I'm worried as it's my first trip on my own. All my flights are American Airlines and I have connections at Raleigh/Durham and at Chicago O'Hare, however there are no terminal changes, just connection times of under 2 hours, so will my luggage be automatically transferred plane to plane? or will I need to re-check them?

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    I'm surprised you are connecting through RDU and ORD - ORD is a pretty big hub and there are plenty of direct flights from Heathrow to there on AA. If I were you, and you can, I would consider rebooking my tickets so there is only one stopover. – Andrew Ferrier Feb 12 '13 at 15:26

Yes, you will need to collect your luggage at your first US airport, and clear customs with them. You'll then re-check them (there's normally a baggage drop just outside customs for this), then they'll carry on to your destination without you needing any more involvement with them.

It doesn't matter who you're flying with, if you fly into the US from an international destination, and continue onto a domestic flight, you will always have to collect your bags at your first US airport, and take them through customs with you.

For almost all International -> US -> International flights, i.e. ones where you're changing between international flights at a US airport, you will also have to collect your bags, clear customs and immigration, and re-check them. Except for a couple of obscure cases, US airports don't offer airside transits, and you'll need to "enter" the US before you can board the next plane.

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  • thank you! how long would that normally take? As I have a layover at Raleigh/Durham for less than 2 hours. – Richard Kail Feb 7 '13 at 11:10
  • Depends entirely on how big the airport is, how big your plane is, and how many other planes arrived just before you... It's probably worth asking a new question on what it's like at Raleigh/Durham (there are a few other ones already for other airports) – Gagravarr Feb 7 '13 at 11:44
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    RDU is pretty small by international airport standards. Picking the bag up and going through customs is fast. Rechecking is a simple matter of dropping the bag off so long as it has been ticketed for the whole journey which it is usually. The slow part is immigration. If you have two hours, you are fine. – David Brossard Jan 9 '14 at 13:34
  • @Gagravarr What are the "couple of obscure cases" where US airports offer airside transits? – Ari Brodsky Jul 29 '14 at 5:20
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    It's only offered for bags, not for people, and only at Miami apparently. You'd still need to clear immigration, then customs with your carry on luggage, then re-clear security to enter the departures area for the onward international flight. However, at Miami, if done right, your bags can do Intl-Intl transfers without collecting and drop off, see here for some details – Gagravarr Jul 29 '14 at 10:34

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