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US Customs Declaration Forms

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Aug 21st, 2011, 11:01 PM
  #1
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US Customs Declaration Forms

I'll leave the rest of my complaints about my flight home to JFK from Barcelona today because they probably are trivial as a matter of fact, they are trivial. However, this one isn't.

For years, I have wondered why airlines do not give out the US Customs Declaration forms on international flights requiring them to the United States at check in After all, they are hardly secure documents. They are all over the table at least at JFK. If they distributed the customs declaration form at check in, you would have a few minutes to fill it out, slip it in with your passport and be done with it rather than having to find a writing surface in the cramped coach section of an airplane.

Anyway on today's flight on AA from Barcelona to JFK, about an hour and a half before landing it suddenly dawned on me that no customs declaration forms had been distributed or I thought I might have slept through it. So as the fa came down to serve the slice of pizza they give you on AA international flights an hour out of JFK, I asked for a customs declaration form. He handed me one and I noticed it was in Spanish. (Apparently they had not issued any in coach). I said, no, I can't read this. Please give me the regular one in English. I was then astounded to be told there were none available in English. This is a US carrier. How could they not have any customs declaration forms in English? He said well I could either look in the flight magazine to figure out what was being asked, guess at what was being asked as the words are similar, or wait till I got to JFK and pick one up there. I chose the later and it was a mess with all the people trying to grab a customs declaration form in English.

Just doesn't make any sense to me how this can happen (and was told by some others it was that way on all the Barcelona flights!). Anybody with an answer?
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Aug 22nd, 2011, 01:55 AM
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I fly internationally often (10 to 12 times a year) and use AA about 90% of the time. I would venture to say I've received US customs declaration forms on almost every flight. Occasionally there has been a flight where they have either run out of forms or none were available.

Now, I can't attest to what happens on flights from Barcelona to the US since I've never flown that particular route. But regardless what's the big deal? You pick up a form when you get to the US and fill it out - it only takes a minute or two - you spend a lot more time standing in lines at immigrations and customs what's another minute or two when your overall travel time between Barcelona and the Us is something like 10 hours?

Or, if you are a US citizen and in such a hurry apply for the new Global Entry Program (go to www.globalentry.gov for more details) offered by the Immigration Service - you scan your passport and finger prints at a kiosk, answer a few customs declaration questions and you are issued a "pass" that allows you to skip all the lines. You'll be on your way in no time.
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Aug 22nd, 2011, 04:23 AM
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chronic inattention and laziness the probable explantaion

if you cannot read spanish simply get one when you get to

customs... no need to have a mental wedgie and post about it

not too common but does happen...
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Aug 22nd, 2011, 05:04 AM
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I agree. This is a rare occurrence. I have almost always received the form at the check-in counter when flying with AA. Barring that, they pass them out on board. But sometimes they do run out, or do run out of the forms in English. It happens. Don't sweat the small stuff.
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Aug 22nd, 2011, 06:22 AM
  #5
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Small stuff; probably in the scvheme of things yes but I've flown AA usually out of Heathrow and have never been given the form at check in; I don't know why. I once asked and was told on board. It seems to me, now that there is no longer the I-95 visa waiver forms to worry about it should be easy to give all departing passengers at check in; like I said I've never received one.

On this flight, there were no English forms period and nobody passed through the cabin distributing them. Now I'm an experienced international flyer and know I need the form, many other mights not. Personally I just think there is something wrong not to have an immigration form I need to enter my country in the language of my country. And what happened atually is there was some pushing and shoving at the desk where the forms were located and people jockeyed for position to get the English language forms and find room to fill them out.

Life or death? No but to me, at least, I just felt something was wrong. But one thing I will admit. I've never had a problem with the forms in the wrong language on flights out of Heathrow!

I will agree in the scheme of things, it's not very very important but to me sometimes principles are very important and this just should not happen.
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Aug 22nd, 2011, 07:12 AM
  #6
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xyz123- I had the same experience (twice) with AA, once on the Barcelona flight and also on a Paris flight. In our situation there were no forms available. Both times a rude flight attendant told us that they should have given us the forms at check-in. No one else sitting around us had received forms either.
Yes, you can get them when you land. But after a long flight it is nice to be prepared and get in line. Many people also have connecting flights so they want to proceed without delay.
I agree with you that this is an irritant that could be easily solved by AA.

Note to qwovadis- your "mental wedgie" comment is juvenile at best. People can post about what they want, not for you to judge.
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Aug 22nd, 2011, 07:27 AM
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In my passport folio is always a spare US customs form and an entry card for China. Never rely on the carrier to have the cards, plus I can fill my card whenever I want and not having to wait for one.
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Aug 22nd, 2011, 07:28 AM
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Or like when flying from Canada with pre-clearance. I can fill it before going to airport, not AT the airport with all the lines and crowd.
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Aug 22nd, 2011, 07:35 AM
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In case it got lost in the shuffle, people would do well to heed RoamsAround's comment about applying for Global Entry.

You'll never have to fill out a (U.S.) customs declaration form again, nor will you be waiting in long U.S. immigration lines. It's a very good way to spend $100.

Don
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Aug 22nd, 2011, 08:02 AM
  #10
 
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Is there something missing here? I believe there was supposed to be a non-trivial complaint, and I can't find it.

Frankly, I think the FAs suggestion to use the magazine as a guide to fill out the Spanish form was a good one. I've used the Spanish language form in the past and it was easy enough to do with basic Spanish and memory of what is contained on the form.

Agree with others that Global Entry is the way to go for the frequent international traveler. I would also note that the Amex Platinum offers a refund for the Global Entry sign-up fee.
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Aug 22nd, 2011, 09:22 AM
  #11
 
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One would hope that US customs would put the form on their web site so you could print out a copy, but all they have is a useless sample. Bureaucracy reigns.
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Aug 22nd, 2011, 10:15 AM
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Gripe away, but seriously, if this isn't trivial, what is?
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Aug 22nd, 2011, 05:05 PM
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That's happened to me going too & from Mexico a few times (different airlines). While not ideal, I agree with the flight attendant it's not exactly a complicated form to figure out.
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Aug 22nd, 2011, 09:06 PM
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American Airlines, carrying American passengers to America, doesn't have copies of an American govt form in the primary language of America.

If that isn't ridiculous, what is?

This is a valid complaint. Sounds like dozens of passengers were unnecessarily inconvenienced at a time when many of them are stressed about getting thru I&C and on to their connecting flights.

This is a good post because it brought out some good suggestions about compensating (yet again) for poor service by an airline.

Does AA send out post flight surveys about the experience? I suggest you use it or some other means to complain about this. It probably won't do any good. Hopefully, no bean counter will see it and compute how many pints of fuel would be saved by not carrying any forms and how many seconds it would save airline personnel from having to pay attention to this detail.
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Aug 23rd, 2011, 03:42 AM
  #15
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I'm sorry so many here are just so indifferent about this and the sumbolism involved here. Is it the most important thing in the world? No but can you imagine if I were flying on Iberia to Spain and if the Spanish government required all travellers to fill out a certain form (actually in this day and age most governments do not require these nonsensical forms..I fly into so many countries all the time go to passport control and then walki through the green nothing to declare channel without a form although I am required to fill out a form for the UK government but the Brits at least are considerate enough to make the form available in my language). do you think the forms wouldn't be available if required by the Spanish government for its citizens in Spanish?

From some of the answers here and from other blogs, this doesn't seem to be an isolated situation. It is the job of the airline to provide these forms either at check in or during the flight. I have flown AA on numerous occasions and have never been provided the form at check in. Usually as part of the routine the FA's walk through the cdabin giving out the forms (they used to also have to give out the green visa waiver form and ask each passenger if they needed one, those are no longer required). If this were an isolated instance and the airline simply ran out of English forms then you might be right, no big deal. Apparently this was not an isolated incident, apparently there were no English language customs declaration forms on the flight at all ( wouldn't it make sense for somebody at AA to make sure they were on the plane before leaving JFK, just go upstairs and grab a couple of hundred off the table) and not be so flippant. I don't speak Spanishb and shouldn't have to speak Spanish on a flight on a US airline going into the USA for a form required by the US government. No amount of calling me names or other things mitigate the callous attitude of AA and its employees on this issue.
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Aug 23rd, 2011, 04:08 AM
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I'm sorry so many here are just so indifferent about this and the sumbolism involved here.

I'm sorry that you see symbolism where there is none. Which is more likely: 1) that AA, the US government, or the FA are making a symbolic statement, or 2) that they simply ran out, did not load them in the first place, or that the FA was incompetent and didn't know where they were? If you answered 1, then you really think too much about this and might suffer from paranoia.

I don't speak Spanishb and shouldn't have to speak Spanish on a flight on a US airline going into the USA for a form required by the US government.

What Spanish language skills are needed to fill out the form using the example in the in-flight magazine? Heck, I could probably fill the form out from memory, even if it were written in Urdu.

actually in this day and age most governments do not require these nonsensical forms

The form makes perfect sense. It can aid in enforcing customs rules. Now, I recognize that most European countries are incredibly lax about enforcing customs rules for most passengers, but that doesn't make the form nonsensical.

I would also dispute the contention that "most" governments do not require a landing card and/or customs declaration of some sort.
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Aug 23rd, 2011, 05:07 AM
  #17
 
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"wouldn't it make sense for somebody at AA to make sure they were on the plane before leaving JFK, just go upstairs and grab a couple of hundred off the table"

Except that the immigration hall is accessible only to passengers disembarking from arriving international flights. You can't just run up there. There would have to be a more systematic way that airlines have of getting the forms.

AA does pass these forms out on almost every flight I've ever been on. Sometimes they run out. Sometimes someone forgets to load the forms. Mistakes happen. You were offered the suggestion of a way you could fill out the form (following the example in the magazine) while you were still in flight. You refused to do that.
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Aug 23rd, 2011, 07:28 AM
  #18
 
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Should the airlines have proper forms for everyone in their 1st chosen language? - sure.

Do you need to "speak Spanish" to fill out a customs form in Spanish? - no you do not.

There is no "symbolism" here. Bad business, maybe.
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Aug 23rd, 2011, 09:51 AM
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May I clarify something for everyone in regards to documents,forms,etc.? As an international flight attendant,we are given leaving our USA departure city a "doc kit" which contains any forms for the country that we are flying to including various language forms.When leaving a foreign city we are given the same type of kit for the return back to the USA with the forms needed in both English and that respective country's language.They always stock more English than foreign language but sometimes you run out?

Sometimes on the return they have not stocked enough forms (especially in English)due to the "doc kits" originating in the US and being round tripped. I also would like to say that you cannot believe how many people make mistakes on their forms coming into the USA. We pass our forms out as soon as the seatbelt signs are off and yet during the next 8-15 hours of flights we are constantly asked for new forms due to not understanding things like the wordseparture city;nationality;what things they bought,etc.

Our pursers usually try to tell them on a PA the date,flight number and what they can and can bring into the USA and still they cannot fill out the forms properly. You tell them no cross outs or you cannot fill them out in pencil and they STILL do that.We often wonder how people can fly and vacation when they seem to not know what their SURNAME is or NATIONALITY.
Tips-always bring some pens on your vacation;fill your forms out as soon as you can and fill the US customs form out from the bottom to the top and you won't make mistakes!
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Aug 23rd, 2011, 09:53 AM
  #20
 
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I have no idea how that smiley face showed up for the word departure?
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