by Simon Calder, The Independent, April 24, 2017
Travellers heading west from the UK to New Zealand may soon be able to avoid the onerous requirement to clear US border control during the refuelling stop at Los Angeles airport (LAX).
Unlike almost every other country in the world, the US insists on a full immigration check even for travellers who simply intend to re-board their plane to continue onwards to a foreign destination.
Air New Zealand, which flies daily from Heathrow via Los Angeles to Auckland, says there are currently “strict requirements for travellers” in transit at LAX.
Through passengers to Auckland on flight NZ1 or Heathrow on NZ2 must apply in advance for an ESTA (online visa) even though they have no intention of staying in the US. They also have to undergo screening by the Transportation Security Administration.
But at a “pop-up” Air New Zealand event in Soho, central London, the airline’s spokesperson Chris Allison told The Independent that talks have been taking place aimed at allowing transit passengers to wait in a secure lounge in the Tom Bradley terminal at LAX airport.
“We’re petitioning really hard. Christopher Luxon, our CEO, met with the Department of Homeland Security several weeks ago to discuss that very issue. It’s something very close to our heart around how we can make it more efficient for our customers.”
The easing of restrictions would also benefit passengers heading for Tahiti on flights from Paris to French Polynesia via Los Angeles. But initially it is understood that only “same plane” passengers would be exempt from the normal controls, but airlines hope that secure transit lounges will eventually be set upon key hubs such as LAX, San Francisco, Miami and New York’s international airports.
Air New Zealand has taken over an art gallery at 147 Wardour Street on Tuesday and Wednesday, 25-26 April, to showcase its on-board product to prospective travellers to New Zealand.