Do You Have to Go Through Customs for a Connecting Flight in Europe?

The rules in the country of your connecting flight determine whether you must go through customs. 

However, you don’t have to go through customs if you travel on a single ticket with the same airline or different airlines in an interline agreement.

Also, you don’t need to traverse customs if you fly in the Schengen Area. 

Yes, connecting flights can be confusing and time-consuming, especially if you aren’t on a domestic flight. So, many may wonder if they need to go through customs for their connecting international flight through Europe. 

Overall, the answer depends on how many tickets you booked and which nation you are entering. But, remember that you won’t have to go through customs and passport control if you never leave the transit airport. 

So, let’s take an in-depth look at custom rules and what happens to your baggage when traveling in Europe. 

What if I Don’t Leave the Airport?

When reading the rest of this article, it’s important to remember that these customs rules typically only apply if you leave the airfield to explore your connecting country. Overall, if you stay in the international area of the airfield, most countries do not make you go through passport control or a customs inspection. 

Instead, you will venture through an expedited transit security process, carrying your onward boarding pass to the next gate. This check is similar to standard airline security and ensures you don’t take anything dangerous onboard your onward flight. 

However, you will have to clear immigration when you arrive in your third country. 

Furthermore, remember that whenever you go through foreign airports, you should look up the rules for each specific connecting airport and the regulations in your destination country. This way, international travelers will always know the security screening they have to undergo on their international flights. 

Read Also >> What Happens to Luggage on Connecting Flights?

Understanding the Schengen Agreement 

The Schengen Area is a visa-free transit zone consisting of 26 European countries, all of which are EU countries. People can travel between these European countries without a visa, and they don’t have to clear customs even if they leave the airfield before their departing flight.

Thus, rules are different when flying between these nations. For instance, you only need a single visa for a Schengen nation if you are a US citizen, and you can travel anywhere in the zone. 

You also won’t have to clear customs in every connecting airport. Neither will you need any re-check in your destination airport if you stay in the zone. 

When Do I Have to Go Through Customs for a Connecting Flight in Europe?

Overall, it depends on where you are from and where your final airport is. But, laws vary heavily from country to country so always check so you don’t run into any unpleasant surprises when you fly. 

For the most part, if you don’t stay airside, you must go through a full customs inspection when traveling into another nation. However, if you are moving between two countries in the Schengen Area, clearing customs is not a problem since you’re technically flying through the same place. 

Flying in Schengen Nations

If you’re from a non-Schengen nation, and you land in the Schengen Area, you will have to clear immigration. 

However, you don’t have to venture through customs and immigration if:

  • Your nation of origin is in the Schengen Zone
  • You have to take your upcoming flight from an airfield that is also a Schengen country

So, to give a few examples: 

  • If you are traveling from London Heathrow to Charles de Gaulle, you must go through customs because you are leaving a non-Schengen country (UK) and heading to a Schengen country (France). 
  • If you travel from Berlin Tegel to Athens International, you do not have to go through customs because Germany and Greece are part of the Schengen Zone. 
  • If you are traveling from Istanbul Airport to Abu Dhabi, you must go through customs because Turkey and the UAE aren’t Schengen countries. 

What Happens to My Baggage on a Connecting Flight?

Several factors can affect what happens to your baggage, and they mostly have to do with your country of origin, transit, and final destination. 

Overall, everything happens from scratch when you enter or leave a Schengen country or move between two non-Schengen countries. 

What happens to your baggage also depends on the airlines you are flying with and how you booked your tickets.

Below, you’ll find the four most common situations and what happens to your baggage in each. 

Scenario 1: You Are Traveling on One Ticket 

If you are flying on a single ticket and have a layover, don’t worry about your baggage.

The baggage gets checked in to the final destination by the airline automatically, even if you aren’t at the same terminal. You don’t have to collect your baggage from the first trip or go through customs to fly on the next one unless you leave the airfield. 

The airlines announce the time of the upcoming flight, and you can take your hand luggage with you to board your next plane. Thus, this scenario is largely no different from being in a domestic terminal. 

Scenario 2: You Have Made Two Separate Bookings

If your upcoming flight is your choice, and not the airlines’, you are pretty much responsible for taking care of your baggage. Therefore, when you get off the plane, you should collect your checked baggage and wait for the succeeding flight.

You will take your baggage to the check-in counter, go through customs, and then board the plane. So, in essence, the upcoming flight in this scenario works pretty much the same as your original flight did.

Scenario 3: Both Airlines Share an Agreement 

Sometimes, airlines do not have airports in every major city. In this case, they prefer to get into partnerships or interline agreements with different airlines to facilitate their passengers.

When two airlines are in an interline agreement, you get to book trips with multiple airlines. This arrangement saves you from the hassle of booking separate planes to reach your destination.

The airlines in partnership let the connecting planes operate the same way as when traveling with the same airline. Your luggage will automatically recheck and reload. 

And you won’t have to collect your baggage separately to get it through the screening or customs.  

Scenario 4: When the Nation of Your Next Flight Requires You to Go Through Customs

Even if you are traveling with the same airline on the same ticket, you still have to go through customs if that particular nation requires it. Therefore, you will need to collect your baggage and go through customs. 

So, whatever the airline or flight ticket scenario, the regulations in a particular nation rule.