For my specific flights, I'm flying out of Dublin (Terminal 2) which has US customs pre-clearance. I arrive in Atlanta before connecting to San Francisco. I'd like to shop at the duty free store in Dublin, but I don't want to risk having a bottle of whiskey with me in my carry-on luggage if I need to go through TSA security in Atlanta.

I'm flying on Delta.

EDIT: I actually got rebooked a bit, but my flight was treated as a domestic flight once in the US. I did go through a second security screening in Dublin, however, just prior to passing through customs.


4 Answers 4


You will almost certainly NOT have to re-clear security - although you can't definitively rule it out.

The vast, vast majority of pre-cleared flights will arrive into their US destination as if they were a "domestic" flight. ie, you will be let out into the departure area of the airport.

Depending on the airport layout you may need to re-clear security in order to get to your departure gate, however in Atlanta all terminals are connected air-side via the "Plane Train" so this will not be required in your case.

Technically it is possible that pre-cleared flights can be directed to arrive into the standard international arrivals area, with passengers being forced to go through US immigration/customs a second time. This is incredibly rare, so the odds of it occurring are very low - but officially it can happen.

  • 19
    If the OP has to go through customs they will have access to their checked luggage, and can put the duty free in that before rechecking it for the next flight. Commented Apr 23, 2019 at 16:29
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    @chx cbp.gov/sites/default/files/documents/… section 8 - "Precleared travelers and articles are always subject to re-inspection at the discretion of the CBP Port Director."
    – Doc
    Commented Apr 24, 2019 at 2:33
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    @Doc: Confused... question asks about TSA, you respond regarding customs/CBP? Could you explain how the two relate in your answer perhaps?
    – user541686
    Commented Apr 24, 2019 at 12:03
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    @Mehrdad If you have to go through customs, then you also have to go through security again (not just in Atlanta, but anywhere,) since you have access to your checked baggage (which could contain items not permitted on board) at customs.
    – reirab
    Commented Apr 24, 2019 at 14:43
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    @Mehrdad Oh, ok, I see what you're asking about now. The second and third paragraphs address that. Domestic flights in the USA don't go through security for connections. The 'airside' area mentioned in the answer is both where you board flights and where you deplane for domestic flights. There's no separate departures and arrival areas airside at US airports as there are in many other countries. You just deplane directly into the same sterile area from which you board flights. In Atlanta, this area is connected for all gates, so going through security isn't required for any domestic connection
    – reirab
    Commented Apr 24, 2019 at 21:57

From the TSA's website:

Duty Free Liquids: You may carry duty free liquids in secure, tamper–evident bags, more than 3.4oz or 100 ml in your carry-on bag if: The duty free liquids were purchased internationally and you are traveling to the United States with a connecting flight

Just make sure you get a STEB (secure tamper evident bag) which is basically a self-sealing plastic bag that has the receipt in it. All duty free stores will know what they are and have them.


  • Thanks, I didn't realize you could ask for one of those. I'm sorry I can only mark one answer, but this will certainly be helpful for future travelers.
    – Hari
    Commented Apr 23, 2019 at 16:55
  • @HariGanti in many airports you don't have to ask for the bag because you are required to keep the bottle in it until you board the plane.
    – phoog
    Commented Apr 23, 2019 at 17:46
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    It should also be needless to say - don't open the bag once they give it to you until you get home.
    – Brian R
    Commented Apr 23, 2019 at 17:49
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    @phoog Even if that's the case, I'm talking about a connection. At that point I'll have full possession of the item.
    – Hari
    Commented Apr 23, 2019 at 19:31
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    @phoog Additionally, in some (usually U.S.) airports, if one buys duty-free goods, they won't be immediately handed out at the shop, but rather held for the purchaser until just before they board the plane (in the gate vestibule area, just after a passenger's boarding pass has been scanned).
    – gparyani
    Commented Apr 25, 2019 at 12:47

In my experience, when arriving in the US after a pre-clearance flight, you arrive in the post-security area of the terminal, and can catch a connecting flight without going through security at that airport, assuming that the gate you arrive at and the gate you will depart from are connected post-security.

  • Well that's exactly what I'm asking. For Atlanta, are they connected?
    – Hari
    Commented Apr 23, 2019 at 16:06
  • @HariGanti: What airlines are your flights on?
    – user102008
    Commented Apr 23, 2019 at 16:12
  • By the way, your answer is great for the broader context, but I can't quite remember how Atlanta handled international arrivals
    – Hari
    Commented Apr 23, 2019 at 16:12
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    @user102008 The airline doesn't matter. All gates are connected post-security at ATL. It's one of the few major hubs in the U.S. that is actually designed efficiently.
    – reirab
    Commented Apr 24, 2019 at 14:47

Pre-cleared flights usually gate at domestic terminals and deplane direct to the terminal as any other domestic flight. For all practical purposes pre-cleared flights are considered domestic flights from a ground operations perspective. It is theoretically possible but quite unlikely that immigration officers might be waiting for one specific passenger at deplaning, but this would be a very rare occurrence.

You may have to change terminals: in ATL this is done via a train that runs under the terminals, but always inside the secure zone so you should not have to go through additional security after deplaning if you have pre-cleared at the point of origin.

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    Just to clarify, I'm not concerned with customs/immigration. I'm talking specifically about the TSA
    – Hari
    Commented Apr 23, 2019 at 19:32
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    If you do go through customs/immigration, then you will also have to pass TSA security to re-enter the secure area to board your next flight. Commented Apr 23, 2019 at 19:58
  • You will normally have direct terminal access as if you were deplaning from a domestic flight. If there is a change it would be a rare exception. Commented Apr 24, 2019 at 2:20

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