I'm travelling from Pittsburgh to Abu Dhabi via Chicago in the Etihad flight. The whole booking is done under a single reservation -- so I didn't pick the time between the flights. However, since in the US airports I need to collect my luggage, change terminal from domestic to international, check in my luggage again, pass through immigration and security check -- I'm concerned if the layover between the flights (around 3 hours) is enough or not. I'll be grateful if anyone who travelled through this path can share the experience.

Clarification: I'm a foreign national in US, so my visa needs to be stamped when I leave, hence the immigration step. However, I'm more concerned about the time all these processes take.

Update after the travel: My guess was wrong, there is no emigration check when I leave, and also don't need to collect and re-check-in the baggage. However, one needs to go from the domestic terminal to the international terminal and go through another round of security check (the security check was detailed and long, perhaps in the wake of a recent terrorist attack in Brussels, I would not suggest to have a short layover - should have at least 1.5 hours in hand).

  • If you're travelling from Pittsburgh to Abu Dhabi via Chicago I'm confused about why you'd need to pass through immigration. You're already in the US and flying out of the country, and the US doesn't have exit immigration controls for departing international passengers. If it's a single reservation then it's likely your luggage will be checked through, so you won't have to collect it until you reach Abu Dhabi, and you (probably) won't have to go through security again when switching terminals at ORD. 3 hours should be plenty of time. Mar 20, 2016 at 23:08
  • @AnthonyGrist I'm pretty sure you will have to go through security again if changing terminals. Unless there's some way to keep the people who're changing terminals separate from the people who are entering the terminal for the first time, everyone's going to have to go through security. I'm fairly sure I had to go through security when changing terminals at ORD, though I may have misremembered. Mar 20, 2016 at 23:22
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    There is no visa stamping when you exit the US. The US has no exit controls (besides the information collected by the airlines when you check-in). Mar 21, 2016 at 0:07
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    You can go between terminals 1-2-3 without going through security again at ORD, but I believe you can't get to terminal 5 (where the Etihad flight will depart) without leaving the secure area and taking the train. This should certainly be doable in 3 hours though. Mar 21, 2016 at 0:11
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    Lastly, you shouldn't need to collect and recheck your luggage in Chicago since this is all on one ticket. Just make sure the bags are tagged through to Abu Dhabi when you check-in at Pittsburgh, and they'll be designated for the airline to transfer them. Confusingly, you do have to claim and recheck your luggage when you enter the United States and transfer to a connecting flight, but not when you're exiting the US. Mar 21, 2016 at 4:12

2 Answers 2


You've got so much time between your flights that you're likely to spend almost the entire time bored out of your mind.

Your PIT-ORD segment historically arrives early, even when it leaves late, because it's scheduled as a 2 hour flight but actually takes about 1:15. So, you'll generally arrive in Chicago around (or even well before) 9:00 am for your 1:05 pm departure. You'll find yourself with a four hour layover.

And all you have to do in Chicago is make your way from Terminal 3 to Terminal 5 on the ATS train. If you didn't get your ORD-AUH boarding pass in Pittsburgh, pick it up here. Then go through security, and wait several hours for your flight.

In particular, you should be aware that the US does not have exit immigration controls. Your passport will not be stamped. Instead, the airline will inform the US when you have departed on your plane.

  • @Pagol Well, I could not have predicted a terrorist attack. But even with long lines at security, I expect you still had plenty of time to make the connection. Mar 30, 2016 at 20:04
  • Also, there's a high chance outgoing flight from ORD will be delayed. At least it seems to be true for me all the time, so 3-hour layover turns into 5 hour.
    – rvs
    Mar 30, 2016 at 21:11

There is no difference between a domestic-to-domestic transfer and a domestic-to-international transfer in the US. The US has no exit checks. Someone leaving the US (no matter American or foreigner) does not "get stamped" or otherwise get any checks from the government.

In the US, there is no difference procedurally between international departures and domestic departures. That means you don't necessarily "switch terminals" or "collect baggage" or go through any "checks". In particular, I've personally done a domestic-to-international transfer at ORD by simply walking down the terminal from one gate to another. It's exactly just the same as transferring to a domestic flight except for the location written on the destination sign. (Well, my transfer was from United to United, so it was natural it was in the same terminal. It's entirely possible for your transfer to be to a different terminal, especially if you are transferring to a different airline, but it has nothing to do with whether your second flight is domestic or international.) If it's on the same ticket, the baggage will almost certainly automatically transfer over, no matter if you have to change terminals or not.

You haven't given enough information to determine what terminals you will go through. In particular, Etihad doesn't serve Pittsburgh, so at least the first flight is operated by a different airline (probably American Eagle, Frontier, or United). Assuming that your second flight is operated by Etihad, Etihad does depart from Terminal 5 (the "international" terminal) at ORD. The first flight will probably go to a terminal other than 5 (e.g. American Eagle and Frontier use Terminal 3, United uses Terminals 1 and 2), so you will probably have to change terminals. It doesn't seem like there's any after-security transfer between Terminal 5 and other terminals at ORD, so it seems like you would have to go through security again. I think 3 hours is probably sufficient, but that is just me.

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