Flying home from Europe

Hi, I have found a wealth of information, mostly on this site but I'm still not clear on the whole procedure. My son will be flying home from MUC (Munich)connecting through ORD (Chicago) and on to BTV. He has been in Europe training (ski racer) for two months and has 7pr of skis (in two bags) along with his other stuff all in one large suitcase so a lot of baggage to deal with. I'm trying to get an idea of what he is going to have to do. All his flights are with United and while according to their site his bags will be checked through to BTV and only one charge for the entire trip home will apply how does that work? It sounds as though he is going to have to go through passport/customs in ORD as it will be his original point of entry back to the US. That seems as though it will mean having to re-check his bags after clearing them for the leg from ORD to BTV. Do they have a special system for that so he can just them off after customs or will he have to go to the regular ticket counter and go through the normal process again as though he were starting in ORD? Will he then need to go through security again and with that be (hopefully) after re-checking the bags? Seems like someone preferably the airline or TSA/US Customs site would clearly state this procedure from start to finish but they seem to stop at clearing customs and continue to leaving the airport and miss the connection step. Does it sound correct that paying for the bags will only happen once and if so how or do they get you twice because "you could have added things" in the hour or so they are in your possession to get through customs? Thanks in advance, people seem really helpful on this site and in these forums.

Posted by Harold
New York, NY, USA
5762 posts

The reason the TSA and airline sites don't have the whole procedure is that the details are different for each airport (although the principles are the same). So, I was going to recommend checking the O'Hare website, but I just did, and it doesn't answer your questions (the Heathrow site, for example, does have very detailed instructions about how to transit the airport, once you put in your flight information). So: 1. When you son checks in in MUC, he should make sure his checked bags are all ticketed to BTV. If a tag says ORD (or anything else), he should insist that it be re-tagged. 2. When he lands in ORD, he will first go through Immigration (passport check), then pick up ALL his luggage, then go through Customs. If ORD is like JFK and EWR (the two airports I'm most familiar with), right outside the Customs door is a baggage recheck area. He will give in his bags there (careful, as said above, to remember that he will be going through a security check after, so anything that cannot be carried on should be put in his checked bags now). 3. He will then find his next flight. He will most likely land in Terminal 5 (International Arrivals), and have to get on the ATS (an elevated rail system) to get to another terminal (probably Terminal 1).
4. In the new terminal, he will go through security, then to his gate. continued..

Posted by Harold
New York, NY, USA
5762 posts

continued.. Because step 2 can take quite some time, I'd allow a minimum of 3 hours for transiting ORD (assuming he's a US citizen; far more if not). Yes, it can go quickly (meaning an hour), but if it doesn't, he doesn't want to miss his ORD to BTV flight. Yes, if United says you only have to pay once for each checked bag, that would be correct. The bags would be ticketed through from MUC to BTV, so the fee is already taken care of. They don't care if you've added things to a bag, only if you've added bags. Now, if he wanted to check an extra bag at ORD that wasn't checked in at MUC, then he'd have to pay another fee My experience with United at O'Hare (which has only been domestic) is that they are very aware many of their passengers are making connections there, and that there is a lot of help around (airline reps, monitors listing flights, etc). If your son has any problems, he should ask for help immediately, and not flounder around trying to appear "knowledgeable."

Posted by Jeff
Bend, OR, United States
1163 posts

When he gets to ORD he will go through Immigration and then pick up his bags and take them through Customs. Just outside Customs he will hand the bags to airline agents who will transfer them to his connecting flight. Since he will then be outside Security he will have to go back through in order to get to his connecting flight. If his has bought any liquids etc after going through security in Munich he should put them into the checked bags for the connecting flight since he won't be able to carry them on.

Posted by Gwyn
Shelburne, VT, USA
5 posts

Thank you very much Jeff and Harold. I thought I was piecing together that this was the way it would go but having also caught on that each airport seemed to be a little different it just wasn't clear to me. I tried OHare's site too but couldn't figure it out for sure, even studding the terminal map. Jeff would you or anyone else happen to know if carts are readily available? Unless the area covered isn't much he will have two big ski bags (3-4 pr each) a big suitcase on wheels and his carry-on (back pack) which may be a lot to deal with even for him. He probably won't want to but if carts are easy to grab and he has some distance to cover I might suggest it to him. Thanks again you have both been really helpful.

Posted by Brian
Los Angeles, California
1986 posts

Harold and Jeff explained it very well.
Generally when he is through Customs there will be a desk or som place to re-check his bags on to his final destination- last time i did it the agent was expecting me and knew how many bags i had checked in in Europe. Last year we flew back through Kennedy, there was a special line at immigration for people with a tight schedule for their next flight and they were expedited through immigration (but not customs, still have to wait until your bag arrives on the carousel). To get in that line you had to show your ticket for your next flight to prove you had less than (X) hours/minutes for your flight. It worked very well for us