SFO Passport Control Mess

Old Apr 10, 19, 6:30 pm
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SFO Passport Control Mess

Arrived at SFO yesterday at 3pm and finally got out at 6:30pm. According to the UA baggage person, I was lucky as it's currently taking about 4 hours most days to clear Immigration.

Being made to stand for 4 hours, with no regard to ability to do so, no offer of chairs or a numbered queuing system and no announcements or help from any of the people there is worse than in the most tinpot dictatorships.

Then, when you finally get through Immigration, the baggage hall is total chaos as they have several thousand unclaimed bags covering the floor, no indication of the flights (as that was deleted some hours previously) and nobody to help. The UA lady who I tracked down said that UA was extremely concerned what would happen this summer when the flights get busier.

The moral of the tale is avoid SFO if at all possible.
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Old Apr 10, 19, 7:15 pm
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What did the Global Entry line look like?
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Old Apr 11, 19, 9:28 pm
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Yikes. Any idea why the queue is so bad?
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Old Apr 12, 19, 1:09 am
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We flew in two days ago, flying on United HKG - SFO - SAN with a 2 hour layover in SFO. We arrived at SFO slightly early at 8.30am, and saw a huge crowd in the room. The lines snaked around and back the automatic scanners and round all parts of the room. In the end took 2+ hours to get to and through customs. By the time we'd located our bags (they'd been moved away from the carousel) it was close to 11, by which time our San Diego flight, though slightly delayed, had taken off. We exited international and found the United desk just to the left. Before we got there a baggage guy scanned our bags and said he could see we'd already been rebooked onto a flight at 1pm and to make our way over to Terminal 3, yay! I was relieved to only lose 2 hours.

But when we got to Terminal 3 and I scanned our boarding passes nothing worked. It wasn't at all clear where to go, I sent my wife to the additional information counter which had about 10 people in queue, while I was directed by a baggage guy to another lady at a desk who was helping a few people. She seemed stuck with one group for 40 minutes. In the end we both waited in our respective queues for exactly an hour. Finally we got to talk to someone that could at least help us. He said the 1pm was overbooked, he had no idea why we'd been told we were booked on it because we weren't. My heart sank as he said the 4pm was likewise fully booked and the earliest he could put us on was 6.15pm. Having no choice we booked that flight and waited in SFO terminal 3 for 6 hours. In the end it wasn't too bad as they had comfy seats and we just slept for most it.

Still I would not like to repeat that experience. I had heard all this time that SFO was the better option to transit through than LAX but I'm wondering is that still the case? I'd been to LAX last October and it was reasonably smooth, although I've never had to clear customs at LAX. Is SFO or LAX worse for customs? And if flying to SAN from the Asia-Pacific which would you choose to transit in?

(PS On the return leg I'm worried since we only have a 1 hour layover at SFO, granted we won't have to pass customs and security but I'm thinking about getting to San Diego airport early to see if there's an earlier flight available.)
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Old Apr 12, 19, 2:04 am
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A 2-hour layover just isn’t enough time at sfo or lax when it includes customs (international travel).

An hour for SAN-SFO-HKG is barely enough time because you’re going from the domestic terminal to international terminal and it just takes time.

Sorry that you had to suffer the brutal 6 hour delay at sfo. Ugh.
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Old Apr 12, 19, 4:12 am
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Originally Posted by OzHK View Post
(PS On the return leg I'm worried since we only have a 1 hour layover at SFO, granted we won't have to pass customs and security but I'm thinking about getting to San Diego airport early to see if there's an earlier flight available.)
If this is United, it is totally not enough. SFO is famous for the stratus delay that can severely affect short haul domestic flights into SFO. I'd guess there is a roughly 30% chance of a 1-hour delay and 10% chance of 2-hour delay. UA's SFO-HKG is badly timed to connect from short-haul, especially Express from minor cities. Anything arriving after 0900-0930 is at risk. That's why I won't take anything that arrives after 0945 for there 1 pm flight if I cannot be delayed by 24 hours.
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Old Apr 17, 19, 8:49 pm
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Thanks all, in the end we went to SAN early and got switched to the 8.15am flight for free by a friendly counter staff. No delays in the flight, everything went smoothly and actually its only a 15 minute leisurely walk between the terminals. We got there with a couple hours to kill, slept then had a nice lunch at Napa Farms (highly recommended!) before boarding. I was monitoring the 10.18 flight and while it did arrive on time at 12pm it wouldn't have left much time before having to board, certainly not enough for a decent lunch. All in all a good experience to keep in mind next time, especially when flying into the USA!
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Old Apr 27, 19, 2:17 pm
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Originally Posted by tom911 View Post
What did the Global Entry line look like?
I don't want to jinx myself going forward, but so far in 30+ global entry admissions at SFO, the longest wait was my last entry -- about 90 seconds.
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Old Apr 27, 19, 7:11 pm
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My experience at SFO is very similar. Won't be using Global Entry again until my return from Australia end of May. Surprised @lhrsfo didn't answer my question about Global Entry and if that line had a 4 hour delay. - would just be amazed if it did. With school spring breaks varying so much,and not all around Easter or Presidents weekend any longer, hard to tell what impact that might have played for the regular lines coming in.

Side factor: recent press reports that airport CBP personnel have been temporarily assigned to the southern border. All the more reason to have Global Entry if multi-hour delays are the new norm at SFO.
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Old Apr 28, 19, 12:31 pm
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Originally Posted by RichardInSF View Post
I don't want to jinx myself going forward, but so far in 30+ global entry admissions at SFO, the longest wait was my last entry -- about 90 seconds.
My experience as well. Iíve never had a significant delay going through immigration and customs at SFO.
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Old Apr 29, 19, 10:41 am
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I've used Mobile Passport landing at both SFO and LAX on international to domestic connections 3 times in the last 3 months. I was through in no more than 10 mins, from the time I deplaned to when I got back in line at security to go to my domestic gate. In all cases, I built in 4-5 hours b/c I was connecting on different airlines with completely different PNR's so would have no protection if missing flight. In one instant I had an 8am landing and was able to catch the 9:50am flight home instead of waiting for the 2:30pm one I had booked.

If you don't have global entry, download the Mobile Passport app. I've never seen more than 3 people in front of me and the only wait I've seen is queing with everybody else to go through the final check after you collect your bags. In most cases, if you hold up your phone with the bar code they just waive you through.
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Old Apr 29, 19, 11:32 pm
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Originally Posted by Mrgolfer21 View Post
I've never seen more than 3 people in front of me and the only wait I've seen is queing with everybody else to go through the final check after you collect your bags. In most cases, if you hold up your phone with the bar code they just waive you through.
I came through SFO the other day and used mobile passport. It was during the morning rush and there were 10 people ahead of me. It took a little less than 15 minutes to get through. There is no longer a line to exit the Customs hall after collecting your luggage. You collect your luggage and just walk out. There are officers around kind of looking you over but unless they pull you to the side, just keep walking.
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Old Apr 30, 19, 12:10 am
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Originally Posted by Mrgolfer21 View Post
I've used Mobile Passport landing at both SFO and LAX on international to domestic connections 3 times in the last 3 months. I was through in no more than 10 mins, from the time I deplaned to when I got back in line at security to go to my domestic gate. In all cases, I built in 4-5 hours b/c I was connecting on different airlines with completely different PNR's so would have no protection if missing flight. In one instant I had an 8am landing and was able to catch the 9:50am flight home instead of waiting for the 2:30pm one I had booked.

If you don't have global entry, download the Mobile Passport app. I've never seen more than 3 people in front of me and the only wait I've seen is queing with everybody else to go through the final check after you collect your bags. In most cases, if you hold up your phone with the bar code they just waive you through.
Thanks but on the website it says its for 'US citizens and Canadian visitors' only.
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Old Apr 30, 19, 3:44 am
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Originally Posted by tom911 View Post
Surprised @lhrsfo didn't answer my question about Global Entry and if that line had a 4 hour delay. - would just be amazed if it did. .
Because when you are stuck in a massive queue with seas of people on the extreme right of the Immigartion Hall, you cannot even see the Global Entry kiosks let alone work out how long that queue is. I'm surprised @tom911 doesn't realise that you have to focus on what's facing you. And, as I say to all those who keep on saying, smugly, that you should just use Global Entry, it's not available to everyone. To those of us for whom it is not available, arriving in SFO is torture, even if the time with the Immigration Officer, when you finally get there, is less than 30 seconds.
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Old Apr 30, 19, 3:58 am
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I reported this mess about a year ago. I have to go through once with my family so do not use GE then and go through with them. US immigration is like the dark ages and as though they have never used technology and it still relies on someone with quill, velum, and a rubber stamp.
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