Author Topic: Transiting through the US despite COVID  (Read 1438 times)

Panoramix

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Transiting through the US despite COVID
« on: November 08, 2020, 11:07:37 am »
It might seem a bit weird to ask this on a cycling forum, but never mind, yacf is the most reliable source of info for odd questions IME...

Mrs Panoramix father who is Colombian is very ill and she really needs to get to Bogotá from France as soon as possible. She has a flight with Iberia from Paris via Spain in a month but that seems like an eternity away... and they can't offer an earlier one! Looks like there might one from Paris but I am not too sure...

There also seem to be flights transiting via the USA but is it really possible despite COVID ? Is it just the online plane ticket websites being too dumb to realise that you can't do this ? AFAIU only US nationals/residents can fly in and transit. May be I am wrong, I would like to be wrong....

By the way if somebody has a clever idea to get there, it would be great. It doesn't have to be a comfortable option, even if it means driving across Europe to get to the right airport, that's alright...
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Cudzoziemiec

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Re: Transiting through the US despite COVID
« Reply #1 on: November 08, 2020, 11:15:37 am »
Perhaps you'd get a reliable answer from the airline themselves, rather than the ticket-selling sites?
Let's go for a ride to the Old Sawmill, Valentina, Buzz and you.

Panoramix

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Re: Transiting through the US despite COVID
« Reply #2 on: November 08, 2020, 11:40:45 am »
Perhaps you'd get a reliable answer from the airline themselves, rather than the ticket-selling sites?

Thanks, it is really confusing, they tend to hide a bit and say "check with the authorities".

Nevertheless, for some reason I don't understand (did I miss it earlier or do they make tickets available in small batches?), I've just found 5 minutes ago and immediately bought a direct flight from Paris to Bogotá in November! I just need to cross my fingers that Air France doesn't go on strike...

I am quite glad that she hasn't got to go through the US, and now the question is a bit academic...
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Cudzoziemiec

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Re: Transiting through the US despite COVID
« Reply #3 on: November 08, 2020, 12:00:20 pm »
Good news! Sorry about the necessity.
Let's go for a ride to the Old Sawmill, Valentina, Buzz and you.

Panoramix

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Re: Transiting through the US despite COVID
« Reply #4 on: November 08, 2020, 03:50:12 pm »
Good news! Sorry about the necessity.

Thank you, they are a really strong family and for them, it is important to be together, something like this would have happened at some point but the virus wasn't in our contingency plans!
Chief cat entertainer.

Re: Transiting through the US despite COVID
« Reply #5 on: November 12, 2020, 09:04:07 am »
As long as he doesn't have to enter the US, he should be fine. There's still travel restrictions on most of the EU
https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/from-other-countries.html
This will depend on the airport. If he has to transfer terminals, etc, he may have to enter the US.

(edit) oops, missed that he got a direct flight now.

Panoramix

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Re: Transiting through the US despite COVID
« Reply #6 on: November 12, 2020, 11:33:22 am »
As long as he doesn't have to enter the US, he should be fine. There's still travel restrictions on most of the EU
https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/from-other-countries.html
This will depend on the airport. If he has to transfer terminals, etc, he may have to enter the US.

(edit) oops, missed that he got a direct flight now.

Thank you anyway....

So technically, if you stay in the "international part" of the airport you are not "entering the US"... good to know!
Chief cat entertainer.

Re: Transiting through the US despite COVID
« Reply #7 on: November 12, 2020, 11:56:57 am »
I am not convinced that that is correct.

From https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/usa/entry-requirements:

Quote
Transiting USA

You cannot enter or transit the USA if you have been in the UK, Ireland, Schengen zone, Iran, Brazil, or China within the previous 14 days. For further information, please check the advice from US Customs and Border Protection.

Also from https://esta-center.com/en/transit/index.html:

Quote
All foreign travelers landing in the U.S., even for just one or two hours to transfer, are still required to obtain ESTA therefore, please prepare to apply for ESTA in advance.

Re: Transiting through the US despite COVID
« Reply #8 on: November 12, 2020, 12:03:17 pm »
So technically, if you stay in the "international part" of the airport you are not "entering the US"... good to know!

My understanding is - even without Covid - this kind of transitting airside doesn't exist at US airports.

Re: Transiting through the US despite COVID
« Reply #9 on: November 12, 2020, 12:06:28 pm »
So technically, if you stay in the "international part" of the airport you are not "entering the US"... good to know!

My understanding is - even without Covid - this kind of transitting airside doesn't exist at US airports.

Yep, I think you're right, you ALWAYS have to enter the US (hence the need for an ESTA even if transiting) on landing.
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ian

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Re: Transiting through the US despite COVID
« Reply #10 on: November 12, 2020, 12:08:34 pm »
Yes, this is true, many US airports don't have an 'international side' (and in principle don't have what is known as 'sterile transit') – this is why you have to go through immigration, collect your bags and go through customs at the first arrival in the US even if you're transferring to another international flight. Which means you either need a transit visa or ESTA. And yes, they can and will refuse you entry, even if you have zero plans or ability to leave the airport (because in principle you could walk out and into the US).
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Karla

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Re: Transiting through the US despite COVID
« Reply #11 on: November 12, 2020, 12:09:44 pm »
Notwithstanding all of the technicalities, I'm really sorry to hear this.  Thoughts to you and Mrs P.

Panoramix

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Re: Transiting through the US despite COVID
« Reply #12 on: November 12, 2020, 12:23:31 pm »
Notwithstanding all of the technicalities, I'm really sorry to hear this.  Thoughts to you and Mrs P.

Thank you!
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Panoramix

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Re: Transiting through the US despite COVID
« Reply #13 on: November 12, 2020, 12:30:34 pm »
Yes, this is true, many US airports don't have an 'international side' (and in principle don't have what is known as 'sterile transit') – this is why you have to go through immigration, collect your bags and go through customs at the first arrival in the US even if you're transferring to another international flight. Which means you either need a transit visa or ESTA. And yes, they can and will refuse you entry, even if you have zero plans or ability to leave the airport (because in principle you could walk out and into the US).

OK, so my gut feeling was right!

TBH we don't travel much but we've tried to avoid US airports like the plague from the time when Mrs P didn't have a French passport.... On a Colombian passport they really make you feel like you are a criminal even if your biggest crime was jumping the queue at the bus stop 5 years ago.
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ian

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Re: Transiting through the US despite COVID
« Reply #14 on: November 12, 2020, 12:51:19 pm »
Indeed, and this is why it's generally inadvisable to transfer via the US if you can help it. (Honestly, I think US immigration have got better in recent years, but admittedly they started out pretty low – but still, you're signing up for visas and waiver applications, potentially hours of queuing at immigration and customs, the risk that someone won't like you and send to the white room for another long wait, and then having to lug your bags through to re-check them (if they've not lost them or chucked them in a big pile in the corner), and then go through security again.)
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Cudzoziemiec

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Re: Transiting through the US despite COVID
« Reply #15 on: November 12, 2020, 01:44:00 pm »
I think there used to be – don't know if there still is – a rule that you could go straight through if you were booked on the same airline for both flights. At least that's my memory of what happened on my sole occasion transiting USA, which was London to Rarotonga via LA on Air NZ way back in 1996. I definitely remember though that on the way back (not transiting this time) I had to go through immigration and customs again in LA even though I'd already spent a week in Hawaii. (I had to prove that my Samoan cricket ball – which is not like a standard cricket ball – was not an orange. I didn't eat it.)
Let's go for a ride to the Old Sawmill, Valentina, Buzz and you.

ian

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Re: Transiting through the US despite COVID
« Reply #16 on: November 12, 2020, 03:38:09 pm »
Nope, it may have changed (Tom Bradley terminal at LAX is supposed to international, but international flights go from other terminals too), but these days it's the same palaver for NZ and Aus changes there.

No idea why you had to go through immigration and customs for Hawaii though – I suppose they may have some restriction s on products you can move back and forth for biosecurity, not sure about the immigration though.
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Cudzoziemiec

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Re: Transiting through the US despite COVID
« Reply #17 on: November 12, 2020, 05:04:01 pm »
No, it was because the flight that took me from Hawaii to LA had originated somewhere FOREIGN. Presumably also NZ. They had, apparently, no way of distinguishing at LAX between those who'd boarded in Hawaii and in NZ.
Let's go for a ride to the Old Sawmill, Valentina, Buzz and you.

Mr Larrington

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Re: Transiting through the US despite COVID
« Reply #18 on: November 12, 2020, 06:24:47 pm »
Yes, this is true, many US airports don't have an 'international side' (and in principle don't have what is known as 'sterile transit') – this is why you have to go through immigration, collect your bags and go through customs at the first arrival in the US even if you're transferring to another international flight. Which means you either need a transit visa or ESTA. And yes, they can and will refuse you entry, even if you have zero plans or ability to leave the airport (because in principle you could walk out and into the US).

My grate frend Mr Woolrich would almost always try to save cash and driving time when travelling to exotic Lander County NV by getting flights that obliged him to change planes in outlandish venues like Houston or Atlanta.  Life is, IMHO, far too short to indulge in that kind of tomfoolery, especially if the first part of the trip is five hours late leaving LHR because a ham-fisted spanner-monkey broke the 747.
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ian

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Re: Transiting through the US despite COVID
« Reply #19 on: November 12, 2020, 07:39:11 pm »
Never, ever change at Atlanta. Every time I've been there, the queue for immigration has been so long that you'd think it would be for entry to Heaven, but it's actually damnation and just getting there feels like an eternity. Demons shriek 'NO CELL PHONES' in your face every five seconds*.

Changing in the US is horrible. They always lose my bag, which means you're left there, the last person in the baggage hall, watching the belt go around and around like you are in the saddest version of The Generation Game ever. Then you have to describe your bag to someone who might work for the airport, possibly the cleaner, which looks like every other case. You can offer them a picture of your bag (which looks like every other suitcase) but no, you have to go through multiple choice thumbnails till you end up with an identikit picture of a bag that could be anyone's provided it's blue and has wheels. They'll give a reference number which won't work. Two days later, with no preamble, after a week of phone calls you'll come back to your hotel to find the case just sitting there, waiting, like somehow this was all your fault.

That's if you make the connection, which if you don't you end up spending another three hours in the airport to be told 'no sir, it seems the next flight has filled up with people more important than you.' So you go to one desk, who send you to another desk, who send you to the next, until you think you might have have walked to your destination. Eventually, you end up in one of those bartonfinky airport hotels that was last refurbished during the Watergate era clutching a voucher labelled 'cannot be exchanged for alcohol' (they're ahead of the game, of course, in the UK we swap school meal vouchers for crack). Not without irony, you'll probably end up the middle of the crack district trying to get a toothbrush from the only 24 hour CVS you could find.

*despite this, someone – usually an American – will decide to have a phone call.
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Mr Larrington

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Re: Transiting through the US despite COVID
« Reply #20 on: November 13, 2020, 12:41:40 am »
Further derailing the plot, I flew back to Blighty from Atlanta once, and while it did have an airside smoking area the aircon therein was cranked up to cryogenic levels and the furniture was rejected by Supermax prisons for being degrading and inhumane.

My grate frend John Jackson (notp) actually lived there - at the airport, not Atlanta in general - for a year, and not even for a bet.  Something to do with work, I think.
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ian

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Re: Transiting through the US despite COVID
« Reply #21 on: November 13, 2020, 09:49:28 am »
Atlanta is a bit like Dallas, it has a sort of 'historic downtown' and then sprawls and sprawls some more. It's got fractal suburbs. It's home to the original food deserts, entire neighbourhoods where the most healthy thing you can buy is a gas station hotdog that been in a purgatorial rotation under a heat lamp since May. You wouldn't want to try guessing which year, but it probably remembers the Carter presidency.

The airport is famed for being the biggest in the world, under the mistaken belief that this is an accolade and travellers think whoo, I'd love to go to the biggest airport in the world, that'll be fun.
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Re: Transiting through the US despite COVID
« Reply #22 on: November 13, 2020, 06:18:19 pm »
SFO is decent...and doesn't, iirc, require you to enter the US to change flights. LAX is terrible and so is all the NY ones.
They're really just bus terminals, scaled up, which is more or less how they functioned in the US, until security became a thing.

Panoramix

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Re: Transiting through the US despite COVID
« Reply #23 on: November 13, 2020, 06:24:07 pm »
Never, ever change at Atlanta. Every time I've been there, the queue for immigration has been so long that you'd think it would be for entry to Heaven, but it's actually damnation and just getting there feels like an eternity. Demons shriek 'NO CELL PHONES' in your face every five seconds*.


We had this idea about 10 years ago.... then reverted to Toronto or Madrid!

I still remember the face of the custom officer who was a Latino. He asked "Why are you going to Colombia?" "To see my wife family" then went to "Are you sure?" or something similar... I had to bite my tongue not to ask him if he ever visits his grandma!
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ian

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Re: Transiting through the US despite COVID
« Reply #24 on: November 13, 2020, 06:47:22 pm »
SFO is decent...and doesn't, iirc, require you to enter the US to change flights. LAX is terrible and so is all the NY ones.
They're really just bus terminals, scaled up, which is more or less how they functioned in the US, until security became a thing.

No US airports feature 'sterile transit' so you always have to 'enter' the USA with all the bureaucracy that entails. (Possibly some of them did once-upon-a-time on an informal basis for certain routes, but I expect that ended after 911.)
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