You did it! You managed, against all odds, to plan plan the perfect trip and get back into travel. There’s just one issue, you focused so much on the entry restrictions and covid-19 testing needs at your destination, you forgot to consider potential needs at your flight connection point, which could stop you from going at all.

Let’s change that, with a refreshing reminder of what it takes to cross international borders these days, or even just to fly through a place without crossing one. Spoiler alert: some countries won’t let you transit at all right now, but airlines will happily sell you a ticket without telling you!

Connection Points Are Vital

In a perfect world, you fly from one country to another with no stops in between. With airlines decimated and operating fewer flights than in more than a decade, that’s not as easy to do as it once was, just over a year ago.

If you’re trying to go from one far away place to another, there’s a fair chance you’ll transit via another country. Like transiting through Paris on your way from the USA to Athens, or anything like that.

If you should take one thing away from this article, it’s that transit via your flight connection point may have different rules for entry or testing requirements than your final destination, and in some cases, you may not be eligible to transit at all.

Let’s start with the USA. With US Airlines some $30 billion healthier after multiple bailouts and strong domestic travel rebounding, there are lots of flights going.

If you’re in Europe, and see a great deal to another country like Mexico via the USA, it could easily be tempting to book one.

Unfortunately, currently, if you’ve been in Europe or a handful of other countries in the last 14 days, and aren’t a US Citizen or long term resident, you might not be able to even transit via the USA, until the US rescinds the EU and UK ban. Fortunately, that’s expected to change soon.

Airside Transit?

There’s no international airside transit in America, so you’d have to clear immigration first. Many non citizens or US residents, particularly those from Europe, Brazil, South Africa and China are currently unable to, until the foreign travel bans are lifted.

If you’re transiting via another country, be sure to check their rules on transit.

So in the example above, if you’re a Brit, or European who’s trying to go from London to Mexico, via the many flights and deals from the USA, you’d be ‘out of luck’ as they say, until the ban lifts. The airline would happily sell it to you, since it’s on you to know that, and unlikely to refund you if you figure it out too late.

Other countries do allow airside transit

So even though Americans and others from outside are banned from some of Europe’s Schengen Zone right now (not for long), there are many countries which still allow you to transit through, since you’re NOT crossing a border, but simply staying in the airport. Even then, you need to check for additional testing restrictions.

Transit Testing Requirements Too?

Great, so now you’re acutely aware that you need to verify whether transit is a possibility at all in some countries, even though an airline will gladly sell you a ticket without telling you it might not be.

The next step is that you might face additional testing requirements, perhaps even far more intense than your final destination. By choosing another connection, you might also be able to avoid that issue.

Let’s take Paris and Amsterdam, two hotbeds for transit from all over the world to the rest of it. Amsterdam currently allows anyone to transit airside, but requires everyone who does to have a negative PCR test within 72 hours of arrival, and also a rapid test within 24 hours of arrival.

Paris, France, just 300 miles away has absolutely no transit testing requirements.

If your final destination requires a PCR or Antigen test, you’d still need one, obviously, but if you are traveling to a destination without any pre-travel testing requirements, a test is not needed. No extra hoops. That applies as long as you never cross the border and stay in the terminal.

Subject To Change: Use Reliable Travel Info

Not to sound like the end of a medical commercial, but all the info on these specific examples is subject to change. That’s not just a disclaimer to save me from having to update this post, but rather a reminder that the rules change – fast.

Can I travel there right now? The answers to any transit questions and the latest info on requirements of your final destination can all be found with IATA. They have the latest info and changes in one easy to use resource.

Simply click your final destination country, or transit country, which is a good exercise in geography lessons, and give yourself peace of mind that boarding passes will be printed, and pleasant travels are just a take off and landing or two away.

It’s worth checking again in the days before and up to departure too.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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6 Comments

  1. Checked out the IATA website-helpful but I couldn’t find specific transit info. I want to fly LHR to Melbourne via Doha. I am aware of Australian restrictions/visa exemption requirements but Doha is shut to all travellers except residents – unless I am reading this incorrectly? I appreciate all could change…

  2. GSTP….any help deciphering Austria’s transit requirements on the IATA map (as a US citizen)? I’m looking at transiting there enroute to Croatia.
    Thanks!

  3. The information about transiting AMS is incorrect. If you are continuing on to another country without leaving the airport you do NOT need the rapid antigen test, only the PCR within 72 hours of boarding your flight.

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