Please sign in to post.

Layover questions

I have read a lot of complaints about CDG - enough to rule it out as a plane change option for my next trip. Are any others so bad they should be avoided for just changing planes in Europe? Should I look for flights out of VCE that stop at certain airports for easy transfer to the next flight? My understanding is I will go through immigration and customs in the United States, not at the first flight connection.

Also, is it necessary to have at least 2 hours at the European flight connection airport or just where I go through customs? I don't want to have a tight connection even if all we do is walk from one terminal to another. Some people said I have to go through security even if the first layover does not involve immigration and customs.

Posted by
2782 posts

I have found Amsterdam, Frankfurt and Zurich to be easy airports for connections. I have not found CDG to be problem and have had more issues with Heathrow. We have joke in our family that if we make the connecting flight at Heathrow, our luggage will not and if our luggage makes it, we will not. I think that you are confusing immigration and customs. Immigration is passport control and you will go through that at your point of departure and again at the first airport where you land and you will go through customs at your final destination (assuming that your luggage is checked through to your final destination). Customs on your return flight will happen in the US and so will passport control/immigration (unless your connection is in Canada), but you will also usually go through passport control at your initial departure point and possibly again at your point of connection. On a flight from the USA to a country in the Schengen Zone with a connection in another Schengen Zone country, you will go through passport control/immigration at your initial landing point and will go through customs at your final destination.

Posted by
11613 posts

I am not a fan of CDG but the caviar bar cheers me up.

Amsterdam and Zurich are my favorites. Most horrible for me is JFK, I will pay extra not to connect there.

Posted by
250 posts

JHK, I am doing the opposite, flying from a Shengen zone country (Italy) to the USA.

I assume "departure point" means VCE, not wherever we change planes in Europe. So there is passport control at the second airport? Then what, go straight to the gate?

Posted by
500 posts

You will have immigration (passport) at your initial departure point. If you have another connection in the Schengen zone you will have immigration (passport) checked again. They also can randomly do customs (luggage) check to see what you're departing but you will not have to fill out a declarations form. But it is mandatory upon your re-entry into the United States to fill out a Declarations form and go through customs. Either the airlines or the custom hall will provide you with the form.

You record your name and passport number and place of issue and date of issue. Record your the back side of the form generically like this: books Euro 15, clothes Euro 40, souvenirs Euro 20. Then you total up the sum and write it down and then sign the declaration.

Additionally, I have had additional passport checks at individual gates in Amsterdam at Schipol which was 4 years ago. I would plan to have your ticket-boarding pass and passport readily available until you are told at your final departure gate you do not need your passport any more. But keep your passport easily in reach to fill out your declaration form and for your arrival into the U.S.

Posted by
8443 posts

On your Trip Advisor thread in the Air Travel forum you mentioned that your Mom thought 1h45m was long enough for a transfer at CDG but it sounds like you have now moved on from that? I am thinking she is just not aware of how big these airports are and how much people traffic there is. Landing at Amsterdam, it can sometimes take 15-20 minutes of taxiing to get from the landing point to the gate. I may be wrong on this but I believe your arrival time is based on when the plane touches down on the runway so your actual arrival at the gate might be much later than that, then you have to exit the plane which can take another 15 minutes. (I'd be happy to be corrected if this is wrong information.)

On my first international trip in many years back in 2013 I heeded the advice here about changing in Amsterdam and found that to be an excellent airport for a novice to change planes. It is very busy but it is easy to find someone who is willing to speak English and the signage is very good.

I would definitely leave at least 2 hours in any transit airport. I've done it in 1h30 minutes (arriving from Florence, departing to Seattle) but there were long lines at the Passport control to leave the Schengen area (your passport has to be stamped when you leave this European area as your stay there is time-limited to 90 days) which was stressful for me. Then you will have to do another Passport check at the gate. I did not fly thru there last year so I don't know if they still have the full security at each US departure gate but this slows you down as well. The international flight will start loading 45-60 minutes ahead of the departure time. This was on Delta. The time I had 1h30m, we walked from the plane to passport control to the Delta departure gate, thru the security and passport control there and directly on to the plane as they were loading when we got there. I stopped for a quick comfort stop at the gate and that was it.

If you want to avoid an early morning departure from Venice, then consider flying to Amsterdam the night before and then you will have a more leisurely time getting to the airport on your departure day. I think someone on your Air Travel thread mentioned this strategy in relation to transiting Paris as well.

Posted by
2916 posts

If you are flying from a Schengen country to the US with a change in another Schengen country, you will not go through Passport Control at your departure airport, but rather at your connection. So, when I flew back from France last week, CDG to Boston via Iceland, there was no Passport Control at CDG, only in Iceland. That made departure from CDG easier, and Passport Control in Iceland is a breeze. We arrived at CDG 3 hours early and had to sit around for 1 1/2 hours before they even opened for check in.

Posted by
250 posts

Pam, I had to show my passport during boarding at U.S. airports. Is that what you mean by showing it at the gate?

I don't remember anyone suggesting we should fly home overnight, but it seems odd people who love Venice would want me to cut a three-night stay there to just two nights. Of course, for anyone to think that is just plain idiotic.

Posted by
8443 posts

In Amsterdam and in other European cities, when I have left thru there a person checks your passport before you get to the gate and puts a sticker on the back of it. In Amsterdam this has been done at the gate just before you go thru the secondary full security there. In Paris last year it was done when I was in line to check my luggage. I don't remember how it was done before that at London Heathrow. Then, when you board the plane the gate agent checks your passport again when they scan your boarding pass.

Staying overnight at your European departure hub is just a suggestion in case the flights from your last European city are very early AM departures. I've had to leave as early as 6AM from Milan and that is such a pain in the neck. You are right, though, that it cuts down on your time in the last city.

Posted by
250 posts

So passport control must be based on the country, not the Shengen zone, if Paris and Amsterdam are different. I thought all countries in the Shengen zone do it the same way.

Posted by
31303 posts

CDG is usually not the best choice for flight connections, as it's a large airport and a change of terminals could be involved. Although Frankfurt is also a large airport, I've found that it's very efficiently organized and connections usually go well there.

Regarding "immigration", in my experience you'll go through Passport control at the last airport prior to leaving the Schengen zone. At that point your Passport will be stamped with the exit date. For example, if I'm flying from Milan to Calgary via Amsterdam or Frankfurt, my Passport will be stamped in either Amsterdam or Frankfurt.

You'll generally go through "Customs" at the first point of entry to the U.S. I believe there are some foreign airports where pre-clearance is provided but not being a U.S. citizen, I don't know the details on that. The airline normally provides customs cards during the flight to fill out prior to arrival, where you'll list any items purchased abroad, etc.

Posted by
7725 posts

1)Venice is in a foggy valley. My husband missed his CDG connection due to delayed take off coming from there and got home 15 hours late. Beware early morning flights. 2)As others have said, Amsterdam or Frankfurt are easier for changing. 3) You'll get in line for passport exit control at the Schengen exit airport. Any first flight would be an interior flight.

Posted by
2916 posts

As Bets said, Passport Control is at your Schengen exit. Your passport will probably be looked at several other times, but that's going to be airport security or an airline agent. I'm not sure what the sticker on the passport matter mentioned above was. I'm not sure that's ever happened to me in Europe.

Posted by
12384 posts

Avoiding early morning departures from Venice, as Bets suggested, is a good idea for many reasons. I don't think the connecting airport is all that important.

Posted by
823 posts

I find the plane change at Heathrow to particularly time consuming and fatiguing if changing between terminals 3 and 5 (common for flights to and from the US on a mix of US carriers and British Airways) because the bus ride. I try to leave myself three hours in order to account for flight arrival delays and queues at Passport Control and security.

Additionally, if arriving on a US carrier and needing ground assistance (wheel chair/trolley), good luck. American Airlines has dropped the ball horribly the last few times I've taken my mother through Heathrow. It's been bad enough that I'll only fly BA when traveling with Mom to/from Europe...

Posted by
250 posts

Thanks everyone! I will try to get at least 2 hours at the first stop and about 3 hours at the second one, but that is probably easier said than done.

Posted by
8443 posts

I'm not sure exactly what the stickers on the back of the passport are for except they indicate an extra layer of security. I'm looking at my passport and I've got 3 that say Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, one that says Security ICTS and one that says Delta Security all with various initials and numbers scrawled on them all of them about .5 inch by a bit smaller. I did have a chat with one of the sticker agents a couple of years ago as the line was not moving and asked about taking them off. He said I could certainly do that when I got home but they would always leave a sticky place on the back of my passport so it was best to leave them on.

Since 2013 I've returned from the USA from Amsterdam X3, LHR X 1 and CDG X 1 so that looks like one for each return flight and all were on Delta.

Posted by
250 posts

Interesting. I never would have guessed European countries put stickers on passports. Do you know why just the stamp is not enough in Europe?

Posted by
8443 posts

It is in addition to the stamp. The stamp is on the inside pages by the person at the Immigration Border Control Desk.

The stickers have been placed on the outside of the back cover by another person either in the line at the airline counter or in Amsterdam at a separate desk you pass to enter the departure gate area boarding the flight back to the US.

I'm not meaning to confuse things...just to let you know that sometimes multiple people will want to see your passport and ask questions so that can add time to your transit interval.

Posted by
1767 posts

I do take the stickers off the back of my passport. You can wipe the sticky stuff off.

Posted by
250 posts

Pam, I want to know everything about the immigration procedures at European airports we may stop at. The confusing part is they are not the same at every airport in the Shengen zone if I am reading this thread correctly.

Posted by
8889 posts

Travelling Woman, the immigration procedures are supposed to be the same at all Schengen Area airports, and at all land and sea borders.
If you have a passport or ID card from a Schengen or other EU country you go in one queue, and once they have checked your passport or ID card you are let through with no questions.
For people with passports from outside the EU/Schengen area, they check your visa (if you need one), sometimes ask questions and stamp your passport so they can later check if you exceed your 90 days.

The differences described above are that once you are in the Schengen area there are no further checks. So if, for example, you fly into Iceland, you will be stamped into the Schengen Area there, and when you fly on to (for example) Frankfurt. there are no further checks.
When you finally leave the Schengen Area, be it at Charles de Gaulle airport at Gare du Nord catching a Eurostar to London or wherever people with non-Schengen/EU passports will be stamped out.

For internal flights they will do ID checks, but that is airline security, not immigration or emigration.

Posted by
8443 posts

I'll just add to Chris' response that this is the reason why you need to allow some extra time when you transit an airport which was your original concern.

-When you are flying to Rome (that's right?) you have 2 scenarios:
1. If you have a direct flight to Rome from a US destination such as Miami, Atlanta or New York, you will do passport control/immigration at this airport where they will stamp your passport with your entry date to the Schengen Zone, then pick up your bags and go thru customs. In Europe, customs is just 2 doors, one red, one green. Green is nothing to declare and that is where you will go as you will likely not be bringing in anything you need to let them know about. Your time frame here doesn't matter as it is the end of your trip unless your Insight folks are supposed to meet you at a certain time.

2. If you land somewhere else in Europe such as CDG or Amsterdam to change planes from your flight from the US, you will go thru passport control/immigration where they will stamp your passport with your entry date to the Schengen Zone, probably go thru security again, and then board your plane with just a regular airline ID check at the gate to make sure your name matches your ticket. You will then do customs which is just walking thru the green door when you arrive in Rome.

-When you are leaving Venice you will likely just have one scenario which is that you will need to change planes somewhere at a European hub. In Venice you will show ID with your boarding pass just like you do in the US when you go thru security and when you board the plane. When you get to the hub, you will head for your International departure gate. You will go thru Passport Control where they will look at your boarding pass and stamp your passport with the date you are leaving the Schengen Zone. You may go thru security again at some point. You may go thru extra passport scrutiny possibly at the airline departure gate.

Now, I know you are a detailed person and would like to be ready for whatever is to come. With these scenarios they will just happen. You will be in line, someone will stamp or check your passport. You might be funneled thru another line where someone puts an extra sticker on the back. You may have to walk thru an extra layer of security within the airport or at the departure gate. You don't need to look for how to do any of these things, it will just be set up that you have to move thru the area but it all takes time and this is why everyone is saying a minimum of 2 hours when you transit. Some people are more comfortable with 3 hours especially if it is an airport where you will need to do Immigration formalities either in Europe or US.

The bottom line, is don't allow the person helping you with your airline reservations to schedule you too tightly especially if it is where you will go thru Immigration/Passport Control coming or going. If they want to give you an under 2 hour time frame ask them if they have ever traveled to Europe and had to change planes. If so what was their experience time-wise. I am sure they will hate to hear you have been getting advice from online forums, lol!!

Posted by
2916 posts

A great overall explanation by Pam. A great place to fly through if you can arrange it is Iceland. It's a Schengen country, so once you've made your connection there you're in Europe. And based on my recent experience, connections are a breeze. We had about 1 hour in each direction, but it took no time to get through Passport Control and we didn't have to go through security. When we landed at CDG, we would have been out of the terminal and on our way in no time if my luggage hadn't been left in Iceland. But even with a 20-25 minute wait for the luggage and filing a claim (and the RER/Metro strike), we made it to Gare Montparnasse 2 hours after our arrival time.

Posted by
8889 posts

Are you sure it is the "countries" (i.e. the immigration authorities) who put on those stickers?
I think it is more likely it is airlines or security which is doing this to show passports have been checked. Don't forget that EU/Schengen citizens can travel in out and within the EU and Schengen Area using just their national Identity Cards, and there is no room for stickers on those.

Posted by
8443 posts

"Are you sure it is the "countries" (i.e. the immigration authorities) who put on those stickers?"

No, Chris, I'm pretty sure it is not. It has always been in association with lining up either at the Delta check in counter (CDG last year) or doing the gate security in Amsterdam. It is not at the border control kiosk. Until this discussion I had never really separated it out in my mind as to who it actually was that was performing the extra layer of checking. The guy I had the conversation with in Amsterdam regarding removing the stickers was very firm in saying not to mess with them before getting on the plane as I could not board unless the sticker was in place.

I don't mind the checking at all, it just is one thing that never occurs in the US and that new travelers may not build in to a time frame.

Posted by
250 posts

If it is just the airlines doing this, you would think the procedure was also done at U.S. airports.

Posted by
906 posts

Quite possibly the "sticker on passport" protocol is an arrangement between the airport management and individual airlines, with cooperation from whoever controls immigration and passport checks. It does not happen, for instance, in Venice. Likely a good way for gate people to see at a glance that a passenger is boarding the correct flight.

Europeans do many things differently to the USA. Think, for instance, not tipping for everything, chips in plastic cards as a matter of routine, non-usage or at least minimal useage of checks, bagging your own groceries, payment by Giro, ZTL zones (and monster fines for breach thereof), to name but a few.

Makes European travel rather fun.

Posted by
14415 posts

In Israel they've been using stickers for years. They are always yellow, have a long number and a bar code. An identical sticker is put on each piece of checked luggage. They always put it on top of the last one, so I have a lump of them on the back of my passport. I just checked my passports and the U.S. one has 2 stickers from Istanbul security, which was my stopover on an Israel-US and my luggage was checked through, but no IST stickers on my Israeli passport when I flew thru IST to Dublin. There's one more that just says "Securitas."

Posted by
250 posts

It would make more sense to take the stickers off than have a stack of them on the back of my passport if they can easily be removed without leaving residue.

Posted by
250 posts

I finally met the travel agent today. She said luggage stickers are stuck onto boarding passes. I asked her about stickers on passports. She said people often, but not always, get them.

Unable to select a layover in Amsterdam I raised my concerns about changing planes in Paris. She agreed 1 hour 45 minutes is tight in Paris, but thinks we will be fine if the flight out of Venice is on time. Mom said we like to go to the bathroom and eat snacks before we go to the gate. The TA said we should go to the gate first. When I said people complained about riding buses to the next terminal, she told me CDG has underground trains like those in Atlanta. I also mentioned passport control. She said that's in Venice, not Paris, so all we have to do is go to our gate without leaving the international terminal. Do you think we will be fine with less than 2 hours at CDG if the first leg is on time?

Posted by
8443 posts

Well, if she's booked that connection already then you and Mom will just have to see what happens.

Your flight from Venice will be a domestic flight so there will not be an official passport check when you leave there as your next flight is within the Schengen zone. You will exit the Schengen Zone in CDG in Paris as you go thru to the International departure gates. This will be when the Border official stamps your passport showing the day you are exiting the Schengen Zone.

Posted by
7725 posts

Your passport control is at CDG, not Venice. Venice to Paris is like Florida to Atlanta, an interior flight.

Posted by
906 posts

Can you post your flight numbers please. Otherwise all respondents here are flying blind, so to speak.

Posted by
250 posts

Here is the flight information for November 29:

Delta 8365 VCE - CDG Depart 12:45 Arrive 2:35
Terminal 2F
Air France 85 CDG - ATL Depart 4:10 Arrive 8:15
Terminal 2E
Terminal 1
Delta 5609 ATL - GNV Depart 9:40 Arrive 10:56
Terminal 5

It looks like the ATL layover is tight too if I read the times correctly (they are listed in 24-hour format).

Posted by
8443 posts

But the issue brought up with an earlier flight out of Venice was the airport transportation provided by her Insight Tour company couldn't be accessed earlier. .

In any event, Everyone on at least 2 forums was recommending more transfer time in both locations but you're seemingly already been booked on these very close transfers. All you can do now is see how things go at the time. Either you make the connections or you don't.

Posted by
250 posts

The travel agent recommended this one because a 9:55 departure is too early after an 8:00 water taxi pickup. It is not ideal, but we're happy with the later departure at VCE.

Luckily the travel agent told us about "wheelchair service" at CDG, which can mean riding golf carts, so we plan on doing that.

Posted by
250 posts

Now it looks like we also have to hurry in Atlanta because of U.S. immigration. Somehow we missed this part while talking to the TA at AAA. We have changed planes there several times before, but they were all domestic flights. Will U.S. immigration and customs cause us to miss our flight to Gainesville?

Posted by
906 posts

OK, here is some sound advice. Forget the water taxi provided by Insight. Exit your hotel, turn right, walk about 250 metres to the Palanca vaporetto stop. Catch a 4.2 vaporetto (it will approach from your right) to Piazzle Roma. You can use the 24 hour pass that you used the previous day. From P. Roma, take either a bus or taxi to the airport. That way you can take an earlier flight.

If you miss your connection at CDG, then your arrival at Gainsville will be delayed by 24 hours probably. Maybe that is a risk that you are happy to take, along with the cost of a hotel at CDG (probably 150 euro).

Otherwise take your own water taxi from the Molino Stucky to the airport. It will cost about 100 euro, and there is a good chance you could share it and halve the cost. Butter to pay for a water taxi in Venice than 150 euro in an airport hotel at CDG, and miss all your connections.

With less than two hours on the ground at CDG the chances of your bags getting onto the trans-Atlantic flight are minimal. Expect to see your bags in Gainsville about a week after you get home.

I would never have connections that are so tight. Even at Dubai, where I have flown through a dozen times, I would allow three hours minimum. And Dubai is well managed, no passport control, quick security, and the transit time between the two most remote gates is about 30 minutes, mostly walking or by tram.

Posted by
250 posts

I really did not want Mom to book this flight because of the short connections. The only reason she booked it was we would have no time to go through customs and immigration at VCE before boarding for the 9:55 flight. The flight is booked now so it does not matter what we could have done instead. I want to forget about any other options we had and just focus on what we can do to board our last flight on time in Atlanta if there is no delay in Paris.

Posted by
8443 posts

Venice - No immigration or customs here since you are flying to a destination within the Schengen Zone (Paris). They will check ID at security and when you board your flight, just like any domestic flight in the US

Paris - Exit Immigration from the Schengen Zone where they will stamp your passport to indicate your departure date plus ID/passport check at the gate when you board

Atlanta - US Immigration to get you back in to the US and US Customs to get your suitcase/purchases/goods back in to the US.

Posted by
8443 posts

Here is a video from the US Customs and Immigration website on how to expedite your entry to the US.

https://www.cbp.gov/newsroom/video-gallery/2015/01/how-expedite-your-entry

Here is a fact sheet on kinds of things Customs allows or prohibits you from bringing back in to the US. It will slow you down if you have food that you have to claim when you go thru customs.

https://help.cbp.gov/app/answers/detail/a_id/82

Here is a fact sheet on the duty-free exemption US citizens have when they return to the US. It will slow you down if you have more than $800 each of stuff you and Mom have purchased in Italy because you will need to claim this and talk to an officer.

https://help.cbp.gov/app/answers/detail/a_id/454/kw/what%20is%20the%20dollar%20amount%20of%20goods%20I%20am%20allowed%20to%20bring%20back

Posted by
8443 posts

After you go thru Immigration, whether it is talking to a machine or a Person, you will be funneled to pick up your checked luggage from a carousel or conveyor belt. You then carry your bags and pass thru Customs where you might talk to a person at a podium then you are funneled to a place where you give your bags back to your airline for your continued journey. Just watch to see what everyone else is doing who has a connecting flight. Your bags will be tagged for Gainesville when you check in in Venice.

Posted by
10060 posts

Listen to Pam. She has it right.

And since all the airlines you are flying are the same alliance and interlined, they can move bags between planes faster than you can get between planes.

The airlines will know if immigration is backed up. If you miss your connection in Atlanta back to Gainesville, they will put you on the next flight.

Don't saunter, don't go shopping, don't stop to get something to eat. Get through immigration and customs ASAP, go to your next gate and then decide how much time you have for other things.

And if you can have the preprinted boarding pass for the ATL-GNV leg it will save even more time.

Posted by
250 posts

Thank you so much Pam.

Frank, we will need to use a restroom before going to our gate. I can live without the other stuff.

Posted by
324 posts

I think what Frank means is to find your gate before you do anything else, especially with a short connection. There will be restrooms nearby.

Posted by
8443 posts

Yes, agree with Miranda about bathrooms near your departure gate. Also, go to the bathroom on the CDG -> ATL flight about an hour before you are supposed to land. This is usually before the last minute rush, lol, and before the pilot turns on the seatbelt sign as the plane starts it's descent in to Atlanta.