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Advice on connecting in the US, please.

Manchester, United...
posts: 2,318
reviews: 70
Advice on connecting in the US, please.

I'm in the early stages of planning a 2015 trip. I'm not sure exactly where I'll be flying to/from in the US, at the moment Salt Lake City is most likely, but not a place served by direct flights from the UK. There are direct flights from Manchester (my local airport) to Atlanta, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia and Washington, so I'd be looking at connecting at one of these.

Am I correct in thinking I'd need to clear immigration & customs at these (rather than say Salt Lake City) and if so what may be a "safe" connection interval? Any comments over any being "easier" than others (less distance between terminals, say).? Anything else I need to think about (long time since I did this so I'm rusty, but do know about ESTA).

Thank you.

19 replies to this topic
Romford, United...
posts: 2,065
reviews: 22
1. Re: Advice on connecting in the US, please.

You will clear INS/Customs at your point of entry into the US all flights after that are treated as domestic, ie MAN-ATL-SLC (one ticket) you will clear INS/Customs at Atlanta, always allow minimum 3hrs between arriving and departing to complete this process

Edited: 8:48 am, July 25, 2014
Liverpool, UK
posts: 12,448
reviews: 23
2. Re: Advice on connecting in the US, please.

Just to add a couple of points to reply 1 - after clearing Immigration you'll collect your checked bags prior to clearing Customs and drop them off at the airline's drop off desk just after Customs before getting to your departure gate which will involve changing terminals and clearing security.

You could add Charlotte to your list of potential airports (served by US Airways in the process of merging with AA) and you could also consider going with BA via LHR which reduces the risk of a missed connection in the US.

Another advantage of BA is you benefit from the provisions of EU 261 in the event of a delay or cancellation on both the outbound and inbound flight - if you fly with a US carrier you only get this on the flight from the UK.

I agree with aiming for a 3 hour connection window as a minimum but airline schedules are subject to frequent change especially if you book well in advance so keep an eye on your schedule.

If you miss the connection the airline will get you on the next flight with available seats - I try to avoid getting the last flight of the day when I'm connecting as missing it will almost certainly mean an overnight stay.

Romford, United...
posts: 2,065
reviews: 22
3. Re: Advice on connecting in the US, please.

One further point, as your final destination is not set in stone, it may be a destination served by a direct service from Shannon or Dublin, in which case you will be able to take advantage of the US pre-clearance service they provide for passengers on route to the US-normally only takes about 30mins eg MAN-DUB-ORD you pre clear at DUB and are treated as a domestic passenger on arrival Chicago so you will have to do is just pick up your luggage and walk out the airport

Manchester, United...
posts: 2,318
reviews: 70
4. Re: Advice on connecting in the US, please.

Thank you all for your replies, some food for thought there.

The final destination isn't set in stone, but Salt Lake City is the largest of the possibles. For there the only direct flight I've found to Europe seems to be Delta to Paris, which we'd also considered connecting through.

Las Vegas was an outside possibility as there is currently a service over the summer from Manchester, but not daily (Heathrow may have that), but we'd be adding more driving and probably another day so the balance went towards Salt Lake City.

Bingley, United...
Destination Expert
for Edinburgh
posts: 28,293
5. Re: Advice on connecting in the US, please.

If you cannot find a one stop option that avoids the need to connect in the US then consider the 2 stop options via Dublin as with pre-clearance you get the horrors of US immigration with at the start of the journey with all subsequent flights being domestic - of course it doesn't stop the horror of the TSA.

You could of course change your plans (eg fly into Denver or Las Vegas) so that you avoid the need to pass through US immigration until your final destination

Manchester, United...
posts: 2,318
reviews: 70
6. Re: Advice on connecting in the US, please.

Alanrow + 289jumper - I've done the pre-clearance in Dublin going to Boston a few years ago & found it a smooth operation then. There isn't a close option as a direct flight from Dublin, so we'd still have to have to connect in the US - while I can see the plus of the pre-clearance I can also see there's an extra change where things can go wrong. Umm.......

Do you know when timetables are reasonably firm for next summer or any ideas of best time to book flights? At the moment I'm doing searches on dates this year or in the spring as that seems to be when I get realistic results - it would be useful to know when the "real thing" might be available.

Thanks once again.

Limerick, Ireland
posts: 2,854
7. Re: Advice on connecting in the US, please.

When you decide which airline and route your interested in

go to the individual airlines web - site and sign up for emails

Aer Lingus now have a non-stop between Dublin and San Francisco -SFO

all the best.

Chicago, Illinois
posts: 7,890
reviews: 75
8. Re: Advice on connecting in the US, please.

Salt Lake City is a delta hub. If you fly there probably your best options will be Delta or one if their partners.

Travelling The World
posts: 12,319
reviews: 27
9. Re: Advice on connecting in the US, please.

You can do the same thing by transiting in Canada. Wherever you clear US formalities (e.g. Dublin, Toronto or a US airport) you will need to leave enough connecting time. It is true that there will be fewer people doing pre-clearance somewhere like Dublin (but then they also don't have as many staff) so it might save a bit of time.

Syracuse, New York
Destination Expert
for Seven Mile Beach, West Bay, Syracuse
posts: 2,992
reviews: 87
10. Re: Advice on connecting in the US, please.

One thing that should save you time (and I haven't done this, because I haven't been through one of these pre-clearance airports, so for those that have, please correct me...)

The time required at the first US airport is made up of:

* Waiting for immigration

* Waiting for bags (the connecting flight check-in is very quick, I have found)

* Going through security again (these internal flights dump you landside)

Sometimes that last one is easily the longest, especially in busy hub airports (I wait for over an hour at Philly the last time I came in from the UK).

My understanding of how pre-clearance works is that it treats it as a domestic flight, in that you don't have any of those three to do - this can easily save you two hours or more in a busy airport. Your bags are checked through to your final destination, so you don't have to deal with them at your entry airport at all.

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