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Luggage and customs

Greetings Everyone: I am flying from Toronto to Rome and then on to Malta. The Toronto to Rome portion is with Air Canada ( a codeshare flight originally booked with Lufthansa) and the Rome to Malta portion is with Air Malta. Each flight is on a separate ticket as I could not book both flights with Air Miles - apparently Air Miles does not have arrangements to allow for ticketing from Toronto to Rome to Malta. I am interested to know if I can have my bags checked through to Malta given that I am on separate tickets. I have had different responses to this from Air Canada - some say yes others say no. The other thing I am wondering is if I cannot have my bags checked all the way through to Malta, could I pick them up in the secure portion of Rome airport (after passport check) and then take them upstairs to check in with Air Malta without going through customs with my checked baggage. In other words, if I remain in the secure zone of the airport, will I be able to by pass the customs requirement in Rome and do the customs section in Malta? Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Posted by
4535 posts

Your question is a bit hard to understand, in part because most people confuse "customs" with Immigration Control. I assume you mean can you avoid going through immigration check until Malta? The answer to that is no, you will pass through immigration when you arrive in Rome. If your bags cannot be checked all the way through, you will have them with you at immigration. Not sure why that would be an issue other than cutting your connection time too tight. If on the other hand, you really mean customs, that also is not an issue. Customs in Europe, eveytime I've ever entered, consists of a door marked "nothing to declare" and a door marked for declaring something. Are you suggesting you might want to sneak something through you aren't supposed to?

Posted by
32264 posts

Roger, I'm surprised that the staff at Air Canada weren't able to give you a clear answer on this question. You might want to speak with a Travel Agent as well. I'm not sure of the exact answer, but this is my "best guess". I've flown on Toronto - Rome flights in the past, but my memory is a bit "foggy" on the exact sequence after arrival. I believe you'll have to pass through Immigration / Passport control first, and then collect your checked luggage on the Carousel. From there you'll proceed to the check-in desk for your flight to Malta (which may be in another Terminal), re-check your luggage and then proceed through security. Although you're on a Lufthansa / Air Canada code share flight, that doesn't apply to the Air Malta segment AFAIK, which is the reason you'll have to re-check your luggage. You can verify that by having a look at the luggage tag affixed to your bag when you check it - it will indicate departure airport and arrival airport. The last code shown will probably be "FCO" and not "MLA". Be sure to post again on how this works out, as I'm sure others here would be interested. Happy travels!

Posted by
11 posts

Hi Douglas/Ken: - Part 1 Thank you for sharing your insights. I realize that I will be required to go through passport control (immigration) but I was hoping to avoid customs(with checked bags) in order to maximize my connection time. Douglas, as you surmized, my connection time is short - only 80 mins. I was lead to believe that I would not have a problem if I booked my flight with Lufthansa as they have an interline agreement with Air Malta. To my suprise, I was told that the same agreement doesn't exist between Air Can and Air Malta. So, it is possible that I might have to go through immigration, collect my bags, go through customs & then go to my next airline check-in. I don't think that I will have enought time to do all three things & still make the final connection. To make this more confusing, Lufthansa's Contract of Carriage says that passengers are subject to Lufthansa's luggage policies even on code share flights. However, it later contradicts itself by saying that on code share flights - the operators rules may apply. It should be one way or the other. I've also been told by reservations people at Lufthansa and Air Canada that passengers with all flights on one itinerary can have their bags checked through no problem. If that is true, what value does the interline agreement hold? - SEE NEXT MESSAGE FOR PART 2

Posted by
11 posts

PART 2 However, maybe they are saying that all agreements have been checked if you have all flights on one ticket. If that is the case, why is it possible to buy a flight from Tor to Munich & Munich to Malta with Air Canada (1st leg) and Air Malta (final leg) on Lufthansa's website. If baggage can be checked through on that flight (1 itinerary), why not on my flight? The only difference is the connecting city (Munich) - except that my flights are on 2 separate tickets) due to Air Miles. I've also been told it is possible to check baggage through if you can provide both tickets (even separate ones) at time of initial check-in. In this case that would be with Air Canada in Toronto. This whole thing has my head messed up to say the least. Does anyone know if I can go through passport control, get my bags & proceed to my next check-in without going through customs? Or to put it another way, will I be able to stay in the airport's secure zone if I do that? Since I don't intend to enter Italy but rather am in transit, that seemed to be another option but I don't know if it is applicable in this case.

Posted by
32264 posts

Roger, "Does anyone know if I can go through passport control, get my bags & proceed to my next check-in without going through customs?" I don't remember going through "Customs" in Rome. I'm not sure you'll have to worry about that? As I recall, as soon as I collected my checked luggage, I headed straight for the exit door leading to Ground Transportation. Air Canada, Lufthansa and Air Malta all appear to operate out of Terminal 3, so after collecting your bag, I'd head straight for the check-in desk for your next flight (unless of course it turns out that the bag is indeed checked through to your final destination - again, check the luggage tag attached when you first check the bag in Toronto). Cheers!

Posted by
2207 posts

Roger - not sure I understand all the "legal stuff" but it really comes down to two options. Will your luggage be forwarded for you or will you have to recheck your luggage on the flight to Malta? It appears you may not know this until you check-in at the Toronto desk. Assuming you will have your luggage forwarded... GET ALL YOUR BOARDING PASSES IN TORONTO. Coming into Rome, you will arrive in the G or H gates and you will ride the sky-train or walk into the main section of Terminal 3. You'll follow the signs and the crowds as you walk to "Passport Control." At Passport Control (Immigration), you'll get your passport stamped (or not) and as you're exiting the booth, look for the signs that say "Connecting Flights" or TRANSIT passengers. Follow these signs and you'll remain in Terminal 3, IN THE SECURED AREA. Now, simply find a monitor and see which Gate your Air Malta flight is departing from. It will probably be from the C or D gates, which might be a 5-15 minute walk, depending on the gate. That's it, just walk to your gate! For some help on arriving at FCO, you might look at this post.

Posted by
2207 posts

Okay, that's the good news. Now for the bad. You get to Toronto and they say no way, we have no agreement; you will have to re-check your luggage. I don't think 80 minutes will be enough time - depends on how crazy FCO is. Under these rules, you arrive at Gates G or H, do Passport Control (Immigration), but then you have to collect your baggage. Follow the signs to the Baggage Carousels and WAIT (and wait, and wait). Once you have finally collected your bags, head towards the EXIT of the Baggage area. You'll see the exit signs - heading down towards carousel #10. As you near the exit, you'll see "customs." It's simply a walk-through. DON'T STOP, just follow the GREEN signs saying "nothing to dclare." Customs usually takes about 5 seconds; about as long as it takes you to walk 15-20 feet past the counter and out the frosted doors. That WAS customs... unless you're one of the five people "all day" who get stopped. For a review with maps and photos of this journey through T3 arrivals, see Terminal 3 Arrivals at Fiumicino Airport.

Posted by
2207 posts

Okay, now the really bad news... once you exit the frosted doors, you are now in the NON-SECURED Terminal 3 Arrival Area. That means you will have to go back through security – always an adventure at FCO. So now you need to run upstairs to the departures area (floor 1), find the correct Air Malta counter, get in line, re-check your bags, then run for security! After clearing security, you'll have to race for your gate. You've got 80 minutes to do this – but not really. Many smaller airlines at FCO close their counters 30-45 minutes BEFORE the flights depart (often the same personnel who check you in at the Departures desk will board you)... so you really only have about 50 minutes. Check with Air Malta for their counter-policy. You can see how difficult this can become if you have to recheck your luggage. Of course, if you fly with just carry-on, you can avoid much of this problem – as long as you can pick up a boarding pass for your 2nd flight, perhaps online! But if you have checked luggage, and you cannot get your baggage forwarded, this is the challenge you face... in less than 80 minutes. Hopefully, your luggage will get sent on ahead and this will not be an issue for you.

Posted by
11 posts

Hi Ron: Thanks for the very detailed information. It is very helpful. As you, I hope that I won't have to go through the baggage claim and re-check process as that will make things very tight. The one flaw in my proposal is that you have to enter a non-secure area before re-checking your bags - too bad :( I do have one other question. Once my travelling companions and I pass through the customs doors, would it be possible for them to go ahead and for me to wind my way upstairs with our bags to the check in area? If we do that, they might be able to secure an earlier place in the check-in line - although we might get a few nasty looks - I need any option I can to increase my odds of making the connection? Your thoughts would be appreciated. I am also going to try getting some information directly from the check-in people at Pearson airport in Toronto. Regards,
Roger

Posted by
2207 posts

If I understand your question, you're asking if they can head upstairs while you remain waiting on your luggage and their luggage? Then, you would bring the luggage upstairs and join the check-in line. Technically, you're supposed to carry "your own" luggage through customs (all 20 feet of it) as you are responsible for the content. But I've done this before a few times as my wife headed out to meet and connect with friends - or find our friend's car. So yes, it could be done - you'll just have to drag all the luggage. When you exit through the frosted doors turn LEFT and head far left to the elevators. Have coin (euro) to get a luggage cart as you wait for luggage. Good luck!

Posted by
11 posts

Hi Ron: Thanks again. Actually, I was thinking that they could say just ahead of me until we reach the customs (frosted) doors and then run ahead of me upstairs to the Air Malta check-in and grab a spot in that line up. Once the bags are checked, we would head for security and then the gate.

Posted by
31 posts

Roger, did it work for you? We got stranded in Rome with almost the same schedule. Air Malta refused to help and we had to spend a small fortune for last minute new tickets on another airline. As you may now know, Air Malta has no ticket desk in FCO. We found Lufthansa was not able/willing to intervene.

Posted by
11 posts

Hi J Scott: After much frustration with Lufthansa and Air Canada (the code share operator), I decided to cut my losses and fly into Malta one day later. This meant changing my Air Malta tickets and spending one night in Rome. It certainly made for a more relaxing trip as my AC flight from Toronto was delayed by 90 mins so I would have completely missed the Air Malta connection. However, I did incur about $600 in extra costs for the changes. This includes hotel, airport transfers and the change to the Air Malta flight (from Rome to Malta). I found the overall process quite frustrating and would hesitate to use Lufthansa or Air Canada again under a Code Share agreement. I'm sorry to hear about your circumstances. I continue to be amazed at the airline industry and its suprise at not being perceived as customer friendly. Please airlines, way up and smell the day old coffee.