I will be travelling from IAD (Washington DC) to VIE (Vienna) on two separate tickets, first one being on Virgin Atlantic (redeeming miles from IAD to LHR) and second one being on British Airways from LHR to VIE. I am planning to have a layover of about 5 hrs 20 min between both the flights (both arriving and departing from terminal 3 at LHR)

I have an Indian passport with a valid US visa. I have following questions:

  1. Is there even a slight chance that my luggage will be checked through? Does anyone have any experience here? This will help me avoid the UK border and immigration check. I checked with Virgin Atlantic and they said baggage cannot be tagged through to VIE since I have separate tickets. Still I was hoping that things may change at the gate while boarding at IAD.

  2. On checking https://www.gov.uk/check-uk-visa I see that I will not need a visa for passing UK Border and Immigration. However, the results on this website say "You might be eligible for ‘transit without visa’" if you are arriving from USA and have an onward flight leaving on same or next day. The words 'might be eligible' concern me. Again anyone with experience here?

  3. There's an earlier BA flight available (leaving me with a layover of 2 hours between arriving and departing flights from the same terminal 3). Will this be sufficient? Or should I stick to the later flight giving me 5 hrs and 20 min in transit?

Many thanks for your replies.

  • 2
    They have to say "might" because they can't guarantee that you'll be admissible. For example, if the officer thinks you're lying about your transit and actually plan to stay in the UK indefinitely, they will not let you in. Such an outcome is exceedingly unlikely for most people.
    – phoog
    Sep 28, 2018 at 12:13
  • 1
    Holding the USA visa allows you to do landside transit without visa in the UK, but you might need to remind the check-in agent at IAD about this and show your other ticket. This visa rule is in Timatic, so they should be able to see it and I would not expect it to be a problem. I don't think you can get luggage checked through on these separate tickets. Sep 28, 2018 at 18:40
  • That is a relief, yes I already assumed, I will have to explain this to the check-in agent at IAD. Also, as long as I get to pass immigration, am happy to recheck in my bags, that will put my 5 hr lay over to some use. Thanks @michael-hampton Sep 28, 2018 at 23:59

1 Answer 1

  1. If the flights were both with the same airline or on airlines in an alliance together then you might be able to get baggage checked through even on separate tickets, but that's not the case here. The chances of Virgin checking your baggage through for a BA flight are essentially zero.

  2. Using the information from your post (Indian citizen, arriving in the UK in transit to somewhere outside the CTA, and passing through Immigration as you'll have to collect your luggage), that page says you will need a visa in the general case. However, it does also say you "might be eligible" for transit without visa providing that you arrive and depart by air, leave the same day (or before midnight the next day), and have an appropriate visa for your destination (which I assume is the case) and match at least one of a longer list of criteria. If I understand correctly, you'll be travelling from the US with a valid US visa, which seems to match one of those conditions. Transit without visa is dependent upon the immigration officer being convinced that you qualify - if you have any uncertainty, you should apply for a transit visa in advance.

  3. Immigration queues at Heathrow can get very long depending on the time of day. If your first flight arrives on time and everything goes smoothly at immigration, 2 hours is probably enough for you to make the connection comfortably. But if you arrive at a busy time on a bad day then you might be cutting things quite close (especially as you also need to collect your baggage and check it in for the next flight). If your first flight arrives more than a few minutes behind schedule, you could be at serious risk of missing the connection. As you're booking separate tickets, Virgin wouldn't have any responsibility for you missing your connection if that happened - you'd have to buy yourself another ticket on a later flight. I'd recommend the longer connection.

  • Yeah I guess I will go with the longer connection. I am arriving on Tuesday Dec 4th landing LHR at 7:20 am. Sep 28, 2018 at 15:56
  • It can easily take an hour or more for a non-EU citizen to get through immigration at Heathrow. Allowing only two hours for the connection is very likely to fail. Apr 26, 2019 at 9:53

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