arrival time at SEATAC

I will be flying from Seatac (Seattle) to Dublin, Ireland in September, with a layover in Chicago on the way (and also on return). I understand I should try to arrive at least 3 hours before international flights, but if we're stopping in Chicago (before leaving the USA) is it considered a domestic flight and can I arrive a bit before, say two hours ahead? Also, on my return do I go through customs in the first city I land in, or is it at SEATAC. I believe that both coming and returning we have to get off the jet in Chicago and get on another one. Thanks, David.

Posted by Sam
Green Bay
2276 posts

How are you ticketed and what are the actual carriers? It depends going over. On the way back, you will land at the O'Hare International arrivals terminal and deplane and stand in line to have your passport inspected by immigration authorities, then you will proceed to baggage claim and get your bags then exit through the "Nothing to Declare" doors (assuming you do have nothing to declare) and then put your luggage on a belt and possibly retagged for your connection to SeaTac. Then you will take a small train to the departure terminal you are continuing on, go through security again, and board your flight home. You should allow 2 hours for all of this in your connection time. On the way to Dublin, you may or may not have to do this. If you are on Aer Lingus, you will need to transfer to the International Terminal via the train.
If you are continuing on say American, you will not have to do this. Your flight to Chicago will be a domestic flight, So I do not know why you need to be there 3 hours ahead, if the other 90% of the people on the plane are not flying international only need to be there 2 hours ahead.

Posted by David
Clinton, WA, USA
15 posts

Thanks Green Bay. The first flight is on United, but I think they are partners with or operating it for Aer Lingus. A friend told me he thinks I go through Customs here at Seatac. To complicate matters: On at least one of the flights, they only show a 1.5 hour layover in Chicago, so I would guess it's true, though maybe I should wait until tomorrow morning and give Aer Lingus a call. It is a bit of an issue since I'm coming from Whidbey Island and my options for getting to the airport early are limited. Best, David

Posted by Sam
Green Bay
2276 posts

Check with United if that is where you got the ticket. I look at the current on-line schedule and it kinda sucks. Shows 8 hours in Chicago on the way and 4 1/2 on the way back. Other flights to Chi stop in Denver and change planes. At any rate, going you do not pass customs and immigration, just several checks at the counter, security, and boarding that you have a valid passport. On return, unless you are coming from Canada, where US customs and immigration have facilities at Canadian airports, you always clear customs and immigration at the first airport you land in the US. United flights from Chicago to Dublin are operated by Aer Lingus.

Posted by Lola
Seattle, WA
5444 posts

David, what time does your flight depart Sea-Tac, and is it on a weekday? The southbound traffic on I-5 can be dreadful in the morning commute hours, so you need to allow for that if you have a morning flight.

Posted by David
Clinton, WA, USA
15 posts

Thanks Lola. I'm already aware of the commute, since I do it every day. This is part of why I'm asking the question. I have gleaned that it's advisable for me to get to SEATAC three hours before international flights, though two hours is not out of the question, though it depends on how 'safe' I want to play it. On the return, I found out that for some select flights you can go thru US Customs at the Dublin airport, but for others, it would be at the first city you enter in the US. The Customs person identified a few Delta flights which this applies to, but says the list changes all the time, and they are planning on doing it for fewer flights in the future. Given all this, I will probably not fly on an 8.30 a.m flight out of SEATAC, as I can only get there at 6.30 a.m. at the earliest. I'll opt instead for an 11.00 a.m. or later flight. Best, David.

Posted by Lola
Seattle, WA
5444 posts

Hi again-I think that is wise. We don't like to catch an 8:30 am flight from Sea-Tac even when we are going to Boise! That is when we have found the longest security lines (15 to 20 minutes). When we fly to Europe, we take the BA flight that departs around 6:15 pm. For that, we do not arrive 3 hours ahead, even though it is an international flight. We check in online and we get to the airport by 4:00 to avoid the afternoon commute rush.

Posted by Dick
Olympia, WA, USA
671 posts

When we fly out of SeaTac early in the morning, which is most eastbound domestic flights, we go up the evening before and stay at one of the airport motels. Too risky for us to leave home in the morning, even with less distance and traffic than you and no ferry to catch. Some of the motels (Red Lion, Holiday Inn, LaQuinta, others) have park-fly packages for one or two weeks. I never heard of clearing US customs anywhere but the first US airport where you land, except when flying from Canada where you can clear US customs in the Canadian airport (at least Vancouver). You'll have to go through US customs in Chicago on the way home. But it's a well-worn path. And the good news is that you can head right home after you land at SeaTac!

Posted by David
Clinton, WA, USA
15 posts

Dick, I've flown out of Seatac many times so I know the drill and travel from the island. I was just less clear about the logistics of international flights. I actually spoke with a US Customs agent in Dublin and confirmed that, yes, for some flights out of there you can go through Customs at the Dublin airport. I'm much more aware of what I need to do and the times involved. Best, David.

Posted by David
Clinton, WA, USA
15 posts

Thanks Laura. Yes, I believe it's only for certain flights, and mine is among them! At least according to the Aer Lingus web site. David.

Posted by Ray
Tigard, OR, USA
145 posts

Two things: 1) Last time I flew home from Dublin I cleared US Customs there. A sign says you are now in the "US" and if you leave the designated area you will have to go through US Customs again. 2) Anymore I really try to avoid layovers with Customs/Passport clearance unless it is at least 2.5 hours. I normally use carry on and on an "average" day find it takes about 2 hours to clear the 3 lines (passport, customs, security.) If you check baggage you have to wait for your bag, in some places they are on top of it (e.g., Dallas,) however in some airports (e.g., Toronto) that can take a long long time (up to an hour.)

Posted by David
Clinton, WA, USA
15 posts

Thanks Ray. I understand from US Customs that going thru at Dublin is dependent on which flight you are on, and that they are planning to do it for fewer flights. She could only confirm a few flights on Delta, but said there are Aer Lingus flights as well. I have booked my flights and have at least a 3-hour layover in Chicago on my way back, so I'll trust it's enough time to get through Customs before heading on to Seattle. Best, David.

Posted by Joel
Tempe, AZ, USA
841 posts

David, 3 hours is more than enough time for your layover in Chicago. Just follow the signs for the tram to International terminal. Coming back you will clear customs in Dublin. Once you deplane you will take the tram back to the United terminal. Easy Peasy

Posted by Southam
Windsor, Ontario, Canada
912 posts

The United States requires preclearance at Dublin and Shannon airports for flights to the United States. You can check the formalities here; scroll to the bottom http://www.cbp.gov/xp/cgov/toolbox/contacts/preclear_locations.xml
If, for some reason, you are making a connection in another country before reaching the US, that might be a different situation. Check with the toll-free phone number on the site I cited.

Posted by David
Clinton, WA, USA
15 posts

Southam, it certainly seems that this is correct, but that conflicts with what I was told by a US Sustoms agent in Dublin: they said that preclearance was only for selected flights and that it was being reduced or phased out. (Gee, a government agency giving conflicting information--who would have though?) No matter, for me at least: I'll either go through USC at Dublin or when I arrive back in the US.

Posted by Laura
Virginia, USA
2899 posts

Not all flights to the U.S. out of Dublin use preclearance. I'm not sure what the criteria is ... it used to be based on the flight's departure time. If you are flying on Aer Lingus, you can check their website to see if your flight has preclearance. Check this website: Aer Lingus - Preclearance