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Which Airport for entry to US?

Fantasizing about future travel. Looking at what I can get with FF miles.

London to Seattle.

For ease of clearing immigration, what do y'all recommend from among these choices: JFK, IAD, ORD, EWR, PHL, BOS.

Not enrolled in any expedited entry program. Will be in biz class, so will be at the front of the herd from my flight.

Thank you

Posted by
3460 posts

I know not on your list, but IF you have the option, IAH or DEN would be better entry points. I have always had quicker transit through at both of these airports and overall less stressful times reaching my connection. Otherwise, the only one I would recommend is EWR. This of course is based solely on my experiences. YMMV.

And being in business only helps if you can walk very very fast and there is not a logjam of other flights arriving at the same time or right before your flight.

If you are connecting, it is never the Customs and Border Patrol part that delays me. TSA Pre Check is not set up in the security recheck after customs and before you reenter the terminal to get to your connecting flight (at least it wasn't the last time I went through all of those airports). I know you don't have that, but adding this for those who do. This means if it is busy, you can face an hour long delay going through the slow moving standard TSA security screenings. I have gotten around this by exiting the international section as if that is my final stop for that trip and then going through security as if I am just starting my flight at that airport. Very much faster in most cases even without Pre Check.

Posted by
5902 posts

From that list I've only done IAD (Dulles) and ORD(Chicago) in recent years, and would always chose IAD. JFK, EWR and PHL have such bad reputations, I'd never consider them, all things being equal. For a good fare, I'd compromise my principles. However, I'd recommend MSP (Minneapolis) or YYZ (Toronto) over any of these. Toronto has a US CBP entry point.

Posted by
6515 posts

We usually fly into JFK, BOS, EWR, LAX, ORD. However, we have Global Entry so it is ten minutes max at any of them. Why don’t you get GE?

Posted by
21164 posts

The two airports I avoid going and coming is Dulles and PHL, especially PHL. Why would you not have Global Entry? That is close to a no-brainer.

Posted by
7400 posts

Looking at what I can get with FF miles......................what do you recommend from among these choices: JFK, IAD, ORD, EWR, PHL, BOS.

If I could get a direct flight with my FF miles, life would be simple.....

Posted by
181 posts

Definitely not JFK. Time-consuming and exhausting, particularly so after a long flight.
Besides the hassle with getting your bags, dealing with Customs, you have to go outside the International Terminal, across the street to the Domestic one. Up escalator or elevator to catch a train to your gate. You have to figure out the correct train. There are other hassles, but my self-preservation mechanism is blocking them. Also, if there's wind chill or snow as you trek across the street to the Domestic terminal, that's more to cope with.

If memory serves, my experiences with Chicago and Newark weren't as bad as JFK.

Hope you decide on an airport that works out for you and safe travels!

Posted by
9632 posts

First, set up Mobile Passport on your phone. It's free.

https://www.cbp.gov/travel/us-citizens/mobile-passport-control

This should save you time regardless of which airport your choose.

Clearing immigration has more to do with the time you enter and how many other flights have arrived at the same time. But you also need to see how much of a hassle it will be to reach your connecting flight. Will it be at the same terminal? If not, how long will it take to change terminals? How much of a hassle is it to get to your next terminal? How much luggage will you have?

Posted by
117 posts

Hands down. Get Mobile Pass. The free version makes you re_enter your passport info each time. paid version retains info. I walk right through immigration at every airport with zero waiting with Mobile Pass.
If you transit through Dublin, you clear US immigration there. I have not tried Mobile Pass there. Immigration is slow but the planes know it so they wait.

Posted by
3528 posts

Experiences before the current pandemic don't carry much weight in predicting how things will work in these troubled times. Nobody can predict with any certainty when things will return to the old days -- or even if they ever will. Air travel may be changed for good.

Posted by
49 posts

Save your miles for another occasion. Fly direct LHR-SEA as previously suggested and avoid any and all hassles. Going through Customs and then connecting at airports listed is not conducive to your mental health: long lines, surly CBP officers, going through TSA again, long walks to next flight, etc, etc. Plus, you are adding another six hours of flight time from any of these to get back to the west coast. Have done this back when there were no alternatives but to connect; and that last segment was always miserable.

Posted by
759 posts

A-A while correct in that a west coast direct, non-stop is the only way to fly to Europe; the OP is trying to get a miles award ticket in business class. Haven’t looked but I would safely assume the airlines have made such west coast non-stop flights (full flat business sleeper seats) unicorn seats and near impossible to get on points.

If I had to fly such a route- JFK - with a 3 day layover to enjoy NYCity on the way home.

Posted by
9632 posts

OneFastBob actually had a good idea. It's what I do. Break up the flight.

After an eight hour flight from London to NYC, I don't look forward to a layover and yet another flight. I stay at a hotel near the airport and continue on the next day. Sometimes I'll add an extra day or two in NY.

I've done it using miles. Right now I'm looking at a return flight from Tokyo with an 18 hour layover in Dallas. Lowest miles requirement. That's enough time to get to an airport hotel, catch some sleep, and the next day head to home base

Posted by
2453 posts

Ditto what Kim said. Our worst experiences have been ORD. But ATL nearly edged it out last year. The most surly people I’ve ever dealt with when one of our party had to declare a large purchase.

Posted by
4845 posts

Not sure how long before the future travel can go from fantasizing to reality, but for what it’s worth, is getting a Chase British Airways Visa card worth considering? You already have FF miles through another program, and the BA Visa will cost you $95 per year whether you use it or not, but it can quickly earn you “Avios” FF points, which would get you a direct London-Seattle flight.

Hope you get a good connection, wherever and whenever that happens!

Posted by
996 posts

I've arrived back in the US via both JFK and PHL on your list. I know many people hate JFK, but I've been pleasantly surprised on all of my trips through that airport.

Now PHL is another story. Avoid it. Avoid it. Avoid it. I have had nothing but delays and misery there. Your mileage may vary, of course, but this just based on multiple experiences there.

Posted by
1767 posts

I avoid IAD at all costs. Unless things have dramatically changed transferring flights there is a nightmare. Because they use these bizarre rolling gates to move between the plane and the airport. You can’t just walk out to your plane.

Personally I like Boston because every time I’ve been through there it’s been very easy. But the truth is a lot depends on what’s going on on the day you get there.

I live in Atlanta and I would avoid it if I could because our immigration officials seem to think that actually working is really difficult. They tend to like to go on slow down strikes for random things like the weather. And we just seem to have a high proportion of jerks. I once watched an agent grill a flight attendant over why he had so many entry and exit stamps in his passport, well maybe that’s because his job is to fly back-and-forth to London

Posted by
3173 posts

That’s not an easy question to answer. The ones you listed all bottleneck especially if you don’t have global entry. Consider DTW & MSP.

In that group, BOS is the least worst.

Posted by
297 posts

Two people have indicated you should avoid ORD. Personally, I have never had a bad experience there clearing immigration/passport control, and that's the airport I always use for international travel. I'm not enrolled in any expedited entry program. I've been able to come home on a flight that's scheduled to land within an hour of a bus departure to Milwaukee and make it on that bus. In other words, get off the plane, go to the customs declaration kiosks, get passport checked, collect bag, go through next checkpoint, out the door, and onto the bus--all within an hour. Lines that look intimidating move fast.

Posted by
4536 posts

I avoid IAD at all costs. Unless things have dramatically changed transferring flights there is a nightmare. Because they use these bizarre rolling gates to move between the plane and the airport. You can’t just walk out to your plane.

Things have changed (there is now an aerotrain between the main and midfield terminals) but the ”mobile lounges” are still used in some circumstances including for certain flights arriving from overseas.

joe32, you didn’t mention the airlines involved. If you arriving on a United flight and connecting you will arrive and go through through immigration in the C terminal (no mobile lounge). If you are arriving on either a BA or Virgin flight, then you will get on a mobile lounge to go to the immigration area.

Posted by
8 posts

I'm with Carole - I will never do JFK again if I have any other option - was a nightmare for me in 2015. Everything she said is true - found it totally disorganized. Had a 3 1/2 layover (arrived from Italy) and still almost missed my Atlanta flight. Good luck.

Posted by
7400 posts

Thank you all for your input.

I have Alaska FF miles and for biz class it is pretty much restricted to BA for the London-Seattle leg.

The airports I listed are places I have not been, but are choices that are offered for the trip.
I was wanting to get an idea of what to avoid, unless it was the only choice.

If it does become available one of the direct BA flights would be the ideal choice.
For the trip that did not happen this year, I had booked BA 001, the flight from London City airport , with the stop in Shannon ( clearing US immigration there) and being a 'domestic' arrival at JFK. The Alaska flight home from there was from the same terminal so making the change would have been easy. That option has not yet appeared for next year.

Getting Global Entry is certainly something to consider, once they re-open for business. Now that obligations to family free us for more travel, it probably would be worthwhile

The idea to schedule a 2-3 day layover in NYC had occurred to me, but doing it on one ticket has been a puzzle I have not yet been able to solve

Posted by
216 posts

To schedule a layover of a day or more at JFK - choose the “multi-city” option which should be available on the airline’s website. This will allow you to search as many legs of the trip as you want. Put in each leg of your trip, for instance: SEA-London, London-JFK, JFK-SEA, or whatever you are planning.

Just a note: If you are checking luggage and need it during the layover, double-check that they check it to that destination, not your final destination.

Posted by
14267 posts

I fly in/out ORD every two years when I visit the US since Chicago is my home base (and home town). First to consider is that the int'l terminal is completely separate from the domestic ones. I imagine there's some kind of transport available but it is something to consider. I don't know about your other options. I know that going from terminal to terminal at SFO is pretty easy, don't think it's quite like that at ORD. 2 years ago, when I flew into ORD, it took nearly two hours to get through passport control as a US citizen, and that was with the new machines and adequate staff on hand to help anyone who needed it.

Maybe by the time you can travel again (hoping that is sooner than later, for all our sakes), you'll have other choices.

Posted by
108 posts

I have American FF and they are not useful for a comfortable trip to Europe. Practice on AA website with FF and you will see. I use AA FF for first class upgrades, works well. We usually connect through Charlotte (AA hub), not too crowded as NY airport.

Ease of immigration? GE, likes everybody recommends.

"Will be in biz class, so will be at the front of the herd from my flight". LOL, you don't understand, there will be a multiple herds in front of you from other flights.