I’m flying from Melbourne to Burlington, Vermont with a stopover in LA and Washington. All my flights are booked under the one ticket through United Airlines. My understanding is I would need to collect my bags at LAX and recheck them. However, United Airlines have told me that, due to my short layover times, my luggage will go straight to Vermont. They say they have waivers that allow this but under normal circumstances I would have to pick up my luggage at LAX. I don’t feel confident about this. Has anyone experienced this before?

  • 1
    How short is your short layover? You still has to pass the immigration at your first US airport regardless of what your bags do. If it's LAX, I remember standing in the queue for an hour or so.
    – yeputons
    Nov 12, 2022 at 0:06
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    There are exceptions to the usual rule, but usually for international-to-international connections, only at specific airports, for specific flights from specific airlines (and there’s of course pre-clearance, but that doesn’t apply here). I’ve never heard about anything like that in LAX, but that doesn’t mean it’s not possible (just very surprising). CBP have lots of special programmes with very little information about them. Who told you so? Are you at the airport/checked-in already? Sadly I don’t think it’s possible to know how your luggage is handled from the luggage receipt.
    – jcaron
    Nov 12, 2022 at 0:13
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    @ZeroTheHero your personal processing time is irrelevant. What matters is the length of the queue in front of you and what the processing time of each person is.
    – Hilmar
    Nov 12, 2022 at 2:23
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    The layover time is 1 hour 40. I spoke to someone from United Airlines today to ask what will happen with my bags as I was concerned I wouldn’t have enough time to collect them and go through customs etc. She said they have waivers for passengers with short stopovers which means my luggage will go straight to my destination. My flight is in a couple days.
    – Elle
    Nov 12, 2022 at 11:32
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    @Noch based on the replies in this thread I chose to only take carry on. When we landed in LAX, the flight attendant instructed everyone to pick up their bags with no exceptions. I think if I had taken checked luggage I would have missed my connecting flight. I still had to run from the international terminal to terminal 7 and only just made it in time. Customs took about 30 mins but my flight into LAX was late so I had about 40 mins to make it.
    – Elle
    Nov 18, 2022 at 5:40

2 Answers 2


You have been provided incorrect information. It is a US legal requirement that all passengers need to collect their bags on arrival in the US and carry them through customs. There are a small number of exceptions for passengers who are connecting in specific airports, but only when connecting to another international flight out of the US.

Your bags will be tagged all the way to your final destination, but this does not change the requirement to collect and re-check them at LAX. The full process will be :

  • Flight lands at LAX, Terminal B.
  • Pass through immigration. This could take anywhere from a few minutes to an hour or more. Presuming you are entering on ESTA/VWP you will be able to use the automated kiosks which should help keep this time at the lower end of that range.
  • Connect bags, which may already be waiting for you or may require waiting - depending on how quickly you got through immigration
  • Pass through customs, which will likely take no time at all (unless you are declaring something that needs to be inspected)
  • Drop your bags at the luggage re-check in Terminal B. As the bags are already tagged this will be fast
  • Make your way to Terminal 7. This is around a 15 minute walk if you are quick. There is also a free inter-terminal bus, however it will likely take longer
  • Pass through security in Terminal 7 and go to your gate.

All of this is is doable in the 100 minutes you have - presuming your inbound flight is on time and the queue at immigration is not too long. If you do miss your connecting flight, United will move you to a later flight free of charge, although when that flight might be will depend on availability of seats on later flights.

If you do leave your bags and go directly to your connecting flight it is likely the bags will eventually be re-united with you, but it will likely take several days, will require you to fill in customs paperwork (as they will be going through customs unaccompanied), will most likely result in your bags being opened and inspected by customs, and may involve a charge from the airline for delivery.

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    "It is a US legal requirement that all passengers need to collect their bags on arrival in the US and carry them through customs." But how come people connecting from international to US flights in Canadian preclearance airports do not need to collect their bags and carry them through US customs?
    – user102008
    Nov 12, 2022 at 17:45
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    @user102008 flights from Canada are considered domestic, all the custom and immigration clearance is done in Canada.
    – littleadv
    Nov 12, 2022 at 19:45
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    Even though this is most definitely the usual way, and I’m not aware of any exceptions in this situation, CBP have plenty of weird special programs and exceptions which could, possibly, maybe, allow the scenario presented by OP, so I wouldn’t be as affirmative. Curious to hear from OP after their trip.
    – jcaron
    Nov 12, 2022 at 20:56
  • @littleadv: Right but my point is you don't have to collect bags and carry them through US customs when going through preclearance in Canada
    – user102008
    Nov 12, 2022 at 23:04
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    @user102008 Technically you're right - you don't need to carry your bags through customs in YVR. However you do need to wait until your bags are in US customs custody before you can go through immigration, then you need to identify them on a computer screen, declare any items, and if they want to they will then take you to your bags to inspect them. Only then do they go to the airline. However it's an exception that is completely irrelevant for someone transiting LAX from Australia.
    – Doc
    Nov 13, 2022 at 4:16

You will definitely need to pick up bags and recheck them in LAX. I know this isn't really helpful at this point, but in the future, give yourself a bit more time. The stress is just not worth it. 😬

  • Since she has one ticket, United will refund if she misses the connection stuck through customs.
    – Noch
    Nov 16, 2022 at 11:57

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