Delays at airports?

Old Mar 13th, 2008, 02:58 AM
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Delays at airports?

My wife and I plan to come from Australia to the USA later in the year - for the first time. We both have some physical limitations. My questions relate to delays at airports.

When we hit Los Angeles from Sydney, how long might it take for us to clear immigration? I have gathered it can take a long time.

For the remainder of our time on this trip, we shall catch two planes - one from Los Angeles to the east coast, and one from New York to home. How long before a flight must we arrive at the check-in? In Australia the current time for an internal flight is 30-45 minutes; the time for an international flight is 2 hours. Could we expect to have similar delays in the USA? or worse?
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Old Mar 13th, 2008, 03:14 AM
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At LAX, I'd recommend that you plan for at least a 3.5 hour connection. It's very unlikely that you'd need that long, but if you have some physical limitations and don't want to stress out over missing your flight, the extra time is worth it. You might also consider stopping overnight in LA before continuing on to the East Coast. I've flown Australia (or NZ) to LAX several times and it's a very long and tiring trip (more so if you're doing it in economy class).

For an internal flight, I'd recommend getting to the airport at least 90 minutes in advance for a domestic flight (if you're talking about a large airport like those in New York, Chicago, Miami, etc). For an international flight, I'd get to the airport at least 2.5 hours in advance. You could shave a little time off these times if you're flying business class (but simply having elite status with an airline like Qantas won't help you much with security line-ups).

Have you booked your tickets yet? Are you familiar with Circle Pacific fares (they are a lot less expensive in business class than regular, direct flights to and from Australia; in economy, they're probably a little more expensive than a regular economy ticket but you get more flights for the same price).

Depending on the degree of your physical limitations, you might want to have a look at the "travellers with disabilities" discussion forum on www.flyertalk.com for tips, or if you particular questions.
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Old Mar 13th, 2008, 04:45 AM
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MountTaylor-

I have two thoughts about this.

1. If you fly Business/First class, you will be the first to disembark, and therefore, among the first to clear customs & immigration.

2. If you both have some physical limitations, ask your airline for wheelchairs at LAX to stay with you until you clear customs and board your US domestic flight. I am in the similar situation and recently did this when returning from Stockholm in October and had to transfer to my domestic flight in Chicago. The wheelchair attendant will be able to bypass the other people standing in line and take you to the very front.
I know that tipping is not common in Oz, but you should be prepared to give a nice one to each of your wheelchair attendants for helping you in this way. It will save your legs and will save considerable time. In addition, you won't have to figure out exactly where to go.
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Old Mar 13th, 2008, 05:45 AM
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I'd also recommend 90 minutes for domestic flights and 2-3 hours for the flight home from New York.

A GREAT DEAL is going to depend on when your flight arrives LAX in relation ot others as to how long it will take you to get through IMMIGRATION.

As to Customs, since you have to retrieve your baggage first there are no guarantees that you will get through it before others regardless of where you sat on the plane..it will all depend on whether or not your so-called "priority" luggage actually comes off first and don't count on that.
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Old Mar 13th, 2008, 09:28 AM
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We just arrived home from Kauai with a lay over at LAX. We had to leave one secure area then go into the next secure area. I was told it was because we were changing airlines.

The trip over was midday and we waiting thru a very long security que. The trip back midnight and a breeze.

One year I had just came out of a cast for a factured ankle and I was wheelchaired thru the airport really making a huge difference. So if you can get wheelchair assistance it will make your life a lot easier.
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Old Mar 13th, 2008, 10:47 AM
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Taylor, check with each airline what is their cut-off time to check in luggage, if you have suitcases. Different airlines have different rules.

Probably all airlines have pre-boarding policy for people with physical limitations. This will give you more time to settle in.
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Old Mar 13th, 2008, 11:57 AM
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We always allow at least two hours for a domestic flight and at least 3 hours for international. We almost always have plenty of time to spare once we clear security, but two or more times we just made it.

You never know how long or slow the check-in line will be or how long it will take to get through security - or how far a hike to your gate.
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Old Mar 13th, 2008, 12:41 PM
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Having assistance (e.g. wheelchairs or a cart provided) can sometimes speed you up in the airport but such arrangements can also slow you down, because you're usually asked to get off the plane last and the chair or cart and attendant might not be waiting for you at the gate. Don't count on such arrangements turning up as scheduled and don't count on them to speed you through the process.
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Old Mar 13th, 2008, 03:55 PM
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You need to check with you specific airline for that flight.

For international flights it is a minimum to check in - but I've seen lines (for checking luggage) that it will take an hour to get to the desk, then close to another hour to get through security. Or, sometimes it takes 15 minutes.

It all depends - and your airline needs to tell you.
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Old Mar 13th, 2008, 04:03 PM
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Besides airline and travel class, it also depends on if you have elite FF status with said airline. Say you have status with QF, then you can use dedicated check-in counters at QF/AA, and dedicated security line.
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Old Mar 14th, 2008, 03:44 AM
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Thanks a million for the responses - we will be able to plan much more realistically for our big adventure!
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