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Self Transfer Without Luggage, Here’s How It Works


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Self transfer without luggage, how does it work?

Let’s assume, you are traveling with carry on only. With baggage allowances keeping to shrink, more and more people are doing so. I have been traveling light for years. Okay, and now, you are planning to have a self transfer. Most people have self transfer with low-cost airlines, but it’s possible with almost any airline.

How does it work? Do you still have to go through immigration?

Small airplane

1. Self Transfer Without Luggage (Carry On Only)

There are two most likely scenarios.

  1. You do everything like on any self-transfer flights. You check in for every flight separately. You go through immigration control after every flight. And you go through security and immigration control one more time, when going to the next boarding pass (for your second flight, third flight, etc.).
  2. After first flight, you simply go to the next boarding gate. You don’t go through immigration control after every flight. And you don’t go through security control that many times.

We talk about self-transfer flights here. We also have a separate article on the safety of self-transfer flights and how to make them more safe and convenient. This is all about the first scenario — how it works.

Below we go more into details on the second scenario.

Read more: Baggage on Connecting Flights

2. Do You Have to Go Through Immigration Control?

With airline-protected connecting flights you don’t do that. Mostly you don’t go through immigration control in countries, where you only have a layover. On the other hand, with self-transfer flights mostly you have to do that, often simply to change planes you have to enter the country.

But it’s not the same every time and everywhere.

Sometimes, with self transfer, you don’t have to do that.

And this is the second scenario (when everything’s easier).

Below are the things you have to know / consider.

With a self transfer, it’s a good idea always to assume that you will have to go through immigration at every airport. It’s a good idea to have a plan B, to know what are the transit / entry rules, and not to risk with super short layovers.

2.1 Can You Check In Online?

You will need a boarding pass for every flight.

If you can get boarding passes for all flights online, then it’s more likely that it will work out for you. If you can’t — there’s a 99% chance that it won’t work out, since check in desks are located at the landside part of the airport, but planes depart and arrive to airside part of the airport.

You go through immigration control to get from one to the other. Assuming, that there is immigration control in this particular airport terminal.

2.2 Where’s the Next Boarding Gate?

How can you get to the next boarding gate?

Is it in the same airport terminal? Is it possible to get there without passing through immigration control? Sometimes it will be possible, other times it won’t. Check the website of the airport or contact them to learn about these details.

You will have to know the boarding gate for your flight. Usually you learn the number of gate shortly before the departure of the flight. But it’s also possible to learn of historical data, what gate did the plane depart from yesterday or a day before yesterday, and use that. Flight gate may change.

If you’re changing airports, you will surely have to enter the country.

2.3 Do You Need a Transit Visa?

Sometimes you need a visa for connecting flights. For example, to transit through the US, you need a visa or an ESTA. If you need it, you will have to comply with this rule — even if you are traveling without checked baggage, and can theoretically get to the gate without passing through passport control.

If you need a transit visa, and you don’t have it, you may get denied boarding. In this case, you won’t be entitled neither to right to care nor flight compensation.

Have you ever had a self transfer without luggage? What was your experience? Did you have to go through immigration control?

About the author:

Co-founder and Chief Editor at Connecting Flights Guide

Kaspars is a digital nomad and travel blogger who’s been traveling the world extensively since 2013. Since 2017, Kaspars has been writing about the less-known aspects of air travel, things like air passenger rights laws and regulations. He’s really good at simplifying complex concepts and making them easily understandable. Kaspars favorite airlines are Qatar Airways and Turkish Airlines.


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Connecting Flights Guide

Your go-to guide to air travel rules and regulations. Connecting flights, self transfer, onward tickets and more – we want you to understand air travel better

This article may contain compensated links. Learn more in our disclaimer.

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