right (and allowing our courts/government to decide), and should not be limited to those who can walk to the border (i.e Canadians, Mexicans, or those lucky enough to get to either of those countries).

Preventing people from claiming asylum as a justification to prevent international passenger transfer is at best disingenuous and at worst blatantly racist (or more technically, xenophobic) - also the number of people who will likely claim asylum, much less succeed, will not be meaningful.
 
raylee67
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Re: How could the US implement intl-to-intl pax transfer?

Wed Jan 27, 2021 3:47 pm

hohd wrote:
Does Canada have exit checks, I recall they don't and Toronto has a transfer lounge..


No, Canada does not have exit checks. Yes, Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver all have international-to-international transit pathways. I don't think there are dedicated "lounge" or waiting area for transit passengers. There are just special doors with boarding pass checks that allow international pax from arrival level to walk to the international (non-US) gates at departure level. Note that since US bound passengers clear US immigration at Canadian airports, international arrival pax at Canadian airports connecting to US do not use those international transfer pathways. International transfer is a big business for Air Canada. That's partly why AC can fly to so many South American destinations.

hohd wrote:
It can be done with a change in immigration policy and building a separate international transfer lounge. MIA, JFK, LAX and may be IAH are probably the only airports which may have some transit passengers. I thought Anchorage has such an exemption from the immigration policy but ANC does not have a transfer lounge though.


Yes, ANC has an exemption. That said, passengers transiting thru ANC were not really connecting between different flights. Their flights were making fuel stop at ANC and the pax were allowed into the terminal to stretch (and shop duty free). However, passengers from different flights technically can comingle with each other in the terminal, although they are all getting back onto their own flights afterwards.

When CX and KE used to fly their YYZ-HKG and YYZ-ICN route via ANC, both flights departed from YYZ back-to-back and arriving at ANC back-to-back. The CX and KE flights would park next to each other at YYZ, and then the two planes would park next to each other at ANC again. The passengers would be in the same ANC terminal together. We got off the plane at departure level, not as arrival passengers. And then once refueling was completed, the pax re-board their own flights. I think CI's TPE-ANC-JFK was the last flight transiting through ANC. After CI went non-stop, there were no more international transits at ANC.
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LAXintl
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Re: How could the US implement intl-to-intl pax transfer?

Wed Jan 27, 2021 4:48 pm

Immigration law is the biggest barrier here.U.S. law requires anyone on flight to the U.S. have the legal ability to enter the U.S. The TWOV (Transit Without Visa) program was eliminated afer 9/11.

ethernal wrote:

The CBP is trying their darndest to create virtual exit immigration checks with biometric exit. Security measures and control never go backwards, always forwards, so expect that to continue to evolve (for no real good reason) going forward.


CBP since 1996 has been directed repeatedly by Congress to establish exit controls and accordingly is establishing such checks.

https://fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/IF11634.pdf
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ethernal
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Re: How could the US implement intl-to-intl pax transfer?

Wed Jan 27, 2021 5:28 pm

LAXintl wrote:
Immigration law is the biggest barrier here.U.S. law requires anyone on flight to the U.S. have the legal ability to enter the U.S. The TWOV (Transit Without Visa) program was eliminated afer 9/11.

ethernal wrote:

The CBP is trying their darndest to create virtual exit immigration checks with biometric exit. Security measures and control never go backwards, always forwards, so expect that to continue to evolve (for no real good reason) going forward.


CBP since 1996 has been directed repeatedly by Congress to establish exit controls and accordingly is establishing such checks.

https://fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/IF11634.pdf


All legislation has clearly defined the scope to be relevant for aliens only, not citizens - but the CBP is taking a blunt instrument and trying to apply to all (same thing with citizen entry). COVID has given them pause on the biometric exit but unfortunately opt-out is no longer truly opt-out (it's "opt-out with consequences" - I had my bagged searched by CBP upon exit a bit more than a year ago on ex-ATL flight when I refused biometic exit and I have had 100% bag search upon return when refusing biometric entry for the past 2.5 years - some searches upon return have been more invasive including an aggressive patdown in a detainment room).

Regardless, my point was that the CBP is trying to create a virtual entry/exit system (when I say virtual, I mean not cordoned parts of the airport, but a "virtual gate" at the boarding gate). That doesn't solve the issue at hand though with transit passengers.
 
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Phosphorus
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Re: How could the US implement intl-to-intl pax transfer?

Wed Jan 27, 2021 8:27 pm

ethernal wrote:
LAXintl wrote:
Immigration law is the biggest barrier here.U.S. law requires anyone on flight to the U.S. have the legal ability to enter the U.S. The TWOV (Transit Without Visa) program was eliminated afer 9/11.

ethernal wrote:

The CBP is trying their darndest to create virtual exit immigration checks with biometric exit. Security measures and control never go backwards, always forwards, so expect that to continue to evolve (for no real good reason) going forward.


CBP since 1996 has been directed repeatedly by Congress to establish exit controls and accordingly is establishing such checks.

https://fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/IF11634.pdf


All legislation has clearly defined the scope to be relevant for aliens only, not citizens - but the CBP is taking a blunt instrument and trying to apply to all (same thing with citizen entry). COVID has given them pause on the biometric exit but unfortunately opt-out is no longer truly opt-out (it's "opt-out with consequences" - I had my bagged searched by CBP upon exit a bit more than a year ago on ex-ATL flight when I refused biometic exit and I have had 100% bag search upon return when refusing biometric entry for the past 2.5 years - some searches upon return have been more invasive including an aggressive patdown in a detainment room).

Regardless, my point was that the CBP is trying to create a virtual entry/exit system (when I say virtual, I mean not cordoned parts of the airport, but a "virtual gate" at the boarding gate). That doesn't solve the issue at hand though with transit passengers.


So, they manage to create all the exit control hassle, but with no real benefit (like possibility of international-to-international sterile zone transfer)? Well done!

Otherwise, the whole "it cannot be done here, even though it's being done everywhere else" sounds borderline ridiculous. Everyone else made it possible. Heck, USSR managed to do it, however clumsily, in SVO.
If a country is suspecting folks of trying to use visa-free transit for unintended means -- they just blacklist suspect countries. For example, Germans have a list of countries, who need "airport transit visa" to do international-to-international.
So, it's not a question of "can't be done", really. It's a question "we are too uninterested", I gather.
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ethernal
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Re: How could the US implement intl-to-intl pax transfer?

Wed Jan 27, 2021 10:01 pm

Phosphorus wrote:
ethernal wrote:
LAXintl wrote:
Immigration law is the biggest barrier here.U.S. law requires anyone on flight to the U.S. have the legal ability to enter the U.S. The TWOV (Transit Without Visa) program was eliminated afer 9/11.



CBP since 1996 has been directed repeatedly by Congress to establish exit controls and accordingly is establishing such checks.

https://fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/IF11634.pdf


All legislation has clearly defined the scope to be relevant for aliens only, not citizens - but the CBP is taking a blunt instrument and trying to apply to all (same thing with citizen entry). COVID has given them pause on the biometric exit but unfortunately opt-out is no longer truly opt-out (it's "opt-out with consequences" - I had my bagged searched by CBP upon exit a bit more than a year ago on ex-ATL flight when I refused biometic exit and I have had 100% bag search upon return when refusing biometric entry for the past 2.5 years - some searches upon return have been more invasive including an aggressive patdown in a detainment room).

Regardless, my point was that the CBP is trying to create a virtual entry/exit system (when I say virtual, I mean not cordoned parts of the airport, but a "virtual gate" at the boarding gate). That doesn't solve the issue at hand though with transit passengers.


So, they manage to create all the exit control hassle, but with no real benefit (like possibility of international-to-international sterile zone transfer)? Well done!

Otherwise, the whole "it cannot be done here, even though it's being done everywhere else" sounds borderline ridiculous. Everyone else made it possible. Heck, USSR managed to do it, however clumsily, in SVO.
If a country is suspecting folks of trying to use visa-free transit for unintended means -- they just blacklist suspect countries. For example, Germans have a list of countries, who need "airport transit visa" to do international-to-international.
So, it's not a question of "can't be done", really. It's a question "we are too uninterested", I gather.


I'm not saying I-I transfers can't be done. I'm saying the current virtual exit being created won't enable that. Of course we could do I-I transfers if we wanted to. But given the incredibly small market (again, the US is a terrible connecting point for the world), the marginal benefit of extra business to our airlines is outweighed by the investment required to enable it. It's a question of cost and benefit, not one of feasibility.
 
WrldTravlr65
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Re: How could the US implement intl-to-intl pax transfer?

Sun Jan 31, 2021 4:28 pm

Cory6188 wrote:
ScottB wrote:
That's not quite true. Back before policy changed in the wake of 9/11/2001, large international airports like MIA, JFK, LAX, IAH, etc. would have a secure international transfer lounge for international-to-international passengers. Passengers not clearing immigration and customs would proceed to this lounge and sit there until escorted to their departure gate through the same set of sterile passages used for arriving international passengers. That transfer lounge was pretty much just a windowless room with chairs and bathroom facilities and not much else.


Interesting - I didn't realize that. Still feels like a pretty manual process - at least not one that could easily allow for people to arrive on one flight and depart to one any number of other flights departing for international destinations. Makes sense from the sense of a LHR-LAX-AKL or CDG-LAX-PPT sort of situation, but not the widespread coming and going that you'd see in a conventional, large transfer hub.


I remember looking at a flight to Brazil several years ago and a Korean Airlines flight also came up as an option: it flew ICN-LAX-GRU. That's been gone a while now though.
 
DTWLAX
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Re: How could the US implement intl-to-intl pax transfer?

Sun Jan 31, 2021 5:18 pm

WrldTravlr65 wrote:

I remember looking at a flight to Brazil several years ago and a Korean Airlines flight also came up as an option: it flew ICN-LAX-GRU. That's been gone a while now though.

Still had to go through immigration I believe. It was not a true international to international connection.
 
melpax
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Re: How could the US implement intl-to-intl pax transfer?

Tue Feb 02, 2021 5:20 am

A few years back I flew back home via CUN>IAH>AKL>MEL. the flights were all ticketed NZ flights (CUN>IAH was on UA), and I didn't leave IAH or AKL airports. I had a 4.5 hour layover in IAH. I spent at least 2.5 hours in the CPB line, had to recheck my bag, then wait another hour in the TSA line. Just made it to the gate, wasn't an enjoyable experience at all. The transfer experience in AKL was much easier, showed my boarding pass for MEL at the transfer security area, a quick re-screening, and I was in the departure area 5 minutes after walking off the plane from IAH. Though as others have said, US airports would have to have dedicated international terminals for anything approaching a 'normal' international transfer experience to happen. Even if it was something that happened at some of the larger airports, it would be an improvement.
 
ChrisKen
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Re: How could the US implement intl-to-intl pax transfer?

Thu Feb 04, 2021 1:38 am

Weatherwatcher1 wrote:
The United States doesn’t have exit immigration checks.

Yeah, they do. It's just done in the background using passenger manifests.

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