A new analysis of Customs and Immigration waiting times for travelers arriving at U.S. airports had some bad news for Bay Area residents: San Francisco International ranks among the nation’s worst, and lines at Mineta San Jose International are getting longer instead of shorter.
The study by MileCards.com looked at Customs and Border Protection data from October 2016 to September 2017, studying the average wait times at U.S. airports handling at least 500,000 international passengers a year.
The bad news: San Francisco International posted the second-worst results in the nation, with an average waiting time of almost 22 minutes for arriving passengers to clear Customs and Immigration. Just under one-third of SFO arrivals had to wait more than 30 minutes, and the maximum average waiting time was more than 55 minutes. The worst arrival time at SFO in terms of Customs waits is between 4 and 5 a.m., the study found.
“At some airports the worst wait times are in the early morning hours, when no flights are scheduled to arrive. Instead, flights arriving late or early can leave passengers in limbo during times when customs lines aren’t planned to be staffed,” said Brian Karimzad, director of MileCards.com.
SFO’s poor performance was topped only by Orlando International, with an average waiting time of almost 24 minutes, and an average maximum wait of 52 minutes. Rounding out the top five longest waiting times were New York JFK (20.2 minutes), Miami (19.9 minutes) and Houston Bush Intercontinental (19.5 minutes).
The study found that the biggest increase was at Mineta San Jose, where Customs waiting times during the summer months jumped by 117 percent over the previous year. The average wait time at SJC topped 22 minutes, MileCards said, and one-third of arrivals had to wait more than half an hour. The airport expanded its international arrivals building earlier this year, but it has also been adding more international flights, and maybe Customs and Border Protection staffing hasn’t kept up..
By contrast, the nation’s shortest average waiting time was at Phoenix Sky Harbor, with an average duration of just 7.4 minutes to clear arrivals formalities, and an average maximum wait of 22.6 minutes. Charlotte ranked second, with an average of 8.9 minutes, followed by Minneapolis-St. Paul (10 minutes), Atlanta (11.7 minutes) and Philadelphia (12 minutes). But Atlanta — the nation’s largest airport in passenger numbers—also showed a maximum average waiting time of more than 50 minutes – about twice as long as the three airports that ranked above it.
The report noted that California’s Orange County Airport had “the biggest reduction year over year, with wait times dropping 68 percent to an average of under 8 minutes.”
Here’s a summary of the best and worst waiting times: