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?
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.