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What was your longest wait at immigration

What was your longest wait at immigration

May 10th, 2007, 05:25 AM
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What was your longest wait at immigration

I waited in line one hour at Moscow (old airport) and also in Rome.

I'm under the assumption (ASSUME can be dangerous) that if several large planes land at the same time, immigration will be busy. While if you are on a smaller plane, or few planes have landed lately, immigration can be quick.

Anyone have a comment?
wally34949 is offline  
May 10th, 2007, 06:00 AM
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Yes, also when most of your fellow passengers are the national of the country you land at, they tend to take minimum time to be processed, as it happens in a lot of regional UK airports. The same thing happens when most arrivals are from within EU, with most passengers EU citizens. This is the case at most non-hub airports in EU.
Longest lines at Heathrow happen when a couple of 747s arrive from Indian Subcontinent or Africa together, when most passengers are visa-nationals and therefore take time to be processed.
Alec is offline  
May 10th, 2007, 06:27 AM
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Actually...DFW this past March. 1 hour 15 minutes!
jody is offline  
May 10th, 2007, 06:28 AM
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Atlanta last July over an hour for returning citizens. (The jerk security guard actually tried to tell us we were in the WRONG line it was so long....) Some welcome home!
CarolA is offline  
May 10th, 2007, 06:55 AM
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And then there's the guy a movie was made about who was stuck in CDG Paris for years and may still be there, living in the transit lounge.
PalenQ is offline  
May 10th, 2007, 07:16 AM
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I guess the guy at the CDG airport wins this one. I usually return in Miami and the wait is 30 seconds to 3 minutes. I can handle a ten minute wait because I know I will need to wait for my bag. Any longer than ten minutes, and I get worried about my suitcase.
wally34949 is offline  
May 10th, 2007, 07:19 AM
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Philadelphia Airport, August 2001. Our USAir flight arrived at the same time as several other international flights, all regularly scheduled flights arriving more or less on time. Only 4 people working passport control. It took 90 minutes for Americans to get through, who knows how long it took the non-US citizens/residents. The security x-ray line to get into terminal B for my connecting flight was manned by one elderly gentleman, so that took me another 90 minutes. All told, it took me nearly four hours to get from the plane to the gate for my connection. Unfortunately, the connecting flight had left an hour earlier. Silly me for thinking 2.5 hours was enough time between flights.
OTOH, when I came back to London Gatwick from Orlando in late March of this year, nearly everyone on the plane was British, so it took me less than 5 minutes to get through the "other" passport control. The line for the Brits was huge and there were many families with small, cranky children.
BTilke is offline  
May 10th, 2007, 07:24 AM
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I waited 3 hours in Cancun once. It was unbelievable

I frequently wait well over an hour at LGW.
where2 is offline  
May 10th, 2007, 07:24 AM
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One and a half hours at LAX! Several European flights landed in quick succesion and they only had two non citizen desks open. It was a nigthmare, especially as they kept sending people to the back of thequeue who hadn't filled in the visa waiver forms correctly. Things began to get a bit ugly. Eventually they took pity on us and opened a few more desks. This was before the photographing and fingerprinting. At BOS last time we were faster through than US citizens were!
hetismij is offline  
May 10th, 2007, 09:48 AM
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The worst waits used to be in the Indian airports like Bombay and Calcutta...

I waited about an hour last month in Beijing; some airports have very few lines for foreigners..and some of us always seem to get into the slowest line..
ekscrunchy is offline  
May 10th, 2007, 09:54 AM
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Kenndey, when we had a connecting flight to San Diego 20 years ago. It wasn't fun. We nearly missed it.
sheila is offline  
May 10th, 2007, 10:56 AM
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In Paris - we waited an hour and a half. It was in the fall and the daily savings time had not coincided between the US/France for that weekend. So a bunch of planes landed (from US, Canada and somewhere in Africa) and there were only 2 agents on duty (the others came on an hour later).

So - way too few agents.

And - many of the Africans apparently had improper papers - and were being examined at length, taken off to rooms on the side etc - often 10 minutes for one person - versus 30 seconds for the US/Canadian tourists.

The lines behind us were growig to horrendous length and the African passngers started shoving into the other lines. Eventually more French agents arrived and set up barriers dividing the lines - so that the one planeful of passengers requiring visas, extra paperwork etc weren;t holding up by now many planeloads of tourists from North America.
nytraveler is offline  
May 10th, 2007, 01:14 PM
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Two hours. JFK, back in February, when the ice storm hit the airport. To quote the woman when I finally got to the desk: "Trust me, we want to get out of here as much as you do".
owain is offline  
May 11th, 2007, 07:15 AM
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Lots of planes arriving at the wrong time shouldn't really be a problem at a major international airport: one late (or early) plane just takes a slot another flight would have had, and proper checkout management would move the officials around in time.

What REALLY cause queues are:
- incompetent or arrogant management
- poorly designed processes, or resources not tailored to processes
- unmotivated management.

The worst experiences I've had in the past decade were at Tashkent and Saigon(over an hour each). It's no coincidence both are unaccountable dictatorships. It helps that both impose unwarranted levels of snooping on their returning citizens, had no automation when I went through and didn't segregate foreigners from citizens. So we all had to wait while the poor sods who paid the petty tyrants' salaries got interrogated.

By several light years the best experiences I've had were arriving at Miami a couple of weeks ago (five minutes on a quiet Monday afternoon: ten minutes on a very busy Saturday evening). Obviously Miami has the advantages of a smooth flow throughout the day and a limited number of passenger languages (about 95% of the queues around me were fluent in English or Spanish, and most passport officers seemed comfortable in both).

But they switched lanes quickly from being US-dedicated to being open to everyone, staff were clearly committed to getting the job done fast, and they'd got rid of those harridans who go up and down the lines snarling as if they're auditioning for roles in a film about Nazi camp guards.

Somewhere in Miami airport, there's an Immigration Dept operations manager who's an absolute star. Best managed queues anywhere (I once judged queue management for a living)

The (astonishing) runner up has to be Communist China's land border at Luohu, between the Hong Kong and Shenzhen suburban railway systems. Fully manned checkouts, well-automated procedures, 30 seconds from getting to the queue to emerging with a stamped passport. As it's being stamped, you're asked to press a button appraising how well the checkout operator (oops, Public Official) has done his job. And the slickness of the Chinese operation contrasts bizarrely with the dilatoriness on the Hong Kong side (40 minutes' queue at HK airport last month!)

Unaccountable dictatorship too? Yes, but they've got the Olympics coming up and everything near Hong Kong is a propaganda stunt to help get Taiwan back.

Worst experience? Getting to be the UK. London's airports have such a constant flow of international passengers, scheduling the checkpoint operators to match the flow should be dead easy.

But two-thirds of London's passengers are European. The process for them used to be that the operator glanced at the passport photopage and grunted. A typical terminal has two staff on the European lines, and 20 - 30 for the 30% of passengers who aren't European. They've now lengthened the process to scan all European documents (not swipe, since most non-British Europeans don't need passports and their ID cards can't be swiped), and that takes about five times as long as the old grunt.

But they haven't increased the number of European lanes, or the number of staff. The result - at Gatwick South on a weekend morning when a clutch of widebodies arrive from Florida, or at Stansted any evening, since virtually all Stansted passengers are European - can be queues for Europeans 90 mins and over.

It doesn't help that the Ministry responsible for passport queues has had a new man mismanaging it practically every month since Blair came along.

In all these things, it's management that makes the difference. Miami is stellarly managed (and while I'm at it, I had an almost equally good experience at San Francisco last autumn, and at US Immigration Vancouver a few months earlier). So is Luohu.

Britain's immigration dept has simply given up the ghost and sunk into the cycle of grumbling, rudeness and half-heartedness unaccountable bureaucrats always default to in the absence of properly motivated (and incentivised) management.

Good management, if it wants to, can get any queue speeded up. Nytraveller arrived at CDG when the management were asleep on the job. Or didn't care anyway.
flanneruk is offline  
May 11th, 2007, 07:20 AM
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I really don't have a problem with a country wants to take photos of people entering the country, as long as one can get through the line in ten minutes.
wally34949 is offline  
May 11th, 2007, 08:27 AM
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Prague-over one hour
SuQue is offline  
May 11th, 2007, 09:12 AM
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Over 3 hours in Cancun once with no AC and three infants and cranky fellow travelers in the lines. That was just immigration. Trying to get to customs was another hour of pushing and shoving (no lines...just people with luggage trying to get through...awful). It was a disaster. We took the elevator down as we had two strollers (single and double) as we couldn't use the stairs and the other passengers were so upset that we were "cutting" in line they wouldn't let us off the elevator!!!! It was a saturday and I think we got caught in a motherload of charters and package trips (which tend to run sat to sat) and cruise people and it was awful. We will never go back.

Everything else...even the hour long waits...has been a breeze in comparison.

taitai is offline  
May 11th, 2007, 10:03 AM
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Almost 3 hours at Chicago O'Hare many years ago. I vowed never to connect there again (and havn't).
bardo1 is offline  
May 11th, 2007, 05:36 PM
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My longest wait was at Miami connecting from Quito to Toronto. We were about 70 minutes in line to spend 30 seconds with the agent. After going through security and getting to the departure gate we just made the Toronto flight. Since then I have chosen Latin American destinations that I can get to on non-stop flights. Flanneruk's post suggests that things have been improved since 2004 but I am still planning for non-stop destinations.
Gavin is offline  
May 11th, 2007, 05:49 PM
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I think my longest was a few years ago arriving at Heathrow, over an hour and a half. I always get a kick out of flying into San Jose del Cabo in Mexico. It's like going through a traffic light. You push a button. If you get a green light, you go right through. If you get a red light, they open your luggage and search it!
SusanP is offline  
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