I have a flight out of JFK (to London). I want to fly to JFK from ATL (on a different ticket) and arrive a few hours prior.

I am not checking any bags, so there are no issues there. My main question: Must I go out of security to re-check in? Can one go from one terminal to another without exiting security? Sometimes I cannot check-in online because I have to show my UK visa since I have no return ticket (I am a US citizen living in London).

Just figuring out how close I can cut it.

  • Are both flights on the same airline? – mdd Oct 24 '18 at 15:34
  • would you need to switch terminals? If yes then you would surely have to go through security and use the AirTrain or walk – Newton Oct 24 '18 at 15:38
  • Nobody is going to ask you for a return ticket until you get to UK immigration in London. – user 56513 Oct 24 '18 at 16:04
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    On all not-very-small airports I saw, here are transfer desk inside security area. I do not remember on JFK (but I think I already used it there). For sure in ATL. – Giacomo Catenazzi Oct 24 '18 at 16:17
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    If you tell us which airlines, we can check whether you'll have to leave security to change terminals (at JFK, you probably will). Keep in mind though that by arranging your own connection with separate tickets, you are responsible if the first flight is late and you miss your flight to London, not the airline. That could prove costly. – Zach Lipton Oct 24 '18 at 17:44

It solely depends on potential necessary terminal changes - check where your flight arrives, and where the other one departs; if they are in the same terminal, you can check in at the gate or the airlines' service counter.

It would be easier though to check in for the second flight in ATL (unless your transatlantic airline isn't present there) - just go to the airline desk from the second flight, tell them what you need, and they will either print you a boarding pass, or flag your entry in their system to enable it for an online boarding pass.


[I have realized that the question is for the opposite direction: London-JFK-ATL. This answer is not wrong, but doesn't apply to this question. I am leaving it for now, as it might still be useful]

No, but yes.

Generally, you don't need to leave the secure area to check in for a further flight, as airlines have a transfer counter inside the secure areas, and you could also go right to the departure gate and get checked in there (at min 30 minutes before the flight, though!).

However, as you are arriving from an international flight, you will need to go through immigration and customs, and after that, you will be outside the secure area. This is intentional, as the flight you arrived was potentially not checked according to the US security standards (there are flights arriving from many airports anywhere in the world). As a consequence, you will need to re-enter through the local TSA security, so you could as well check-in right outside at the counters.

Even if your flight is immigration pre-checked at the departure airport, you would probably arrive in another terminal (as the domestic flights don't go out the international terminal), so you would still be forced to walk outside security to change terminals.

You should try to check in for your onwards flight while you are at the counter in London, the agent should be able to clear you in the system as he/she sees your passport and visa at that time.

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    I think the question is the other way around - they're arriving on a domestic flight (ATL-JFK) and then going out internationally (JFK-London). So presumably JFK won't involve clearing immigration. – Andrew Oct 24 '18 at 17:42
  • duh. yes. you are right – Aganju Oct 24 '18 at 18:00
  • "(as the domestic flights don't go out the international terminal)" Most of the terminals at JFK handle both domestic and international departures – Calchas Oct 24 '18 at 20:39

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