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Connecting flights at Heathrow

Although I have caught connecting flights at Heathrow in the past, my upcoming trip in September will be a little different.

I will be arriving at 6:00 am from Chicago and then want to take a flight to Croatia that leaves at 9:30 am. This is not a connecting flight, which means I will have to go through customs as an arrival, then turn around and check in, go through security, etc. Given how big Heathrow is do you think I'll make it?

Posted by
8946 posts

If your not checking any bags, you don't have have through the immigration/customs check. Instead you head for the transfer desk of the airline that is taking you to Croatia. All transfer passengers whether they are on a connecting flight or not have to go trough another security screening, so that is already built into the connecting time that Heathrow Airport recommends. But 3.5 hours is usually enough time to make a connection even if you have to check-in luggage. Check with your airline out of Chicago if they can "tag" your luggage all the way to Croatia. As long as your not taking a budget airline, they can usually do this; even if your using another airline.

Posted by
505 posts

Actually, regardless of whether you have bags, you have to go through immigrations and customs.

Since the UK is your first stop outside the US, you have to clear immigrations no matter whether you are connecting to a domestic or international flight or staying in the UK. Where you go through, depends on what connection you need to make - i.e. which terminals.

You would only avoid customs if you had a bag that was checked through. But if you are on non-connecting flights, you have to re-check in at the desk, so you go through customs - probably terminal 3 or 4, before re-checking any bags.

3.5 hours should be plenty of time unless the international flight has a reputation for being late - I had a late flight and then we had a wait for a gate. If you do think you are tight on time, don't hesitate to make this known if you end up in a line at security etc., because they are usually good about letting you get through ahead of the line if you need to make a flight.

Have fun!

Posted by
8946 posts

That's not entirely correct Kate. At Heathrow, transfer passengers only have to go through an immigration/customs check if their second flight is in the UK. All other transfer passengers only have to go through an security screening; no customs or immigration. If you don't have a boarding pass for the second flight, you follow the signs for "transfer passengers", and that will lead you to the Flight Connections Center which has the transfer desk for the airline that will take you to Croatia. The only exception to this would be if the airline out of Chicago refuses to "tag" checked baggage all the way to Croatia. Again if there in no checked baggage and/or it is already tagged for the final destination, you only have to go to the Connections Center. More info can be found at Heathrow's official website:

Posted by
4 posts

Thank you Michael and Kate. That was exactly the info I was looking for. I'm on United so hopefully they can "tag" my bags. I'll call to confirm.

Posted by
410 posts

Barring any delays in your flight arrival time that should give you plenty of time. From memory, the Heathrow website advises 2 hours for transfer between all terminals and from my personal experience it generally takes a lot less. Moving between the terminals is well well sign posted and very easy - luggage or not. Even since the new security restrictions.

Posted by
196 posts

What airline? British Air's website has a great section + map on getting from one terminal to the next; you put in your flight # and the connecting flight # and it tells you which terminal you arrive at, which termianl you depart from and then has a map showing your route, including sample time needed for each section of the route. Fortunately, we arrive/depart Term 4, have 2 hr, 20 min and they reccomend 1 hr.