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Do we have to collect checked bags in Houston en route from Mexico to Boston?

Do we have to collect checked bags in Houston en route from Mexico to Boston?

Old Jan 11th, 2020, 10:32 AM
  #1  
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Do we have to collect checked bags in Houston en route from Mexico to Boston?

I am flying United Airlines from Merida Mexico to Boston, changing planes at IAH. A United rep told me that my bags are checked all the way through and I don't have to pick them up and have them inspected in Houston. I asked her if she was SURE this is the case and she said she was. I was under the impression that you have to have your bags inspected at the first stop back in the U.S. I don't trust United, especially after they changed my flight from Houston to Boston to one requiring a six hour layover and didn't bother to notify me. I would be really grateful if anyone has more info about this so I can be prepared.
Also would appreciate any hints about finding the Global Entry line at Houston. I could not find any signs last year though I'm sure there must have been one.
Thanks for any and all advice.
Nepheline
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Old Jan 11th, 2020, 02:04 PM
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We flew United from BJX (Leon, Mexico) through IAH last year, and yes indeed you have to pick up your luggage, pass through customs (though they didn't check anything, just took our declaration), then right after customs they ask your destination, take your luggage and put it on the conveyer to be loaded onto the plane. Technically, you don't re-check your luggage, I guess. Then you go upstairs and go through security.
We too found the Global Entry line not very well marked. So we just asked one of the ladies directing people. There were only about 3 people in line, whereas in the regular line, about 200.

Last edited by baldone; Jan 11th, 2020 at 02:07 PM.
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Old Jan 12th, 2020, 09:26 AM
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I ask for the Global Entry line if I don't see it. I frequently fly from Guatemala home through IAH and while I generally travel carry on only, you do indeed have to collect checked bags and then recheck them after immigration and customs. Passing through in November, I had Global Entry and only a carryon and would have been to my next gate in 20 minutes but my traveling companion had neither and I waited in lines for nearly 2 hours with her.
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Old Jan 12th, 2020, 09:42 AM
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Your bags ARE checked all the way through. But not really. As the others say - they will be tagged for Logan but you do have to collect them for customs then drop them off before going to your connecting gate.

I typically fly carry on only so I don't have to collect a bag.
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Old Jan 12th, 2020, 11:41 AM
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Thank you so much for the information. I called United again this morning and was again told that my checked bag was "checked all the way through", even after I told them specifically that I wanted to know if I'd have to claim it. I knew I would get more accurate info here than from United.
I wish I were capable of going carry on only but that is just not in my DNA.
As to Global Entry, I am concerned because last year when I couldn't find the Global Entry line, there weren't any airline or airport personnel within sight so I followed the herd, waited more than 45 minutes in line, made a frantic dash a couple of terminals away, and just barely caught my flight home. The friend I am traveling with this year is not Global Entry so even if I find the line, I'll have to wait for her.
Is there any way I can find out online which terminal my flights arrive and depart from? I'm going to print out a map of the Houston terminals and hope that might ease the transfer. I know I sound neurotic but I don't react under pressure well, so I'm trying to be as prepared as I can be in advance.
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Old Jan 12th, 2020, 12:24 PM
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Have your friend download the free Mobile Passport app.
​​​​​​United's free in-flight magazine has a map of all the gates at IAH (and other hubs). And United being United, even if they told you today what gates your flights will use, there's no guarantee they won't change them anyway.
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Old Jan 13th, 2020, 04:00 AM
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Yes, my experience with United has not exactly been positive. I have received different/conflicting answers regarding seating, terminals, and checked bags each time I inquire. Next year, I'll fly SW into Cancun and stay overnight, fly next morning to Merida in order to avoid United.
I don't know what Mobile Passport is. Will have to look at it. Thanks for suggestion.
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Old Jan 13th, 2020, 04:10 AM
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Oh, and another question: if my friend does download the Mobile Passport app, do you have any suggestions about how we should manage the lines? that is, I'm assuming she will still have to go through the regular line so should I still try to find the Global Entry line, while she goes through the regular line?
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Old Jan 13th, 2020, 05:45 PM
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She will not have to go through the regular line. Mobile Passport has its own line. It should be much, much shorter. Maybe just a handful of people. I would imagine you can wait for your friend in the hallway after passport control. The Mobile Passport app has a set of FAQ's built in. The free version requires that you enter your data within 4 hours of arrival. You can usually do it while you're taxiing if the flight is over 4 hours. The premium version stores your passport data.
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Old Jan 14th, 2020, 04:30 AM
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Dear Baldone: REALLY REALLY helpful ! I was thinking I might have to sign up for the Mobile Passport just so we could stay together but it seems like, if I can find the Global Entry line and she can find the Mobile Passport line, we could emerge at approximately the same time. I forwarded the link for Mobile Passport to her after reading about it here and she signed up for it last night. I will look at the website FAQ as you suggest.
All advice here is much appreciated.
Neph
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Old Jan 15th, 2020, 02:19 PM
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I was under the impression that you have to have your bags inspected at the first stop back in the U.S.

That has always been my experience. I am no expert but I've come back from Mexico dozens of times. I don't think you are getting correct information from United.
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Old Jan 15th, 2020, 06:28 PM
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The United agent isn't actually giving you bad info -- as I said up thread your bags WILL be checked all the way through. At Merida it will be tagged for BOS. That doesn't mean it won't come off the plane at IAH. You pick it up and walk through Customs, then there is an area you just leave your bag nd it wil be put on your next flight.

. . . Packing light may not be in your DNA, but if this is worrying you so much, I really REALL try to use carry on only. For a trip to Yucatan it should be easy peasy
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Old Jan 15th, 2020, 06:40 PM
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#11, my experience at IAH, the airport in question, is that my bags have never​​ been inspected. I only have had to submit my declaration as I already mentioned upthread. Don't know what others have experienced there, although I don't recall seeing other bags being inspected either. Doesn't mean they weren't, just means I haven't seen it.
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Old Jan 15th, 2020, 07:17 PM
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Baldone is nit picking a bit. The #11 post was merely quoting the OP and responding. No, they are not usually 'Inspected'' . . . unless the Customs 'suspects' something. BUT they will ALWAYS pass through Customs. I am pretty sure that is what both Nepheline and suze meant.
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Old Jan 16th, 2020, 03:49 AM
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yup

I kept googling til I found some photos of the customs hall and kiosks for Global Entry (which I couldn't find last year, which was what was making me nervous, since I ended up waiting in the regular line for almost an hour and arriving at my gate as it was boarding), so I am feeling less nervous.
Thanks again, all.
Neph
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Old Jan 16th, 2020, 01:11 PM
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You're right JanisJ. They are not necessarily "inspected" (a word the OP used and that I quoted) but you do need to have your belongings in your own possession as you pass thru a Customs checkpoint to reenter the country.

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Old Jan 17th, 2020, 12:36 PM
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Originally Posted by suze View Post
you do need to have your belongings in your own possession as you pass thru a Customs checkpoint to reenter the country.
This is really the crux of the issue - that your luggage needs to be in your possession for Customs. So that means if you have checked luggage, the airline needs to give it to you before Customs and then take it back from you after Customs. It's still checked through to BOS though and you don't really recheck your bag - no new tags are printed or anything, you just hand it back to a baggage handler as you pass through. It seems to me that the United agent isn't incorrect in the information given, but is using the terminology in a way that is confusing to passengers.
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Old Jan 18th, 2020, 07:28 AM
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Excellent, clear explanation. Thanks again.
Neph
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Old Jan 18th, 2020, 01:55 PM
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Another little bit that clarifies the process, if you think of it as "Immigration" is checking your person, "Customs" is checking your possessions
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Old Jan 19th, 2020, 02:53 AM
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Yes, that "little bit" also fills in the big picture. I'm leaving in an hour and hope to be in Merida in 14 hours. We got about 8" of snow during the night and it's still snowing so I hope their are no weather snags -- have an hour drive to the bus station, then hour and a half bus ride to Logan, then a couple of hours for United to pull it together for a flight. Wish me luck, amigos!
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