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I have plenty of direct flights from my city to the US, however on one occasion I took a connecting flight via Amsterdam, purely for the fun of flying. It was not cheaper than a direct flight. Once in Amsterdam I was questioned about my choice before boarding the flight, I was told to show evidence of a return flight, they also wanted to see ties to my departure country, they wanted to know why I'm flying at that particular time, and once they were satisfied, they waved me through. I believe that all passengers were questioned, but I don't know if they were questioned to the same extent.

Is there anything I need to be aware of with this approach? I feel that, when questioned, they won't be satisfied if I'm telling them I'm doing this for entertainment - particularly if the layover is too short to be able to leave the airport and explore.

Maybe relevant, maybe not, but this was less than two weeks after President Trump's original Travel Ban. I did not however have any connections with any of the countries in the ban.

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    Who was that questioning you at Schiphol? The border guard at the Schengen exit passport check? Gate agent? There's no US border preclearence at Schiphol (yet). – TooTea Mar 23 at 13:23
  • @TooTea Now I don't remember where it was, but yes it was not preclearance. All I remember was that I had to wait in a line and there were roughly 3 "desks" on the left and 3 on the right and you had to go to one of them, and that's where I got questioned. I don't remember if it was the boarding area or if it was before entering another area with US flights, like some airports have. – async Mar 23 at 13:28
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    Was there an area of "little rooms" they could take people to for extended questioning? Was this right after you stepped off your flight to Schiopol and before the waiting area, shops, restaurants etc.? ....... Or was it after the shops but before boarding the airplane to USA? – Harper - Reinstate Monica Mar 23 at 18:54
  • @teatoo flights to the US often have additional security checks. Depending on the airline and/or airport, it may happen before check-in and/or at the gate. It may involve questioning and/or additional hand luggage inspection. It is normally primarily security-oriented (detecting terrorist threats), though it may may from time to time look like it’s also immigration-related. – jcaron Mar 24 at 21:43
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Just be honest.

Whatever you do, don't lie. Don't make up a "more reasonable" story, don't say that the ticket was cheaper if it clearly wasn't, etc. If you're doing it just for fun, just say so. It may catch their attention and you will likely have to answer a few related questions, but as long as the story is true, its your best bet. Taking a detour for fun is probably not correlated with being an overstay risk; lying about anything is (and can easily get you banned for life).

Border officers (and airline staff trying to estimate what the border guard will think) try hard to uncover the slightest inconsistencies in your story, so that they can catch you lying. The safest way to avoid being caught lying is not to lie at all.

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    I suspect the questions were not asked for immigration purposes, but at the additional security screening at the gate that the US demands for (some?) flights to the US. They make some sense then -- since going on a detour to be on this particular US-bound flight is something a participant in a coordinated terrorist action might well be imagined to do. (The "just be honest" conclusion applies to this situation too, of course). – Henning Makholm Mar 23 at 18:41
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I would like to expand on the hard rule "do not lie at an airport" and add a companion rule "never furnish information unasked". Both for security and immigration always answer politely, factually, to the point but never drag out, pad, whatever you call it.

Also, never make up these elaborate fantasies on what security / border guard might think. You most certainly lack the training to even come close. Spending a transoceanic flight making up stories to present at immigration at the landing point is a recipe for disaster. If you think "your case is special" it almost certainly isn't. (This site is a good resource for both side of the coin: both showing how many cases are not special and then what it takes for you to be special, for example this I don't know my nationality. How can I visit Denmark? insanity)

I feel that, when questioned, they won't be satisfied if I'm telling them I'm doing this for entertainment

See, this is the fantasy you are spinning. There are no reasons they wouldn't be satisfied, there are blogs, vlogs and more literally titled 'flying is fun'. And even if they are not, the totality of your circumstances will decide what happens. Lying to agents trained to catch lies, however, that never leads to anything good.

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Is there anything I need to be aware of with this approach?

Not really. This was probably just a routine control and you got unlucky. Most likely this was a doc check executed by the airline, as the Schengen exit (if you needed one) really wouldn't care. However, the US heavily fines any airline that brings a passenger who gets denied entry, so they are motivated to be extra thorough when checking US entry requirements.

Taking stopover flights is perfectly normal and very common. In most cases it's substantially cheaper than non-stop flights. For example AMS->BOS is much more expensive than DUS->AMS->BOS, because of "revenue optimization" airline pricing. An answer like "this was the best fit for my schedule and budget" should be more than enough.

  • Taking stopover flights for no reason (other than "entertainment" or love of flying) is certainly not "normal" nor very common. Especially when the departure city is so well connected to the US that opting for a connecting flight (sometimes with a first leg that is completely opposite to the normal direction of travel) is bizarre to say the least. – async Mar 23 at 15:21
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    @async US CBP understand the concept of a mileage run very well. You say "mileage run" and the reason for flying AMS-LHR-JFK-LAX-HNL and back in a weekend suddenly becomes clear and suspicion turns to pity. – Calchas Mar 23 at 15:40
  • (-1) While taking a detour for pricing reasons is indeed perfectly fine, I cannot agree with the advice to claim this as a reason when in fact it is not. Lying -- even lies that you yourself consider innocuous -- makes you nervous, and security screeners (of the kind who ask questions rather than the kind who stare at X-ray screens) are trained to recognize nervous and evasive responses to their questions. – Henning Makholm Mar 23 at 18:47
  • @HenningMakholm: I'm not advocating any type of lying. "best fit for my schedule or itinerary" includes pretty much every possible reason for going the way you are going and it certainly truthfully covers "my schedule includes seeing Amsterdam airport". – Hilmar Mar 24 at 12:33

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