Traveling to US through Madrid

Jun 28th, 2017, 06:48 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jun 2017
Posts: 2
Traveling to US through Madrid

My mother and her boyfriend will be traveling from Czech to the US to visit me and I found good tickets through Madrid or Zurich, but I've never flown through either one of these airports so I don't know if they'd be able to make a connecting flight in an hour or hour and a half of layover, and I'm especially concerned about customs, when i flew through Amsterdam, they do a little customs interview even before they let you on a plane and I'd like to know if they do those in Zurich or Madrid or anywhere else in Europe in that matter? Oh and one more catch-neither one of them speak english, so I'm wondering if anyone has an experience with having to get an interpreter and how does that work, do they have to wait for the person to get there, do they have them on hand, could they miss their flight because of that? Thanks in advance for any help!
MartinaMusilova is offline  
Jun 28th, 2017, 10:17 PM
Join Date: Nov 2005
Posts: 4,411
I've never had a little customs interview in Amsterdam despite connecting thru that airport at least 10 times a year. I suspect you mean a little immigration interview, but I've not had that either. It is certainly not something done as routine to everyone which is what you are implying.

What do you mean by an interview, do you mean taken into a room and questioned or do you mean a couple of questions at the immigration desk about your purpose of visit/length of visit etc?

Connecting thru Madrid or Zurich is fine, the minimum time required by the airline for the layover is calculated in any flight combination you book (meaning that you book it as a connection and on one ticket), you can choose a connection that allows more time than 1.5 hours (which is plenty anyway).

You can get meet and assist service from most airlines, whether they provide that for language difficulties you would have to check. They should be able to read the boarding pass which has the gate number, flight no and destination which is about all they need to do. Have they not travelled before? Have you only travelled to countries where you speak the language? 1000s of people do that every day & manage fine.
Odin is offline  
Jun 29th, 2017, 02:17 AM
Join Date: Aug 2008
Posts: 2,503
In Amsterdam (and elsewhere) the airlines may conduct a security interview at the boarding lounge. It's common to hear "customs" used as a blanket description of immigration and security procedures even though customs are a concern on arrival and usually require nothing more than walking through the Nothing to Declare door.
As for connecting times, nobody can control delays when travelling by air, including the airlines. I am comfortable with a 90-minute transfer if staying in a secure area on an itinerary ticket. But there are no absolute guarantees and I've missed a connection or two, then having to get the airlines to sort out a later flight.
Southam is offline  
Jun 29th, 2017, 05:17 AM
Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 10,085
I've changed planes in Zurich with only 40 minutes, so while I had to rush, I'd feel very comfortable with 90 minutes there. Madrid is a bit harder but not much.

I really doubt they'll have to speak English to get through immigration in either airport, but it's certainly possible. I've never seen an airport supply translators (or need to supply translators) unless they were doing a very involved interrogation, which seems very unlikely to me.

However, it will be a long flight for them if they don't speak any other languages. Unless they are flying on a Czech airline, they're not going to find any movies dubbed or subtitled in Czech.
doug_stallings is offline  
Jun 29th, 2017, 05:40 AM
Join Date: Jun 2007
Posts: 2,579
Maybe it's just me, but I would not be comfortable with an hour layover - even an hour and a half, especially if they are unfamiliar with the airport. Too many variables. If their connecting flight is delayed, if they're seated at the back of the plane and it takes 20 minutes or more to get off, if the security lines are a little extra long, etc. etc.

Maybe you can find a reasonable fare with a better connection - slightly longer layover time?

And hopefully, they are staying with the same airline/partner for both flights.
scdreamer is online now  
Jun 29th, 2017, 09:22 AM
Join Date: Jul 2005
Posts: 1,567
I've connected in Madrid for a US-Schengen trip and flown through Zurich.

In Madrid, Iberia's Schengen flights operate from Terminal 4 and the non-Schengen from the Terminal 4 satellite. An automated tram connects the two which are over 2 km apart. Even walking at a brisk pace to the tram, then to my gate, I wasn't sure make the connection. You can check estimated times to connect on the airport site:

If Madrid and Zurich were my only options, I'd pick Zurich as it's smaller and easier to navigate since everything is within one building.
Citylghts is offline  
Jun 30th, 2017, 02:31 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jun 2017
Posts: 2
Odin:yes, immigration interview is what i meant and yes, it is performed as a routine before boarding the flight to US, they take you to a little table and ask you a few questions, however when they (my mother and her boyfriend) don't speak english, even a simple "how many days will you be staying in the US" becomes a problem.

All the ticket combinations they have when flying through Madrid and Zurich have at the most an hour and a half layover, all the better layovers are through AMS and i definitely don't want them to fly through there since i know for sure that they would have to do the interview.

Thank you for telling me about the meet and assist service, I didn't know about that, I'll definitely look into that. They have not traveled by plane before and I've been in many countries where I don't speak the language, but I do speak english and you can find english speaking people everywhere, they don't speak any other language, they might remember some Deutch or Russian but that's no help here.

Southam:I definitely don't want them to miss their flight, looks like I'll have to look for better layover then..

Doug_stallings: so maybe Zurich is the better way to go.

We called the airport where they will arrive and they said if they don't speak english, they (the airport) will have someone translate, i just don't know how it works, how long they'll have to wait..the people on the phone were very vague so I'm looking for people who have some experience with that.

And yes, it will be a long flight, but they have books and magazines and sleeping is always a way to go for me

Scdreamer: I'm beginning to doubt that hour and half layover will be sufficient time for them to find where to go, but the next better tickets that didn't go through AMS were about 400$ more so there is a lot to consider..

Citylghts: thank you for that link, and Zurich does seem like a better option, thank you.
MartinaMusilova is offline  
Jun 30th, 2017, 03:52 AM
Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 10,085
I definitely think Zurich is the easier airport in which to make a connection, but what I really believe is that it's better for them to fly Czech Airlines nonstop to JFK even if it costs a bit more. You might also price connections through Warsaw rather than Zurich or Madrid. I get why you'd make the connection if the price of the ticket is substantially less, but in this case (especially if they can't speak a word of English), saving a bit of money might not be the best option for them.
doug_stallings is offline  
Jun 30th, 2017, 05:50 AM
Join Date: Jun 2017
Posts: 1
I have made this trip several times from Miami to Budapest, thru Amsterdam, Zurich, and Paris. While 90 minutes was do-able, it could be a bit stressful if there is a terminal transfer. In Paris, I had to go back through security and then there was a long walk (and I had cumbersome carry-on). Zurich was easier and Amsterdam was the easiest. I have yet to go through Madrid. Unquestionably, do not do less than 90 minutes (in my opinion). Enjoy their visit!
SailboardsMiami is offline  

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are On

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy -


All times are GMT -8. The time now is 09:43 AM.