User avatar
readytotaxi
Topic Author
Posts: 3328
Joined: Mon Dec 11, 2006 2:09 am

The JFK Arrival "experience"

Wed Jan 25, 2012 6:12 pm

I was trying to explain to a friend what it is like to arrive at JFK and gave up trying, told him it was something he had to experience for himself, and it got me to wondering, as so many people have said here in Trip reports and otherwise it is usually a negative experience. For me it has 20+ yrs from the UK to the USA, entry points have been, SFO,MCO,TPA,EWR,DEN,MSP,LAX,LAS,MIA,BOS, and JFK and have found the experience at JFK always the worst.
What are the reasons, is it the people,the pressures on them due to the volumes, the enviroment they work in, or the "New York sate of mind"?
Just trying to understand what's going on here.
Once away from the airport you gotta love the city,very diverse and entertaining.  
you don't get a second chance to make a first impression!
 
Logos
Posts: 607
Joined: Mon Jan 24, 2000 10:47 pm

RE: The JFK Arrival "experience"

Wed Jan 25, 2012 6:25 pm

It was better than it once was the last time I came through there (granted, now 10 years ago), but in the 80s when I used to live in New York, arriving at the International Arrivals Building (now terminal 4) was like stepping into some sort of medieval fair or zoo. I used to have the impulse to go over there and hold up a sign saying "We're sorry - please see other parts of our great country" for people arriving from other countries.

Best regards,
Dave in Orlando
Too many types flown to list
 
goboeing
Posts: 2430
Joined: Mon Jun 05, 2000 5:31 am

RE: The JFK Arrival "experience"

Wed Jan 25, 2012 6:44 pm

After the rude customs agents, you get the rude TSA agents. Horrible, horrible, horrible few minutes passing through there listening to them screaming at passengers to remove their belts and shoes. The worst part is many of the passengers are accustomed to the quiet, polite, professional security experience in their home country overseas.

Just a terrible, unacceptable, disgraceful way to welcome people to the USA.
 
cedarjet
Posts: 8101
Joined: Mon May 24, 1999 1:12 am

RE: The JFK Arrival "experience"

Wed Jan 25, 2012 6:47 pm

I have entered the US countless times (50+ anyway) and never had a negative experience at JFK. Well, immigration at the BA terminal can be understaffed, have had some long waits there, up to an hour in a line that snakes up the corridor out of the immigration area.

But try arriving at O'Hare on the poor man's Concorde (e.g. the UA 747 from LHR that arr approx 11am) and immigration hasn't even opened yet, or is too understaffed to deal with the influx of punters, and you have over an hour long wait in which EVERYONE misses their connection (at least JFK is mostly O&D, so you're only missing dinner). That to me is totally inexplicable, because 99.9% of flights are daily, and in any case the full schedule is known weeks, if not months, upfront, so how can they not know what's coming in, and roster enough agents? It doesn't make sense for the airlines who run a hub there, and doesn't even make sense for the country.

MIA is the other one where I have had a bad time, a lot of paranoia which leads to unnecessary delays, humiliation and bad juju.

I would say, overall, the US immigration experience is not a positive one, I mean, sure there are signs up everywhere that say, we promise to treat you with respect and all that, but many immigration officers are very rude and ignorant of the outside world. The trouble is, the US sees the entire rest of the world as a threat, and also sees themselves as the greatest country on earth so they're doing you a favour by letting you in. That's a bad combination. Everywhere else in the world, they just treat you with as much respect and professionalism as the situation allows, whereas the US actually say they will (which is unique) and then make you stand around for ages being shouted at and treated like a criminal (which includes actually taking your fingerprints) and asked weird questions they learned off Mossad. All of my "bad immigration experiences" have been in the US (with two exceptions, both in the UK).

However I find the agents in NY are a bit more worldly, so they don't freak out because of the odd stamp from Iran or Somaliland, and a bit more human, so you can have a normal conversation with them, and sometimes even a joke.

(I am extremely curious about the new transatlantic service to Rockford IL from Stansted - what will immigration be like in Rockford? My guess is one of two scenarios - locals who are incredibly grateful that their local airport has TATL service, and will bend over backwards to be polite and welcoming, or locals who are incredibly grateful that their local airport has TATL service cos this is their moment to bend over backwards to be total assholes cos they think that's how it is at O'Hare / on TV. One hopes for the former.)
fly Saha Air 707s daily from Tehran's downtown Mehrabad to Mashhad, Kish Island and Ahwaz
 
United727
Posts: 351
Joined: Sat Nov 13, 2010 1:26 am

RE: The JFK Arrival "experience"

Wed Jan 25, 2012 6:53 pm

Quoting cedarjet (Reply 3):
what will immigration be like in Rockford?

Of the couple times experienced at RFD, its always been well-staffed, polite and as quick as can be expected. Customs and TSA come directly from ORD.
 
nottarockstar
Posts: 22
Joined: Wed Nov 28, 2007 5:54 pm

RE: The JFK Arrival "experience"

Wed Jan 25, 2012 6:59 pm

Not to defend the immigration at JFK or EWR, but I've had much less pleasurable experiences going through LHR than either of the NYC airports. Yes, I am a US Citizen, but saying it's because Americans think they are better than everyone else is stupid.. it's much more likely a cause of underpayment and lack of staff.
 
steve6666
Posts: 449
Joined: Thu Sep 04, 2003 1:58 am

RE: The JFK Arrival "experience"

Wed Jan 25, 2012 7:03 pm

Quoting cedarjet (Reply 3):
MIA is the other one where I have had a bad time, a lot of paranoia which leads to unnecessary delays, humiliation and bad juju.

This. A thousand times this. I don't know whether it is the number of Caribbean and South American connections, and therefore higher probability of dubious people and items being imported, but I find the process at MIA far far more painful and the border agents and the TSA agents far greater jackasses than anywhere else in the USA.

Quoting cedarjet (Reply 3):
However I find the agents in NY are a bit more worldly, so they don't freak out because of the odd stamp from Iran or Somaliland, and a bit more human, so you can have a normal conversation with them, and sometimes even a joke.

JFK I normally get through in minutes - the only bad experience I have had there was a colleague I was travelling with missing a 3 hour connection, because his surname is Khan and he had a Pakistan stamp in his passport.....despite being British born and bred. Only joke I remember though was in SFO when my passport was about nine years old, and the agent basically told me my youthful photograph was taken "a little while ago wasn't it?".
A306, A318, A319, A320, A321, A332, A333, A343, A346, A388, B722, B732, B733, B734, B735, B73G, B738, B742, B744, B752, B753, B762, B763, B764, B772, B773, B77W, B787-8, BAe-146, Cessna Something, DC-10, E175, E195, ERJ145, MD-11, MD-80, PA Something
 
cedarjet
Posts: 8101
Joined: Mon May 24, 1999 1:12 am

RE: The JFK Arrival "experience"

Wed Jan 25, 2012 7:05 pm

Quoting nottarockstar (Reply 5):
I've had much less pleasurable experiences going through LHR than either of the NYC airports

God, no argument there, British immigration officials, or more accurately some officials and all policy, is awful, and makes me very ashamed.

Try visiting South Korea, Thailand, Japan, to see how it should be. Brits (and our American cousins) have such a superiority complex. I would also add that immigration officials in countries whose whole raison d'être is to oppose the rest of the world (Iran, North Korea), wouldn't dream of being rude, superior, or anything other than totally polite and professional to visitors.
fly Saha Air 707s daily from Tehran's downtown Mehrabad to Mashhad, Kish Island and Ahwaz
 
airbazar
Posts: 6953
Joined: Wed Sep 10, 2003 11:12 pm

RE: The JFK Arrival "experience"

Wed Jan 25, 2012 7:28 pm

I think it depends on what terminal you arrive in and what time of day. The few times I arrived at JFK it was on SQ from FRA, in the morning. It was uneventful. I have nothing to complain about.
TBIT at LAX however, it was a nightmare. MIA during the afternoon Caribbean and TATL arrival rush was an equal nightmare. All of these experiences were before I became a US permanent resident.
Citizens and PR's have a significantly better experience entering the country, regardless of airport.
 
reifel
Posts: 1538
Joined: Sun Feb 13, 2005 12:53 pm

RE: The JFK Arrival "experience"

Wed Jan 25, 2012 7:38 pm

I never had really bad experiences on a US point of entry airport. That said, I only entered the US maybe half a dozen of times, so this is possibly not representative. Had a very bad experience in YYZ with a Canadian agent, though. Isreal wasn't very nice, too.

However the worst experience I had was entering by bus in Vermont from Montreal. The whole procedure took 2 hours for approx 30 people on the bus. And they didn't even checked the bags. First they let us wait approx 30 minutes in the bus, then we all had to queue in a little room and the two really rude agents processed anyone. Shouting, speaking loud, not caring that people coming from Montreal or often not good in English (actually I thought some people in Vermont would speek french), no discretion, intimidation and all that. Really a very bad and embarassing experience. Probably they think people travelling on bus have no money and should get no respect. As a used traveller I remained cool and i rather thought those two agents were the poor guys which never came out of their Vermont town, working at the border but never had the idea to see how nice Canada can be and make a step on the other side and have a big complex because of that... This is so unnecessary.
 
lewis
Posts: 3578
Joined: Thu Jul 08, 1999 5:41 am

RE: The JFK Arrival "experience"

Wed Jan 25, 2012 9:36 pm

I wouldn't just blame JFK. The whole process, the attitude of the staff and the length of waiting all make for a bad experience, especially for someone that has just arrived after a long, exhausting flight from overseas. My experience at LAX (TBIT) - which is a zoo - has always been awful, from landing to curbside I usually need more than two hours. As a holder of a work visa, meaning that I travel in and out of the country all the time and I am a resident, I don't see why I need to give my fingerprints and take my photograph every single time I fly back. It would be nice if things could be sped up for certain groups during immigration. I have witnessed officers screaming at passengers of Asian origin who can't speak English - how hard is it to find someone who speaks Mandarin, for example, at LAX?

They may claim that they will treat you with respect but this is not very true if you manage to mess up the paperwork. I had to pick up my roommate from LAX, he is a postgrad student who had all the paperwork with him and his visa but he had misplaced one of the forms he needed to have with him - something very random that contained no information that wasn't on his visa already, which I managed to find at our house. He got held up, treated literally like crap with officers screaming at him and spitting on his face while giving him the "don't speak unless you are spoken to" attitude, and on top of that he was not allowed to call me and let me know he was gonna be help up. He managed to sneak an SMS out which saved me from waiting 6 hours at the airport for him, wondering what had happened. Trying to contact anyone from immigration or trying to get them the form was an ordeal and it did not end up happening. Trying to figure out what was going on would have been impossible if he hadn't managed to contact me. His fault 100% for not taking the form with him and he deserved to be held up until they could clear him, but the way he was treated was disgusting.
 
Viscount724
Posts: 19056
Joined: Thu Oct 12, 2006 7:32 pm

RE: The JFK Arrival "experience"

Wed Jan 25, 2012 9:46 pm

Quoting cedarjet (Reply 3):
I have entered the US countless times (50+ anyway) and never had a negative experience at JFK. Well, immigration at the BA terminal can be understaffed, have had some long waits there, up to an hour in a line that snakes up the corridor out of the immigration area.

Have you ever arrived at the DL (ex-Pan Am) terminal? I made the mistake of doing that about 10 years ago. The customs/immigration experience in what looked like a dark, dingy, shabby, low-ceilinged basement, was so horrible I have never flown DL again since. Must have been a dozen other international flights arriving about the same time and the area was so crowded you could barely move. Took at least 90 minutes to reach the front of the line. I was connecting on AA (Eagle) from JFK to YUL and missed my connection and had to wait about 3 hours for the next flight. That experience was worse than many 3rd world airports.
 
slinky09
Posts: 594
Joined: Sat Jun 06, 2009 5:03 pm

RE: The JFK Arrival "experience"

Wed Jan 25, 2012 9:48 pm

Quoting cedarjet (Reply 3):
I would say, overall, the US immigration experience is not a positive one, I mean, sure there are signs up everywhere that say, we promise to treat you with respect and all that, but many immigration officers are very rude and ignorant of the outside world.

True. The signs are especially galling since they present an other world non-reality to the actual experience. I mean, does anyone who works there actually read them?

Quoting steve6666 (Reply 6):
This. A thousand times this. I don't know whether it is the number of Caribbean and South American connections, and therefore higher probability of dubious people and items being imported, but I find the process at MIA far far more painful and the border agents and the TSA agents far greater jackasses than anywhere else in the USA.

Oh MIA, too true.

Quoting lewis (Reply 10):

I wouldn't just blame JFK. The whole process, the attitude of the staff and the length of waiting all make for a bad experience, especially for someone that has just arrived after a long, exhausting flight from overseas. My experience at LAX (TBIT) - which is a zoo - has always been awful

Ah LAX, also true.

I'd add IAD, god awful wait times and rude, miserable agents.

But, it's not all bad:

Quoting cedarjet (Reply 3):
However I find the agents in NY are a bit more worldly,

Try those in BOS, sometimes an absolute delight, and those at SFO can be very pleasant.

So why are immigration so awful in some places and really good in others? Is it managers, local culture, customers passing through?
 
AAIL86
Posts: 425
Joined: Wed Feb 09, 2011 6:00 am

RE: The JFK Arrival "experience"

Wed Jan 25, 2012 10:06 pm

Quoting cedarjet (Reply 3):
I would say, overall, the US immigration experience is not a positive one, I mean, sure there are signs up everywhere that say, we promise to treat you with respect and all that, but many immigration officers are very rude and ignorant of the outside world. The trouble is, the US sees the entire rest of the world as a threat, and also sees themselves as the greatest country on earth so they're doing you a favour by letting you in. That's a bad combination.

You are exactly right, and as an American I apologize for the provincialism some of us love to engage in. Every time my friends arrive from out of the country they seem to always mention how rude and arrogant the customs officers are. And as someone who spent years in the industry working at a major international arrival port- I saw this behavior frequently and heard others comment about it. That's certainly not to say all American customs agents are mean or unprofessional, because plenty of them are nice people. There is, however, a disturbingly large percentage of them who get away with unprofessional behavior in the name of duty - and as you say- it's a direct reflection of the endless barrage of American exceptionalism we get over here.

[Edited 2012-01-25 14:07:27]
The way to see by faith is to shut the eye of reason - Benjamim Franklin
 
greggariouspdx
Posts: 95
Joined: Tue Jan 10, 2012 4:22 am

RE: The JFK Arrival "experience"

Wed Jan 25, 2012 11:16 pm

For me, it's a toss-up between ATL and ORD for the worst Intl Arrival experience. ATL is understaffed with rude and indifferent personnel and is a logistical nightmnare. ORD has the same issues, except the Customs officials are even worse. I have been "baited" several times when arriving at ORD ("So did you meet anyone interesting on your trip to Europe?" or " Why did you go to Buenos Aires by yourself?"). I have never had any issues at MIA, DFW, PDX, SEA, or JFK.
 
User avatar
Coal
Posts: 2283
Joined: Sun Aug 13, 2006 11:14 am

RE: The JFK Arrival "experience"

Wed Jan 25, 2012 11:24 pm

I never had a bad experience at JFK. I actually found people to be polite. LAX and MIA, on the other hand, are a total disgrace.

Cheers
Coal
Nxt Flts: MI RGN-SIN | SQ SIN-RGN-SIN | CX SIN-HKG-PVG | SQ PVG-SIN
 
goboeing
Posts: 2430
Joined: Mon Jun 05, 2000 5:31 am

RE: The JFK Arrival "experience"

Wed Jan 25, 2012 11:43 pm

Quoting greggariouspdx (Reply 14):
I have been "baited" several times when arriving at ORD ("So did you meet anyone interesting on your trip to Europe?" or " Why did you go to Buenos Aires by yourself?").

I share your view of ATL. In fact I cleared customs there yesterday but it was fine.

Question, what do you mean by baited with those inquiries? I personally find it bizarre what they ask sometimes (why do you think I went there...to check it out...why else does someone go on a vacation???) but I don't quite think I was being baited to answer in any particular way.
 
lhr380
Posts: 2453
Joined: Thu Jan 15, 2009 5:39 pm

RE: The JFK Arrival "experience"

Wed Jan 25, 2012 11:44 pm

Quoting GoBoeing (Reply 2):

Long queues yes, but never seen an agent like you describe.
(The views on this site are my own and no one elses)
 
harpandshamrock
Posts: 61
Joined: Fri Mar 04, 2011 7:48 pm

RE: The JFK Arrival "experience"

Wed Jan 25, 2012 11:58 pm

Quoting Viscount724 (Reply 11):
Have you ever arrived at the DL (ex-Pan Am) terminal? I made the mistake of doing that about 10 years ago. The customs/immigration experience in what looked like a dark, dingy, shabby, low-ceilinged basement, was so horrible I have never flown DL again since. Must have been a dozen other international flights arriving about the same time and the area was so crowded you could barely move. Took at least 90 minutes to reach the front of the line. I was connecting on AA (Eagle) from JFK to YUL and missed my connection and had to wait about 3 hours for the next flight. That experience was worse than many 3rd world airports.

My one international arrival into JFK (from LHR) was through that terminal and it was enough to make me swear that any future flights would be from Ireland so I could be pre-cleared at Dublin! Took me over an hour to get through, and I didn't appreciate finding my bag just thrown into a pile of unclaimed luggage at the side of the carousel. If I go ahead with the USA trip this summer I'm planning, even though I now live in the UK it will begin with a flight from somewhere near here to DUB.......
2011 so far: LX (4), FR (2), EI (2), BE (2) - 4004 miles
 
planewasted
Posts: 465
Joined: Thu Jan 17, 2008 11:47 pm

RE: The JFK Arrival "experience"

Thu Jan 26, 2012 12:16 am

JFK arrival sucks.
I remeber when I didn't have a pen to fill in the arrival card with. All the pens at the place you are supposed to fill the papers in at were gone/stolen.

So I asked a random security guy:
-Hi, where can I get a pen to fill my arrival card? There are no pens at the place where they should be..
-You can't get one from me
-OK, where can I get one?
-I don't know, not my business

WTF?

Fortunately, Americans in general are nice and helpful. So the first non airport employee I asked helped me out.

Immigration in China is a dream compared to the US.
 
airbazar
Posts: 6953
Joined: Wed Sep 10, 2003 11:12 pm

RE: The JFK Arrival "experience"

Thu Jan 26, 2012 1:21 am

Quoting Viscount724 (Reply 11):
Have you ever arrived at the DL (ex-Pan Am) terminal? I made the mistake of doing that about 10 years ago. The customs/immigration experience in what looked like a dark, dingy, shabby, low-ceilinged basement, was so horrible I have never flown DL again since.

I have back when SQ operated out of that terminal and it was uneventful. But then again, SQ arrives early and we were pretty much the only passengers going through immigration. I went through it soo quickly to notice anything.
 
flyboy_se
Posts: 709
Joined: Sat Feb 05, 2000 5:31 am

RE: The JFK Arrival "experience"

Thu Jan 26, 2012 1:28 am

i have only entered US through EWR,JFK and IAH, so my experience is limited. Most of the times the immigration officers were ok. I cant really complain. I had some funny agents in JFK and aswell as some, well not rude, but original...lol.
I find generally the immigration service levels to be similar in most countries. The nicest agents however were in MTY and DPS.
I prefer to be crazy and happy rather than normal and bitter
 
delimit
Posts: 759
Joined: Fri Jan 09, 2009 8:08 pm

RE: The JFK Arrival "experience"

Thu Jan 26, 2012 1:42 am

I was through T3 in November. Not the most welcoming facilities, but the line moved fairly quickly. Refusing to fly an airline because of dated facilities seems a tad hyperbolic. As for lines, I haven't been to an airport that didn't have them.

The worst I've experienced was actually departure passport control and security at MXP back when Alitalia still hubbed there. Now that was a disaster.

[Edited 2012-01-25 17:45:07]
 
brandonfsu05
Posts: 40
Joined: Sun Aug 16, 2009 3:53 am

RE: The JFK Arrival "experience"

Thu Jan 26, 2012 1:57 am

The only time I went through JFK the people were completely professional T4... The worst place ever for me was Israel and also Brazil at the border. I was in FRA waiting to process when some female German passport control officer began yelling at an Indian family that didn't speak German/English and just kept yelling.

Most CBP officials are regular all Americans. Americans in general aren't too interested in the outside world.... CBP officers are no different IMO... They know their jobs and their flights and types of passengers but that's about it. It's just a job for them...and most of them are overworked...and understaffed...imagine getting forced in on your days off...every week. Every day...same passengers...same attitudes...same questions.

I don't care what kind of personality you have....working with the public 8+ hours every day takes its toll. If the officers aren't asking you questions they aren't doing their job.

As far as people's perceptions of immigration/customs in other countries...Most countries don't ask any questions...hell the officers usually don't even speak English very well or whatever the passenger's language is...

If the USA had an immigration policy of just scanning the passport and stamping it and not asking questions or doing fingerprints I'm sure everyone would think the people were so amazing here too! Unfortunately, the officers have to interact with the passengers unlike in other countries... at least until every one is eligible for Global Entry.
 
Viscount724
Posts: 19056
Joined: Thu Oct 12, 2006 7:32 pm

RE: The JFK Arrival "experience"

Thu Jan 26, 2012 1:58 am

Quoting delimit (Reply 22):
I was through T3 in November. Not the most welcoming facilities, but the line moved fairly quickly. Refusing to fly an airline because of dated facilities seems a tad hyperbolic. As for lines, I haven't been to an airport that didn't have them.

I've never had to wait at customs/immigration longer than 30 minutes, and usually much less than that, in other parts of the world. When I used to fly about 3 times a year from GVA to IAD on business, I also had a few waits of an hour or so there. I always checked the schedules and tried to pick the transatlantic carrier that had the earliest arrival at IAD which helped avoid the crowds. If your flight arrived at the same time as 2 or 3 others the wait could be very long.

I realize the airline isn't responsible for customs/immigration, but when you know a certain carrier's major hub is bad, you tend to avoid using that carrier.
 
delimit
Posts: 759
Joined: Fri Jan 09, 2009 8:08 pm

RE: The JFK Arrival "experience"

Thu Jan 26, 2012 2:22 am

I agree Asia has the rest of the world beat. I find pretty much all EU and US airports about par as far as line length. It really just depends when you arrive.

LHR arriving TATL on BA used to be phenomenally bad, but I haven't flown them since T5 so maybe that has changed.
 
richierich
Posts: 3295
Joined: Sat Nov 04, 2000 5:49 am

RE: The JFK Arrival "experience"

Thu Jan 26, 2012 2:26 am

Seeing this thread is about JFK, specifically, I think it has to be said that it definitely depends on which terminal you arrive into and at what time.

The AA terminal is new and in my one experience there, late morning with at least one or two European arrivals, the line moved reasonably quickly and it was not unpleasant. Contrast that to Delta at T3. I love the architecture of the old Pan Am terminal but it is shabby and falling apart (which was partly true even when Pan Am had it, now more than 20 years ago)...the arrivals experience there is downright appalling. Long lines in grim corridors with no natural light would not present a rightful first impression of the USA in my mind. I admit to not having arrived internationally on DL at this terminal in quite some time, so I do not know if things have improved much, but it doesn't sound like they have according to what I read on this site. Terminal 7 is for BA and UA and this is not the best experience either. My late grandfather, in his older age, arrived back at this terminal many years ago from a trip to London and the nearly 90-minute wait to get through US Customs nearly killed him (slight exaggeration, perhaps, but you get the idea it wasn't very good.) And then there is T4, which I have passed through several times in the past few years. To be honest, of all the terminals - and I admit to not using T1 arrivals recently - this is the best at JFK that I have seen and it is at least on par with expectations. I've never waited more than 30-40 minutes in line, even late at night or early in the morning, and the facility is modern enough to present a positive image of this country. I think I had to wait a long time for my bags once but that is probably more to do with airline I chose than a good sample of the JFK arrival experience! I think there are plenty worse than JFK T4 int'l arrivals.

The other common theme I am hearing here is rude and/or surly agents. To be honest, they are not hired to be people-persons. They are hired to weed out the people who are rightfully allowed in this country versus those who are not, as well as their stuff. That doesn't mean they can't be nice and I am not excusing rude behavior but I have not witnessed anything too bad firsthand. Maybe I am hardened by the New York area in general, in which I generally find people to be somewhat cold and distrusting. In this light, I don't see the guy stamping my passport as any more or less rude than the lady serving me a slice of pizza in Midtown, all done like they are doing you a favor instead of the other way around. You kind of get used to it. (And, for the record, I love London but I find people there to be just as disengaged as in NYC...you really have to go out into the country to get a real flavor of a country and their people.)
None shall pass!!!!
 
NYC-air
Posts: 139
Joined: Wed Mar 08, 2000 6:59 am

RE: The JFK Arrival "experience"

Thu Jan 26, 2012 2:43 am

Quoting richierich (Reply 26):
Seeing this thread is about JFK, specifically, I think it has to be said that it definitely depends on which terminal you arrive into and at what time.

Yes, of course. And it has to be said that for a long time JFK arrivals in general, regardless of whether were arriving internationally or not, was a sickening 3rd world experience. It has gotten a lot better with the new terminals and overall rehabilitation of NY. That said, remember the days as recent as the 90s when practically every terminal there was an outdated, dilapidated mess (now it's just T3 that truly fits that description). Then you had the taxi situation where livery drivers would illegally accost you in the terminal (I had relatives who fell for this in the early 90s and it wasn't a taxi driver, suffice it to say they were robbed at gunpoint and let out somewhere in industrial queens).

So . . . now we have mostly new terminals, decent policing, and an organized taxi scene (including mandated flat rates to and from the airport which prevent the gouging of old). We also have the Airtrain, which is 1st worldish despite being hard to understand if you're not familiar with the city.
 
timpdx
Posts: 578
Joined: Fri Jul 31, 2009 1:54 am

RE: The JFK Arrival "experience"

Thu Jan 26, 2012 2:45 am

LHR by far the worst experience I have had. Oh what an awful place and what awful people.

In the US, I fly tons through LAX and think is o.k. but a total cattle call. But so much better than understaffed ATL or the bizarre spectacle of MIA.

Canada seems to be taking the "best" of the TSA and Customs. longest waits I have ever had was entering YVR and in the long pre clear line with a bonus aggressive pat down at YYZ. Used to be Canadians welcomed us, every experience in the last decade has been the exact opposite.

Asia has it right, HND, ICN, KUL, AUH, HKG are examples to the world on how to do things right.
Always found continental Europe very good, more spotty than Asia, MUC is great, AMS is crowded and somewhat confusing, but very efficient, FCO is a ugly, but it goes quick.
 
doug_or
Posts: 3125
Joined: Sat Mar 18, 2000 9:55 am

RE: The JFK Arrival "experience"

Thu Jan 26, 2012 2:59 am

Quoting NYC-air (Reply 27):
We also have the Airtrain, which is 1st worldish despite being hard to understand if you're not familiar with the city.

Yeah, until you transfer to the E train @ Jamaica. That's one hell of a "welcome to the US of A."
When in doubt, one B pump off
 
ACKattack
Posts: 14
Joined: Fri May 01, 2009 1:53 am

RE: The JFK Arrival "experience"

Thu Jan 26, 2012 3:42 am

I haven't flown through US customs in a few years or through JFK in my memory. I have flown in to BOS international and I never had any problems with customs their. It was always quick and never any problems with getting my bags through. I have also flown in can connected through DFW from international. The couple of times coming back from Mexico, arriving in the mid day, I never had a wait at either immigration or customs. One time their was even a large group of soldiers waiting in formation, I guess back on r and r from Afghanistan or Iraq. However, when I came in from ZHR their was a huge (2 hour) line for customs. Fortunately, I was able to jump into line with a friend and got to avoid most of the wait. Also, I loved the overhead glass walkways at the new international terminal at DFW.
 
washingtonian
Posts: 749
Joined: Sat Sep 04, 2010 5:56 pm

RE: The JFK Arrival "experience"

Thu Jan 26, 2012 3:46 am

JFK is really not so bad. I think a lot (at any airport) depends on what terminal you fly into.

Quoting steve6666 (Reply 6):
but I find the process at MIA far far more painful and the border agents and the TSA agents far greater jackasses than anywhere else in the USA.
Quoting slinky09 (Reply 12):
Oh MIA, too true.

MIA's South Terminal is quite nice including the FIS facility. The other FIS facility in Concourse E is pretty nasty, yes, but the North Terminal FIS is supposed to open later this year (a few months later than planned). When that brand new facility is opened, ~95% of passengers at MIA will use either the North or South Terminal. So give MIA another try in a few months  
Quoting Viscount724 (Reply 11):
The customs/immigration experience in what looked like a dark, dingy, shabby, low-ceilinged basement, was so horrible I have never flown DL again since.
Quoting Viscount724 (Reply 11):
I was connecting on AA (Eagle) from JFK to YUL and missed my connection and had to wait about 3 hours for the next flight. That experience was worse than many 3rd world airports.

JFK is a lot better than it used to be. For example, although Delta still operates from T3, your JFK to YUL flight on American was from the old Terminal 9. For the last six years, American has operated from a gorgeous, brand new terminal. And T3 will be closed next year.

Quoting slinky09 (Reply 12):
I'd add IAD, god awful wait times and rude, miserable agents.

IAD's FIS just went through a massive renovation and is MUCH nicer than it used to be.

Quoting NYC-air (Reply 27):
Then you had the taxi situation where livery drivers would illegally accost you in the terminal

Haha, ironically this still happens at Terminal 2 and 3 for me at JFK...Flashbacks to the 90s indeed.
 
BOACCunard
Posts: 316
Joined: Mon Dec 21, 2009 7:59 am

RE: The JFK Arrival "experience"

Thu Jan 26, 2012 3:50 am

Quoting cedarjet (Reply 3):
I have entered the US countless times (50+ anyway) and never had a negative experience at JFK. Well, immigration at the BA terminal can be understaffed, have had some long waits there, up to an hour in a line that snakes up the corridor out of the immigration area.

It depends on the terminal. I know T7 is one of the last of the original JFK terminals standing, but it's newer, better maintained and less overused than most of the others were, or than T3 still is.

Quoting Viscount724 (Reply 11):
Have you ever arrived at the DL (ex-Pan Am) terminal? I made the mistake of doing that about 10 years ago. The customs/immigration experience in what looked like a dark, dingy, shabby, low-ceilinged basement, was so horrible I have never flown DL again since.

   I am constantly amazed that this place is still standing. It's absolutely disgraceful both for DL and NYC. I like DL but I avoid DL at JFK and will continue to do so as long as T3 is in use.

I don't care about all the Pan Am nostalgia in the world, this place should have been gone in the '90s.

Quoting delimit (Reply 22):
Refusing to fly an airline because of dated facilities seems a tad hyperbolic.

No. Claiming to do so purely for rhetorical purposes would be hyperbolic. Actually doing so might be an overreaction in your opinion, but it isn't hyperbolic.

Anyway, I am not sure anyone has gone so far as to say they refuse to fly DL, but avoiding a terminal (and thus the airline that uses it) because it is ridiculously substandard is really not in any way unreasonable. JFK is my home airport for international flying, and I have chosen other airlines than DL at least in part because DL's terminal facilities are vastly worse than anyone else's.

I am glad that your recent experience at T3 was not that bad, but on a bad day, in the peak arrival hours for European flights, in the summer, it is frankly an ordeal. It is the last thing I want to have to experience after spending 10+ hours in an economy-class seat.

I am not saying that arriving at other JFK terminals is all fun and games, but the worst arrivals experiences I have had anywhere mostly involve this terminal. After a few really bad experiences, it's not that unreasonable to try to avoid repeating them.

Quoting NYC-air (Reply 27):
Yes, of course. And it has to be said that for a long time JFK arrivals in general, regardless of whether were arriving internationally or not, was a sickening 3rd world experience.

Only arrivals?  

But in all seriousness, it is true that JFK has improved almost unimaginably since the '90s. When the current T1 opened it was practically on a different planet from the rest of the airport. That said, some terminals were clearly worse than others. Even if you just look at the few of the original terminals still standing, it is obvious that T7 is even now a mostly adequate terminal, whereas I can never remember a time when T3 wasn't just a dilapidated old dump.

Quoting doug_Or (Reply 29):
Yeah, until you transfer to the E train @ Jamaica. That's one hell of a "welcome to the US of A."

What's wrong with the E train?
Getting There is Half the Fun!
 
doug_or
Posts: 3125
Joined: Sat Mar 18, 2000 9:55 am

RE: The JFK Arrival "experience"

Thu Jan 26, 2012 4:10 am

Quoting BOACCunard (Reply 32):
What's wrong with the E train?

The station that links the AirTrain with the E train is a dark dirty dump. Water (I hope) dripping from the ceiling, missing tiles, trash, and rats. I realize that doesn't set it so far apart from many other MTA subway stops, but it still a terrible way to welcome people to the country.
When in doubt, one B pump off
 
mdavies06
Posts: 322
Joined: Fri Aug 07, 2009 10:28 pm

RE: The JFK Arrival "experience"

Thu Jan 26, 2012 4:30 am

I arrived at LHR T3 a few times during the afternoon South Asia / Middle East arrival rush and the line for immigration for non EU passport passengers were so long the queue filled the whole immigration hall and started to wind its way back into the corridors that take you back to the boarding gate. This just shows how much LHR needs expanding. I hope the new Terminal 2 will improve things.
 
SamuP
Posts: 42
Joined: Tue Jul 27, 2010 1:02 pm

RE: The JFK Arrival "experience"

Thu Jan 26, 2012 4:40 am

Guys, you haven't really seen anything until you try entering the U.S., U.K. or any Asian country with a Colombian passport. Now, that's an adventure! It includes checking your fingertips for traces of cocaine (I'm not joking) and the usual stupid joke about what's contained in your luggage. It feels as if you need to convince them some people actually have legal jobs and salaries in Colombia!

At the top of my list in terms of respect: - SIN, AMS, MUC
The ones I'd avoid if I could: DPS, EWR, IAH, LAX. MIA is not too bad
 
peanuts
Posts: 826
Joined: Thu Dec 24, 2009 1:17 am

RE: The JFK Arrival "experience"

Thu Jan 26, 2012 4:45 am

Quoting cedarjet (Reply 3):
The trouble is, the US sees the entire rest of the world as a threat, and also sees themselves as the greatest country on earth so they're doing you a favour by letting you in. That's a bad combination. Everywhere else in the world, they just treat you with as much respect and professionalism as the situation allows, whereas the US actually say they will (which is unique) and then make you stand around for ages being shouted at and treated like a criminal (which includes actually taking your fingerprints) and asked weird questions they learned off Mossad.

Let's just say that is your perception of the situation. Your post in general demonstrates a lack of understanding where certain countries and cultures are coming from, so to speak. Ignorant would be a better term.
Perception vs. Reality, my friend.
What you may experience in the US may be perceived by you as rude, not to most Americans. What Americans may experience in Europe, may be perceived by them as rude but not to most Europeans.
There are a lot of misunderstandings between the continents. It's what makes travelling still kind of fun.
If I were American, I would certainly NOT be apologizing to foreigners about how "my country" treats you at Immigration/Customs or TSA. Good grief!

Personally, I've had the worst experience at immigration at FCO. Ever. (This includes wait time, rudeness levels, facility. It was just truly, spectacularly pathetic. But when I asked my fellow Euro friends about FCO, they don't seem to mind...)

DL at JFK is just "nostalgic". In a few years it will be all gone and people will complain about "the good old days"...
You watch...
 
syncmaster
Posts: 1926
Joined: Mon Jul 15, 2002 9:55 am

RE: The JFK Arrival "experience"

Thu Jan 26, 2012 4:53 am

Thankfully the one time I did arrive at JFK from an international destination I was able to pre-clear in Dublin. EWR isn't any better. I've been through a few times at DTW and had nice agents, short lines and a nice facility.
 
fbgdavidson
Posts: 3563
Joined: Thu Oct 14, 2004 6:25 am

RE: The JFK Arrival "experience"

Thu Jan 26, 2012 5:21 am

Generalizations on the arrivals process is generally pointless. Meeting one off colour agent doesn't mean "all the immigration agents are rude". Having to wait in line once for two hours doesn't mean it always take 2hrs to clear immigration there.

Case in point, I've taken BA293/BA223 dozens and dozens of times from LHR into IAD over the last ten years or so. The scheduled arrival time has always been the same, around 8pm or so. Sometimes the immigration hall has been completely empty and I've walked right through, sometimes it's taken almost 2hrs.

Quoting GoBoeing (Reply 2):
After the rude customs agents, you get the rude TSA agents.

Customs then TSA when entering the country? Hmm, maybe immigration and then customs.

Immigration = clearing yourself into the country
Customs = clearing your possessions and paying of applicable duties
Security = ensuring no prohibited items enter the secure area.

Quoting washingtonian (Reply 31):
IAD's FIS just went through a massive renovation and is MUCH nicer than it used to be.

True, it is nicer but it hasn't helped the lines much, over an hour in the US citizens/Permanent Resident line a few weeks back. It's finally got me to apply for Global Entry, woo.

But why the fook do they only have one entry into the baggage hall from immigration?? If you're at the one of the left most immigration desks you have to effecticely walk the length of the baggage hall three times to get from immigration to customs.

Quoting timpdx (Reply 28):
LHR by far the worst experience I have had. Oh what an awful place and what awful people.

Again, another generalization. Used Terminal 5 lately? On my last international arrival into T5 I was first off the plane and even from the satellite concourse where you have to take a train to get to the main terminal I'd cleared immigration, claimed bags and was landside in about 10mins...and that's not exactly out of the ordinary either!
"My first job was selling doors, door to door, that's a tough job innit" - Bill Bailey
 
machnumber
Posts: 45
Joined: Thu Jul 14, 2011 5:59 pm

RE: The JFK Arrival "experience"

Thu Jan 26, 2012 6:11 am

I had terrible experiences at JFK. It got a little better in the last few years. Before the immigration area felt like a prison with guards yelling at inmates.
Other cities are a bit better though. I hate the NY attitude!
 
HKG212
Posts: 136
Joined: Thu Jan 10, 2008 1:50 pm

RE: The JFK Arrival "experience"

Thu Jan 26, 2012 6:25 am

Quoting readytotaxi (Thread starter):
I was trying to explain to a friend what it is like to arrive at JFK and gave up trying, told him it was something he had to experience for himself, and it got me to wondering, as so many people have said here in Trip reports and otherwise it is usually a negative experience.

I find the whole premise of this posting implausible. Replace "arrive at JFK" with: "watch American television", "ride a New York taxi", or "eat in Chinatown"... you get the point. As the previous comment succinctly stated:

Quoting fbgdavidson (Reply 38):
Generalizations on the arrivals process is generally pointless.

  
In the end , it's all just the old rant on rude immigration agents, who unfortunately exist in every airport (perhaps disproportionately so in the U.S.), and the occasional long line due to multiple arrivals, which can also happen anywhere. Bad luck is just that. With the notable exception of T3, as many have noted, JFK facilities and procedures at this point are are no worse than the international average for airports of this size.
 
zrs70
Posts: 3330
Joined: Sun Dec 10, 2000 4:08 am

RE: The JFK Arrival "experience"

Thu Jan 26, 2012 7:22 am

Quoting reifel (Reply 9):
However the worst experience I had was entering by bus in Vermont from Montreal. The whole procedure took 2 hours for approx 30 people on the bus. And they didn't even checked the bags. First they let us wait approx 30 minutes in the bus, then we all had to queue in a little room and the two really rude agents processed anyone. Shouting, speaking loud, not caring that people coming from Montreal or often not good in English (actually I thought some people in Vermont would speek french), no discretion, intimidation and all that. Really a very bad and embarassing experience. Probably they think people travelling on bus have no money and should get no respect. As a used traveller I remained cool and i rather thought those two agents were the poor guys which never came out of their Vermont town, working at the border but never had the idea to see how nice Canada can be and make a step on the other side and have a big complex because of that... This is so unnecessary.

OY! Just drove from Montreal into Vermont last summer through a smaller country road. Expected laid back, gentle folk. But the agent was condescending, suspicious, and just awful. He wasn't rude: I think he was just board and needed diversion. He questioned why our passports weren't stamped when we arrived in YUL. I explained that I had not idea, and that I hadn't realized they were not stamped. He then asked why we had flown into YUL and not into the main airport. "I thought YUL was the main airport," I said.

"It's not. Why did you fly into the smaller one?"

The whole thing was just weird.

Truth is, I've rarely had a good experience traveling between the US and Canada!
17 year airliners.net vet! 2000-2016
 
klm672
Posts: 2514
Joined: Mon Oct 04, 1999 6:09 am

RE: The JFK Arrival "experience"

Thu Jan 26, 2012 3:31 pm

I'll never forget the experience with LHR coming from BOS a few years ago (I was a 20 at the time). I planned a trip with my gf, but weeks before the trip, my gf broke up with me. Thinking "her loss", I went alone. Everything was fine until I entered Immigration at LHR. I handed over my passport and the questioning began. What was my purpose of the trip, how long I'm staying, where do I work, how much do I make a year (could I write it down on a scrap piece of paper), can I show him my return ticket...upon looking at that, he saw my ex gf's name.. now questions about her, where she is, why isn't she here etc... back to me, who am I meeting, what if he (my great uncle) doesn't show up, do I have his mobile? Finally, I was got my stamp and continued to get my bag.
 
signol
Posts: 2652
Joined: Tue Oct 30, 2007 5:18 pm

RE: The JFK Arrival "experience"

Thu Jan 26, 2012 6:21 pm

I've only entered the US through JFK (T7), LAX and IAD. All of which encountered long queues, 30mins to 1h (except when our toddler was inconsoleable so we were moved to the front), but always the staff were professional, never rude. They could do with redesigning the immigration hall, to install more desks and officers (and reducing the bureaucracy, but that's not decided by the officers!)

signol
Flights booked: NWI-AMS-JNB-DUR, JNB-AMS-NWI
 
daviation
Posts: 520
Joined: Thu Sep 18, 2008 7:31 pm

RE: The JFK Arrival "experience"

Fri Jan 27, 2012 4:57 pm

I'm baffled by this thread. I don't think there's a pattern at JFK or with U.S. airports in general. And I don't need any other Americans to apologize in my behalf. 'American exceptionalism' is a concept imagined by people who don't realize that we are just working stiffs, trying to lead our lives as best we can.

I've never actually had a bad experience at immigration at JFK, EWR, LHR, FRA, even TLV. My worst experience was actually in my car when I crossed into the Canadian border. The Canadian border patrol interrogated us for an hour because they thought I was trying to kidnap my children into Canada! We were actually trying to visit Niagara Falls for the day.

TSA, on the other hand.........actually, my worst TSA experience was in Florida, PBI or FLL, can't recall. But the agent was hollering at me because I asked for a patdown instead of an xray (I have an implanted pacemaker). I just told him to keep his powder dry.
PlaneFlown:717,727,737,747,757,767,777,DC8,DC9,DC10,L1011,F100,A300,319,320,321,330,340,CRJ,ERJ,E190,Av85,DH8,Beaver,ATR

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Google [Bot] and 10 guests