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Airports in Europe

I will be flying internationally for the first time in November. I am going to Germany but I have to change planes in Netherlands. I will be going alone and I do not know anyone with Europe airport experience. I found an article about air travel that said that the airport system works differant in Europe. That they have differant security procedures and differant boarding procedures than in the United states. However the article did not go into detail about this and I have searched and have not been able to find any other information. Now I am worried I wont know what to do once I get to Europe and need to change planes and I am afraid of missing my second flight considering I have less than an hour between the two flights. I appreciate if anyone can give me some advice or explain how to do things when I arrive in Europe.

Posted by
1352 posts

Nicole,

The only problem you might have is if your plane is late. All of the signs at the amsterdam airport are in English, and if you have trouble you should just be able to ask an airline employee.

I have flown internationally several times. The only time I almost got into trouble was transfering in Munich. I found my gate OK, but they were not making announcements in English and I realized in the nick of time that everyone on my flight was outside on a shuttle bus that took us out to the airplane. This could have been avoided by talking to the gate agent.

One hour might be kind of tight, but if you booked through one airline (even if 2nd flight is on partner airline) they will be obliged to help you out and put you on another flight if you don't have enough time to transfer to 2nd flight.

I think you'll be fine if you just travel smart. You can probably look up airport maps and gates on the internet before you leave.

Good luck!

Posted by
7205 posts

The only thing that could be different about Europeans Airports is that you will go through customs when you arrive. But you would do that in the USA also if arriving from a foreign country. I really don't know what the article could possibly have been talking about. I've never seen anything really different...there are ticket agents, gate agents, security agents and lines of people.

Two things that I really like about European airports is that many of them have train stations right in the airport. Also, the food is better!

Posted by
8960 posts

Schipol Airport in Amsterdam is one most user friendly airports in the world, you shouldn't have any problems. You will probably be issued your boarding pass for your connecting flight when you check-in for your transatlantic flight in the U.S. In this case, once your land in Amsterdam all you have to do is head to the gate for your flight to Germany; check the monitors for gate info. Schipol is one big terminal; all gates are under the same roof so you don't have to worry about different terminal buildings. You don't have to go through any kind of immigration/customs check, and checked baggage will automatically be transfered to your connecting flight. At the gate there is a full security screening. If don't get your boarding pass to the connecting flight, then you will have to head to the transfer desk for your airline; it should be in the general area of where your gate is located.

Posted by
8960 posts

Tim,.
Every airport in Europe handles transfer passengers differently when it come to immigration/customs. For example, transfer passengers at Heathrow, Gatwick, and Schipol Amsterdam don't go through any passport check. But other airports like Brussels, or CDG have immigration checks for all transfer passengers. It's entirely possible (but not typical) to fly into Europe without having your passport checked at all; depends on what combination for airports you use.

Posted by
32 posts

In December 2006 I flew from Seattle to CPH and then on to Munich and I went through passport control in CPH both ways. I made my connections just fine.

Posted by
6898 posts

European airports operate much like American airports. The only thing I would recommend is to have your passport handy. As you walk from international to EU domestic, you will most likely go through areas were you may have to show your tickets and passport. Other than that, or customs, it's not much different except for cigarette machines and segregated smoking areas. We recently went through Frankfurt (Lufthansa) on our way to Florence. We had to show our passport a couple of times on our walk to the domestic terminal. No customs check anywhere in the journey. We expected to clear customs in Frankfurt but all they did was point us to the domestic terminal.

Posted by
8960 posts

At Schipol Airport transfer passengers don't need to show their passports, and the airport has no separate International/EU sections. The entire airport is open to all passengers. This one of the main features that make Schipol one of the most popular in the world.

Posted by
251 posts

The one thing I noticed is that security it taken a lot more seriously (can you imagine) but not as silly (no nailclippers?)

There are armed guards and dogs all over the place. You will get checked in, then have to have your luggage checked, then re-check your luggage, then go through security. In short, you will need the 3-hours they tell you to be there.

But yeah as they said above, much better food, and duty-free shops.

Posted by
505 posts

It sounds like Schipol has changed in the last few year. When I connected through Schipol en-route from the UK to Copenhagen, I had to go through immigrations because I was coming in from a non-Schengen country and you have to have your passport checked at the first non-Schengen country you enter. This may still be the case - just that it doesn't affect a lot of the flights coming in from outside the EU.
Schipol has VERY long terminals so it can take 15-20 minutes just to walk to the gate. So leave plenty of time to make connections.

You shouldn't ever be able to get into the EU without having your passport checked. Especially if you are staying for more than a couple of weeks, you should make sure to get your passport stamped and/or scanned upon entry, otherwise you could have difficulty proving when you entered the EU or Schengen Union. I think that sometimes the passport check actually happens when you check in for your flight, so you don't really notice.

Have fun!

Posted by
12 posts

Congratulations on your first European trip, you will love it! Most importantly, just relax. Even if you miss your flight, lose your baggage, etc., take a deep breath and enjoy the experience. That being said, one hour between flights is really not enough time in Amsterdam. Schiopol is a great airport, signed in English, and easy to get around, but very large. If you can change to a later flight to Germany, giving yourself about 2-3 hours between flights, that would be better. If your ticket is booked on the same carrier and you miss your flight, they should take care of you. If you have to switch carriers, they won't help you with a missed flight. Generally at Schiopol, after you get off your international flight, you go through immigration and show your passport, then get on your connecting flight. You will go through customs with your luggage when you arrive in Germany. Everyone speaks English and is helpful, if you need help, ask!

Posted by
8960 posts

Since 1996 I've flown into, out of, and through Schipol about 30 times. The only time my passport is ever checked is when my final destination is Amsterdam. In my experience it doesn't matter if your using on a transatlantic flight, or an internal EU flight, my passport is never checked. Same goes for Gatwick and Heathrow. But no matter what airport you use though, transfer passengers will always have to go trough another security screening.

Posted by
221 posts

one thing I have learned after 8 trips to Europe, it pays to get a second opinion. I have been at train stations, bus stations and airports and gotten wrong information from people that worked at each place, so now besides doing my homework, reading signs and asking questions, I always ask a second time to make sure. You can't be shy when you travel about asking for help!

Posted by
505 posts

My passport was checked in Schipol - and stamped. I remember distinctly as the line was really long because they were checking a couple of passports with magnifying lenses (there must have been some sort of alert as to faked passports from a specific country or region).

I think it really varies when passport is checked, because the passport check is (or was) between the Schengen and non-Schengen parts of the airport, not between the EU/domestic and international parts of the airport. So if you've flown in from the US, you may not be checked - depends on the location of your arrival and departure gates.

That said, I think the point is that you should be aware that passports can be checked, and so leave enough time for that possibility and have your passport accessible when you are in the airport.

Kate

Posted by
5464 posts

In regards to the Passport shown, not shown argument; generally, at your port of arrival in the first Schengen country, you will go through a passport/immigration check. If your flight though leaves from the "international" gates, you may transfer without a passport check, leaving that for your next or final destination. My experience has always been that the passport check is in the first Schengen country. As for customs, I do not recall ever having my bags checked. Also, even with tight connections, I have always made them, even being escorted/expedited through the passport check and taken to my gate.

Posted by
5464 posts

In regards to airports being different, my take is that Schengen airports seem secure, but not nearly the red tape seen in the US. Also, the carry-on limits for weight and banned items can be different (A corkscrew is OK on US flights...but not on European flights) so look at European carriers for restrictions.

Posted by
479 posts

I may be repeating what others have said. If you only have an hour to transfer you should plan on missing your connecting flight. Flight from the US to EUR are often slowed down by prevailing winds. I guess that you're flying NWA/KLM if you're coming from SEA/TAC and connecting in AMS. I have done this via MSP on NWA/KLM. You will have to change concourse/terminals and will go through a passport check between the two.
The attendant may run through a list of departing flights and gates when you land in AMS. Listen carefully. Often they are correct, but not always. When you get off immediately find the nearest departure board. Then HIGH-TAIL IT!
Don't be rude or panicky. The people at AMS are much nicer and more understanding than airport workers in the US. Just roll with the punches. You'll be fine.
If you miss your flight and have a hotel reservation, call your hotel from AMS. They will appreciate it.
Plan on missing it, don't stress out, and have a backup plan.

Posted by
70 posts

If you arrive from the US to a "Schengen" country (like the Netherlands) and travel onwards to another "Schengen" country (like Germany), Immigration is ALWAYS at your first point of entry into the Schengen Area, in your case: Amsterdam Schiphol Airport. On the other hand, customs is ALWAYS at your final destination, after baggage claim, In your case Germany.
1 hour is tight considering that you have to go through immigration, but certainly doable if your plane is on time.

Posted by
8960 posts

That's not correct. There are NO immigration checks for transfer passengers at Schipol Airport. I've changed planes 10+ times from transatlantic flights to other destination in Europe and have NEVER had my passport checked. Same goes for Heathrow and Gatwick; the only transfer passengers that get their passports check are those taking connecting flights to the UK.

Posted by
689 posts

Be prepared for showing your passport and customs checks. You will likely show your passport and not experience customs. We traveled to Naples through Munich = Munich passport control = Naples no customs at all as were on a domestic flight at that point.

The difference in boarding is due to the fact that everyone gets in line when the flight is called. No calling of row numbers! Also, many airports board passengers onto a shuttle and the shuttle takes you to the plane.

Posted by
70 posts

To Michael Schneider: The UK is not a Schengen coutry, thus there is not immigration in the UK when transferring in the UK to any other european country.
When transferring in Amsterdam to the UK, arriving from the US there will also be no immigration at your transfer (AMS), since you do not need to enter the Schengen zone. But if you travel from the US to Amsterdam and onwards to another Schengen country, you will for sure clear immigration in AMS, as your second leg is an intra Schengen flight which - immigration-wise is treated as a domestic flight. This does not only apply to AMS, but to any international airport within the Schengen zone. Schengen countries are: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Italy, Greece, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain and Sweden.

Posted by
8960 posts

Like I said, I have changed planes at Schipol Airport 10+ times from Newark Airport to various Schengen countries. Not once was my passport ever checked at Schipol. How do you explain that? This feature is what makes Schipol one of the most popular airports in the world. Every airport handles transfer passengers differently. Some airports have immigration check, others don't.

Posted by
70 posts

Well, I can't explain that, unless your travel was before the Schengen travel agreement, of course.

Posted by
144 posts

Just relax and read the signs. The attendants on your first flight will tell you what to expect, often show a video that illustrates. Procedures change from time to time, probably for security reasons. Some airports have closed gate areas that can only be accessed by showing your boarding pass and passport. Others, like Heathrow, have huge open areas with hundreds of people. Some have 2 security checks rather than one. Some have no restroom access once you enter the gate area...I have never had a problem; just read the signs and ask questions, and you'll be fine.

Posted by
505 posts

I would suspect your experience at Schipol has a lot to do with the airline you fly and where you are coming from and to. There are Schengen and non-Schengen regions of the airport, and if your flights are not in the same region, you have to transit immigrations. Thus, there may be exceptions to the rule - for instance if they know you'll be checked at your final airport. And if you always fly the same airline, you may never encounter immigrations.

I have done so coming from the UK, transiting on my way to Copenhagen - and have the stamp to prove it.

FYI, it's always a good idea to make sure your passport is stamped when you enter the EU and/or Schengen Union, as this gives you positive proof you entered legally, and when, which is especially important if you are staying for an extended period of time.

Kate
Kate

Posted by
808 posts

Some good advise here. (Where were you guys more than a decade ago when I started my Travel Career? Probably half of us didn't even have PCs!)

Don't sweat it too much, Nicole. Flight crew often have to catch deadhead flights (independantly) from foreign Airports and we always manage to make it work. You'll be just fine.
(A dead head or DH for those of you who are wondering is defined as "carriage of air crew (often on another Carrier) from one foreign destination to another to facilitate operation of Company Aircraft to or from an alternate destination." I just knew someone was going to PM me and ask! ;->