I am flying to Heathrow on a Delta domestic flight from Atlanta. Within 3 hours, I will board a different airline (British Airways) on a new ticket for Greece. I know that I will have to pick up my luggage to re-check. Do I have to go through customs? Is there a way that I can pick up luggage and go to the British Airway Terminal and check my luggage. I am not leaving the airport.

  • 2
    Are you aware of the extent to which BA has been cancelling flights recently? getsurrey.co.uk/whats-on/whats-on-news/… If I were you I would be very anxious about this itinerary
    – Traveller
    May 4, 2022 at 20:27
  • 1
    What terminals are you arriving at/departing from? My guess would be terminals 3 and 5, which adds yet more time.
    – jcaron
    May 4, 2022 at 21:29
  • 2
    There are no domestic flights from Atlanta to Heathrow.
    – Aganju
    May 5, 2022 at 20:12

3 Answers 3


On separate tickets with checked luggage, this seems extremely risky to me.

You will need to:

  • Deplane
  • Get to passport control, possibly queue for hours
  • Wait for your luggage if by chance you weren’t held up at passport control for too long
  • Got through customs
  • Get from Terminal 3 to Terminal 5
  • Get to the departures area in Terminal 5
  • Queue and check-in/drop your bags before the check-in deadline which is 45 minutes before departure for BA short-haul.

After that you still have to go through security (possibly queue for hours) and then to your gate.

In normal times this would probably be feasible if everything went smoothly and your incoming flight was on time, but with very little margin for error: it probably takes about 1h30 out of 2h15 (a bit more or a bit less depending on where you sit in the aircraft, how busy passport control is, the type of passport…).

These days UK airports very quickly saturate any day there’s a bit more traffic than usual, and BA… have quite a few issues, to put it mildly. Queues of several hours for passport control or security, flights cancelled, bags delayed, check-in systems not working are sadly a common occurrence.

I would strongly advise against this connection, especially if you do that on a Friday or Saturday morning or anywhere need some bank holiday or other date with high numbers of passengers. But even in normal times, there’s really very little buffer.

Remember that if you miss the check-in deadline for your second flight, you’ll be considered a no-show, your ticket will most likely be cancelled (possibly including the return leg if there is one), and you’ll have to book and pay for a new flight at last minute prices (I.e. potentially a lot more expensive).


Airside transit (that is, getting to the departure gate without passing Immigration and Customs) is possible at London Heathrow.

However, you describe having checked luggage and two separate tickets — which is inferred from your statement "...on a new ticket for Greece..." — so your transit is more complicated.

With separate tickets and checked luggage, you will have to pass through UK Immigration and Customs in the arrival terminal (UK Immigation, retrieve luggage, then UK Customs), then go to the departure terminal, drop your luggage at the airline check-in desk, pass security in the departure terminal, and go to the departure gate.

In passing UK Immigration and Customs in the arrival terminal, you'll be entering the UK. Depending upon your citizenship, you may need a UK visa to do so. You can check by following this UK.gov link.


In this situation, I always ask the flight attendants, they know these things.


You probably/surely will have to disembark, go through custom pick up your luggage and go to the departure area and checkin yourself and luggage again and go through security again and pass through custom again in Greece.

3 hours will be enough time to do all that.

  • 1
    It will only be enough time if the incoming flight is on time and there is no change in the schedules.
    – Willeke
    May 4, 2022 at 19:59
  • 1
    When are you travelling? If it’s a weekend or during the upcoming Platinum Jubilee bank holiday weekend I would not count on making it inews.co.uk/news/… Remember that you will need to get to the gate before it closes so in practice you have less than 3 hours
    – Traveller
    May 4, 2022 at 20:10
  • @Willeke obviously.
    – Max
    May 4, 2022 at 20:23
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    Heathrow (and other major airports in the UK and particularly England) has been a shambles recently, and BA has been cancelling flights extensively. Right now this is a very risky itinerary IMHO
    – Traveller
    May 4, 2022 at 20:31
  • 1
    Three hours may not be enough time - last time I went to the UK (Manchester) it took us more than two hours to get off the plane, get through passport checks and get our luggage. And this is WITH a UK passport (moved to Australia) so I could go through the UK lines.
    – user25730
    May 4, 2022 at 22:19

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