Which airport is the best to enter the USA?

My brother and his family are just back from America - California and Hawaii - where they generally had a wonderful time. Unfortunately it got off to a bad start when they had to queue for two hours at immigration (LA or SF, I’m not sure which). This proved too much for my niece, 9, after such a long flight and she thoroughly lost it. So, for the next time, which airports are the best ports of entry for UK citizens travelling from the UK?

My experience is limited, but I find that JFK is better in terms of security/customs hassle than LAX.

Shannon Airport and Dublin Airport in Ireland have US Preclearance facilities like many Canadian airports now have. By transiting via one of those, you could get your US paperwork done and over with and then enjoy your flight.

As as US citizen who has returned via preclearance in Canada, I have to say that it is nice. After your long flight, just walk off the plane and go decompress.

I would say IAH in Houston is not the one you are looking for. Nearly all the flights from Europe arrive in a 2-hour window, and although the passport line moves relatively quickly (there are dozen or customs staff, you end up queueing for an eternity leaving the baggage area because they have a grand total of two guys to take your customs declaration form.

Um, one which doesn’t receive a whole lot of international travelers? Not that hard to figure out…

Wrong. One which doesn’t receive a lot of incoming travelers isn’t going to have the Customs facilities needed to handle even one jet load coming in at one time.

Can you spell that out for anyone traveling from the UK into different parts of the US? Flying into Newark, or JFK etc. Difficulty: you are not allowed to use your knee

Honolulu probably has a lot fewer international arrivals than many other international airports, but it may not be practical, depending on where you’re headed to.

I was assuming that not using a private jet would be understood.

This was my experience. I flew from Tokyo to San Jose Airport on one of only 3 international flights the airport handles. There was a single immigration official processing an entire 747’s worth of passengers and I think I was in line for over 2 hours. SFO would have gone much smoother for me.

I would guess that the less International flights the swingier the experience.

You might get some nice folks eager to welcome visitors.

You might get some ignorant redneck dicks.

Then it’s a matter of timing. Major hubs like LAX, LGA, DTW, IAD, receive a lot of international flights so even though they may be highly staffed they have a lot of incoming travelers to process. Smaller airports might get less international arrivals but one plane load will load things up. Sounds like your niece is just going to have to learn how to be patient.

Wouldn’t it be useful to know to which coast someone will be using? Though I guess on a flight from the West coast of the US to the UK, one could fly domestic to the East coast and then take an International flight from there to the UK.

I do not recommend going through a pre-clearance site in Canada. First you have to go though Canadian customs and immigration, then get your luggage, then recheck-in, then go through security again, then go through US customs and immigration lines (which can easily take an hour if they are busy) then get on your plan and at the US destination.

Just for the record, for flying from Montreal to a US site, you have to leave 3 hours. And once even that was not quite enough and I had to be taken out of order.

That would take much longer. I’m guessing most west coast usa-euro flights go over the north pole.

In my experience, ATL is the most expedient and hassle-free airport to enter from the UK. To my knowledge, only Delta Airlines flies direct between Atlanta and Heathrow. For years, Delta could only fly into to Gatwick. Now that they serve Heathrow (and no longer offer service to Gatwick), flying from London to Atlanta is easier than before.

Entering the U.S. via LAX, MIA (Miami), EWR (Newark) and ORD (Chicago) are all hellish nightmares for entering the country. And that’s based on my experiences as a U.S. Citizen.

In Toronto, you don’t have to go through Canadian customs or get your checked bags, at least if both legs are on Air Canada.

I was going to guess Atlanta and as a second choice (with major reservations): Dulles.

Hear me out: Dulles sucks, it sucks a lot and you have to take that stupid people mover bus to get from customs to the terminal, but if you get in at the right time, before the other flights, there are rows and rows of customs officers, all of whom are pretty quick and experienced.

Basically, America doesn’t do airports or air travel well. They all are going to suck and you have to find the one that sucks the least.

To be honest, I’ve only returned to the U.S. via ATL from London and The Carribean. I was flying Delta each time, which may be the reason I had a fairly pleasant Customs experience. It’s an ‘unofficial’ rule at ATL to keep Delta customers happy.

Another vote for Atlanta. Easy Peezy.