Do I need to apply for an ESTA application if my flight passes through U.S. airspace?

No. As long as the plane you are on is not landing in any continental United States territory, you do not require any ESTA authorisation (or visa) as you won’t be passing through U.S. customs and immigration or setting foot on U.S. soil. This rule generally applies to flying through any nation’s airspace. The only time you would need an ESTA is if you were landing on U.S. soil, even if it’s just for a stop-over. You can have a look at this page for more information on stop-overs.
However, if an airplane is passing, or potentially passing, through U.S. airspace, then the U.S. government requires travellers to provide information about themselves. This forms part of Secure Flight, an enhanced security check for passengers, and involves the United States being provided with:
  • Your full name as it appears on your passport
  • Your date of birth
  • Your gender
  • If applicable, your redress number (a number provided to passengers by which, if they believe they have been improperly or unfairly delayed or prohibited from boarding an aircraft, to seek resolution and avoid future delays).
Secure Flight Passenger Data (SFPD) information is used to conduct watchlist matching of passenger information against the Terrorist Screening Database (TSDB) for all flights that fly over the continental United States, and is important for Homeland Security to prevent any people in the ‘No fly list’ from entering U.S. airspace. This means that SFPD information will be required for travellers flying to or from Canada, Mexico, Cuba, and the Dominican Republic. This information would need to be submitted at least 72 hours before your departure.
If you have provided your full Advance Passenger Information (API) while booking a flight, however, then the airline will provide the required personal details for you. This is just the information which you would have supplied when you bought your ticket. This system has been adopted by the US, most EU states, and a number of other countries. Airlines generally ask for this information during the booking stage or occasionally during check-in.

Related FAQs


Do I need to apply for ESTA if I have a stop-over in the United States?

Yes, even if your final destination is not the United States and you’re stopping at an airport in the U.S. for just an hour or two, you will still need to get an ESTA authorisation. You may not even be able to board your flight if you do not have a valid ESTA, as your airline will request this before your departure.

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What Information Is Required for ESTA Application?

The ESTA application is a very short form that you can complete digitally and you must provide the information for a set of questions that will determine whether your application is approved or not. Generally, it will only take around 10 minutes to find all of the required information on the application but your application will be quicker if you have all of the required information to hand.

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Why was my ESTA application denied?

There could be a number of reasons why your ESTA application was denied. Here are some of the more common reasons why your application might have been given a "Travel Not Authorised" response...

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