Upgraded Points Study Reveals Best and Worst U.S. International Airports for Holiday Travel Hustle

As global wanderlust begins with the arrival of the holidays, a new study by Upgraded Points helps guide international travelers seeking to navigate the festive airport chaos. As seasoned travelers know, some international airports are just slower than others at these times. But Upgraded Points delved into some solid airport immigration data to provide an insightful snapshot into the most and least time-consuming U.S. airports for customs clearance.

“Our latest report details the discrepancies between anticipated and actual wait times at customs,” said Alex Miller, founder of Upgraded Points. “While some airports provide swift passages, others are akin to time traps. And since being stuck in a customs jam can sour even the sweetest vacation, we’re hoping this latest study will help empower travelers with the knowledge they need to avoid the snags.”

Study Methodology 

Information was drawn from the Custom and Border Protection’s (CBP) Airport Wait Times dataset, examining average and maximum wait times at all major U.S. international airports during the peak of the 2022 winter holiday season. The analysis included overall average wait times, differentiated between U.S. and non-U.S. citizens, and identified the proportions of travelers clearing customs in under 15 minutes, or exceeding 60 minutes.

Categories were then conveniently broken down into specific averages like: Average Wait Times for All Travelers, Average Max Wait Time for All Travelers, Average Wait Time for U.S. Citizens, Average Wait Time for Non-U.S. Citizens, and more.

Swift Skies: Top Airports for Time-Savers

Among the top five include:

  • Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX): A close second with 5.9 minutes.
  • Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI): Very efficient customs clearance at 9.2 minutes
  • Fresno Yosemite International Airport (FAT): A respectable 10.9-minute average

Holiday Holdups: Airports with Longer Waits

Among the top 40+ worst airports for international travel times include:

  • Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD): An average of 26.1 minutes in wait time, with just 21.2 for U.S. citizens and 33.7 for non-U.S. citizens.
  • Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA): Average at 31.6 minutes, 27.3 minutes for U.S. citizens and 37.1 minutes for non-U.S. citizens.
  • Miami International Airport (MIA): High volume and wait times, with a Max Wait Time for all travelers at 74.4 minutes
  • Orlando International Airport (MCO): Tourist influx leads to 27.8 minutes for all travelers.
  • Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS): Averages a 29.2-minute wait for all travelers.
  • John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK): A busy hub, with averages of 27.4 minutes for all travelers.

Clocking Through Customs: Some Important Insights

  • Prime Timing: Arrivals between 5 a.m. and 3 p.m. usually face 20% longer waits.
  • Citizenship Counts: Non-U.S. citizens wait 66% longer than U.S. citizens.
  • Speedy Passages: Nearly half of all travelers cleared customs in 15 minutes or less.
  • Patience Rewards: Only 6.5% of travelers experienced wait times over an hour.

For a complete overview of the findings including all detailed statistics, exact travel-time breakdowns, and the full list of the “worst” airports surveyed, along with an interactive map and helpful charts, please visit the full study online.

About Upgraded Points LLC

Headquartered in Austin, Texas, Upgraded Points is a travel company that helps to demystify the complex world of travel and credit cards. Launched in 2016 by Alex Miller, Upgraded Points uses targeted research efforts and in-depth studies to help travelers maximize their travel, points, and experiences. Learn more at: www.UpgradedPoints.com.