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How does layover in Schengen country work

Hi, I am planning a trip to France and would like to know how it works with the layover.

The flight will be a through booking:
Somewhere - New York - Lisbon (8 hour layover) - Lyon, France.
All legs will be on the same ticket operated by the same airline (TAP) except for the first leg which will be operated by JetBlue.

Since the layover is very long, I'd like to leave the Lisbon airport and go into the city for the day and go back to the airport at night to catch the flight to Lyon. Now my question is: how does immigration and custom work if I don't leave the airport or if I do leave the airport in Lisbon.

My understanding is:

  1. if I don't leave the Lisbon airport:
    1a. I will need to go through immigration at Lisbon airport upon arrival from New York;
    1b. I won't collect my checked bag in Lisbon. After going through immigration, I go to the next gate and catch my flight to Lyon.
    1c. I see my checked bag in Lyon for the first time after I checked it in at Somewhere. I collect it and go through customs in Lyon.

  2. if I do leave the Lisbon airport:
    2a. I will need to go through immigration at Lisbon airport upon arrival from New York; (same as 1a)
    2b. What do I do with my checked bag now? Do I collect it and go through custom in Lisbon, then immediately recheck it (like you do when you arrive in the US and need to make a connection), then leave the airport, or is everything the same as in scenario 1?

Are my understanding in scenario 1 all correct? What happens for scenario 2b? Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks!

Posted by
4957 posts

Check with TAP, but they should check your bags through to Lyon if the flight is all on them from New York to Lyon. Unlike when changing planes in the US, bags can be checked through when going through Europe, without collecting them at the first arrival airport in Europe.

However, not sure how it works with that long layover? You may need to collect bags anyway because of that. Again - check with TAP to be sure.

Either way...doesn't make any difference in your two choices. TAP doesn't know whether you have left the airport or not. If they check bags through, you go through immigration (without them) and can either sit in the airport or go off into Lisbon for a few hours. Or, if they make you collect your bags, you'll either re-check them or hang on to them. You'd have the option to take them into Lisbon with you (maybe store at a train station in Lisbon or something).

Posted by
16941 posts

In 2b, no difference from 1. Your bag was tagged to go to Lyon, so that is where you will get it. You go into Lisbon, (assume you already have a boarding pass for your flight to Lyon), and just go through security when you return to the airport, and get on your flight.

Posted by
2746 posts

Are you a US or Canadian or EU citizen? I am not sure of visas for other nationalities so I am assuming you are.

For scenario 1, yes. I am actually not sure you go through passport control at Lisbon if you don't leave the airport, that depends on the airport's set up. But assume you are correct. This plan basically entails following the crowd off your plane, going through passport control if needed, then sitting in the airport like any other layover.

For scenario 2, you will need to go through immigration (passport check) in Lisbon. Your bag will stay checked - you will not see it until you arrive in Lyon. There is no way to retrieve it in Lisbon if you checked it through to Lyon while you were in the US. Assuming you get on your flight to Lyon your bag will be on the plane too. Visit Lisbon or whatever you want over those 8 hours, arrive back at the airport in time to go through security and board your plane to Lyon. Do make sure you have your boarding pass, usually you get all passes before the first flight if all flights are on one ticket.

Posted by
14 posts

Thank you all for the reply. Looks like as long as the airline treats the checked bag the same as checked bags for shorter layovers, I should be able to just go through immigration, leave the airport, come back at the airport, go through security, and board the flight to Lyon, without doing anything about the checked bag at all. I guess I will check with TAP about it.

BTW, from the posts on this forum, I understand that when entering the Schengen area, immigration is done at the first point of entry into the Schengen area, but custom is done at the final destination. Why aren't these two both done at the first point of entry into the Schengen area? Is it because Schengen includes some non-EU countries, and custom-less travelling only applies to the EU? Does this mean that if you travel from Switzerland to Italy, your checked bag will have to go through custom when arriving at Rome, even though you won't need to go through immigration at Rome?

Posted by
21863 posts

You are over processing. With a through ticket and checked luggage you luggage is not available until your final stop. So that is the first time it is available for custom inspection (but there is no real custom inspection). You just grab your bag and walk through the Green Door - Nothing to Declare. That is the easiest method for everyone -- no claiming and re-checking as is done in the US. When you hit your first Schengen zone country you go through immigration control - essentially for the zone and the country. Once inside the zone, it is just like fly from state to state in the US. So you go through immigration (passport control) in Lisbon, you will walk through customs on the way out - green door again. When you return you will do through airport security and board the plane for Lyon.

And --- EU and the Schengen zone are not related in anyway. EU is for trade and Schengen is for immigration with different countries involved under different treaties. Don't confuse them.

You Switzerland example doesn't work because both are in the Schengen zone. It would be just like flying from New York to Chicago. No checks of any type. However, flying from Switzerland to England would have both exit passport control and entry to England plus customs since England is not a part of the zone. Once in the zone you can move freely from country to country.

Posted by
4957 posts

Mira:

For scenario 1, yes. I am actually not sure you go through passport control at Lisbon if you don't leave the airport, that depends on the airport's set up.

Actually, it also depends where the passenger is headed after deplaning. When you fly into Lisbon, you might enter the Schengen zone. If your destination (like Lyon) is also in the Schengen zone, then you must enter the Schengen zone (go through immigration) in Lisbon, because everyone flying on the plane to Lyon is assumed to have entered Schengen already. All passengers deplaning in Lyon need to be treated the same way - you can't have some go through immigration and others not.

If you were flying onto the UK from Lisbon, then you might be able to skip immigration and fly onto the UK (not in the Schengen zone) without entering Schengen in Lisbon. It depends how the airport is designed. If they have a zone for transiting non-Schengen passengers, you might be able to skip immigration. But not if you are flying to a Schengen country like France.

Posted by
2746 posts

Thanks Andrew. I know I haven’t gone through passport on arrival if there was a layover at some airports, must be the UK situation.

OP - customs is basically nothing unless you have something to declare or are randomly checked (very rare). In all European airports I’ve been in it is literally walking out a door labeled nothing to declare. There is a separate door and presumably a line for those with items to declare. I’ve never had anything to declare so no lines, just...walk out. I assume they occasionally stop people at random, but I don’t know for sure.

Immigration - passport check - is the line with the officer who stamps your passport and that happens in Lisbon. In Lyon you will get your bag and go out the nothing to declare door, unless you have something to declare. It’s a non-event.

Posted by
2576 posts

I hope you actually have that time to spend in Lisbon. Our wait at passport control last summer in Lisbon was 4 hours.

Posted by
14 posts

Thank you all. I do understand the difference between passport control and custom. That is why I was curious why immigration and custom are not done at the same point of entry into the Schengen area. For all the countries I've been to outside of the Schengen area, when you land at an airport and want to enter that country, you always go through immigration AND then custom, no matter whether that airport is your final destination in that country. As long as you want to enter that country, you need to do immigration for your body and custom for all your bags, checked or carry-on. That is why you need to collect your checked bags after going through immigration and then go through custom and then throw the checked bags onto the 'connection' belt before heading to the gate to catch your connection flight. In all those cases, the checked bags have all been tagged through to the final destination, but you can't leave those bags alone when you enter the country. You have to collect it, go through custom, and throw it back onto the belt so it can be put on your connection flight.

In the past the Schengen area city I landed in has always been my final destination and I always went through immigration and custom at the same airport. I never knew that in Schengen area you won't need to collect your bag after immigration and go through custom if you are connecting to another Schengen airport, and only learned about this by reading the posts in this forum. So I was wondering why you wouldn't collect your checked bag in Lisbon and go through custom there before throwing it on the connection belt after custom. Why do you go through immigration in Lisbon but go through custom in Lyon? Then I thought it must be because Schengen area and EU are two different concepts, and the Schengen area includes a few non-EU countries. So if someone flies from Switzerland to Italy, that person's bags will have to go through custom, no matter whether the custom is 'just a formality'.

In a word, I was just curious why one won't need to collect checked bags and go through custom at the first point of entry into the Schengen area if one is making a connection to another Schengen airport. But no matter the reason, it won't affect the steps I need to follow, as explained by you guys. I was just, you know, curious.

Posted by
5766 posts

OP - the above all assumes you are a US/Canadian or EU citizen. If you travel with a passport from another country, you may need a visa, and then things may become a bit more complicated.

If you do leave the airport, be careful about how much actual usable time you will have, and be sure to allow enough time to get back to the airport, get through security, etc. in time for your flight. An 8 hour layover may or may not work for you. And if your inbound flight arrives late, be sure to account for that too.

Posted by
4957 posts

Well, with an eight hour layover in Lisbon, alltrivi, I don't think you have much to fear from a long delay at immigration, except being disappointed that you might miss your expected time to explore Lisbon a little. If you had a short layover, you could tell officials working the lines that you are on a tight connection - sometimes they will usher you into to an express line or get you to the front.

These long delays like Alan's can happen at any airport - who knows why. Sometimes they are ridiculously short, too - could depend what time you land, how many other planes have landed at the same time, staffing issues at the airport, security issues, etc. Last time I flew into Paris, it took me all of seven minutes to get from off the plane through immigration and past baggage claim. (I was literally the first person in line at passport control - hey SOMEONE has to be first! - and there were no other planes ahead of us, I guess.) A friend just changed planes in Madrid this morning (headed for Lisbon) and reported that her wait at immigration in Madrid was all of one minute - even though it took her forever to walk there. I'm sure you can dig up horror stories of long waits in Madrid too.

Posted by
21863 posts

....I was just curious why one won't need to collect checked bags and go through custom at the first point of entry into the Schengen area if one is making a connection to another Schengen airport. ......

BECAUSE it is NOT done that way!! Doesn't make one way better or worse. We have tried to explain it several ways. There are lots of things that are done in different ways when traveling between countries. You do need to be flexible and go with the flow. Actually going through immigration and customs at an in-between stop makes for a lot of extra work. This is an easier and faster way to do it. It makes a lot of sense if you think about.

Posted by
14 posts

Alan, thanks for reminding me of this. Just did some search online and looks like long waiting time at immigration at the Lisbon airport has been a big issue since last year and it is becoming worse.

Andrew, I am thinking the 8 hours layover might not be worth it. My past experiences with Schengen airport immigration have been similar to yours and your friend's. Last time when I landed in Madrid, took me one minutes although it was a long way to walk there. Should I try a 2 hour layover instead? lol

Posted by
21863 posts

With a big potential for delay, I would not reduce the layover to 2 hours. That is just asking for problems.

Posted by
11455 posts

While the Schengen countries have agreed to a common immigration border they still retain their customs rights.

You are travelling from the U.S. transiting through Portugal and arriving in France. Portugal doesn't care about your bag if it's not staying. France does-- technically.

You will be going through customs in Lisbon--walking through the green door--but your bag isn't. It's not staying. You could technically be stopped and searched but you won't be.

There is no customs between EU countries however your bag will be tagged as originating from outside the EU so you have to use the green door instead of the blue door.

Posted by
14 posts

Thanks all.

So from all your answers, my understanding is: no matter whether I leave the airport or not at Lisbon, I WILL NOT NEED TO COLLECT CHECKED BAG IN LISBON, unless the airline requires passengers to collect their checked bags for long layovers. Is this correct?

Another related question: What if I was connecting to Lyon at London with an 8 hour layover and I want to leave the airport at London? If the flight is New York - London - Lyon, all legs on one ticket, flight arrives at London early morning, and next flight leaves for Lyon late afternoon, and I decide to enter UK and go into London for the day, what should I do with the checked bag?

My understanding is, if I remain airside in London (not entering UK by going through immigration), I won't have the possibility to collect checked bag, and won't need to worry about it. But what if I want to go into London for the day? After going through immigration at London, do I go collect the bag, go through custom, find a storage at the airport/take the bag with me into London, return to airport, re-check the bag (using the same tag?), go through security, and go to the gate? Or do I go through immigration, leave the airport, return to the airport, go through security, go to the gate, without seeing the checked bag at all? There is another itinerary that connects through London and I am wondering whether that is better than connecting through Lisbon.

Many thanks

Posted by
4698 posts

You do not collect the bag in London. It is checked through to Lyon.

Posted by
2576 posts

I have to say I think you are trying really hard to make lemonade from that 8 hour lemon. I assume you are choosing this because of the cost. Or maybe that’s the only way to get to Lyon, who knows? But, I routinely go for minimum 3-4 hour connecting times. First, I don’t want the pressure that comes from a short connection. Second, I’ve experienced significant delays outbound that eat up a lot of that time. Thirdly, I want to get to where I’m ultimately going. I don’t leave the airport unless I’m overnighting. I do make an effort to get a lounge pass. Most can be purchased these days. Lounges have comfortable chairs, food, booze, clean-ish restrooms. Some even have showers. Your idea of having 8 hours to see a city negates a lot that could eat up that time: lateness of the flight, disembarking, getting through immigration, transport into London, transport back to the airport, and arriving at least three hours ahead of time to clear security.

Posted by
21863 posts

Are reading and understanding the prior postings? We have tried to make this simple for you. I don't care if you make five connections on the same ticket, as long as your bag is checked through to Lyon that will be the first time you see that bag.

London provides a slightly different wrinkle if you leave the airport. You will go through GB immigration since are entering GB and NOT the Schengen zone. But since your bag is on the plane headed to Lyon, you will have nothing other than personal items to carry through customs. On returning to the airport in London you will go through exit immigration because leaving GB and security. On landing in Lyon you will go through Schengen zone immigration entry AND customs after you claim you bag.

Posted by
14 posts

Emily, thanks for the clear answer.

Alan, thanks for the reply. I was considering those itineraries for the reason of both cost and convenice of departure and arrival times, not just cost. Since several itineraries showed up in my search that involved long layovers during the day, I was simply trying to understand how the LOGISTICS would work in case the circumstances would allow me to leave the airport, not how feasible the part of 'seeing the city' is. I wasn't trying to see London during an 8 hour layover, but it would be helpful if I didn't have to idle at the airport (even in the lounge) for about 7 hours waiting for the next flight. So if none of the unexpected situations arise, I may want to step outside of the airport, ride the express into the city, and take a walk along the river. If the layover ends up being eaten up by delayed outbound flight or other situations, I could just stay at the airport.

By logistics I was referring to steps needed in regard to checked bags. That was the only thing I wasn't clear about. Emily had answered it. Do you not agree with Emily?

Posted by
2576 posts

Got it. You’ve traveled and you’re experienced but I see a travel day from hell. If you have the time why not fly to (fill in the blank, major city in Europe avoiding Lisbon) overnight and have a day to unwind, shake off the jet lag, get a regional flight or train the next morning to Lyon?

Posted by
14 posts

Because that doesn't fit my preferences. Simple as that. I am sure that would be preferred by some other people, for example you. But since it is my trip, I will have to follow my preferences.

Posted by
11455 posts

One point...there is no exit immigration in the UK. You only go through security. The airline will have to check that you have a valid passport but that is not exit immigration.

And I agree with Emily as long as it is the same airline or the airlines interline bags. Not all airlines do. Even on one ticket.

In your case, check that Jet Blue interlines with TAP. But if TAP is your airline from NY to LYS say goodbye to your bag in the US and bonjour to it in Lyon. Layover time has no effect.