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Taxation and Customs Union

Travelling by air

In the area without internal frontiers of the EU, it is important to ensure freedom of movement of intra-EU travellers baggage. To this end, rules had to be introduced in order to organise controls on baggage coming from or going to other countries. This page briefly describes where and when these customs controls can be organised in EU airports. (see Note 1 below). 

For more information, visit Your Europe.


Note 1 : Information on this page refers exclusively to controls on baggage and not on persons.

Note 2 : The information on this page does not prejudge, where necessary, to the need of controls connected, on the one hand, with the safety of air transport operations, and on the other hand, to prohibitions or restrictions enacted by Member States, in as far as they are compatible with the treaties establishing the European Communities (Drugs, weapons, public health).


Intra-EU traveller Traveller that takes an Intra-EU flight.
Intra-EU flight The movement of an aircraft between two EU airports, without any stopovers, which does not start from or end at a non-EU airport.
Registered baggage Baggage which, once registered in the departure airport, is neither accessible to the traveller during the flight nor at the stopover if there is one. This luggage is carried in the baggage hold of the plane.
Hand baggage Luggage brought into the cabin of the plane by the traveller.

Models of labels

In large airports, it is not always possible to separate travellers flows according to the point of departure of their travel, whether they started their journey in an EU or in a non-EU airport. It can therefore happen that travellers of both categories mix in airports common areas. However, luggage which come from a non-EU airport can be subject to controls while luggage registered in an EU airport do not (see Note 2 above).

Consequently, in order to allow for a quick and effective identification of luggage according to the airport where they were checked in, and, thereby, to optimise controls on luggage originating in a third country while ensuring freedom of movement of the other luggage, the latter receive a green-edged label the model of which is different from those used elsewhere than in the EU.

  • Green-edged label: This label model is used to identify the hold baggage registered in an EU airport.
  • Normal label: This refers to the labels generally affixed on hold baggage checked in an airport which is not located on the territory of EU. They are not bordered with the distinctive green bands of the labels affixed in the EU.

Exit reserved for Intra-EU traveller

Exits reserved for intra-EU travellers in EU airports are being identified in a similar way, namely by signs showing either the European Flag, or a symbol denoting a green-edged label, or a combination of both.

How do these controls operate in practice ?

That depends on your situation:

  1. Are you taking an intra-EU flight ? (Ex: Dublin - Warsaw) Your baggage is not subject to any customs control on your arrival in Warsaw (see Note 2 above) You leave the airport by the exit reserved for intra-EU travellers . Your registered baggage will have been given a green-edged label in Dublin which identifies it as baggage not subject to control on arrival. (see Note 2 above)
  2. Are you taking a non-EU flight ? (Ex: Moscow - Prague)
    Both your registered baggage and hand baggage are liable to be checked by customs in Prague . Your registered baggage was given a normal label in Moscow (no green edges) which identifies it as liable to control.
  3. Are you coming from an airport located outside the EU on board a plane which, after a stopover in an EU airport, will bring you to your final destination in another EU airport (e.g. : Toronto - Brussels - Budapest on the same aircraft). You are in a situation identical to that described under 2 ; your registered baggage and your hand baggage are liable to be checked in Budapest.
  4. In an EU airport, are you boarding a plane coming from an airport outside the EU and which has another airport in the EU as its final destination? (Ex: Mexico-Madrid-Athens; you board in Madrid the aircraft bound for Athens)
    You are taking an international flight. Consequently, your baggage is liable to be checked in Athens . However, generally speaking registered baggage with a green-edged label will not be checked.
  5. Are you taking a flight between a non-EU airport and an EU airport with a change of plane in another EU airport? (e.g. Tokyo - Copenhagen - Amsterdam with a change of aircraft in Copenhagen)
    You will get off the first plane in Copenhagen where your hand baggage is liable to be checked by customs. Meanwhile, your registered baggage, which will have been given a normal label (no green edges) in Tokyo, will be transferred from the baggage hold of the first plane to that of the second).
    On arrival in Amsterdam , your hand baggage will not, in theory, be liable to be checked by customs (see Note 2 above), whereas your registered baggage may be.
    If the second EU airport is not equipped for air traffic with third countries (See, for information, the list of international Union airports), your registered baggage will be liable to be checked in the first EU airport.
  6. Are you taking a flight between two EU airports with a stopover in a non-EU airport? (e.g. Rome - Zurich - Paris , with or without a change of plane)
    Your registered baggage will be given a green-edged label in Rome and will not be liable to be checked in Paris (see Note 2 above). However, your hand baggage is liable to be checked for the same reasons as those stated under 4.

List of international Union airports

16 FEBRUARY 2023
List of International Union Airports

Useful links

  • Article 44 of Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2015/2447 and its Annex 12-3 EUR-Lex - 32015R2447