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Whose jurisdiction am I under when making a connection at a foreign airport?
July 19, 2006 3:24 AM   Subscribe

I always assumed that, when making a connecting flight in an international airport, I was under international jurisdiction - the logic being that I clearly haven't 'entered' the airport's host country (haven't got a visa/filled out a landing form/whatever). My personal experience and now recent events suggest otherwise, so what are the rules about this, and do they vary from country to country?

My personal experience being that I once had a scary amount of hassle from US authorities while simply 'changing planes' in New York (going home from Mexico City to London)...
posted by runkelfinker to Law & Government (22 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
The rules do vary from country to country, however the rules across EU countries and EU-America have changed since 9/11.

If you have something outstanding or are on some scary terrorist datamining databases cross referenced against passenger lists - you are fair game.

In the USA, as I have had a couple of friends experience lots of grief whilst changing planes. Quick rule of thumb -you land on US soil, you are their property. Lock Stock and possibly rectally probed without charge.
posted by Funmonkey1 at 3:44 AM on July 19, 2006


Wasn't there recently (like, in the last few months) an AskMe question about a British citizen in South America who lost their passport, was granted a temporary passport (or something like that) but still couldn't get home, because the Americans wouldn't let the person change planes in the US unless they had a real passport?
posted by antifuse at 3:46 AM on July 19, 2006


Yes, yes there was

Ok, February isn't THAT recent
posted by antifuse at 3:48 AM on July 19, 2006


Who would administer the "international jurisdiction" - Interpol? The UN? If somebody commits an actual crime in an airport, or on a plane that lands at that airport, it's the local police who deal with it. (But hassling people who are only making connections in your country is not a good policy.)
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:48 AM on July 19, 2006


Kirth makes a good point - assuming that there were some kind of "international jurisdiction" in this case I'd have to ask who would enforce violations. I have no expertise here but I'd say you're under the rule of the local authorities.
posted by pierow at 4:56 AM on July 19, 2006


They vary from country to country. The US is the only layover destination that I know of (and have personally experienced) that will require connecting passengers to go through a security detail in order to catch their next flight out of the country.

If it wasn't so expensive otherwise, I would never choose a connecting flight in the US again. Damn them for making it so cheap and a pain in the ass at the same time! (I missed my connecting flight because of this once and I had to wait almost 6 hours for the next one -- not fun).
posted by purephase at 5:05 AM on July 19, 2006


The Airport Lawyer. Happy hunting!
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:10 AM on July 19, 2006


As a general rule, you enter the jurisdiction of a country as soon as your aircraft enters that country's airspace. Also as a general rule, the country of registration of the aircraft you are flying in may retain “special jurisdiction” over you from the time the aircraft doors close until they are opened for the purposes of embarkation or disembarkation.

So, if you are flying in a US-registered aircraft that has just entered UK airspace, at least two countries are exercising jurisdiction over you. Once the aircraft doors are opened (hopefully after landing), you are solely under the jurisdiction of the country in which you have landed. Formal entry into that country, however, is only formally granted following border and customs clearance, entirely another matter.
posted by flyingrock at 5:13 AM on July 19, 2006


An Australian man, Van Nguyen, was executed in Singapore last December after he was caught with 400 grams of heroin in transit between Cambodia and Australia. Here is a blog discussion on the transit legalities, prompted by the case, and I'm sure there's a lot more around.
posted by jacalata at 6:06 AM on July 19, 2006


The US is the only layover destination that I know of (and have personally experienced) that will require connecting passengers to go through a security detail in order to catch their next flight out of the country.

Nope. If you change terminals in London (Heathrow) in order to change flights (for example, if you are flying in from Toronto and catching a connecting flight to Dublin), you have to go through security again. This caused me to miss a connecting flight as well, but I only had to wait 3 hours for the next one.
posted by antifuse at 6:12 AM on July 19, 2006


If you change terminals in London (Heathrow) in order to change flights (for example, if you are flying in from Toronto and catching a connecting flight to Dublin

That's because the UK and Ireland share a common customs/immigration space (with no passport required to travel between them), so Toronto-LHR-Dublin might as well be Toronto-LHR-Edinburgh.

On an Istanbul-LHR-Toronto flight two years ago, I never went through any immigration checkpoints or got a UK stamp in my passport.

OP: Good question.
posted by mdonley at 6:20 AM on July 19, 2006


The US is the only layover destination that I know of (and have personally experienced) that will require connecting passengers to go through a security detail in order to catch their next flight out of the country.

Anywhere that makes you go through customs has to send you back through security—you've had access to your checked baggage.
posted by oaf at 7:05 AM on July 19, 2006


Anecdote alert: My brother-in-law, an Indian citizen and American greencard holder, was recently told by British Airways in India that he couldn't fly to New York via the UK since he didn't have a transit visa.
posted by EiderDuck at 7:15 AM on July 19, 2006


The US is the only layover destination that I know of (and have personally experienced) that will require connecting passengers to go through a security detail in order to catch their next flight out of the country.

You have to go through a security detail in Frankfurt, even if you're just making a connecting flight.
posted by cmonkey at 7:21 AM on July 19, 2006


In this context, there is no such thing as "international jurisdiction" per se, as flyingrock indicates. There are a series of international treaties that dictate under whose jurisdiction you are at the various points in your journey. Once you are on the soil of another country (unless you are at an embassy, as that is technically considered a patch of land of that embassy's home country) you will be under 'local' jurisdiction. At no point are you under "international jurisdiction", where laws do not apply (again, this is the context of you flying on a commercial airline).

As a side, in countless travels I have never come across customs/immigration officials with such an awful attitude as those in the US, who seem to expect you to beg to be let into their country. Their ignorance and attitude is continually shocking. If my parents hadn't moved there a few years ago, I'd never go! (mini-rant over).
posted by modernnomad at 7:30 AM on July 19, 2006


As an aside, there used to be a Nansen Passport for "stateless persons" (refugees) and these were issued by the League of Nations and honored by most Western nations.
posted by mattbucher at 7:39 AM on July 19, 2006


Anywhere that makes you go through customs has to send you back through security—you've had access to your checked baggage.

That's the thing, I didn't. I would understand the security detail if I had to pick-up checked baggage, but it had been routed automatically to final destination. It was a simple layover with 45min. between flights and departure on the connecting flight was at the same terminal.

Anyway, other people have provided some interesting reasoning behind this. It's something that has bothered me for some time.
posted by purephase at 8:00 AM on July 19, 2006


Anecdote alert: My brother-in-law, an Indian citizen and American greencard holder, was recently told by British Airways in India that he couldn't fly to New York via the UK since he didn't have a transit visa.

Elderduck, that would be because of the Long (8 hours I think) layover in Heathrow...
posted by Arthur Dent at 8:11 AM on July 19, 2006


Fascinating. I have a family member who works for the US government (in some capacity he isn't allowed to talk about), and there are countries he is simply not allowed to fly over, on either business or personal trips. Now I think I understand why.
posted by junkbox at 10:55 AM on July 19, 2006


Just to correct mdonley above for others reading this Britian and Ireland share a common space in theory not in practise. Whereas I don't need to show my Irish passport going to any of the other EU member states, I always have to show it when entering and leaving the UK even when flying London-Dublin as s/he says. The rest of the EU operates something called a Bangermann wave and spot-checks but the UK doesn't subscribe to this.
I cannot fly between London and Dublin without a passport, or without that passport being checked.
/Sorry for the derail/
posted by Wilder at 12:05 PM on July 19, 2006


Britian and Ireland share a common space in theory not in practise. Whereas I don't need to show my Irish passport going to any of the other EU member states, I always have to show it when entering and leaving the UK even when flying London-Dublin as s/he says.

Yeah, but you would be unlikely to have to show your ID if you were going across a land border. I believe the only reason that you have to show it at an airport is possible mixing with other flights.
posted by grouse at 1:08 PM on July 19, 2006


D'oh. Sorry.
posted by mdonley at 4:51 AM on July 24, 2006


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