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     The big news in travel this past week has been the virtual collapse of the customs and immigration function at several of the nation's international airports, including those in Newark, New York, Miami, Seattle and Los Angeles, in particular.  The under-staffing of those facilities has become so evident that waits of two and three hours are sometimes needed to pass through immigration and customs on your return flight, causing large numbers of people to miss their connecting flights onward within the United States.

     The situation has grown so out of control that recently, in Miami Airport,  authorities were forced to place dozens of cots into a large room at the airport so that arriving international passengers who missed their connecting flights could get a night's sleep before boarding later flights the next morning.  At the same airport, officials were forced to erect refreshment stnds in the immigration areas so that people could get a cup of coffee or a doughnut to tide them over while waiting to be cleared by customs and immigration officials.

     Now all of this is blamed on the sequester, of course, but it should also be attrributed to the simple underfunding of the customs and immigration gates--too few federal officials staffing those gates.  Whatever the reason, the lesson for international travelers is clear.  If you are about to take a return overseas flight to the United States, connecting at one airport to fly to another, you had better leave plenty of time--several hours in fact--for making that return flight.  As long as Congress doesn't properly fund the immigration and customs functions at the airports, you will not be able to make short connection times.

     How about passing through security gates manned by the T.S.A. on your outbound flights to anywhere?  We haven't heard horror stories about any airport other than that of Seattle, where the number of Alaskan Airlways planes leaving in late afternoon hours is so great as to stack up would-be passengers for as many as two hours before they can pass through security.  Be warned:  Seattle is at least one of the airports at which passengers should arrive at least three or three and a half hours prior to the departure time of their flights. 



Tags: international airports, connecting times, customs and immigration

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