Immigration lines at SFO -- what a nightmare!

Discussion in 'United Airlines | MileagePlus' started by trobb49, Feb 18, 2013.  |  Print Topic

  1. trobb49

    trobb49 Silver Member

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    My wife and I just got through the immigration processing at SFO. It really didn't matter if you went through the 'citizens' or the 'non-citizens' line, it took about the same amount of time -- over ONE HOUR! When we were finally near the front of the line, we had some Japanese approach us frantic because their next flight was about to board and begging to let them in front of us. Just then, the supervisor passed by so I asked him what could be done.
    His reply was surprising. He said that this happened every day. About 300-500 UA passengers a day were missing their connections, and UA knows about the situation and does nothing about it.
    I actually have another flight from KIX to DFW via SFO scheduled for next month and there is only 60 minutes between arrival and scheduled departure. Based on today's experience, no way José. Why, I wonder, does the airline allow a 'minimum connecting time' of 60 minutes when they know that so many people are going to miss their flights? I must cause their ground staff huge headaches to be rescheduling that number of people daily!
    Of course, Uncle Sam could also help by increasing the immigration staff. There were only 4 officers processing the throngs of passengers in the "non-citizen' area where I was with my Japanese wife. (There had been more, but when 12 o'clock rolled around, they went off on their lunch break and weren't replaced!)
    Has anyone has similar experiences at SFO?
     
  2. desamo

    desamo Gold Member

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    These days, to make MCT, I figure you've gotta have Global Entry. Which is why I do. Granted, that wouldn't help your Japanese wife at all. :(
     
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  3. Captain Oveur
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    Captain Oveur Gold Member

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    I have Global Entry and there is no way I would book a connection like that in less than 90 minutes.

    I would call UA to ask if you can be re-scheduled on a later DFW flight.

    About four years ago, UA941 used to go FRA-ORD then ORD-DEN, plane change of course. If I remembered correctly, at one time, they had 76 minutes (give or take 10) to get off the plane at ORD, Immigration, collect bags, re-check, get to T1, then go through the TSA nightmare, then to the gate. Absolutely ridiculous.
     
  4. desamo

    desamo Gold Member

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    I've made a 42-minute int'l to domestic connection in IAH, but only because I cried. :)
     
  5. Misplaced Texan
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    Misplaced Texan Gold Member

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    This is one of those old arguments of who is really responsible for the structure of your ticket.

    Is it the airline's job to make sure to only sell tickets with connections that most everyone could make? Or is it the passenger's job to know what their particular circumstances are, do a little research, and schedule accordingly?

    And is it better for the airline to be too aggressive and risk mis-connects or to be too conservative and force passengers to sit around the airport for long periods of time when they could have made an earlier flight?

    For example, if a business traveler seated in C or F with Global Entry and carry-on only is on that same KIX-SFO flight, they could easily be through customs and immigration and into the terminal with enough time for a quick drink in the lounge before their onward flight boards.

    So is it right for the airline to tell them they have to wait a couple of hours to get where they're going just to protect you from booking a tight connection?

    I don't know that there's a good answer to the question. Just throwing out the opposite side of your argument.
     
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  6. skyvan

    skyvan Gold Member

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    Good point...it's why the airlines may need to consider adding a new measurement for suggested connection times...different from the MCT. Will we ever see that? I doubt it.
     
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  7. unavaca
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    unavaca Gold Member

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    It wasn't SFO for me -- it was IAH. 45 minutes to get through immigration and security. So. Freaking. Slow.
     
  8. desamo

    desamo Gold Member

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    You didn't cry. :) Obviously.
     
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  9. genemk2

    genemk2 Gold Member

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    I connect at SFO regularly from Asia. The last three times, I have made it through immigration in under 20 minutes, and I'm a non-citizen. One was the UA flight from HKG, one was the SQ flight from HKG, and one was the UA flight from PEK. All three times I was in the front cabin, but I still ran to immigration to make sure I didn't end up behind some other flight. On the SQ flight, I was the first person to immigration and I made it through in 3 minutes. I know some people disagree about running at the airport (stressful, etc.), but if I'm in economy and I can beat 50 people to immigration by 2 minutes of running, why not?

    That being said, I will not book a connection less than 2.5 hours at SFO in the event the immigration line is long and/or the security re-check line is long.
     
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  10. okrogius

    okrogius Silver Member

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    I'll take this one segment further - if I'm flying on separate tickets with my international arriving leg and the domestic hop (frequent case of positioning flights versus actual good fare sale), I frequently book connections under MCT. With Global Entry and Pre Check, it just takes 20-30 minutes to go from the international arriving flight to my domestic departure gate.
     
  11. AZjohn

    AZjohn Silver Member

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    Wow, I preferred flying into SFO on an international flight as I always found it faster/easier than any other UA hubs (pre Global Entry days).
    Now, to clarify this is always flying in from somewhere in Europe (FRA or LHR) so maybe the times of these flights are different then from Asia???
     
  12. LETTERBOY
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    LETTERBOY Gold Member

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    I personally wouldn't book an international to domestic connection of less than 2.5 hours at any airport, and there are several where I'd want more time than that. I'd rather be bored at an airport for a few hours than risk missing a connection.
     
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  13. estnet
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    estnet Gold Member

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    Until you aren't selected for pre-check (it isn't guaranteed every time like GE) and get stuck in the regular tsa nightmare
     
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  14. okrogius

    okrogius Silver Member

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    After a few dozen tries, I've gotten it on every single domestic ticket. (GE isn't guaranteed either - you can get randomly selected for a full baggage search).

    Even if this changes, the worst case is I just end up going standby on the next flight. I'd rather save an hour with 99-100% certainty given the relatively low consequence of the 0-1% failure case (of course this is assuming you're dealing with a US legacy carrier - foreign airlines are usually less friendly about this).
     
  15. lhrsfo
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    lhrsfo Silver Member

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    I tend to arrive at SFO mid-afternoon and it's generally better at that time than any of UA's other US arrival airports, with the exception of LAX which only has one flight. However, a couple of years ago I hit a 75 minute line for immigration so mileage does vary enormously.

    Whilst the TSA staffing can, as I understand it, be somewhat controlled by UA, I don't think they have much control over the Immigration and Customs staffing (I believe they are paid for by the Federal Government and they switch between the G Terminal and the A Terminal as needed).
     
  16. skyvan

    skyvan Gold Member

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    Oleg, you're a wild man...I never book under MCT...at worst i'll just spend some time getting work done in a lounge, but I never trust security re-check to be quick. I've had trouble with it at both PHL and MSP in the past.
     
  17. akcae
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    akcae Silver Member

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    I thought GE pretty much guarantees you PreCheck (elite status doesn't hurt either). I sympathize with the OP and would never book less than 2-2.5hrs layover in my US entry gateway, but last time coming back from EU via IAD, GE + Precheck had me from deplaning the international arrival flight to gate of domestic connection in 25min. There had to have been over 500 people waiting in regular passport and customs lines, tho and I was ecstatic I got to bypass them all.
     
  18. dayone
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    dayone Silver Member

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    I don't like stress after a long flight so I never book less than a 90-minute connection, and I have GE.
     
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  19. unavaca
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    unavaca Gold Member

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    Pre-Check never works if it's on an international itinerary, even for the domestic segments.
     
  20. Infinite1K
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    Infinite1K Silver Member

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    I wonder why? It seems the most dangerous aspect that needs to be protected against is people entering the US.

    But not allowing you to get PreCheck when you are leaving the US (unlike most countries we don't have any passport control for leaving) or connecting to a domestic flight after you've just cleared GE, seems very puzzling.
     
  21. desamo

    desamo Gold Member

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    Because "we" don't want "them" to be able to do the same thing coming the other way.
     
  22. LIH Prem
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    LIH Prem Gold Member

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    It does work if your remaining segments are domestic.

    It does not work if you are connecting to or clearing security for an international segment because they don't have agreements in place for the use of pre-check with the other governments. (At least that is my understanding.)

    -David
     
  23. Infinite1K
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    Infinite1K Silver Member

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    Ah good to know. Reading the other posts, it implied that you would not be getting PreCheck if you had any International segment.

    It seems like the US has the strictest requirements. Not sure I buy that someone going through PreCheck is going to have a weaker level of screening than say someone flying to the US from an international destination. In fact the special treatment that we think we get as part of PreCheck here in the US is the standard routine that I've had at some of the overseas airports (don't need to take shoes off, laptop can stay in bag and standard metal detector/no nude-o-scopes).
     
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  24. LIH Prem
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    LIH Prem Gold Member

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    That's what I've read, and I really don't remember the source either. I think it was the TSA but I'm not positive.

    They do have agreements with other countries regarding the type of screening they do and the type of screening they require for flights to the USA, so we know that part of it is true (hence, the special screening you might get in other countries for US bound flights.)

    -David
     
  25. HaveMilesWillTravel
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    HaveMilesWillTravel Gold Member

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    It really depends. On my last two trips:

    Frankfurt: shoes stay on, laptop out of bag, metal detector, then after I had walked about 20 feet away from the checkpoint I was approached by an armed border police agent and asked to follow to a hidden away secondary screening point where I had my hand bag searched and then I was offered a pat down or a nudeoscoping. I opted for the pat-down and during the procedure the polite agent, knowing that I was from the US, inquired whether it was true that everyone had to go through the nudeoscope in the US.

    Canada: shoes off, laptop out of bag I believe (I had iPad and took it out based on previous experience there). Some TSA wannabe separated the passengers into two lines, splitting up groups. My wife ended up in the faster lane with a metal detector while I with a lot of suits and a bunch of families with little kids ended up in the nudeoscope line, which took at least 10 minutes longer.
     
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