I have friends visiting from Europe soon, and they will land first in Chicago. As I understand it, afer they go through Immigration and Customs, they can re-check their baggage in the international terminal, before going to another terminal for their next flight. Is that correct? If so, is it only if their baggage has already been checked through to their final destination? Or will they need to take the baggage to the check-in desks at the domestic terminals? They've never flown before, and are very nervous, so I'd like to give them as much information as possible in advance. Thanks!
This depends upon whether they are going to be on the same airline/airplane or not--and whether they have to change terminals.
Generally, if they are continuing on with the same airline--and especially if the are getting back on the same airplane, they will have their baggage checked and can then have it forwarded on after clearing customs. If they have to change airlines, or change terminals to get to their domestic flight, then they will need to take their luggage with them and have it checked in again at the domestic counter. The hassle with this is that it means they also will have to go back through security again in order to get to their new flight.
If they are in doubt, be sure to allow a lot of extra time for the process. The idea of getting in and out of an international airport (in the USA or in a foreign country) in less than two hours is a ridiculous dream.
P.S. A couple of years ago, I had a flight from San Francisco to London-Heathrow (on the west side of London), then had to go to London-Stansted (about 30 kilometers northeast of London) to get a flight to Sweden. I allowed myself 6 hours to do this--but when my plane arrived about 2 hours late, I couldn't make the connection in time and had to wait until the following day (meaning booking the hotel at the airport) and purchase an entirely new ticket, which cost me a lot of extra money. (The first airline--United--did give me about $300 in travel coupons, but that didn't help me much in terms of the total cost.)
Translation: Expect some delays--especially during the winter (bad weather and Christmas time) and summer (high tourist season) periods.
Thanks very much.
They will stay on United, but must change planes, and i'm sure they'l be changing terminals. I will tell them they need to carry their luggage to the new terminal and check in there, as you said.
Just a few little words of advice to your folks, as theyve never flown before..
O'Hare is one of the largest and busiest airports in the world. Please just let them know that things are often choked up with massive queues and delays on both take off and landing runways are quite often horrendous.