How to avoid long lines at US Customs in 11 coronavirus ‘screener airports’
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.
The deadly Wuhan coronavirus has been rapidly spreading around the world, with more than 24,000 confirmed cases and nearly 500 fatalities. Last week, the World Health Organization declared it a global emergency — and governments are taking serious precautions to keep it from escalating further.
- San Francisco International Airport (SFO)
- Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA)
- Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL)
- Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD)
- Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH)
- Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport (DFW)
- Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL)
- Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (DTW)
- John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK)
- Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR)
- Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD)
At these airports, CDC health officials are asking travelers about symptoms and places they’ve visited, as well as taking their temperatures. If a traveler is suspected of having contracted the virus, they will be transported to a predesignated facility for further screening. This could take anywhere from a couple of hours to an entire day, as testing requires specimens to be collected and sent to the CDC.
A spokesperson for CBP told TPG, “CBP identifies arriving travelers [from Hubei province or mainland China] and refers to CDC – they conduct the enhanced health screening in a location isolated from the general public.”
If you’ve traveled to the Hubei province — home to the city of Wuhan, where the virus originated — in the last 14 days, you’ll be under a mandatory quarantine for two weeks, Matador Network adds. The select travelers who do not display any symptoms during the screening process will be given a card with further information on what to do and who to contact if they do develop any of the symptoms, such as fever, cough or shortness of breath.
Reports are now surfacing that there are some pretty long wait times at the aforementioned screener airports. Some passengers are claiming wait times of more than six hours.
The CPB contested this, though, adding “there were weather delays on Saturday [at SFO] resulting in multiple flights arriving at one time, but no one saw anything approaching six hours or more waits.”
We dug into the data to gather the average maximum wait times for U.S. citizens at these 11 designated airports from Jan 20. to Feb 3.. Here’s what we found:
- SFO: 71.5 minutes
- SEA: 38.5 minutes
- HNL: 34.0 minutes
- ORD: 40.2 minutes
- IAH: 49.2 minutes
- DFW: 37.5 minutes
- ATL: 27.1 minutes
- DTW: 32.0 minutes
- JFK: 46.4 minutes
- EWR: 39.0 minutes
- IAD: 21.9 minutes
As a comparison, here are the average maximum wait times before the coronavirus outbreak, between Dec. 1–15:
- SFO: 55.8 minutes
- SEA: 30.4 minutes
- HNL: 29.4 minutes
- ORD: 31.5 minutes
- IAH: 45.7 minutes
- DFW: 33.5 minutes
- ATL: 28.4 minutes
- DTW: 31.4 minutes
- JFK: 37.7 minutes
- EWR: 34.2 minutes
- IAD: 24.4 minutes
Nine out of the 11 screener airports are experiencing longer average maximum wait times than they were before the coronavirus outbreak, except for Atlanta and Washington-Dulles. Additionally, San Francisco had the biggest wait time increase.
Of course, these are average wait times and can vary depending on the time of day, weather and location. Bottom line? Be prepared.
One way to do so is by using Global Entry.
If you’re not familiar with Global Entry, it’s a program from U.S. Customs and Border Protection that gives you expedited entry back into the U.S. You have to be preapproved as well as a low-risk traveler. Once you’re a member of the program, you can enter your information through automatic kiosks at these airports and clear U.S. customs in minutes instead of hours. Better yet, enrollment in the program also gives you access to TSA PreCheck. It’s a game-changer for frequent and even casual travelers alike.
As scheduling your interview with Global Entry can take a few months, you’ll want to take advantage of the Enrollment on Arrival service. With it, you can get Global Entry upon arrival at 53 airports throughout the U.S. — including at all of the 11 aforementioned “screener airports.” Keep in mind, though, that you’ll still have to apply ahead of time — you’re just completing your interview on arrival.
Global Entry costs $100 for a five-year membership but, depending on which credit card you have, you might be able to get it for free. Cards such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve, The Platinum Card® from American Express and Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card all give you an application fee credit (up to $100).
Mobile Passport can also be a handy option to skirt these long lines, as well.
This program can be used at 26 airports (and three seaports). Eligible travelers can download the Mobile Passport app to generate a digital version of the required customs form instead of filling it out by hand. Then, a CBP officer scans the QR code on your Mobile Passport digital receipt, and you’ll be on your way. Mobile Passport requires users to submit the passport form every time they enter the country.
While the basic paperless functionality is still available for free, users now have to pay $15 per year to use their smartphone camera to scan and store passport information.
Either way, you have options to safely bypass the long wait times, all while keeping in line with government and health protocols.
Featured photo by baona/Getty Images
Welcome to The Points Guy!
Earn 90,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card in the first three months of card membership. Offer ends 11/10/2021.
With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.
- Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 Bonus Miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer expires 11/10/2021.
- Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
- Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
- Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
- Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
- Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
- Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
- Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
- Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
- No Foreign Transaction Fees.
- $250 Annual Fee.
- Terms Apply.
- See Rates & Fees