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This Airport Has The Worst Immigration And Customs Wait Times

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There’s nothing more draining than arriving at your destination after a 10-hour flight than to be greeted by the dreaded long wait times of immigration and customs at the airport. Sometimes getting through a sold-out stadium can be quicker than being directed into snake queues that move only a few steps each time while you struggle with the effects of heavy legs from the flight.

To help you better prepare for the wait times when arriving home or at your connection, Upgraded Points has analyzed data across 34 major international airports in the U.S. and ranked the biggest offenders and winners for airport wait times with tips on the best and worst times of day to travel. The good news is, on average, 52.86% of passengers are usually able to move through airport Immigration and Customs in 15 minutes or less, while the average wait time across airports was 17.88 minutes.

Waiting in line at airport 800

We don’t expect anyone to change their final destinations based on these, but it can be helpful to set expectations for what your airport experience will be like, such as queue times and crowding. It’s also something to keep in mind when you have multiple time options to book flights since it's been proven certain times seem to move more smoothly.

Women waiting in line at immigration

The Worst Airports

When planning your next return or which airport you want to connect with, it’s helpful to have an idea of which ones you should be allocating additional time for.

Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL) came in as the number one airport with the longest wait times, with an average of 31.95 minutes (79% higher than the average wait time), and it only clears 16% of its passengers in under 15 minutes. If you’re using this airport to connect to another flight, it also sits in the top 10 worst airports for flight delays and cancellations.

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Fort Lauderdale Airport

The second worst was also a Florida-culprit, with Miami International Airport (MIA) having an average wait time of 23.61 minutes, while John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) comes in at third, with an average wait time of 23.58 minutes. San Francisco International Airport (SFO) follows with an average wait time of 20.34 minutes and then Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD) with an average of 20.26 minutes.

Upgrade Points Immigration Wait Times Graphics
Image Courtesy Of: Upgraded Points

Upgraded Points noted that airport traffic doesn’t seem to be a driving force behind the wait times at Immigration and Customs since Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport welcomes one-fifth fewer passengers per booth compared to the average (30.11 passengers). Out of all the top 5 worst-performing airports, only Miami International Airport (MIA) sees more passengers per booth than the average, which shows that more people at booths aren’t holding up the lines.

People forming a line at airport

The Best Airports

The airports you can feel good about arriving at and will likely have the quickest wait times include Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX), which took the number one spot. Arizona’s capital moves through its passengers in an average of 5 minutes and clears almost 90% of its passengers in under 15 minutes. PHX also came in the top 10 for best airports for layovers this year, according to a recent study.

Meanwhile, Denver International Airport (DEN) comes in as number two with an average of under ten minutes, followed by Raleigh-Durham International Airport (RDU), St. Louis Lambert International Airport (STL), and Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW) which all have an average wait time under 12 minutes.

The U.S. Airports With the Quickest and Slowest Clearance Times at Immigrations and Customs
Image Courtesy Of: Upgraded Points

What Is The Best Time To Go Through Immigration And Customs

Upgraded Points analyzed all the data and found that between 4 p.m. and 11 p.m. is considered the shortest wait time on any day, with the shortest wait times taking place after 9 pm. Early morning flights typically have longer wait times, with 4 out of 5 of the longest wait times happening before 8 pm. When returning from your trip, Sundays typically see a shorter wait time, around 2 minutes less than the busiest day on Thursday.

It’s no surprise that in the winter months, when people travel less, these have wait times that are below average (between October and March), while warmer months have an above-average wait times (between April and September).

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Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.


Saturday 23rd of September 2023

Fort Lauderdale is definitely the worst airport in the US. They hold pax on airplanes after arriving at gate 10-20 minutes.


Tuesday 29th of November 2022

Get GLOBAL ENTRY! And late arrivals (after 8PM) I alway breeze thru SFO