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USA Airport Security

Old 20th May 2008, 06:56
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USA Airport Security

I recently staged through Miami as a pax - BA then AA to Montego Bay. My wife was sent to the 'backroom' at immigration - 30 mins later her passport was returned with no thanks or explanation. At security for the AA flight she was sent into the 'glass box' and then her shoes/handbag were swabbed - another 30 mins. Again no thanks or explanation, in fact they were bloody rude in both instances!
What is worrying is that she is a 75 year old lady - the terrorists must have a field day while the Americans are hasstling old ladies.
I have been in the airline business for almost 50 years and that is the last time I intend to visit that uncivilised, backward country.
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Old 20th May 2008, 08:31
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Airsnoop,

I fully sympathise with you.

I'm fairly well travelled and in my experience it only seems to be the Americans who hire the most obnoxious, rude, unsmiling and impolite people they can find for their immigration and customs staff.

In the last 3 years I have flown into America 4 times and each time was the same. I once even had another American passenger apologise to me on behalf of an immigration officer after particularly shoddy treatment.

What infuriates me even more is that once you get into the country, the American general public (although I guess it depends where you are! ) are amongst the friendliest, most polite and helpful in the world.

I think it's just a power thing. These idiots don't have the brain power to do anything else and when they get given a uniform and a big shiny badge, it elevates their ego to the extreme so they think they're more important than they actually are.

Rant Over.
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Old 20th May 2008, 10:10
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My parents have stopped flying to visit my Brother in America for the same reasons.
They are both in their 80's my Mother has a wheelchair. They were both split up and lost each other for a short while which made them worry. My father was interrogated (No other word for it) for 20 minutes with questions that had obvious answers.
US security/immigration employees are the worst paid of the Government agencies and you can see why.
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Old 20th May 2008, 11:46
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I recently went through Hawaii, and I must say I was treated very decently in both directions. I've travelled through LAX on and off over the years, had a PortPass when they were available, and the only time times there were hassles were when I was doing something or carrying something that required slightly more attention. Even then, the matter escalated in a manner I was comfortable with.

On the other hand, a US-born, US citizen friend of mine is related to the first US ambassador to Mexico who could actually speak Spanish, is an honorary goodwill ambassador for a sport the US excels in, and is routinely treated like a turd stuck to Immigration's shoe, so I guess YMMV.
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Old 20th May 2008, 11:53
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I have been to Denver for the last 3 winters and have been lucky to have been treated politely and correctly. I think your port of entry must make a difference. I know Miami does have a huge number of people arriving, almost swamping the immegration area, maybe that makes the difference.
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Old 20th May 2008, 14:04
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GANNET FAN,

you could well be right. The bad experiences I have had have been at Washington DC, Boston and JFK.
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Old 20th May 2008, 16:38
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I entered the US last Wednesday at Dallas, went through security for internal flights at Dallas on Thursday and Dayton, Oh., on Sunday. I found the procedure far less painful than going through LHR! Admittedly, LHR immigration is never a problem except sometimes for the queues, but the security lot could well, in my experience (15 times through LHR this year) usefully learn from the TSA in DFW and PHX - I don't know about elsewhere.

LHR T4 suggested I take my belt off. I pointed out that mytrousers would come down, and they rapidly changed their minds, commenting that they thought it would not be a pretty sight. How right they are.......In any event, it didn't set the detector off.

I suppose it really is 'YMMV'. But I must have been through TSA security some 30 or 40 times with only one problem - they asked what I had in my bag, and I said 'Just a torch'

In American, 'torch' = 'blow lamp' In English 'torch' = 'flashlight'.

Just as 'rubber' = 'condom' and 'rubber' = 'eraser'

'dyke' = 'ditch' and 'dyke' = 'diagonal side cutters'.

' momentarily' = 'shortly' and 'momentarily' = 'for a short period of time'

Two nations divided by a common language!!!!!
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Old 20th May 2008, 19:14
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My experiences with the USA is that it's very much hit & miss. I've had both good and poor even at the same airport of entry. Some of the (few) poor experiences I had were prior to 911, so it's nothing new. With immigration I just remain polite and answer their questions without any attempt at humour (unless of course the immigration guy makes a funny - yes it happens). With the TSA I just grit my teeth and let the imbeciles enjoy their power trip and bark their orders at me.
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Old 20th May 2008, 19:27
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It's normally a pain, it's humorless, but not always.

Coming out of Charlotte NC., I was sided, for treatment, being on an alien's passport (Great Britain).

Shoes off. Check

Stand on the mat. Check

Raise your arms. Check.

Lift your left leg. (?) Check.

Lift your right leg. (?) Check.

Look to the left. Check.

Look to the Right. Check.

Cough. I coughed ! HA HA WE GOT ANOTHER ONE.

Have a nice day, sir.

Well, it made both of our days.
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Old 20th May 2008, 19:33
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Really if you're just polite and treat the dumbass TSA guys like they're people (believe it or not they are) they tend not to screw with you. I've never had a problem even setting off the metal detectors... "Oh, my belt. Sorry." Even set it off a second time with my watch and still I never had to go off to a private area to be screened further. Just being polite and showing that you're human will generally give you better treatment!

Though, mind you this is all domestic side. I've never had the pleasure of going through an international point of entry.
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Old 20th May 2008, 22:27
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Really if you're just polite and treat the dumbass TSA guys like they're people (believe it or not they are) they tend not to screw with you.
Which is fine, but then these idiots need to remember the same thing. The passengers are just people as well. I mean realistically, how many millions of people go through the worlds airports every day? And how many of these people are then stopped and subsequently proven to be terrorists en-route to their 77 virgins? Negligible numbers, if any. Thats the thing that grates the most. The massive, MASSIVE majority of people are being treated like $hit for what?
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Old 20th May 2008, 23:33
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Loxley, i think you miss the point being made by flyr676. I enter or transit the USA at least 10 times a year. Immigration, customs and TSA at all airports i use have become far friendlier in recent years but then i treat them as i wish to be treated myself. Its a shame that the same cannot be said of BAA security at LHR and LGW who are all miserable with absolutely no personalities- total jobsworths!! In response to the original post by airsnoop, my inlaws experienced something similar some years ago at MIA, turned out the I-94 hadnt been handed in from a previous trip, their treatment was quite abismal but after a complaint we received a written letter of apology and we have had no problems ever since.
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Old 21st May 2008, 03:39
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What infuriates me even more is that once you get into the country, the American general public (although I guess it depends where you are! ) are amongst the friendliest, most polite and helpful in the world.
And some of those friendly, polite people you meet on the street are actually those who work as customs/immigration officers. They are great guys and gals. Just meet them at a bar, a shooting range, or a gun meet. They are friendly and have a sense of humor. However their job is to guard the border, and as such they must be intimidating, unfriendly, and suspicious of everybody. They definitely don't like a "smartass".
 
Old 21st May 2008, 10:48
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I am flying to the US at least 12 times per year. My experiences with immigration are negative with vast majority. Airports also vary, ORD, LAX, JKF and MIA are consistently bad. BOS is ok when you get in as 1st int'l plane. Both depart from the assumptions that there are good guys = US citizens and terrorists = all others. There is also the rule, that they work slower as longer the queues are. Bear in mind that they hired all employees from low cost private agencies and made them state employees. The good news is that they all have medical insurance now.

It seems that the newer Int'l airports like PDX, CLT, DFW are treating us "aliens" with a little more dignity.

For a certain time travelling into the US via Canada was easier and friendlier, however recently I had in Montreal the most rude and unpolite US immigration officer I have ever come across. He even had the same name as the airport.
Flying in the US domestic is easy as long as you book a return ticket through a US company, pay it with a US credit card and show your US driving license as photo ID. If you are travelling on an international ticket with a non US passport you are immediately classified as pontential terrorist ( even when you are 85 years old). in this case your ticket is coded SSSS, which means that you are subject to "special" treatment, which can easily addd 45 - 60 mins at security. I have never met in "special" queue US citizens.
My family , wife, parents and kids, refuse any proposal to vacation in the US after repeated unfortunate experiences in the past years with Homeland security and TSA staff.
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Old 21st May 2008, 10:57
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Fendant , the SSSSS is a random additional security screening, it is not automatic for non US international passengers, i have had it once in the last 12 months and it caused no more than an additional few minutes at security. I believe the UK operates a similar system by counting passengers, 1 in every so many. I travel on a British passport, i am also not a US citizen.
These guys are there to do a job, treat them with respect and you get that respect back.
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Old 21st May 2008, 10:59
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I seem to remember reading a few years back that Colin Powell, in evidence to a congressional committee, stated that the entry restrictions had cost the US economy something like $3.6 billion a year in loss of visitors and students.
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Old 21st May 2008, 13:39
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If you have the option you should try to connect through DUB, the US border protection people there are the nicest bunch of Guys and Gals and get you through quickly.
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Old 21st May 2008, 14:45
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Yep, DUB really is an option. I hear this frequently.

Wish Switzerland would do the same thing and have US immigration in a reserved space in Terrible E.
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Old 21st May 2008, 15:31
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However their job is to guard the border, and as such they must be intimidating, unfriendly, and suspicious of everybody.
Nonsense. Plenty of them do a great job without being unpleasant. The others, however, just seem to be like that "just because"
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Old 21st May 2008, 15:39
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The SSSS notation on your boarding pass is most certainly NOT random.
It is generated by the airlines' check-in process according to some out-dated and completely spurious logic (see: CAPPS).

There is so-called random additional screening (the pat-downs/wandings) at the checkpoint, determined by the screeners. Mostly it's not truly random either, more likely you did something to p!ss the screener(s) off.

Last edited by PaperTiger; 22nd May 2008 at 16:00.
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