Time in Customs at Newark?

Old Mar 31st, 2013, 07:19 AM
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Time in Customs at Newark?

We are returning to the US from Rome and will be connecting to our west coast flight in Newark (EWR). How much time should I allow for my connecting flight/layover to ensure that we don't miss it while stuck in customs.

There are several choices: arrive in Newark and can have layovers of 1 hr 5 min, 2 hrs 45 min etc.

Thanks for your help.
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Old Mar 31st, 2013, 07:31 AM
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Also if anyone can advise if arrival in Newark will be at a different terminal than departure for SFO. We are flying United on both legs.
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Old Mar 31st, 2013, 08:35 AM
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I wouldn't be too concerned about the proximity of your arrival/departure terminals. Once you get through Immigration & Customs you'll be "outside the secure areas" and no matter which terminal you be departing from you'll still have to clear the TSA Checkpoints. Getting between terminals at Newark is very easy - there's a SkyTrain that links all the terminals that runs 24 hours a day/365 days a year. The trains run every 3 minutes during peak hours and every 15 minutes between the hours of midnight and 5:00AM. Once on the SkyTrain you can travel between Terminal A and Terminal C (the longest distance) in under 6 minutes.

So with that in mind I would advise against a 1 hour & 5 minute connection unless you are doing only carry-on, you are a US Citizen who has signed up for the Global Entry Program. It's the only way you can do an international/domestic connection (at any airport) in an hour). Anything under 90 minutes is cutting things just too close.

Assuming your inbound flight arrives at the gate "on time" (FYI - EWR is notorious for air traffic delays) figure 15 minutes to deplane and walk to Immigration, another 15 minutes to clear immigration and get to the baggage claim area. If you are luckily, your checked bags will be at the carousel when you arrive at the baggage claim area and you are not singled out for a more thorough inspection by customs which means you can exit the Customs area without further delay. By now, you've used up a minimum of 30 minutes of your 65 minutes connection time and your airline has probably already started to boarding process for your connecting flight. You still have to clear TSA and walk to your gate. I fly out of EWR 3 or 4 times each year and can tell you TSA lines at Newark move very slowly (15 to 20 minutes is the norm).

Do yourself a favor, give yourself more of a cushion and book the longer connection. Remember Murphy's Law of Airports will almost always apply - it clearly states the shorter the connection time, the more delay you will encounter - your inbound flight will be delayed getting to the gate, immigration lines will move at a glacial pace, baggage will take forever to reach the carousel, you'll be singled out for a complete customs inspection , your connecting gate will be the furthest possible distance from the customs area and the TSA staff will be hand wanting everybody. Of course, if you choose the longer connecting time the opposite will happen, your inbound flight will arrive early, immigration & customs ill be a breeze, your departing gate will be right near the closest TSA checkpoint and there will be no one waiting on the TSA line.
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Old Mar 31st, 2013, 09:46 AM
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You simply cannot make a connection reliably from an international flight to a domestic flight at any airport (including EWR) in an hour and five minutes.

Unless you are stopped, you will spend just a few minutes in customs, but you may spend as much more time in immigration. When I returned from the DR a couple of weeks ago, I spent an hour in line at immigration at JFK. There are often similar lines at EWR, and the sequester means that lines are only going to be longer as the summer travel season approaches. You MUST allow a minimum of 60 minutes to go through immigration and customs for any connection. Then you must allow for a minimum of 30 minutes for security. So anything under 90 minutes is just a call for disaster at any US airport.

So the 2 hour 45 minute connection is the minimum I'd accept.
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Old Mar 31st, 2013, 09:53 AM
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There are NO rules and every airport is different and every day is different:


how many Immigration agents are going to be working on the day your flight arerives?

how many other international flights will arrive at the same time yours does?

how long will it take your luggage to reach the carousel?

how many TSA agencts will be working?

how slow or fast will the security line actually be moving?

ALL of the above will impact the time it takes you to get off your flight and on to another one
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Old Mar 31st, 2013, 10:37 AM
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Your issue should not be customs - which typically takes only a few minutes.

Immigration (people - not luggage) lines can be long if several international flights land at once.

Waiting for luggage - assuming you have checked bags - can also take a while.

Customs typically only takes a couple of minutes unless you are selected for an in-depth review. How to avoid this: do NOT bring any food back - the sniffer beagles will get onto it right away. Also - be realistic about what you have bought and the declared value. If you claim you have bought nothing - or something costs only a couple of $ and you look comfortably off they may check. (Famously they once get one of the Bloomingdales for trying to smuggle in a lot of designer clothes and jewelry.)

Other key questions:

Will your flight arrive on time?
Will the passengers be mostly for the US line or the non-US line?
How late in the day will you arrive? (later the flight the greater the chance for a significant delay in arrival.)

I would NEVER do an hour - I think your chances of making it are almost nil. I would look for something in the range of 3 hours - unless you have only a small carry-on.
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Old Mar 31st, 2013, 01:33 PM
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It almost sounds like you have already booked your flight from Rome to Newark. If so, leave much more time between flights (even more than the 2:45) since the tickets won't be on the same booking.

If you haven't yet booked your flights - then really any connection the airline deems legal would be OK since you'll be protected. But only if everything is on the same ticket.

(but even then 1:05 is awfully short)
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Old Mar 31st, 2013, 06:02 PM
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1:05 may be a legal connection - although I doub tit.

That doesn;t mean you will make it - it just means the airline has to put you on the next flight out with empty seats - whenever that is.

If these are separate tickets - then you will be considered a no show and will have to buy a new ticket at the very expensive walk up price.

eiter way - not something I would be willing to put up with.
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Old Mar 31st, 2013, 06:41 PM
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My main point wasn't whether 1:05 is doable but whether the flights are on the same booking. If not, I'd be nervous about almost any layover.
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Old Apr 6th, 2013, 07:46 AM
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THanks everyone for the replies. I just had too many reservations from prior posts regarding going through Newark, customs or not even on the same airlines. I paid a bit more but am taking Lufthansa direct from Munich to SFO (home airport) and will not have to worry about it. Makes me feel better already!
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