We all know that traveling to different cities can be an exciting experience, but it can also be a stress-inducing one.
And nothing dampens the excitement of a getaway more than encountering a seemingly endless security line at the airport, especially when you have a lot of luggage to manage.
Airport security and passport control play a crucial role in ensuring our safety while we travel, but we can't deny that waiting in line can be frustrating and time-consuming, especially when you're running on a tight schedule.
To help you plan ahead, the team at Bounce has delved into data to reveal which airports in the United States have the longest wait times, and which allow you to sail through security and passport control with ease.
1. John F. Kennedy International Airport, New York
Average security wait time: 22 minutes, 48 seconds
Average passport control wait time: 25 minutes, 36 seconds
Combined average wait time: 48 minutes, 24 seconds
Taking the top spot is New York’s JFK International Airport. Average wait times for security currently stand at 22 minutes, 48 seconds. Passport control will also set you back 25 minutes, 36 seconds, providing a combined total of 48 minutes, 24 seconds.
As one of the busiest airports in the United States, JFK handles a large volume of international and domestic passengers. This leads to increased pressure on the airport's infrastructure and staff, causing longer wait times at passport control and security checkpoints.
Additionally, JFK serves as a major hub for several airlines, which can lead to additional congestion and delays.
The airport has seen a significant increase in average wait times since 2022, increasing from 44 minutes, 54 seconds to 48 minutes, 24 seconds.
2. San Francisco International Airport, California
Average security wait time: 25 minutes, 36 seconds
Average passport control wait time: 21 minutes, 42 seconds
Combined average wait time: 47 minutes, 18 seconds
Not far behind is San Francisco International Airport in California, with a combined wait time of 47 minutes, 18 seconds.
SFO is a key gateway for international flights, particularly from Asia and Europe. But, the high volume of international passengers puts a strain on passport control and security processes. Similarly, the airport's layout and limited space can contribute to bottlenecks, further exacerbating wait times.
Like JFK, San Francisco’s average wait time has increased from last year, going up by just under two minutes.
3. Miami International Airport, Florida
Average security wait time: 22 minutes, 42 seconds
Average passport control wait time: 23 minutes, 12 seconds
Combined average wait time: 45 minutes, 54 seconds
Miami International Airport ranks third with a combined average wait time of 45 minutes and 54 seconds. In fact, Floridian airports make up three of the top five.
As a major hub for flights to and from Latin America and the Caribbean, MIA experiences a significant influx of international passengers. This can lead to increased wait times at passport control.
Moreover, MIA's location in a densely populated metropolitan area results in a high volume of domestic travelers, adding to the congestion at security checkpoints.
Last year, Miami International Airport topped the rankings, with an average combined wait time of 46 minutes and 57 seconds.
1. Baltimore/Washington International Airport, Maryland
Average security wait time: 4 minutes
Average passport control wait time: 10 minutes, 48 seconds
Combined average wait time: 14 minutes, 48 seconds
Baltimore/Washington International Airport (BWI) in Maryland has a combined wait time of just 14 minutes and 48 seconds, meaning passengers here fly through security and passport checks.
BWI is less busy than other major airports in the Washington D.C. and Baltimore metropolitan areas, such as Dulles International Airport (IAD) and Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA). This lower passenger volume could lead to shorter wait times at security and passport control.
Baltimore/Washington takes the top place from Raleigh-Durham, which had an average wait time of 16 minutes, nine seconds last year but has now dropped to seventh place.
2. San Antonio International Airport, Texas
Average security wait time: 6 minutes, 6 seconds
Average passport control wait time: 11 minutes, 36 seconds
Combined average wait time: 17 minutes, 42 seconds
San Antonio comes in second place, with a combined wait time of 17 minutes and 42 seconds.
Located in Uptown Central San Antonio, Texas, SAT is not a major hub for any airline and as a result, it experiences lower passenger traffic. The airport primarily serves domestic flights, which could contribute to shorter wait times at passport control and security.
San Antonio has moved from eighth to second since last year, seeing its average wait time shrink by around five minutes.
3. San Jose International Airport, California
Average security wait time: 4 minutes, 6 seconds
Average passport control wait time: 14 minutes, 12 seconds
Combined average wait time: 18 minutes, 18 seconds
Completing the top three is San Jose International in California, with a combined wait time of 18 minutes and 18 seconds.
San Jose International is located in the heart of Silicon Valley and primarily serves business travelers. The airport's passenger volume is also lower compared to nearby San Francisco International Airport (SFO) and Oakland International Airport (OAK).
The lower passenger volume and the fact that business travelers are generally more familiar with security procedures could contribute to shorter wait times.
1. Palm Beach International Airport, Florida - 34 minutes, 6 seconds
2. St. Louis Lambert International Airport, Missouri - 26 minutes, 36 seconds
3. San Francisco International Airport, California - 25 minutes, 36 seconds
When it comes to security clearance, Palm Beach takes the dubious honor of having the longest average wait time at 34 minutes and six seconds.
The airport is known for its beautiful location and convenient proximity to several popular tourist destinations such as West Palm Beach. The huge number of tourists can put a strain on airport resources and likely explains why the wait times are so long.
While it’s still the longest in the country, the average security wait time at Palm Beach has dropped by two minutes since last year
1. Newark Liberty International Airport, New Jersey - 3 minutes, 6 seconds
2. Baltimore/Washington International Airport, Maryland - 4 minutes
3. San Jose & Ontario International Airports, both California - 4 minutes, 6 seconds
On the other hand, it’s perhaps slightly surprising to see that Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey has the shortest average security wait at just three minutes, six seconds.
Newark is a major hub for both domestic and international flights, but the security wait times don’t reflect this. This could be due to efficient design and infrastructure, as well as advanced security technologies such as Automated Screening Lanes and CT scanners.
1. Fort Lauderdale–Hollywood International Airport, Florida - 25 minutes, 54 seconds
2. John F. Kennedy International Airport, New York - 25 minutes, 36 seconds
3. Seattle–Tacoma & Miami International Airports, Washington & Florida - 23 minutes, 12 seconds
When it comes to passport control, Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International is the airport where you’ll have to wait the longest, with an average wait time of 25 minutes, and 54 seconds. That’s just a few seconds more than JFK in New York, one of the world’s busiest airports.
Fort Lauderdale is a popular international gateway, particularly for passengers from the Caribbean, Central, and South America. This high passenger volume, particularly during peak travel seasons, can lead to increased wait times at passport control.
1. Palm Beach International Airport, Florida - 2 minutes, 36 seconds
2. Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, Arizona - 5 minutes, 30 seconds
2. John Wayne Airport, California - 5 minutes, 30 seconds
Interestingly, while it has the longest wait times for security, Palm Beach airport has the shortest waits at passport control. This was the same in last year’s data, and the average wait here is just two minutes, 36 seconds.
Two airports are tied for second place, Phoenix Sky Harbor (which also came second last year) and John Wayne Airport in Orange County, both at 5 minutes and 30 seconds. Phoenix Sky Harbor also ranks in the top 10 airports with the shortest wait times overall. The airport sees an average combined wait time of 20 minutes and 6 seconds.
Average wait times* for security checks were sourced from TSA Wait Times, correct as of April 27th, 2023.
Average flight processing times* were sourced from the U.S. Customs & Border Protection’s Airport Wait Times data. This data shows the average wait time for passengers processed on flights arriving in each hour based on how long it took for those passengers to clear Passport Control.
For each airport, we took an average of the wait times for each hour that flights arrived between April 26th, 2022, and April 25th, 2023.
Please note that CBP airport wait times do not include time to retrieve baggage or navigate through the airport. These times should be factored in as well if you will be scheduling a connecting flight. Always consult with the airline and airport authority for additional guidance.
* Wait times are estimates, subject to change, and may not be indicative of your experience.