Off-Topic, Non-Disney, International-Travel-Related Question

Sorry for the off-topic question, but y’all are the experts and I figured I would be able to get a solid answer here. :wink:

My family and I are traveling to England next month. International flights are waaay more expensive from our hometown airport than from Seattle (the nearest “big” city). So we ended up booking round trip flights (Icelandair) from Seattle to London (via Reykjavik) and then booking separate round trip tickets from our home airport to and from Seattle through Delta.

(This is a done deal, btw, so it’s no use telling me now that this was a terrible idea! :joy: We made sure to leave ~5 hour buffers between our Delta --> Icelandair and Icelandair --> Delta transfers in case there are some delays. We are doing carry-on only, so no baggage transfers to muddy things up . . . this is saving our family of 6 almost $3,500 so it seemed like a wonderful idea at the time! :grimacing: Now that we’re only a few weeks out, I’m starting to panic a bit about how exactly it’s all going to play out . . .)

Anyway, here’s my very specific question:
I am working under the assumption that we will not be able to stay within the secure area, head directly to our Icelandair gate when we land in Seattle, and check in there. In other words, after landing in Seattle, we will need to make our way out of security and to the Icelandair check-in counters, check in for our Seattle-Reykjavik-London journey, and then go through TSA all over again before boarding our first Icelandair flight. But for our journey home, we should be able to check in for our Delta flights online (since it’s a domestic-only ticket), which means we will be able to head directly to our Delta gate, with no need to exit and go through security again.

Is this correct? I have googled all over trying to find an answer, and all I get are forums where people tell you all the reasons that you should not book international travel in separate legs like this. :woman_facepalming: I’m honestly not too stressed about the potential disasters . . . the risks seem minimal to me. There are so many daily flights from our home airport to Seattle and it’s only a 45 minute flight, so with a 5 hour buffer I think there is basically zero chance we will miss our flight to Iceland. The odds of a significant delay do go up on the return flight, but the worst that could happen there is we miss our final 45 minute flight back home and have to either buy new tickets (which are very cheap) or crash at a hotel for the night and then rent a car and drive home the next day.

So basically I’m really not panicking about the plan (at least, not too much) but I want to know exactly what to expect on departure day. Check in for short flight, go through TSA, land in Seattle, then start the process all over again since we’re flying on a separate ticket? Does that sound accurate? Has anyone else done an international journey this way? :grimacing:

I did some research. First all access to all terminals at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport is after security so once you clear TSA security at your starting airport this should not be necessary again at SEA.

According to the SEA Airport website, Delta flights utilize the Main Terminal’s Concourse A. I couldn’t find Icelandair anywhere on the page which likely means they don’t have many flights out of that airport. The Iclandair website says their first class passenger lounge in Seattle is in the South Satellite terminal near gate S9 which very likely means their flights leave from that Satellite terminal. This is further confirmed by information obtained from Travel Wiki which says all immigration, baggage claim, and customs declaration processes are handled in the South Satellite.

The good news for you is this makes it exceedingly likely the transport between the Main Terminal and the location for your Icelandair flight will be quite good. According to several sources this is via a train system.

I think you will not have to worry about anything except possibly some unexpected delay making you miss your flight from Seattle home. Since you say this is no issue I think you’re good.


I have flown the domestic/international combo before but it was many years ago. We went BOS-JFK-FRA. I think you should be absolutely fine! 5 hours is plenty especially with no checked bags.

I wish I could remember the specific details, but I am also not familiar with Seatac airport. I am not sure you will need to exit and re-enter though. I think you can check in online and just show the gate agents your passports for verification.


The issue that you will need to factor in on the return trip is that you will need to clear customs/immigration in Seattle. For international flights into the US, all arriving passengers have to clear at the first port of entry. (except from Canada, where from some airports you can clear there)

That might slow you down, depending on the lines. If US Customs and Border control at the Seattle airport has Mobile passport set up, you should download that app, create an account for your family, and enter all your flight info. That way you can use that expedited line.

If you travel a lot internationally it is very worth it to get Global Entry, but not unless you make at least a few international trips each year.


My daughter took this exact flight going to and from Copenhagen for study abroad. We live in Montana, so she took a regional jet to Seattle. The problem with Iceland Air is that they don’t belong to any of the major codeshare programs like Star Alliance, so this is what happens to a lot of travelers. This might be one time you might want to read the fine print and buy trip insurance. (I don’t think we did, though, but then we never do).

If you don’t have an e-ticket on Iceland Air, yes, you have to go check-in and get a ticket, and go back through security. When you connect in KEF you probably won’t have to go through passport control, but if you do it will be quick. Get your declarations card on the plane to LHR and have it filled out for when you arrive in London.

Same thing coming back. Even with no luggage you will still have to go through customs in Seattle, meaning you have to declare anything you bought over there. This would happen with or without your connection being on the same ticket, or online check-in, or anything else. Have your card filled out in advance and it will help. Luckily, you will have no bags to collect, but you still have to go through customs and back through TSA with everyone who does.

PS This is why I go through Toronto. They can do passport control AND US customs- they’re one of the few airports not in the US that does. They’re also more efficient than most US CBP locations. So when I get to Denver I just connect to my next flight.


And you will also need to collect your luggage at Seattle before clearing customs.

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You sure did! Thanks so much for this. It’s so helpful to have an idea ahead of time of where we will probably need to go!

Thanks for the reminder! I had forgotten about that element. Last time we did this trip, customs in Seattle went very quickly and smoothly… Not sure if that’s normal or if we got lucky! What I don’t remember is whether clearing customs automatically takes you out of the secure area, requiring you to go though TSA again if you have another flight. But I guess we’ll find out!

Hmmm. I’m not sure. We purchased through Expedia, like we did last time we made this journey. At that time, we were not able to check in online. The difference is that we had the whole trip on a single ticket last time, even though we were flying two different airlines. The Icelandair website indicates that they offer online check-in, but I won’t be able to test it out until 24 hours before the trip to see if it will actually work for us!

Ah! Okay, that’s good to know! I was hoping that clearing customs might not dump us outside of the secure area, but it sounds like it will!

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I can’t offer any help about the Seattle airport specifically. But we have successfully done what you are doing for international flights and we are doing it again this summer (SW flight from Nashville to Boston and then a Delta flight from Boston to Prague). I’m all about saving money on flights so I don’t think you are crazy at all.

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That’s very reassuring! :smile:

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I have never done your specific trip, but last May we flew from NC to Vancouver, BC. On the way there, we had a layover in Toronto where we had to go through customs, which included leaving the secured area of the airport and going back through TSA checks when we were done. On the way home, our layover was in Atlanta, where we had to do the same thing - customs, leave secured area, claim luggage, back through TSA.

I think it’s great that you have such long layovers for your flights. On our ATL layover, we only had about 1.5 hours and they would not even assign us a seat on the ATL>Home flight until we made it to the gate. And I will say that we barely made it to the gate. We were the last people on the flight.

Anyway, have a great trip!!

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Yes, having the whole trip on one ticket means it was a codeshare- what airline did you fly into Seattle last time- maybe Alaska?

But even if you get online checkin, at some point you’ll need to show your passport anyway, so I’m not sure that is going to help that much. If you had a codeshare, you would do that at your home airport at the ticket counter. But since they don’t know that you’re going to London, you’ll have to do it in Seattle- most likely at the ticket desk, not at the gate. So don’t worry about the online check-in part, it would be nice to have an e-ticket or a ticket in an app, but other than not carrying around a paper ticket, there is probably no advantage for you. And you have lots of time!

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Thank you! It’s really good to hear that we’re not the only ones crazy enough to try this! :wink:

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I think we used Delta last time too, but we couldn’t check in online because of the international portion of the trip that was on the same ticket.

Thanks for all your help! It sounds like we did the right thing by leaving lots of time between flights and assuming that we will need to go through security twice in both directions. It’ll be a bit of a hassle, but hopefully still worth saving thousands of dollars!
As long as our return flight from Reykjavik isn’t delayed by more than a few hours, we should be in good shape… :crossed_fingers:

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It’s very unusual for Iceland Air to be late. Most of their business is connecting North America and Europe and that means being prompt for all those connections. I think you’re in good shape on the way back, for sure. Have a great trip!


Thank you so much! We’re looking forward to it! :smile:


This depends on the airport, but I can tell you that at PHL you exit Customs outside the secure area and have to go through TSA to get back to the departures area.

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Looking at the Customs-area setup on the SeaTac website, there’s a TSA check just for international arrivers after you clear customs. Hopefully it will be less crazy than the normal lines, though it does not have a precheck station.

The funny thing is that we must have gone through this process the last time we traveled to London… We came back through Seattle just like we will be doing this time, the only difference is that the journey was booked on a single ticket then. But I have zero memory of coming back through TSA…and almost zero memory of going through customs at all. I think I must have been very, very tired! :see_no_evil:

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