13

Most, if not all, European airports have international transfer zones, meaning that if you don't have to pass customs and immigration check of the country the airport is located in. On the other hand in US airports do not have international transfer zones. (Note that in case of Schengen zone countries "international" would mean out-of-Schengen).

How about rest of the world, which case is more typical?

Note: I'm not expecting full list of countries, just general indication what's the case in other regions.

  • I worry this might turn into a list style question. (Might not though, as the US situation is fairly unusual, at least for major airports worldwide) – Gagravarr Jun 28 '13 at 13:33
  • @Gagravarr: right, let me make that clear in the question. – vartec Jun 28 '13 at 13:35
  • It can be triggered by immigration law (eg US), or an airport not being geared up to segregate passengers suitably (tends to be smaller airports) – Gagravarr Jun 28 '13 at 13:36
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    @vartec you're wrong. Frankfurt Hahn Airport (HHN) has no transfer zone but there are flights from there to Bulgaria (EU but not Schengen) and Turkey (Not EU) – Dirty-flow Jun 28 '13 at 13:48
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    And Madrid has an EU zone and a world zone - so even if you're doing 'international' flying, you still pass to pass through immigration if entering Europe at that point, and again in say, London (source: have flown through there several times) – Mark Mayo Supports Monica Jun 28 '13 at 14:41
12

Sterile international transfer is possible at many gateway airports in many countries, but one cannot make a rule about it. It depends on the facilities of the airport and its terminals, including staff, and it goes without saying that you should always double-check transit requirements when planning a trip.

At Toronto Pearson (YYZ), for example, I believe sterile transfer is possible if your inbound and outbound flights both use Terminal 1 (as with some U.S.-bound flights), but as most long-haul international carriers use Terminal 3, you'd need to go through CBSA screening as there is no sterile transit facility between terminals.

On the other side of the country Vancouver goes so far as to provide a passenger guide that determines the procedure applicable to you based on your arrival or departure countries and the specific airline you are flying— sterile transit is only possible with certain connections and only between the hours of 7:00am and 2:00am local time.

  • Toronto and Vancouver allow people to transit from international to the US by going straight to US preclearance and not need to go through Canadian immigration, but that is just because of the existence of US preclarance which people departing to the US would have to go through anyway. People transiting from US to international, or international to international, would still have to go through Canadian immigration. – user102008 Sep 2 at 0:13
9

Most of the large international airports outside of North America provide sterile international-to-international transit which does not require passengers to go through passport control or customs or to reclaim and re-check bags.

This especially applies to airports which are a major hub for one or more airlines doing a lot of long-haul.

Here are a few examples:

  • London Heathrow
  • London Gatwick
  • Paris Charles De Gaulle
  • Amsterdam
  • Frankfurt
  • Zurich
  • Milan Malpensa
  • Athens
  • Dubai
  • Hong Kong
  • Singapore
  • Sydney

Note however that:

  • This of course requires bags to have been "checked through" to the final destination, which usually requires both flights to be on the same ticket/booking.

    If you have hand luggage only, this depends on your ability to check-in for the next flight online and/or the availability of a transfer desk at the airport to retrieve your next boarding pass, otherwise you will need to pass through immigration to get to a check-in desk.

  • One may need to go through security again (in fact I believe in most cases one will need to).
  • In the case of airports with multiple terminals, sterile transit is not always possible between terminals.
  • Even if sterile transit exists, there may be a requirement for citizens of some countries to hold a transit visa, and/or they may be isolated from the general public during their wait.
  • One should definitely always check the details for their specific trip, there are enough exceptions and special rules that it is difficult to rely on generalities.
  • +1 to this. In other words I see North America being an exception, and I'd expect majority of large airports outside of US & Canada to have sterile zone. – rvs Aug 12 at 10:05
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    'This of course requires bags to have been "checked through" to the final destination, which usually requires both flights to be on the same ticket/booking.' of course, if you have hand luggage only this doesn't apply! – Muzer Aug 12 at 10:24
  • @Muzer indeed, clarified. – jcaron Aug 12 at 10:30
  • You can add NRT and ICN to this list; however, the best advice is still to check each individual itinerary. In this day and age of low-cost airlines, many people do not connect through the main hubs, and if you come through EDI or TAE or HHN, for example, you cannot make an international-to-international connection without inspection. – choster Aug 12 at 12:54

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